Holy Cow, You People Confuse Me

So I went to dinner with some friends tonight, including Megan Fitzpatrick at Popular Woodworking Magazine. And she mentioned that there had been a ruckus at WoodCental about my review of Veritas’s new steel.

I wandered over there tonight and wondered what upside-down universe I had stepped into.

So if you are wondering what I think about the new Veritas PM-V11 steel, which I have six months of experience with, here’s the short version.

1. Its edge life is longer than A2.

2. It is as easy to sharpen as O1.

That is a positive assessment. You might not like me personally (that’s OK), and you might therefore read in some nefarious side commentary. That is your personal battle. The only things that are true are points one and two above, which were stated clearly in both the online and print reviews.

I love the steel. I think it is awesome. I’ll be buying replacement blades of it for my planes. End of story.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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55 Responses to Holy Cow, You People Confuse Me

  1. Kevin Wilkinson says:

    But, but that’s too short of an answer.

  2. Rick B. says:

    How about optimum (or minimum) sharpening angle?

  3. Dan DeGennaro says:

    You have my vote Chris. I clearly understood exactly what you wrote. Props.

  4. So, you’re saying you DON’T like beer anymore?!?!? I’m gonna go talk about your unfounded hatred for this beloved beverage, now Excuse me and HOW DARE YOU!!!

  5. Mike Dyer says:

    I thought that it was a good review.
    People ARE weird, though – don’t let it get you down. It is currently fashionable to be deeply disparaging towards anything positive relating to a business’s efforts. “….you publicly liked an established business’s product? You sellout to capitalism, you!…”

  6. Mike Dyer says:

    Well, heck…now I’m confused.
    I belatedly went over to Wood Central and read the threads….(blush, AFTER I commented…) what you said in your post and what they are mad about don’t seem to correlate. ???

  7. yaakov says:

    My best turning tool, which is my primary bowl gouge, is a David Ellsworth model that is made of the same powdered metal, and it is by far the steel I have used.yaakov….

  8. Dan D. says:

    I’m as confused as you, it was clear to me that you liked the new steel. Perhaps it was the lack of hyperbole and hype that confused them. If this had been an article in a ‘regular’ woodworking magazine I expect it would contain over-the-top glowing praise after a 6 hour test. That’s how it’s done after all. People conditioned to thinking of that style as rational and reasoned may read anything less as a negative review, or only grudgingly positive. Add to that the fact that all rational thought (not just yours) is deeply threatening to many people due to their baggage, or ego, or whatever, and you end up with this. A contingent so tying themselves in knots over what they think you really mean, or expected you to say, or think you should have said to fit the image they have of you, that they totally miss your clearly stated point.

    Nothing you can do about that but shake your head in wonder, or sorrow.

    I read you for many reasons. I pay attention to your opinions because you are not for sale and not prone to hyperbole. I know what I’m getting is just one man’s opinion, but it is a rational and reasoned opinion born from experience. That is valuable to me as I find my own way. Keep up the great work.

    • H. Kraut says:

      very good point – especially in you last paragraph

    • David Barnett says:

      Dan, you wrote:
      “Perhaps it was the lack of hyperbole and hype that confused them.”
      It didn’t confuse them. It confused only the one who wrote the diatribe. I don’t see the rest agreeing with him.

  9. John says:

    I think the problem at Wood Central is the OP’s misunderstanding of your use of the phrase ‘so-called “super steels” ‘. Anyhoo, at the end of the day it’s mountains and molehills.

  10. Marlon says:

    Hey, you forgot your “Smyth Disclaimer”

  11. Amos says:

    Ah, Chris. Ole BT had a belly ache and didn’t know what else to do.

  12. Jay C. White Cloud says:

    Chris, as a teacher myself, I see students all the time that can not clearly interrupter the written word, which in turn leads to their frustration in trying to follow along with the rest of the class. That is not your fault. It is obvious, without reading all the thread material about your review, that Bill T. is one of those students. Perhaps, after this, he will follow up with the author, before going on a rant of his own, that is both misleading and misguided. Keep up the good work.

    • tsstahl says:

      In my best Nelson, HA-HA.

      • Scribe says:

        I was able to interpret what he meant.

      • Jay C. White Cloud says:

        The other day I, for the life of me could not remember how to spell the word, “of,” and ever since have been leaving it out of sentences. Sorry for the confusion. I’m a good teacher, no really, I em. “Just don’ts writes so good some times.”

