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The Veritas Premium Block Plane

Lee Valley has just released two new block planes, a Premium (the NX60 Block) and a Standard version (the DX60 Block). These mark a move towards a no-compromise design, with a focus as much on aesthetics as performance.

The Planes

The Premium is built in a nickel-resist ductile iron. This looks and acts like stainless steel for a rust-resistant life. The Standard (in black) is regular ductile iron, also with the same stainless steel hardware, and with a lower price. Both designs are otherwise exactly the same (and for the purpose of the review, I am going to refer to both as the Premium planes as this is easier to follow than using numbers).

My introduction to the plane design began in December 2007 when a parcel arrived from Lee Valley for feedback on the not-quite-complete design. My first impression was the striking contrast of colours as the silver plane came out of a black velvet drawstring bag.

I had opened the parcel at the kitchen bench where Lynndy was standing. She (who rarely enthuses about my interest in tools and is, in fact, seeking to start a website “Wives against Woodworkers”) made admiring sounds and commented that the plane reminded her of a Porsche. I am not quite sure how she came up with that particular vehicle, but indeed this plane was sleek and sexy, and I just knew that it was going to stun the public and draw oohhs and aahhs.

The hard part was sending it back after the feedback was done. Heroin would have been easier to kick.

Almost a year has gone by and the plane has returned. It is no less stunning to my eye. It was joined by a sibling clothed in black. Frankly, I do not know which is more striking.

Block Plane Comparisons

It is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn with other block planes. That is the nature of hobbyists in woodworking. We all love the tools for their looks as much as their practical use. In this regard I believe that there are two main competitors among new block planes, the Lie-Nielsen LA #60 ½ and the Veritas LA Block Plane.

Left to Right: Premium Black, Premium SS, LN #60 ½, Veritas LABP.

Several years ago, when I was looking to purchase a new block plane, I ended up getting the LN. I liked its greater heft in a small plane, but more importantly it was comfortable to hold in my (average-sized) hand. I already had a Stanley #65, a very fine vintage block plane, but its extra width really did not suit me. And this was the reason why I did not consider the Veritas LABP (which has similar dimensions to the #65).

I was (and remain) entirely happy with the performance of the LN. However, when the examination of Premium SS came up, I borrowed a LABP to compare designs. It was eye opening. It must be appreciated that LN continue with the traditions set by the early Stanley version, and what they have done is produce a plane with the charm of the vintage plane, with far, far better materials and finish, but with also some of the foibles of that vintage design. There are few that would disagree that LN has set the bar on high standards for block planes. Examining the LABP made me aware that there were areas that could be improved. The most notable one being the placement of the lever cap adjuster wheel. It was only after using the LABP that I realized that the LN was too far forward for comfortable adjusting. There was too little clearance space for fingers. By contrast, the LABP provided room to spare.

Above are the LN and Premium together to illustrate this issue.

The position of the adjustment wheel was not sufficient for me to give up the LN for the LABP. Nor was the fact that the mouth adjustment system on the LABP was more user friendly (more on this later). The LN fitted my hand better, and that was the deciding factor. OK, the LN is a much nicer looking plane. The LABP is rather pedestrian looking.

Now enter the Premium planes. I have already made my opinion known about their looks. Damn, they are striking! (Just in case you missed this). The Premium planes also address the width issue. This is now the same as the LN. These planes fit my hand like the proverbial glove.

Comparing Dimensions

Premium SS

Standard Black

LN #60 ½

Veritas LABP


























Bed Angle





The effort that has gone into the details in the Premium planes is impressive.

Elliptical knurling on all wheel and knobs ....

Note the side adjustment set screw in the above picture. This may be used as a fine lateral adjuster or to aid in preventing blade movement.

One of the features that has always irked me about the Veritas BU plane range (including the LABP) has been the loose shoe for the Norris-type blade adjuster. With these planes, when it comes time to remove the blade, the whole shoe would lift away. Inevitably it would drop on the ground among the shavings. Even if it remain attached to the blade, it could twist and lost its setting if care was not taken to keep it from moving. The prototype Premium SS had this feature. I recommended that it be captured in the production version. And so it has been …

Note that the Norris-type adjuster allows for lateral- and well as fore-and-aft movements. The LN is fixed in place and, therefore, does not allow for lateral movement. Both LN and Veritas models may also be adjusted laterally with slight pressure from fingers or a mallet.

The fixed LN adjuster

The other feature for which I had some input was the finger grips on the side of the plane (I am sure that I was not the only one to made these recommendations, but it is nice to recognise that Lee Valley listens to feedback).

The original finger grips were racy-looking grooves. They were grippy but uncomfortable. I looked at a number of block planes and concluded, “The finger grip of the LABP was the best of all. As Lyn Mangiameli has stated in the past, the circles are not attractive. But they are effective. I found the large front circle to be the best position for a finger grip. The next best was the oval indent of the (Stanley) #65. While this is similar to the LN, the latter is significantly smaller and provides hardly any grip at all”.

Below is a comparison of the new finger grips on the Premium planes along with those of the LN and LABP…

Bottom down: LABP, LN, Premium Black, Premium SS

It is evident that the decision was made to include an oval finger grip, notwithstanding the racy stripes on the Premium SS. This are also positioned in line with the large circle of the LABP. But what is really interesting is the creative twist given by the design team to the oval indents. If you look carefully you will see that they are scalloped out deeper at the top, thus providing even better grip.

The soles. They were flat. Flat-with-a-Capital-F. I ran the planes over a length of 400 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper (glued to a glass plate). Three strokes (3!) and the sole looked like this …

The bedding: The length of the bed on the Premium planes has been increased over the LABP. It has the same area of support as the LN. In theory this should improve blade stability and performance over the LABP.

