The Travelling Anarchists Tool Chest and Contents No 6 Block Planes.

Block Planes

Putting a block plane into a chest of tools for a young Professional maker . If you know someone who could win this £4000 prize send them HERE   now please entry closes end nov.

There are stories about the name of these planes  “blocking out planes ” I don’t believe that. My belief is that they came from the butchery trade. My mothers butcher, when I was a boy had a huge wooden slab that meat carcases were chopped up upon. A great gory blood soaked slab. This execution block had a huge hollow where the middle was worn away. Last job at night for the boy was to clean that block with a small hand plane.

The particular usefulness of this tool is that it fits in one hand comfortably and is light enough to be used easily .  Comfort is key . The blade is low in the body with the bevel of the blade up. There is no back iron here. So its general detail work, chamfers final shave, but thats not all.  This for the cabinet maker is a small multiple cutting angle plane finishing plane. Got some curly maple thats tearing up? Grind, or just hone your blade angle up FROM 30 degrees TO 40 degrees tighten the mouth up and see if that gets rid of tear out. If not take it 5 degrees higher. There is almost no piece of timber that cannot be planed to a finish with a well set up plane.

The key thing to look at is the overhang. The design and machining of the body leaves the blade unsupported for a distance from the body to the cutting edge. I have just given away to a good friend a hand made Bristol Design block plane that managed to support the blade WAAAAY down low. This stops chatter when working really difficult stuff .

That is, if the iron is sharp. The planes we have to look at today have A2  blades which is a sadness. O1 steel would have given me a  sharper edge except for something hand made in Japan . But the Japanese do not, I believe have these really small low angle planes. Their blades may be supreme, but it is too difficult to make a body like this in timber.

I looked at Veritas, they do an O1 blade in their block planes. Bless them for doing this, but their block planes are just that bit too heavy for me. How a tool sits in the hand is IT.

So we are left with two, not really wonderful choices. I was hoping to look at the new Clifton block plane . Its damn expensive at nearly £100 more than LN rivals and thankfully the blade is still O1 ( hurray !) . As I will say later when we look at bench planes Clifton used to be in on all our benches here at Rowden. I must have sold hundreds of Clifton No6 planes for them. This was not so much the plane, which was only O K, but the blade which was SPECIAL. Alan Reid  MD at Clifton developed a forged hammered blade called “Victor” that was magic. All the qualities of best Sheffield steel. Now Clifton has been sold and the nice Sheffield lady tells me “I cannot afford to put those blades in my planes any more.”  So we have A beep beep 2 again! Thankfully the new Clifton block plane has an  O 1 blade.  But still as far as I am concerned its Bye-Bye Clifton bench planes at Rowden.  This is the same direction our British motorcycle industry and metal bashing went!

Its not that it isn’t good steel. A2. is great above 30 degrees, it hold a good edge but it is not “wicked sharp”.  This  I can just about get with O.1. and it is NOWHERE NEAR as sharp as forged steel found in the best Japanese planes. A 2 is great for the amateur who doesn’t sharpen every hour of every day . This after all is the market. But I am looking for a professional tool for someone who doesn’t need “training wheels” to sharpen and can do it in a flash.

Two tests of a maker coming to Rowden for a job as maker. Can you draw, and can you sharpen?  Fail either of these and you don’t even make mid morning tea break of the first day.



So these are the choices two really nice little block planes by LN .  The nearest one is also a rebate plane with a snicker ahead of the blade. The plane at the back is probably the one I will keep. ( I have to replace my Bristol Design plane ) I like the feel of both these tools but you can probably tell I am not excited by them .

Oh, get this, if you drop these babies they can break, even on a wooden floor. James one of my students did just that and broke and bent the adjustment wheel . He contacted Classic Handtools where he bought the plane expecting to have to pay for replacement parts . They sent them quickly free of charge . NOW that Mr. Isles is what I call customer service.  Hats off to Classic.



A very interesting response:

Hi David,

I was reading you comments on tonight’s blog posting in which you lamented that the LN Block planes are only offered with A2 blades. I’m not sure whether you are aware (you most likely are) or whether it’s even relevant, but Lee Valley sells Veritas blades that are designed to fit Stanley/Record planes (for bench and block panes). In addition to A2 and PM-V11, they offer O1 blades which might(?) be along similar lines to the A1 steel you wrote about?

Assuming LN has not materially modified the mounting design for the blade in their #60½ (I doubt it), it might be possible to swap it out for a Veritas O1 version (thinking P/N: 05P31.73 –,41182,43698&ap=1). Having to play retrofit games with high-end planes is far from ideal, but it might be a solution to the conundrum.




Hi Damian

You are right retro fitting blades is a fiddle but as you say it may work. I can see if the Veritas blade standard in one of my students block plane fits then i will know where to go. I do know it would improve this little plane by a measure.

Thank you for your obervation. I am tempted to send a blade to japan and have it made .

Very best



I’m not sure whether using the blade from a Veritas block plane will give you an accurate indication because the Veritas block planes use a Norris Adjuster mechanism, which means the blade has two small circular holes for the blade adjuster pin to register into, rather than slots ( – toothed version, but it shows the design well enough).

On further investigation I’m starting to doubt whether my idea will fly at all. You see, the Veritas blade that’s designed for the #60-1/2 appears (from the product listing page photos) to have the multiple slots cut right through the blade to accommodate/seat the blade advancement stud. This is in keeping with traditional #60-1/2 design.

The blade for the LN 60½ has only a shallow slot cut into it on the underside of blade only (i.e. not cut all the way through) for the blade advance stud to register into (

I now fear that the open slots on the top face of Veritas blades for the #60-1/2 might interfere with the operation of the spinwheel tensioner.

I hope this is clear. What I’m trying to say is the LN 60-1/2’s blade has an unbroken solid surface on the top face of the blade (because the adjuster slot on the underside is not cut all the way through). There’s nothing for the spinwheel to get caught up on, which is good. But the Veritas blade designed for the 60-1/2 appears (from the pics) to have multiple slots cut all the way through. This makes me wonder if the spinwheel tensioner could get hung up on the edge of one of the slots, under certain circumstances.

I’m beginning to think that the inclusion of the spinwheel in LN #60-1/2 (which I like a lot), which necessitates a slot-free top face of blade, might be a LN design change which may preclude retrofitting more traditionally designed blades (with multiple through-slots).

Phew! Maybe I should have researched more about this before opening my gob! 🙂



It just occurred to me that it might be worth your while to email/phone LN directly to ask about O1 blade availability. They might still offer them as a special order or they might have some new old stock. In any case, I would like to think that a request coming from you would receive the attention that it deserves.

Ok. I’m done now. 🙂





You are astride one of my hobby horses. I am going to see if I can get one made for me in Japan. I have a contact with a small blacksmith shop that still hand forges the blades for japanese planes . Choosing a steel is for them only the start they then hammer and heat hammer and heat this is what then makes the O2 better. I know this from Sheffield steel blades from companies like Ward and to a lesser degree Marples who made blades that were harder took a  keen edge but held it for ages .  I believe that they hammered it more.  Expensive time in the back shop that modern manufacturers cannot pay for . Idiots.

Thank you so much for thinking about this

My very best



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