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Lie Nielson Tools – Bronze Low Angle Block Plane
6 years, 11 months ago Posted in: Blog, Luthier Tools, The Art Of Lutherie 10
Lie Nielson Tools - Bronze Low Angle Block Plane

This is the first of a series of posts I’m planning to write about my favorite tools that I use while making my guitars. Having and using nice hand tools is just one of the many great parts of being a luthier.



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One of my favorite and most used tools in my guitar shop, is my Lie-Neilson Bronze Low Angle Block Plane

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I first got this little bronze block plane about 8 or 9 years ago, and it was instantly my favorite tool. I use it for just about anything even remotely applicable. It holds an edge forever and is just the right size. I’m not endorsed by Lie-Nielson, however I am a huge fan of their tools.

The Blade

The blade on this low angle block plane is A-2 Tool Steel hardened to Rockwell 60-62, cryogenically treated and double tempered, which to me seems to be just right for holding the edge. It has a pretty tight angle on the blade and it still holds an edge very well which is a pretty big accomplishment given the abuse I put it through. It also holds up to my everyday bad habits which include freehand sharpening (guesstimating the angle with no guide or holder) on sandpaper that’s just laying on the steel table of my belt sander. I’ve tried all those fancy sharpening stones but this is my quick and effective way to draw up a great razor sharp edge in only about 2 minuets and get back to work.

low angle block plane
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The Plane Body

The curved shape of the bronze plane body is also really perfect for my hand and the low angle and blade position is a must for what I do since it helps to plane through figured wood (which is essentially like planing end-grain). The mouth of this block plane is very tight so when I take a very thin cut it further reduces the amount of tear-out I get in figured wood or in wood with grain running in a less than ideal direction.

To be honest I can’t think of anything bad to say about this tool, I love it and plan to use it for the rest of my career and hopefully pass it on to my sons one day when I’m gone. So that’s it, I just wanted to share about this great Bronze block plane by Lei Nielson

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that I use everyday to make my guitars.

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If you liked this post, have comments, or have suggestions for other things you would like to see me write about here, please leave a comment below, I look forward to hearing from you!

10 Responses

  1. Ken Jeffs says:

    Tom,
    I so agree with you about the feel of a well crafted hand tool. My wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her that for years I had hit all the antique shops for used hand plans and would love to have a tool that I did not spend more hours getting and keeping in shape than I would get to use. She gave me a LN 4 1/2 Smoother. Wow, right out of the box it felt wonderful in my hands and even better gliding across a piece of wood. I immediately used it to shoot the joints for the top and bottom plates of my first resonator.

    Nice blog… Thank you and keep it going.

  2. Josh says:

    Tom,
    Thank you for this blog post. I am just getting started in learning lutherie, so this series on your favorite tools is very valuable in understanding which tools are tried and true. I eagerly anticipate more great articles!

    Josh

  3. Michael McMillan says:

    How / what planes do you use for carving Top & back plates?

    Do you use Eastern and Western maple for plates ?

    I admire your work Tom. Do you accept visitors? My family is From Belleville, IL & I’m in the neighborhood periodically.

    Talk to you soon – Michael McMillan

  4. Stephen says:

    Tom,

    I have heard that a long (10″) plane should be used for tops/backs. That D’Angelico looks rather short; do you find any problems using that for jointing plates?

    • Tom says:

      Stephan,

      The two small planes that I mentioned (D’Angelico and Ibex) are used for sculpting the arch of the top and back for archtop/back guitars. The small Lie-Nielson in the post, I use for a variety of things, but not for jointing.

      You are right, you want a long plane for jointing, with square sides. 10″ is great, it can be longer though (or shorter), and I like a low angle for figured woods. I use an old stanley plane thats about 10″-12″ (it was my Grandfathers so I don’t know its model number or length ) It was in bad shape when I got it because he was a framing carpenter and was pretty tough on his tools. I had to true the bottom and sides of the plane and fixe up the blade. It’s still not as cool as my dream Low Angle Jack Plane but it gets me through.

      At the end of the day we have to learn the art of using the tools we have, even if they are not perfect. Chasing the dream tool usually results in a lot of waisted time and energy, though they are nice if and when you can get them– but no tool is perfect. Developing the skill to overcome the imperfections is art of it.

  5. Frank says:

    Hi Tom, Great site.
    I’m looking to start on my first archtop, I saw that you like the D’Angelico Plane. Do you have much problem tear out on fiddleback maple?
    I’m torn between the Ibex palm plane and the D’Angelico.
    By the way the LN low angle jack plane is a beautiful plane, the adjustable throat makes it so versatile.
    Thanks for your thoughts
    -Frank

    • Tom says:

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes tear out is always a problem, the only real way to deal with it is to get to know the piece of wood itself. Every piece of wood is different and with each, you will need to get to know which direction you must plane in which places. After a while it comes naturally. But it does take some time to get the feel of it and make it automatic enough so that you won’t ruin a heavily figured piece of wood.

      I have the big Ibex plane and used it for years, but it hurt my hand really bad. I made a wooden block to go over the back of the blade and rest in my palm. It never really worked right though, and once I got the D’Angelico plane I never really went back to the big Ibex. The Hock blade on the D’Angelico is nice and has stood up well to my terrible quick and dirty sandpaper sharpening habits.

      The small Ibex I mentioned earlier in the comments is great. It has the same problem in that there is no palm rest, but its small size and blade arrangement is the only tool that I have found to help with the heavy figure and tight places. Maybe I need to write an article about all the planes I use and prefer, it seems like it might be helpful?

      I do the bulk of the work with the D’Angelico and then the refinements with the small Ibex.

      I’m sure the LN low angle is amazing as are all of their tools, one day I’ll get one. Maybe Lie Nielsen should give me one so I can use it and write about it 😉

      Tom

  6. […] Lie Nielson Low Angle Block Plane – I have talked about this tool a lot because its one of my all time favorites, click the link to read the full article. […]

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