Left to right: LABP, Premium, LN

Longer Toe: As noted above, the toe (area forward of the mouth) is greatest on the Premium planes and smallest on the LN. This should translate into improved registration when starting on the edge of a board.

I might add here that the extended toe continues the Veritas tradition of the bevel up planes where the toe has been lengthened. For example, the BU Jointer has a sole the length of a Stanley #7 jointer plane but the mouth is set further back, resulting in a toe the same length as a Stanley #8 jointer plane.

Innovative Mouth Adjustability: The adjustability of the mouth is a thing of beauty. It is a miniature version of the bigger sibling BU planes. A twist of the knob allows you to slide the mouth plate open or closed. The LNs' Stanley design is quite clunky by comparison. The Premiums (and LABP) move smoothly. The LN is gritty.

The little depth stop is adjusted with an Allen/Hex Key. Set it once and it is done forever. It prevents the edge of the mouth crashing into the blade as you close up the mouth. Neither the LABP nor the LN has this feature.

A Gripe

The blades that come with the Premium planes are, as with the LN and the LABP, made from A2 steel. I wish that they were instead made from O1. Low angle block planes are used with low angle bevels, typically 25 degrees, if one is to take advantage of the low 12° bed angle. The low angle improves the ease with which one is able to plane end grain as well as its finish. It is certainly possible to plane end grain with a higher bevel angle, but as the bevel angle increases, so the finish decreases and the effort increases.

The problem with A2 steel is that it tends to fracture more easily when the bevel is ground less than 30 degrees. So was the case with all the blades used here. All chipped out on the hard Jarrah I planed. It must be said that this was a very stern test. Also that the Premium blades were new and may improve as they are honed. In this regard I use the same angle on my Veritas LA Jack for the shooting board, and it has proved very durable over the course of some years.

Preparing the Blades

All said, the blades arrived with little work to do. The backs were flat. I ran one across an 8000 Shapton and it began to show polish in all the important areas, and consequently I substituted a 12000 Shapton. There may have been the very slightest of a hollow in the center (away from the edge), but in about 30 seconds the backs on two blades were polished.

The blades were provided by the factory with (what appeared to be) a 23° primary bevel and 25° secondary bevel, both flat ground (or the result of a very large diameter wheel).

This appeared to favour honing using a honing guide. The outline of the blade is curvy, and the straight area is quite small. There is no difficulty using a blade with the LV Honing Guide Mk II (no surprises there!), however the blades cannot be held in an Eclipse guide.

LV Honing Guide Mk II …………….and Eclipse

I wanted to hollow grind and freehand sharpen the blades. In the interests of uniformity for the review, I ground all the blades on the Tormek at 25 degrees. The curvy outline of required the blades to be set up with a small square – I do this anyway, so not really an issue for me, but others may not expect to have to do so.

All blades were hollow ground and finished on a Shapton 12000.


Block planes excel at one-handed planing to bevel edges, smooth or trim small areas, and dimension and finish end grain.

All the block planes in this review performed very well. There are no surprises. Nor should there be – a sharp and stability blade, especially a sharp blade, goes a long way to maximize performance. If you have any doubt about this, read my review of the Orange Block Plane. That is why I consider that ergonomics count for so much with these planes. The LABP and LN had been used for some time and were well tuned as a result.

To assess the planing capabilities I concentrated on a few basic cuts, mainly with planing endgrain in both hard and soft woods. For soft wood I chose Radiata Pine. This is truly horrible stuff and a sharp blade is an important starting point. For hard wood I used a section of Jarrah. This was a particularly stern test for blade edges.

Planing face grain is not the domain of low cutting angles. The Premium had no difficulty leaving a glassy surface on the face of the pine.

. however, planing a hardwood with interlinked grain left tearout even with a razor sharp blade and the mouth closed right up. This is where a high cutting angle is obligatory.

Beveling edges is no test of a block plane, so let’s move on to end grain ….

Here is some of the Truly Horrible Radiata Pine …

Above: The plane feels very comfortable to hold. The palm enveloped the dome of the lever cap. The thumb and forefinger grip the cutouts easily. The knob is lower than on the LN and LABP, but the thumb has a secure resting place and guides the plane easily.

Both the LABP and the LN produced equally fine shavings here….

So, onto hard, hard Jarrah …

And not to be outdone ..

These planes are also useful for shooting edges on a shooting board, particularly delicate sections where a gentle touch is desired (unlike the illustration!)…


I was conscious of the weight of the Premium block plane when I first used 12 months ago. I could imagine some users voicing an objection and saying that it would be fatiguing to use for extended periods. It really did not feel this way. The plane is so well balanced that it is unnoticed as a negative. If anything the extra heft set the plane apart from lighter block planes (such as a Stanley #65). On the end grain of harder woods, there is increased momentum.

The Premium has by far the best front knob I have used on a block plane. The low profile is not only striking in looks, but is very comfortable to hold. It offers more control than the high profiled knobs of the other planes.

There are a number of user-friendly controls that are unmatched by all other block planes in my experience. The mouth stop is the first I have seen in a block plane. It is so neatly done that it is almost missed. I believe that this feature is going to raise a few eyebrows. The lever cap adjuster wheel is easier to access and turn. This is an important factor since frequent adjustments are needed for blade depth, such as when varying for face grain verses end grain. In addition, the lever cap must be removed to access the blade for sharpening.

With regard to planing performance, there was little to choose between these well-tuned block planes. All are capable of a high order of performance.

Last Words

The new Veritas Premium Block Planes are going to cause a stir, ignite intense feeling of desire, and become an instant classic. This is as much for their beauty as their performance – both for ergonomics and for user-friendliness. They combine excellence of finish with innovation in design. This marks the start of a new range of premium planes by Veritas/Lee Valley.

Regards from Perth


November 2008