    • Scribe says:

      I agree with this. Also Mr. Schwarz, don’t feel the need to “dumb down” your writing just because it gets occasionally misinterpreted by some cretin.

  13. Jason says:

    Can you describe the ruckus, sir?

  14. I still don’t understand? It takes longer to sharpen than A2 but doesn’t last longer than O1? kidding we like you that’s all the matters. From the first announcement I was excited about the irons. when i first started rehabbing planes it was confusing but after a bit I got right on board and having one more option is nice. don’t let the rebel rousers get under your feathers.

  15. rjusty says:

    I read your review when it was published, and fail to see any ambiguity in it. I’m a happy owner of several Veritas products, and have been watching their site for the PM-V11, as a new set of chisels may be in my future.
    Your post prompted a visit to Wood Central to read up. It’s probably my ADD, but stuff like that is why I don’t spend much time on my facebook page, either – it makes my head hurt. I subscribe to 2 woodworking mags and watch Roy religiously. If I need more specific information, I research it – sometimes in the forums. Otherwise, I’d rather be in my shop. Keep up the great work.
    Robert J.

  16. Auguste Gusteau says:

    Summing, this steel is 1) difficult to abrade and at the same time is 2) easy to abrade.
    Instead of call it super steel, you should call it magic steel.
    Or marketing steel…
    Best regards,

    • lostartpress says:

      I was wondering when you would show up. Welcome back!

      To sum up (again).

      1. The steel is easy to sharpen.
      2. It holds an edge longer than A2.

      • Auguste Gusteau says:

        Seriously, Christopher, this new steel seems a marketing operation like Gillette Fusion-ProGlide-Six-Blades-Battery-Powered-Special-Edition Razors.
        A lot of advertising, a dedicated website with many insignificant data, some friends editors who writes on men’s magazines that is the best razor in the world and planty of drooling people waiting to be able to finally buy one or even more.
        But nobody really need that razor to shave his beard, as no one needs this new steel to shave his wood.
        Best regards,

        • lostartpress says:

          Well I don’t know squat about razors.

          If you think it’s all a fabrication then try some of it yourself and tell the world what you find out.

          I’d be happy to mail you a blade.

    • Niels says:

      All I have to say is that if you don’t understand the difference in the physics of abrasion as opposed to the physics of cutting, you should keep your trap shut. Apples and oranges. FIN.

  17. jwatriss says:

    As the second guy on the scene, I certainly played my part. Opining after midnight on a review that I half remembered was a dumb idea.

    Sorry, Chris.

  18. Tommy says:

    So Chris, would you say that you prefer the new Veritas steel and blades over your trusty Hock blades?

  19. Ed Clarke says:

    I read the review twice – once when I got the issue, once when I did that Popular Woodworking survey. Then I read the “holy cow” postings here, read the review a third time and then went to Wood Central. Then I read the review a fourth time to see what I missed.

    This must be an ESL issue ( English as a Second Language ) or they are reading a different article than I am. I am unable to bend that review into a negative comment about the steel.

  20. Brett says:

    I still don’t understand how, as Auguste points out, a steel can be easier to sharpen (through abrasion) and yet more resistant to wear during usage (which occurs at least partly through abrasion). That may be possible if a mechanism other than abrasion also contributes to a cutting edge becoming less sharp. Maybe the PM-V11 steel is able to resist that “other mechanism” better than conventional tool steels. Of course, as with pudding, the proof is in the eating (or sharpening).

    • Chuck N says:

      Brett – You’re assuming (as do many people) that edge degredation while planing involves the same physical mechanism as blade sharpening. If those two mechanisms/forces are different, then the reported performance is quite possible.

      Being a mathematician, not a physicist, I don’t know the mechanism(s), but I can uncover buried assumptions.

  21. Ron Dennis says:

    Chris – If you wrote it, I have only one response: WORD!

  22. Brett says:

    Just for the record, I’m not trying to pick a fight with my previous comment. I’m an engineer, and the idea of a steel that is as easy to sharpen and yet lasts longer seems counterintuitive. I don’t doubt Schwarz’s experiences with PM-V11 tools: I’m just wondering what makes it possible.

    • lostartpress says:

      I would say it is the consistency of the product, which is the result of how it is made. Powdered metals are nothing new. Using them in handplanes and chisels is fairly new.

