I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a new Veritas PM-V11 plane blade last year (the nice chaps at Veritas; Steve and Wally kindly dropped one at my bench at last years European Woodworking Show). That’s a rather technical name and Veritas describe it as an ‘Innovative proprietary alloy’ but most of us only need to know that its an alternative steel for our tools. I’m not sure yet when these blades will be available to buy or what the cost will be.
I’ve had plenty of time to play around with the steel so I thought it could be of interest to share my findings. With there being so many approaches to sharpening I like to keep an open mind to everyone‘s views since the result has got to be more important than the type of steel or method. However to give you a better understanding of my verdict I think you should know that I prefer O1 steel over A2 but really have never been overly picky. I use many old tools, some with edges bodged up from an old hack saw blade or file so that’ll be where my view was moulded. I’m not one to over analyse my tool steels, so long as I can get to work quickly with an edge that will last ok then I’m happy.
I didn’t want to get creative when testing out this new steel. I haven’t put it to use on MDF, concrete or any other obscurity to check its strength. I simply used it for my normal everyday needs as that allows me to give a comparison to my usual experiences.
Since I plane a lot my one tool that never gathers dust are my sharpening stones. With the process being so familiar I noticed the difference in the steel immediately. It didn’t sharpen as quickly as O1 but it felt a lot nicer to sharpen than A2 (I’ve always found A2 to kind of scit across the stones like it has trouble biting).
I put the iron to use in my Jack plane and it’s mainly been used on ash, air dried oak and cherry. Compared with the A2 iron that I am used to in this plane the edge lasted considerably longer, it went twice over my usual sharpening stops and still had a good enough edge to continue. I have to say I’ve been incredibly impressed – with an edge that lasts this long, its well worth the extra time required to sharpen over my usual favourite O1.
As an extra test I took the time to put a nice camber on the edge. This certainly took a long time but it allowed me to give it a good work out as a roughing tool. The edge stood up incredibly well and didn’t nick at all showing it is very hard wearing. When it comes to roughing though I don’t feel it’s worth being so concerned about the sharpness of your tool and I’m happy to remain unfussy on steel choice.
I redressed the edge for a much lighter camber and opted to dedicate this iron for smoothing as that’s where I find it really excels.
I would never go out of my way to replace a perfectly serviceable iron as no steel can revolutionise your woodworking. Should I find myself needing a new plane or iron though then this would be a very welcome option. From a practical perspective its no harder to sharpen than A2 and yet its more durable and lasting, I suppose the only compromise then could come with the price.
One thing I do prefer about A2 and O1 though has got to be the name, PM-V11 isn’t half a bloody gob full!