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)
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.