This exchange began on Monday, and I have been back and forth for a week with Lie-Nielsen’s very patient customer service rep. For some reason that nobody seems to be able to explain, the blade dimension of the #102 block plane is slightly different now than the original. Different enough that what was once a dependably precise tool is now just plain frustrating to use. To be absolutely fair, I am a difficult customer. If I can make a tool or repair an old one, I will spend the time rather than the money. Not that I’m cheap exactly, it’s mostly force of habit. When and if I do pony up for something, I fully expect it to live up to the bargain, and not for a mere 20 years. Because of this kind of nonsense…
I have this Lie-Nielsen #102 block plane that I purchased in 1994, the only Lie-Nielsen plane that I own. Recently, I ordered a marking knife, and along with it a new replacement blade for the #102.
I kept noticing that every time I adjusted the blade it skewed in the throat, so I got out the digital caliper. The earlier two blades I have are (original)1.246” and 1.250” (to be reasonably precise), and the inside bearings at the throat are 1.25+”, while the new blade measures 1.226+”. The slack tolerance produces this result: turning the adjustment screw exerts a lateral force which skews the blade, every time.
What I’m experiencing is totally contrary to the logic (of Lee Valley’s block planes for instance) which uses screws to limit side play. (In fact, this problem appears to be unique to the Lie-Nielsen #102, I can’t think of another plane design where this would happen.) It will also render this particular Lie-Nielsen #102 block plane obsolete in time, if I can’t acquire replacement blades that actually fit.
I will gladly send you the plane, blades, etc. if you would rather check the accuracy of my measurements, or examine the particular mechanical issue that I have attempted to describe… Michael
There’s a couple of missing e-mails here… I cc’d someone else, he ended up getting the reply instead of me, none of which is relevant to solving the problem. What I find frustrating in this is Deneb’s assurance that Lie-Nielsen is the arbiter of precision, even thought they have no idea why this dimension has changed by .025″.
That is just fine. All I had said in the e-mail was that if you wanted to send in the plane as well. Then we can look it over and see if the tool is out of spec. If you would rather use it as is with the original blades, then that is fine. Please include a note with whatever you send in that lets us know what you would like us to do.
To the best of my remembrance, Tom started out with the #102 block plane. An improvement on the Stanley original, and the cornerstone of Lie-Nielsen Tools, if you will. That it was somehow necessary to change the dimension by some minor increment surely made sense to a corporate number-cruncher. To a craftsman, it makes absolutely no sense at all (from 31.75mm to 31.14mm? why? why not an even 32mm?). In fact, it appears to be an attempt at planned obsolescence. The new blade simply does not work properly in the old plane. Knowing that, you might at least offer an ‘old stock’ option. Michael
I have no idea why or when a change occurred, but I can assure you that the decision was not made by a corporate number cruncher. The reason that we did not make it 32mm, is because we do not work in metric, so fractional metric measurements are of no meaning to us. I apologize that the blades we are making today are not working in the plane that you got 20 years ago. I am not even sure if the bedding pocket for your plane is identical to what we are doing now. If you would like to send your plane in for us to check it over, we would be happy to check it out. We may even have some old W-1 blades around somewhere that we could send you. Please let us know what you would like us to do.
I really appreciate your patience. Whatever the value of the plane itself, the design issue here is fascinating. Apparently, someone arbitrarily changed a critical dimension so that the blades are not backward compatible.
Several years ago, I had this minor epiphany that almost all ball bearings are manufactured to metric specs, because metric is the global standard. Thus the metric tangent. I had to calculate that, as I have nothing that actually measures in metric. And, since 32mm is a cabinet standard, why not?
That a new blade doesn’t fit properly in a 20 year old plane is another issue. Aren’t these things supposed to be heirlooms? One of my favorite planes is a pre-lateral #6 Stanley, which is (if you can trust Patrick Leach’s Blood & Gore) 135+ years old and still working fine. Eventually, all things being more or less equal, Lie-Nielsen will saturate the market for the kind and quality of tools that you are making. You may have already.
Anyway, I’m not particularly concerned about the plane itself. It still works fine with the old blade, and the measurements I gave you haven’t changed (the new blade is still 1.226+”, the plane throat is 1.25+”, the resulting .025” slop lets the blade skew sideways). There was simply no practical reason to change that dimension. It doesn’t improve anything, and as the blades wear out in the older models, they become functionally obsolete. This is not merely a technical issue. Michael
I really don’t mean to beat up on Lie-Nielsen here. Deneb is doing his best to represent the company’s interests, and I’m just trying to figure out why this relatively minor change happened in the first place. Lie-Nielsen actually started out making a #95 bronze edge plane (I just looked it up in an old catalog). The #102 came later, its blade was exactly 1 ¼” wide, and it fit tightly side-to-side at the throat. There was no need to change that. Ever.
The old Stanley #102 has a 1 5/16″ blade. I know, because I have fitted old #60 ½ blades into several of them; they are 1 ⅜” , and it just takes a bit of filing and scraping to get a perfect fit. (I suspect that some old boatbuilder had thought of that trick long before Tom Lie-Nielsen came along.) The Stanley #102 was also designed to be adjusted with a hammer, look at that little boss on its aft end.
We have three 25 year-old BMW E-30’s, all in excellent mechanical condition (Okay, one needs a new camshaft, but that’s another story). The reason they are still running is due to German engineering, competent mechanics (re:camshaft…), and regular infusions of cash. Precision and Tolerance…