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The long awaited and eagerly anticipated Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide has finally arrived in Devon and it’s been entrusted to my tender mercies for a swift initial road test to determine if it’s everything it’s cracked up to be…which it may be, or not, as we shall see.

The new L-N guide is based on the original Eclipse model and is unquestionably a superbly made piece of engineering excellence. It’s made from solid stainless steel, brass and bronze. The only maintenance that L-N mention, in the usual accompanying leaflet, is to keep the spindle thread clear of debris and oil it if necessary. This is because the thread is finer than the original Eclipse guide and is therefore more prone to damage.

One of the really smart features of this tool is the captive screws with a reduced shank. Once they’ve been inserted into each jaw, they have to be deliberately unscrewed again to become lost forever on the workshop floor; a neat idea which will no doubt appeal to many would-be owners.

Captive screws
Captive screws

A pair of standard dovetail jaws are included which will fit many L-N plane and chisel blades but, in addition, there are a number of optional jaws to fit more specialist blades.

As this is an L-N honing guide, it’s been engineered to fit almost all L-N plane and chisel blades, with the exception (as far as I can tell) of the No. 112 scraper plane blade, though it’s debatable whether this particular (and other scraper plane blades) need to be honed.

That said, with the standard jaws it will fit all ordinary, parallel sided plane blades, for example a 50mm Rider bench plane blade and a thicker Veritas blade, shown with a GemRed Digital Angle Gauge at 30°.

Left: 50mm Rider bench plane blade. Right: Veritas plane blade.
Left: 50mm Rider bench plane blade. Right: Veritas plane blade.

I also tried my battered old 18mm Marples Blue Chip chisel in the same jaws with some success, but as can be seen from the view at the rear, the back of the chisel is very close to one of the parallel rods. When the back fouls the rods, this is one of the reasons why the chisel won’t fit correctly; this is especially true of those from Japan.

L&R: 18mm Marples Blue Chip chisel
L&R: 18mm Marples Blue Chip chisel

Short bladed, very thick Japanese chisels are notoriously difficult to fit into almost any honing guide and the L-N is no exception. It may be possible to hone them in the Veritas MKII but if not, they will certainly fit into the Richard Kell No.3 honing guide. As shown in the picture, a 25mm chisel can be held in the mortice chisel jaws; this gives more clearance over the parallel bars, but it’s a fairly insecure and very tenuous grip!

25mm Japanese chisel in Mortice Jaws
25mm Japanese chisel in Mortice Jaws

Narrower Japanese chisels in the standard jaws are even more precarious and the situation isn’t improved when one is held in the smaller dovetail chisel jaws.

Left: narrow Japanese chisel, standard jaws. Right: narrow Japanese chisel rear view.
Left: narrow Japanese chisel, standard jaws. Right: narrow Japanese chisel rear view.

The long jaws are designed to accommodate the blades from L-N shoulder planes etc., but I found that the standard jaws would comfortably hold the Bronze shoulder plane blade at around the correct honing angle.

Lie-Nielsen Bronze shoulder plane blade in standard jaws
Lie-Nielsen Bronze shoulder plane blade in standard jaws

To sum up, this is a superb jig for holding L-N chisels and plane blades. In addition, it will grip chisel blades from the Veritas range as these too have finely ground edges along the sides and I suspect any others that are so machined. The L-N jig is not a universal jig for all. Given the assortment of blade styles currently available, both new and second hand, with a little bit of experimentation in swapping the different jaw configurations, you might find a way of accommodating a particular blade. However, if you were hoping for something to fit your favourite Japanese chisels, I’m afraid it’s a ‘no hoper’.

For another insightful opinion on the L-N honing jig, this Lost Art Press blog piece from the ever reliable Chris Schwarz is well worth reading.

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