Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Dear me; here I am again. The desire to muse seems to have overtaken me, and as that was the point of the blog...

So the dovetail saw and block planes then. It's been most interesting to read the varied reactions to both on the various woodworking fora. The saw I expected to divide opinion; the reaction to the planes was more of a surprise. Quite honestly I'm amazed how many people don't like the looks. I'm also sad to see some folks seems to have forgotten what Lee Valley Veritas is about and seem to think the sizzle may be disguising an absence of steak. Given the improvements implemented, that's a real shame. As they could have legitimately gone with sizzle and the same steak as the regular line, but they didn't, it seems doubly harsh. I've no idea how the designer (for both the planes and the saw) must be feeling; it's something of a roller coaster just for the independent observer.

Anyway, for fun I thought I'd hunt out my own initial reactions to them. First, the initial look at the saw in September 2006, albeit far from its finished form:

"Coo, it's a hard one to get used to the idea of to be honest. It's, well, the familiar made weird I suppose. The handle looks almost verging on normal, 'til you take in the back and then... I can see it makes practical sense like that, in fact it's rather clever, but by gum, it's one that'd take a bit of getting used to.  

D'you want me to do Todd Hughes' reaction for you? 'I'm just a slow head but I can't see the sense in buying a saw I wouldn't even bend down to pick up and toss in the trash when there's so many good old saws for sale, cheap. I ain't gonna sorta collect them.' Something like that, anyway..."

And yes, Todd Hughes' reaction was pretty much on those lines. ;-) But as you see, I was a trifle taken aback at first. 

Alas, computer foibles mean I lost my reaction to the first sight of the plane, but in July 2007 I got to see a picture of a pre-production model of the NX:

"Ooooooohhhhh indeed.

Just how many frustrated car designers have you got over there? The "V" would be a shoe-in, plus the go-faster stripes down the side. On the other hand there may be some latent desire for a better trainer (sneaker?) 'cos that toe looks almost slipper-like, plus the round heel... Coo, I can't *wait* to read the reactions once it's official.

I shall go forth and dwell upon it for 'some time' - but I think I like it."

And I do. I'm typing this with a group of four adjustable mouth low angle block planes at my elbow - the NX60, DX60, LV and LN - and it results in two things. One; it's really hard to concentrate on typing this when your eye is continuously drawn towards such a line-up of loveliness... Two; we are so very lucky to be woodworking during the production of such a rich vein of hand tool wondrousness. To pick holes in any of them seems to be rather ungracious.

Having said which, I've just realised there's a ding in the finish of the lever cap on my LV regular low angle block. Where's my review of them? Didn't I say keeping them looking nice would be an issue with that finish...? ;-)

Edited to Add: Rob Lee has shared some of the early concepts for the plane and thinking behind the design and so forth here on WoodNet. I only saw the first concept image, as far I can recall. And yes, I did indeed drop the ball on the longer toe issue. Hey, you can have a review in five days - or you can wait thirty days for a good review ;-)


  1. True, true. The reactions and observations have indeed been, uhh, varied.

    I think a lot of this just depends on what one wants to get out of their tools.

    I understand that strict period woodworkers and collectors can be very zealous in their effort to be "correct." I understand that. These tools were not designed for those people.

    However, for most of the rest of us, who just enjoy woodworking with hand tools, I think we need to take a deep breath and realize that we aren't talking about religion, politics, or our mother. These are just simply tools of our craft.

    Simply put, these are fantastic tools in a fantastic lineup of tools by a fantastic company. They may not be the best, the prettiest, the cheapest, or what have you, but they are very interesting.

    They are also niche products intended to reach markets that may not have been well served before. For one reason or another, they won't appeal to everyone, but they are made to be just the tool that some people are looking for, and they are intended to be awesome working tools.

    Repeat after me everyone. "Rejoice! This is good for the craft."

  2. So people like the look and feel of a Stanley #45 (or Record 045) but they object to the LN plane and saw? Something is amiss in the land of industrial designers. If we go back to the prolific 19th C, inventors threw as many bells n whistles in as possible to make their product look Newer and Better. Now LN does the same and is villified. Tsk tsk tsk

  3. Whenever something unusual in appearance is released, it is controversial. I remember the controversy about the mazda 121 "bubble car" and the Ford Kaa. I suppose all the bailey planes (indeed every metal plane) offended the sensibilities of the C19 traditionalists.

    However, I tend to think it is great marketing on Rob Lee's part - now everyone will want to see what all the fuss is about. That will lead to sales and that will lead to success.

  4. Hi Alf

    I totally agree with all your sentiments. What I will add is that the commentary on WoodNet is simple evidence that, with even the best design, it is not possible to please all the people all the time. Who can account for individual taste? Or the increasing desire - and opportunity - for people to to have their opinions heared, as afforded now by the Internet?

    Best regards from Perth


  5. As an exercise in design, both the block planes and the dovetail saw are, in my mind anyway, brilliant. Congratulations Rob and your team.
    What really impresses me about the planes is the incredible accuracy of the machining and the attention to detail.
    The enclosed toe and the mouth adjuster stop are excellent, and barely noticeable, the two side blade adjusting screws and the other little touches in the knurling, all add to the elegance of the concept.
    If I was going to buy one, I would choose the plain DX60 because to me it actually looks better.
    The blingy one - the NX60 - just looks a little too much to me. I think it could lose the racing stripes on the sides and look better immediately. They are one brush stroke too many in my humble opinion. The phrase gilding the lily comes to mind.
    The dovetail saw on the other hand is absolute art.
    This is the best manifestation of the genius of simplicity that I have seen in ages.
    Three parts, and a hidden tote bolt combined in an absolute classic of originality and function. And to my eye it looks good as well.
    If there are any gongs to be given out, I think that the saw deserves five stars.
    Strange that it hasn't attracted more attention.
    If Santa is kind, maybe a saw will appear in the stocking.

  6. From my perspective, I think the design of the plane is brilliant. The saw, maybe not so much, but the plane - definitely.

    When it comes down to whether or not I would buy one or not, I wouldn't buy one for me, but I could see buying one for my son.

    As a designer, I thoroughly appreciate the lines of the tool but I also realize that it does not evoke the same sentiments as my traditionally designed tools. I'm also pretty anal when it comes to keeping my tools in the best condition possible. If I ever scratched a $300 plane, I'd go nuts!



  7. In terms of appearance, I agree with Anonymous. The DX60 hits the spot for me but the NX60 looks a bit too "Ming the Merciless". The three side grooves are excessive. Liked the saw a lot, though.

    Whatever I think, LV should receive a Nobel prize for innovation, flare and high standards of manufacture.


  8. Some of the improvements that have been introduced with this plane are quite appealing to me. I like the idea of the toe set screw which limits movement of the mouth closing plate into the edge of the blade. I like the corrosion resistant material that is a feature of the NX60. The captured Norris style blade adjuster is also a nice improvement. As far as function is concerned, I'm sure the new planes would be very able performers. I just don't like the styling. I don't like the logo on the NX60 lever cap, it is just a bit over the top, as are the side grooves. Your review suggests that the logo is some kind of pop in arrangment. For the money I'd want it cast into the lever cap like the Stanley logos of old. I'd love Lee Valley to make one of their standard block planes made of the same material as the NX60 and with the toe set screw and the captured norris adjuster. That would be a nice little plane.

  9. I for one am baffled by the reactions, how many of the commentators have one of the tools in their hands? A tool is function over form. Granted you can make the form pleasing, but if the form is pleasing and the tool doesnt work what do you have. Some have taken the form to a higher level but the function is still the same.


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