Can this Canadian company improve
one of the most highly evolved
Unless you’re involved in production woodworking (with plywood, MDF
or worse), you probably would welcome a plow plane into your
I can remember the moment when I decided to buy one. I was making a
pair of doors for a one-off bookcase, and I was routing the groove
in the stiles using our shop’s expensive router table. Despite my
best efforts, the router bit grabbed my first stile and flung it
across the shop about 15 feet.
The stile survived the javelin-style slinging, and so I began
grooving the next stile in the pile. Like the first stile, this one
made an Olympic launch across the shop. But this time the stile’s
entire groove got chewed up by the router bit as the board made its
hasty exit to kiss the floor.
There are some times when a machine is not the right choice for
My first plow plane was a Record 043, an adorable English plane that
came with three cutters that some Englishman had forgotten to
heat-treat. Despite the fact that I had to sharpen the cutters every
time I picked up the plane, I was hooked. I bought a Record 044 (the
little guy’s bigger brother), then a Stanley 45 and a 46.
Each of these tools had advantages. I liked the skew cutter on the
Stanley 46 so I could make clean cuts across the grain. I liked the
robust depth stop of the Stanley 45 and its weight, which kept the
tool stable through the cut. And the Record 044 didn’t get clogged
as much as the baby 043.
I also purchased a couple nice wooden plow planes, but they had a
variety of problems that kept them on the shelf and off the bench.
Sometimes, however, I feel I’m alone in my enthusiasm for plow
planes among woodworkers, even among those who like hand tools.
Plows seem complex and fussy to the uninitiated. In truth, plow
planes are some of the easiest joinery planes to use. If you know
the right tricks, they are simple to sharpen, simple to set up and
simple to use.
So I was delighted when Robin Lee, president of Lee Valley Tools,
pulled out the prototype for the Veritas small plow plane as we
drank a couple beers after a trade show in Las Vegas in August 2007.
Later that fall, Veritas loaned me a pre-production model to test
for a few weeks. And once the company began manufacturing the tool
in large quantities I snapped up one of the first ones and have been
using it quite a bit in my work.
Allow me to spoil the ending: The Veritas plow plane is better than
all of my other plow planes. Its Canadian designers fundamentally
improved an already highly-evolved tool. And the quality of
manufacturing exceeds that of all my vintage plows. I do have a
couple quibbles with the tool, which I discuss below, but overall,
the Veritas Small Plow is an impressive piece of work and an
Any tool collector worth his (or her) salt knows that plow planes
were the equivalent of jewelry for 19th century cabinetmakers. The
plow was the fanciest tool in the toolbox, and early woodworkers
spent good money to get a tool that would impress their underlings
But that cachet was during the heyday of the wooden plow plane, and
as metal planes pushed the wooden ones aside, the metal plows didn’t
keep the same luster as the wooden plows. Sure, there were some
fancy metal plow and combination planes made, but since the
invention of the powered router, the plow plane has been little more
than a curiosity for modern woodworkers.
The new Veritas Small Plow Plane is probably a little ahead of its
time. Though some hand-tool woodworkers are wildly enthusiastic
about its release, the No. 1 question I hear is: What is it used
So here’s a short explanation: Plow planes make grooves and (with
some of the metal versions) some of them make small rabbets – the
largest groove or rabbet that the Veritas Small Plow Plane can make
with a single set-up is 3/8”.
Unlike bench planes, all plows work on different principles. You
need to sharpen the cutting edge of your plow’s iron square and keep
it that way – otherwise your cutter could wander in the cut and it
could become difficult to push the tool.