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Learn How. Discover Why. Build Better. - Christopher Schwarz


 
 

Lie-Nielsen No. 51R Chute Board Plane
Copyright 2011. This article originally appeared in the Fine Tool Journal

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The return of
a collectible classic.

Does the user care?

 

 

The Lie-Nielsen version of the Stanley No. 51 is superior in every way possible, from its durability to its performance in the cut.

I have never been a fan of specialty planes or gizmos. I’d rather use a No. 7 bench plane to square an edge than use a No. 95 edge-trimming plane or even a Stanley bench plane with an accessory fence.

While the Lie-Nielsen improved on the functional characteristics of the Stanley model, little could be done about the appearance of the tool. The tote and frog
still jut out at odd angles.

 

Part of my preference has to do with my salary. As a writer (a low-paying trade much like woodworking), my salary limits the tools I can purchase.

Yes, I know that if you have been reading this column for many years that it looks like I can afford lots of tools. But many of those tools are either sold when I am done or returned to the owners I borrowed them from.

So I don’t have a lot of money available for tools that don’t earn their place in my tool chest.

And that’s why I (effortlessly) resisted buying the new Lie-Nielsen No. 51 Chute Board plane.

I shoot my edges and ends with my jointer plane, which has all of the mass I need to plow through tough end grain. The No. 51 wasn’t even on my “when I win the lottery” list.

But the readers of my blog and web site had other ideas. They wanted to know if the Lie-Nielsen version of this highly collectible vintage plane was something that a user should consider. Or should the Lie-Nielsen plane be something left to the 500 or so collectors out there who couldn’t find a mint No. 51 from The Stanley Works.

I begrudgingly bought a Lie-Nielsen No. 51 for full price ($500 in late 2010). Months later, I do not regret that purchase one single bit. I won’t be selling the tool, returning the tool or even letting my co-workers cast lustful gazes upon it. But I am working it to death.

Compared to the Stanley

Last year I got to use a few vintage Stanley No. 51s that were loaned to me by a house builder who swore by them. His 51s were set up perfectly with no broken parts. He didn’t use them on a Stanley No. 52 Chute Board. Instead, he built his own chute boards out of shop scraps.

One of the nice improvements with the Lie-Nielsen version of this tool is
that you can tighten up the mouth just like you would on a Bed Rock plane.
This is handy on shooting boards designed for long-grain edges.

The vintage 51s were impressive. I liked using them more than using a bench plane or even a Stanley No. 9 on the chute board.

The 51 is easier to hold and guide – thanks to its cocked tote. Plus, you can easily capture the tool into a track on your chute board to make it impossible for the tool to drift out of the cut.

In other words, you can’t miss when you shoot with a No. 51. You simply press the work against the sole of the tool in front of the blade and thrust the tool forward. If the iron is sharp, it will take a beautiful end-grain shaving. And the work will be clean and square – a small miracle even with a powered chop saw.

The other huge improvement Lie-Nielsen made to the Stanley model was in the frog.
The Lie-Nielsen frog is robust, adjustable and supports the blade fully.

And while I was smitten by the vintage Stanley No. 51, it has its problems. Some parts of the tool – especially the frog – are fragile and frequently broken (one of the ones I borrowed had been brazed). And the frog didn’t supply the complete support of the blade that makes for a perfect cut.


 
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