Veritas Introduces New Tool Steel for Plane Blades and Chisels
The internet has been abuzz recently-well, at least that corner occupied by hand tool and tool science nerds, like me. What’s all the hubbub about? Veritas is set to begin using a new tool steel for its plane blades and chisels. It’s called PM-V11. So, why is it a big deal? According Veritas’s Director of Research and Development, it’s “incredibly durable in both planing and chisel applications.” Testing revealed that it holds an edge significantly longer than both O1 and A2, the tool steels in widest use now. So, if you have a PM-V11 chisel or plane blade, you shouldn’t have to sharpen it nearly as often (explanation of testing done to determine toughness and edge retention).
Experienced hand tool users would rightly ask how hard it is to sharpen. If it holds an edge that well, then surely it must be a real pain to sharpen, right? Not so, says Veritas. In terms of how easy it is to sharpen, testing shows it to sharpen a bit faster than A2. The sharpening tests were done on a variety of sharpening media. It’s a good bet that you can continue to use whatever sharpening technique you’re using now.
So, what exactly is PM-V11? Well, the PM stands for “powdered metal.” Here’s how Veritas explains what a powered metal is (original).
To form a PM alloy, constituent metals are melted and mixed together, then atomized, creating very small particles that cool and harden, forming a powder. This powder is screened to ensure consistent particle size, and then heated under pressure to form a billet. The billet is then rolled to the required thickness, ready to process as a conventionally smelted steel would be. The PM process yields a steel with a very fine grain structure that is uniform throughout.
Veritas has done an impressive amount on PM-V11 and many other tool steels and all of the tests suggest that PM-V11 might be the biggest thing to happen to hand tools since Tom Lie-Nielsen decided to give tool making a go (looking back, that seems to be the first step in the current resurgence of hand tools). But really matters is how the new blades and chisel do in the shop. For example, I’d like know how sharp the initial edge is. Sharper than A2 and O1? And how long does it hold that initial edge? What kind of surface does it leave behind? At the moment, we’ve got a PM-V11 plane blade and were sending it out to one of our authors for testing. We’ll have the results in an upcoming issue of the magazine.