      I think there is an analog. Why do handmade Japanese steels exhibit these same working and sharpening characteristics? High-end Japanese tools are easy to sharpen and last longer. Why? My guess is that it is the labor-intensive way they are made hammering and folding and hammering and hammering.

      I don’t think it’s magic. Just consistency.

      Just my guess. Take it for what it is worth.

  23. Graham Burbank says:

    Anything that pisses off this many people is something I just gotta have. Move over, cryo. Gotta PM-v11 to take your place. (at least in my block plane, which receives an obscene amount of daily abuse)

  24. TJ says:

    I can’t believe you like this steel! Or don’t? Either way I am offended.

  25. Auguste Gusteau says:

    Christopher, even if only for about half an hour, I have already had the opportunity to try this new steel.
    Honestly I was not impressed so much as you.
    Yes, it is a good steel, but like many other good steels.
    Yes, there are worse steels, but also better steels (japanese for example, why japanese steels were not tested?).
    Yes, it held the edge for a couple of strokes more then A2. Is that all?
    Yes, I have easily sharpened it on a waterstone. Like I easily sharpen many other steels.
    It seems to me the classic situation where a mountain gave birth to a little mouse.
    Best regards,

  26. Auguste Gusteau says:

    No thanks, I do not need your blade, like I do not need a Gillette Fusion-ProGlide-Six-Blades-Battery-Powered-Special-Edition Razor and in any case, I do not have a Veritas plane to put it on. I am a poor man, sorry.
    Best regards,

    • lostartpress says:

      Who said the blade was for a Veritas plane?

      • Auguste Gusteau says:

        I thought about a blade for a Veritas plane because of the photo and because Robin wrote somewhere that the production of blades for stanley/record planes will start only after Veritas products will be covered.

  27. David Barnett says:

    Please don’t give up on us over at Wood Central, Chris. I don’t think many take that position or are so strident in expressing our own.

  28. Adam P. says:


  29. tjhenrik says:

    Two entertaining nights of passionate angry woodworkers. Beats the heck out of Teen Mom.

  30. abtuser says:

    I don’t know Chris, I thought the review of the PM-V11 blade was a shot at Germany’s decision to invade Luxembourg slightly before Belgium, instead of the other way around in WWI. I figured German historians would be furious over your implying that the choice cost them Dunkirk 20 years later.

  31. Jay C. White Cloud says:

    Well I have very much enjoyed reading this thread during my morning tea. So much jibbing and tossing, quiet fun.

    Now, over the last 24 hours there has been a number of talking points that I just can’t contain myself on:

    The physics of sharpening, compared to the micro and/or macro “riving/sheering” action of a cutting edged vs ease of sharpening. If you work with, (and daily sharpen,) Asian laminated alloys or any of the Eastern European/ Middle Eastern “cold forged,” steels found in scythe blades, you really begin understanding these principles acutely. I am very lucky, in as such, I live near Dart Mouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering, there recently I was fortunate enough to have a very learned conversation with students about their graduate research into “sintered,” alloys used in prosthetic applications. What I gleaned from this exchange, is with powdered alloys forged through a sintering process, surface tempered in key locations, while combining an annealing process to opposing surfaces, could very well yelled our generations reply to our Elders in Asian who began refining these very same techniques a millennia ago. I think Robin, (I do love his life’s work and products,) is grand for bring this process to the wood working world. No I won’t give up my Asian steels, however, I will be up-grading to this steel wherever I am currently using A2. It is only logical to do so.

    To break in down just a little further on Asian blade matrixs; they are made up of a thin “glass,” hard tempered steel lamination between, (or in the case of chisel/plane blades on the bottom,) and very soft irons. This allows for: 1) very easy sharpening. 2) Extremely keen durable edges. This is exactly what Robin Lee is prying into with this new steel, but through what appears to be a process of sintering and specialized tempering. This is only a guess and probably a patentable and proprietary method.

  32. James Ryan says:

    Lots of words noise – with no real value on this.After all, as long as it cuts wood who really cares. Auguste take the blade, if you care passionately enough to spend 24 hours posting blogs on 30 mins of experience, then accept the challenge spend 24 hours with the blade, come back with your thoughts – I will read them, I suspect there will be a lot of hear in them.

    Chris thank you for posting this thread, sometimes simple opions are difficult for us to understand.
    Now if you have any more blades …… Smile. Goodnight.

  33. Lee Laird says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions. I always enjoy both.

    Keep up the great work!

    Lee Laird

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