Veritas Low Angled Smoother (LAS) has been available for a few years now.
This, together with the Veritas Low Angled Jack (LAJ), formed the first
two – and most recognized – of Veritas’ entry into the production of what
now are termed “Bevel Up” planes.
concept is not new, nor is it unique to Veritas. Lie Nielsen market
similar models and, in fact, the inspiration for the planes came from
Stanley, who manufactured the #164 (the original name for the LAS) between
1926 until 1943. The #164 did not sell well and so few remain, which is
why today these are very highly sought after by collectors.
In recent years, the #164 was re-introduced by Lie Nielsen (as the #164),
and then followed by Veritas (the LAS). Both planes are very similar with
just a few distinguishing differences (for a detailed comparison of the
Veritas and LN versions, read
Alf’s excellent review). The question that must
first be asked is...
if this plane was not successful before, why is it being manufactured
The simple answer is that the LAS offers so much more than
the Stanley #164 did, not only in construction, but also in scope. Just
how we now perceive the way in which the LAS will be used is a world away
from the way it was intended when the original #164 was launched.
The #164 is technically a “block plane”.
Patrick Leach, in his fine website,
Blood and Gore,
recorded, “Stanley, in their marketing propaganda, claimed that "A
Block Plane was first made to meet the demand for a Plane which could be
easily held in one hand while planing across the grain, particularly the
ends of boards, etc. This latter work many Carpenters call 'Blocking in',
hence the name 'Block' Plane." This, if it is to be believed, dispels
the myth that block planes are so named because they were first used on
My impression is that the market for #164 was the cabinetmaker, and most
carpenters would have viewed this plane as a luxury and preferred their Stanley
#60 ˝. This is not surprising since the planes were then constructed from
grey cast iron, which was relatively fragile. These low angle planes were
very thin around the mouth, and this had a reputation for chipping. So
hardly the type of plane that one might carry from job site to job site.
The second, and perhaps most pertinent factor as far as understanding why
there was a re-issue of the #164s design, is that there has been a change
in perspective in regard to how the bevel up concept can (and does)
The Promise of the Bevel Up
The original #164 was conceived to be used in the same manner as existing
small block planes of the day, that is, as a hand plane with a low cutting
angle. The plane’s bed is set at 12°
and the blade is honed with a bevel of 25°.
This creates a combined cutting angle of 37°. By contrast, a standard
bevel down Stanley #4 smoother (which is the same size plane)
has a frog at 45 degrees which creates a cutting angle of 45°
(since the bevel angle is not a factor in this calculation).
The promise of a bevel up plane is realized when it is used with blades
that offer different bevel angles. For example, in addition to the low
angle (37°), one might hone the bevel at 33° (cutting angle of 45°, or
Standard pitch), 38° (cutting angle of 50°, or York pitch) or 50° (cutting
angle of 62°, or Half pitch).
As a rule of thumb, a low cutting angle is best on end grain while a high
cutting angle is best on reversing grain where tearout is a serious risk. In other words, the promise of a bevel up plane is the wide range of uses
to which it may be put. With just a change of blade it can be transformed
from a plane that cuts end grain on a shooting board to a plane cutting
face grain in soft wood, and to a smoother dealing with gnarly hardwoods.
The Promise of the Veritas LA
- The bevel up design creates a
low center of gravity, and this aids control.
- A thick blade
(1/8”) to aid stability and reduce the possibility of chatter. This is
made of A2 tool steel
hardened to Rc60-62.
- A wide range of effective
cutting angles, especially very high angles.
The LAS comes standard with a 25° bevel, which yields an effective
cutting angle of 37°.
- With its adjustable mouth it
has the capability to be set up for the finest of shavings.
- Blade stability
is further increased through:
- Alignment by set screws on each side of the blade, and
- A long and wide bed that supports the blade down to the mouth.
- A substantial front knob and
rear tote. The rear tote has double bolts for
additional rigidity, compared to traditional bench planes such as the
Stanley, which use only one bolt.
- Precise blade adjustment
(through a Norris-style adjuster). Blade adjustment is in two planes –
blade projection and lateral adjustment.
Finally, the LAS is constructed of Ductile iron which,
unlike grey cast iron, is nearly indestructible.
I purchased this LAS approximately 18 months ago and the following is a
summary of my experience and observations using it over this time.
(a) The Objective Results
The LAS has been used on a wide variety of woods, ranging from soft pine
through to the gnarliest of Australian hardwoods, such as Jarrah, Karri
and Blackbutt. While
straight grained and undemanding soft woods can be planed without much
fear with a low angle blade, gnarly hardwoods are best treated with
respect and planed with a 62° cutting angle.
