Veritas Small Plow Plane - an opinion. Or as those of us not in the US of A might say - Plough plane :-)
Some of us might also say "Small? Sez who?" In terms of size its 9in long, ductile iron body (albeit weighing in at modest 1 1/2lbs) doesn't really qualify it for the term - it's actually a little longer than the Record #044 claimed as its nearest relative. Supplied ready assembled wrapped in rust inhibiting paper with a 1/4in cutter A2 steel cutter installed, the cardboard box has a re-closeable tab opening and is sturdy enough to act as long-term storage for the plane. Other features include a wooden rear tote (anyone want to guess at Bubinga?), lots of brass knobs and a nice satin-ish black finish. To my eye it certainly looks the part; the shape putting me slightly in mind of a killer whale. Naturally I shall therefore be calling it Willy...
The finish overall is pretty darn good, especially on the fence which has a particularly finely ground face. The grinding on the 3/32in thick skate and depth stop is a little coarser but all is straight and square.
Machining of the 45° bed is very good and takes the right edge of the cutter just nicely a tad over the edge of the skate just where you want it. My only quibble as regards fit is with the depth adjuster; it wobbles about loosely in the plane body and the collar that engages with the cutter has a noticeable amount of spare movement in it, all resulting in about 1 1/2 turns of slop in the adjustment. Not a lot, and the adjuster works just fine as long as you use the customary anti-backlash habit of always adjusting downwards, but it niggles at me. It's not what I associate with Veritas tools, if you see what I mean.
The cutter clamp is captive, that is it can't fall off and get lost like the old Records, and not dissimilar to the design on the Stanley #39 series dado planes if you're familiar with those. Tightened with the inevitable brass knob, it does an excellent job. In conjunction with that, lateral support is provided with another brass knob in the same style as that found on the Record #044, except glory be, this one doesn't need a screwdriver to adjust and is much more user-friendly as a result.
The fence is 6 3/4in long with 3 1/8in long rods on 3 1/2in centres and a 3/4in deep face and it's pretty nice to hold, thank you very much. The rods are fixed at the fence end in the Continental style and locked with collets in the plane body. As a rule I loathe fixed fence rods because it means you can't adjust the "spare" length to help balance up the plane, but in this case they're a) short enough not to matter, and b) the spare length goes through the body which is usually what's required with shorter rods anyway. So I liked it a lot more than I expected.
As a rule I pretty much loathe collets too and was highly sceptical of the claim that the fence would always lock parallel to the skate. That's a really important thing and the majority of different wooden plough plane styles came about as manufacturers tried various ways to achieve this happy situation. After lengthy trials of setting that fence, and greatly enjoying the smooth movement as I did so, I can honestly say it locked parallel to the skate every single time. All that and again not an additional tool required. I may be in love.
As regards the depth stop, Veritas have gone with a much smaller size than most, further relieved with chamfers fore and aft to prevent marking the work and a simple manual-adjust-and-clamping-knob design. As an improvement over the usual design, a wave washer has been introduced to hold the depth stop in position even when the knob is loosened. A Good Thing if the number of depth stop-less Record #043s is anything to go by, however I found I did need to crank down pretty hard on the clamping knob to prevent the depth stop slipping.
Now long-time readers of these things of mine will know that rear totes on Veritas plane and I, well we don't exactly see eye to eye. Or palm to Bubinga... However the tote itself isn't that bad and the warmth of the wood is a definite plus if your workshop's unheated. I did struggle to get a satisfactory (and in my opinion, necessary) three-finger-pointing-fore-finger hold though; the hang of the tote is such that a comfortable grip on the handle leaves my forefinger short of a suitable resting place on the body of the plane. I'm debating whether I can fashion myself a finger rest somehow, probably involving tapping a hole somewhere...
Finally the cutters. The plane comes supplied with a 1/4in cutter with additional cutters in 1/8, 3/16, 5/16 and 3/8in sizes are available. Because, I presume, of the design of the cutter bedding and lateral blade guide knob the narrower cutters have 1/4in wide bodies, reduced to the desired cutting width on the bottom half. They come with the customary 35° bevel and lapped to within an inch of their lives on the backs. In short, virtually ready to go and took mere moments on a fine Arkansas stone to finish. An 1/8in slot in the top engages with the depth adjuster.
They differ from the normal run of plough and combi cutters in having square sides, rather than relieved like Stanleys, Records etc, and I was surprised to find how much of a difference that made. I was more conscious of binding in deeper grooves and on the return stroke the action felt rather jerky and disjointed as, presumably, the back edges of the cutter resisted the backwards motion (I use a to and fro planing action once the groove gets going). Things were a lot smoother if I removed the plane from the groove at the end of each pass and started afresh at the beginning, but in my experience that's a lot slower on anything but longer boards and just isn't how I use a plough.

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