Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Squirrel-Tail Palm Planes - an opinion

This pair of bevel-down palm planes joins Little Victor in Lee Valley's new range of tool "classic reprints" - modern versions of old designs. Like Victor, they sport the burgundy livery (no, it's not pink - it's just hard to photograph...) and like Victor, but unlike their Stanley ancestors, they have a lever cap-less blade clamping design. Some folks just can't help themselves when it comes to tinkering with tool design, eh? :-) One has a flat sole and the other curved (radius of 1 1/2" side-to-side and 12" front to back); for the purposes of this I'll give them the Stanley numbers of #100 and #100 1/2 respectively.

Also in common with Little Victor is the lapped flat sole (on the #100), 1" wide O1 steel blades (also lapped flat on the back), and, near as dammit, the body length.

This super-dooper flattening really is very effective and irons take next to no time to get in working order. Only downside is it makes the blade edges pretty sharp too, so it seemed prudent to break them with a fine stone.

I've no doubt many will enjoy getting their tool rolls in a twist coming up with clever ways of jigging the sharpening of the #100 1/2's curved iron, but I confess I did it freehand. Using the plane itself requires a certain amount of hand/eye coordination, so mightn't you just as well get in practice when you sharpen it? But that's a personal hobby horse that really shouldn't be here...

Setting the blades is amply covered in the instructions, available here for the curious, and the #100 is easy enough. Plane on a flat surface, a bit of pressure on the bevel end of the iron and tighten up the wheel.

The curved one is a little trickier 'cos of its natural tendency to rock on it's radiused sole, so I ended up sighting along the sole to set that one up. Again, it wasn't that difficult to do, so no worries.

I gather the tails on these burgundy beats are somewhat bushier than the original Stanleys - I've never tried the latter so have no idea. Whether they are or not, I found them very comfortable to use, both one-handed (as presumably intended)

..and two-handed.

I felt there was an advantage over Victor in that the tail naturally provides some grip into the palm, so you're not relying on your fingers alone to do all the holding, which can be fatiguing.

The obligatory shaving shot. :-)

Prior to trying it I was a bit sceptical about how useful the curved #100 1/2 could really be. Not having a suitable moulding or chair seat about my person, I mucked about making, well, what? The world's shallowest dug out canoe...? Dunno, but it was good fun. Fearful as ever that my ever-unreliable thumbs would object to some pretty sustained and concentrated work, I was pleased to find the #100 1/2 gave me no discomfort in use at all. In fact it really punched above its diminutive weight and would have helped a good deal during my chair-making adventures. Tsk, when will these toolmakers get their timing right?

So that's a lot of words on a couple of planes that, let's face it, a number of people are likely to slip into their virtual shopping cart just "because" on the basis that they don't make quite as big a blip on the spousal radar as, say, a jointer... More than a few are going to attract SWMBOs to exclaim "awww, cute" too, and well, they are, But they're also real tools that can do real tasks - I was pleasantly surprised.


  1. Just wanted to say thanks for the review and the pictures. I have a tiny unidentified (maybe Sargent?) Little Victor-sized plane, and find it very handy. But now these "tailed" ones look handy too, and of course the LV quality can't be beat, and they'd fit so nicely in a Christmas stocking... Oh, well.

    I just started reading your blog recently, and I appreciate your writing and your subject matter! I'm a member of Woodnet, but I stumbled across your blog via a link from Woodworking Magazine's blog page.
    Keep it up,

  2. Interesting! I can see that the curved sole version would appeal to a chairmaker but what is the unique function of the flat sole version, please? Wouldn't an apron plane do the biz just as well?



  3. Welcome, Andy - funny you should mention Christmas stockings as that was in the first draft :-)

    EG, well that's funny too, because as a smaller-handed person it appeals to me a bit more than an apron plane for genuine one-handed use. I suppose that sums up the difference really - it's simply smaller, which is supposedly an advantage on smaller projects. In practice I'm not sure how many woodworkers would feel an apron plane was too big for their needs, but there's the option if you do. Small planes and block planes seem always to have attracted endless permutation, only a c*ll*ct*r would feel the need for them all. (For heaven's sakes don't ask me to list how many I have, that's all I ask...)

  4. I hope it's not a case of "Not photographing well" I like the pink (though obviously I'm alone in that), burgundy on the other hand - bleh. Can't see the point of the wee flat one but the curvy one thats a different issue - chair seats etc - seeing as I've started considering making chairs or at least a chair - and it's all your fault Alf!
    Cheers Mike R

  5. Excellent write-up, as always, Alf. The curved one seems particularly useful.


    Paul Chapman

  6. This looks just the job for a carved top electric guitar,any thoughts? all the best Neil

  7. Not really familiar with guitar making, Neil, so hard to say. If a small and handy plane is the requirement though, then yep, reckon so!


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