LAS creating shavings on Camphor at approximately 0.0000”
above picture reveals the LAS’ capability on camphor, a softwood with
frequent sections of reversing grain. This was consistently achieved
without any indication of tearout. To emphasize this point, I was not able
to plane this successfully with either of my favourite Stanley planes, a
Bedrock #604 (with Lie Nielsen blade and chipbreaker) and a Type 12 #4 ˝
(with Clifton blade and chipbreaker). The gap between the LAS and the
Stanley planes was further widened when the LAS was able to complete a
tearout-free performance against the grain.
LAS on Karri
of the toughest woods to plane, owing to a combination of hardness and
constant short reversing grain, is Karri. Again the LAS was capable of a
near-flawless finish in high angle mode. The Stanley planes again left
summary, the performance of the LAS in high angle mode was simply in a
different class to the Stanley planes, which were set up in standard mode.
(b) The Subjective
I have previously described the differences of a bevel up plane verses a
bevel down plane in use (see
Veritas BU Smoother
review). The LAS performs identically to the BUS. I have paraphrased and
updated the earlier comments below.
Setting and fine-tuning the blade is simple with
With the LAS you slide the adjustable mouth forward
(to guard against the blade edge striking a metal surface), place the
blade on the plane’s bed between the set screws, replace the lever cap,
return the sliding mouth to its preset position, then fine-tune the blade
for square and projection.
With the Stanley, you must first re-position the
chipbreaker on the blade as close to the edge as you can, place the blade
on the plane’s frog, carefully attempting to center the lateral adjustment
level, replace the lever cap, then fine-tune the blade.
While these steps appear very similar, they are more
frustrating with the Stanley. For example, the setscrews on the LAS
permit the blade to be placed in the same position as before. The
adjustable mouth has a stop that returns it to the same projection as
before. It is possible to get very close to the previous depth of cut by
extending the blade to the edge of the mouth.
With the Stanley, many things may go wrong. If the
chipbreaker is set a fraction too far forward or too far back, it will
impact on the depth of cut setting. If the chipbreaker is not centered on
the screw in the middle of the frog, the lateral adjustment lever will be
skewed more to one side than another making it more difficult to adjust
to center. Setting the mouth size on a Stanley bench plane requires
removal of the frog (since the adjustment screws are positioned under the
blade), followed with a trial-and-error approach to get the desired
setting. Bed Rocks are partly desired for their ability to by-pass this
last stage (as they have external adjustment screws).
LAS (left) and BUS (right)
Comparisons with the Veritas
Bevel Up Smoother
A more detailed discussion of the BUS verses the LAS was reported in the
review cited above. The question that is asked is whether the newer BUS is
the better purchase, and whether the older LAS is still competitive?
The short answer is that these are two different planes, each with
strengths and weaknesses.
The LAS is a smaller and lighter plane, more easily approximated by a
Stanley #4. The BUS is a larger, heavier plane, more easily approximated
by the Stanley #4 ˝. The LAS offers more direct “feel” while the BUS has
heft and this translates into added momentum and “control”.
Overall, the performance of these two planes is similar, if not
potentially identical, but the BUS is able to achieve it with greater ease
(that momentum thing).
The BUS is a dedicated smoother. It has no other use. The LAS has a wider
range of uses. The BUS cannot be used on its side since it is not flat.
The LAS is perfect for using on a shooting board, and really excels in
The LAS on a shooting board
In short, the BUS excels as
the ultimate smoother. The LAS is the choice for those that seek to use a
plane that excels on the shooting board as well.
postscript on this last point: I would not dedicate a low angle blade to
the BUS since it will not be used in that mode. The LAS, on the other
hand, would benefit from 2 or 3 blades to cover a wide range of bevel
LAS vs Stanley totes
The LAS’ tote has come in for criticism from some users. In comparison to
the Stanley tote, it has a vertical orientation. It should be pointed out
that Veritas have since introduced a new tote, which is seen on the BUS
(above), and this has added curvature at the center.
experience the LAS tote as comfortable, while others do not. I believe
that this is not simply a function of the size of one’s hand (which,
obviously, must also play a part), but largely due to the height of one’s
workbench. The vertical grip is better suited to more modern higher
benches where the push is forwards and horizontal. The angled grip of the
Stanley is better suited to the traditional lower benches where one pushes
While I may be criticized for comparing the LAS in high angle mode with
Stanley planes in standard mode, since these are not equal mediums, this
situation serves to illustrate the very essence of the LAS. The LAS is
capable of being used in a wide range of blade angle modes, where as the
Stanley plane has just one mode.
The LAS is capable of first class performance, whether with a low angle
blade on a shooting board, or with a high angle blade on some of the most
testing wood available. This is an easy plane to set up and use, one that
will quickly enable a novice to create shavings that rival those of an
experienced user. The LAS is an obvious recommendation for the short list
of all those considering a new smoothing plane.
The Veritas Low Angle Smooth Plane and other Veritas products can be purchased online at Lee Valley (Canada) -
Perth, March 2006