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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lee Valley Low Angle Jointer

One thing a person will notice walking into my shop, is an abundance of Lee Valley tools. I like them a little (OK, a lot). Another thing that person would notice, is a lack of Lee Valley bench planes (or any "premium" planes). I have a few of their specialty planes and that is part of what drove me to buy the Low Angle Jointer.
My purchase of the LA jointer represents my first "premium" bench plane and my first bevel up plane. I wanted a wider jointer than my woody, which has only a 1.5" blade. I liked the idea of the versatility of this plane as well. Change an iron, and basically change the plane. Add a fence and make shooting an edge an effortless job.
So, here's my thoughts.
Fresh out of the package. The 25 degree iron is installed, plus I got a toothed iron, and the shooting fence.

The bed is nicely machined, and I really like the Norris style adjuster. The knob and screw on the left side are for adjusting the mouth. A nice feature.

All set up and ready to go. I felt a lot more confident with this plane in my hands. It has a great balance of size and weight. It is a little shorther than my wooden jointer, but it is significantly wider. The wider iron, and extra bulk really go a long way. It took only a few minutes to flatten a board.
Installing the shooting fence is straight forward. Remove the screws from their stowed position and place the fence on either the left or right side of the plane. Then it's time to adjust...
As you would guess, the guide won't be perfectly aligned for the first use. I set the plane upside down and used a machinist's square to set it up.

Set up to a perfect 90 degrees. It took a few minutes of fiddling with the mounting screws and adjustment screw.

Again, I was able to work with a greater level of confidence. If you have properly set up the fence, you can't help but shoot a perfect edge.

Lee Valley thinks of everything. The fence has two threaded holes for stowing the mounting screws. Above and between them is the adjustment screw.

Each iron came with its own storage case. I think Lee Valley's marketing department had something to do with this, because I immediately wanted to buy a few for the rest of my spare irons. Clever folks, eh?

As you can see, my wooden jointer is quite narrow. I made it for shooting edges. It is a pain for flattening a board. It also needs periodic flattening. The Lee Valley jointer is a no-fuss no-muss tool. Sharpen the iron and go.

Overall, I'm extremely happy with this purchase. Price-wise, this thing is a bargain. The plane is under $300, with a spare iron and the fence you can still keep it in the mid $300 range. There are cheaper planes, but they are lesser quality. Those cheaper planes are also mostly made in China, and I avoid MIC whenever I can. Even if quality was on par with Lee Valley, my vote would still go to the Lee Valley brand. I could have gone with something like a Lie-Nielsen, but I decided that the extra function and slightly lower price were more appropriate for me. A decision between Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen is never made on quality, it comes down to personal preference.

For those of us who have only used Bailey style planes in the past, the feel of this plane is different. The handle is more upright, and takes a while to get used to. That is by no means a negative, it's just one of those things that strikes you when you first set this plane on the bench. If I was to go fishing for a negative, it would be the adjustment of the shooting fence. Though I'll be damned if I can think of anything better. It's a bit fidgity, but like I said, I can't think of anything to improve it.

I intend to spend some more time getting familiar with this plane, and I will likely add to my opinions here. I only spent a few minutes with the toothed iron (more suitable for the jack plane) and I want to explore that some more. I also want to get another iron, one with a higher angle. The 25 degree iron is prone to tearout on tough wood, as Lee Valley informs you in their literature. Now lets see if I can get some time set aside for a bit of woodworking...


  1. Don't you mean bevel up plane.?

  2. Good catch,thanks. It's fixed now.

  3. I am surprised as I thought you would make a wider smoother if you wanted one. Bevel up and bevel down planes both work well and each has advantages. Two things I like about bevel up planes are the simplicity and the speed with which you can remove and change blades. I suspect that I sharpen more often as a result. I bought all three blades for my LV BU smoother and find being able to switch back and forth quickly a real advantage.

    About the only disadvantage I find is that I wish my bench was higher when I use it because of the tote angle on the LV bevel up planes. I'll be interested to see how it is for you going back and forth between wooden planes and your new jointer.

    1. Andy-
      I had thought about making another wooden jointer with a wider iron for a while. I like wooden planes, but I felt that getting a well made metal plane would be helpful. With this plane I can concentrate on my technique instead of worrying if I have my plane properly made and tuned. It helps with my confidence because I KNOW the plane isn't the problem when something isn't turning out the way I want it.
      I am thinking about ordering the Low Angle Jack to compliment the jointer. I would like to get the PM-V11 iron with the jack to have at 25 degrees and regrind the O-1 iron I have with the jointer to a higher angle. I may actually have the money to do that this fall.