Recently I purchased inlay tools made by Lie Nielsen and Veritas to test on a project. Lie Nielsen’s wood and brass set is based on tools designed and refined over time by Steve Latta. Veritas offer their all-metal tools individually so you can choose
for the job in hand.
Both makers produce cutters for string and radius grooves, and for cutting string inlay. Lie Nielsen also produce a tool for cutting stringing to width with a small chamfer to aid insertion. Veritas make a scraper for thicknessing a wide piece of stringing that can be divided. Veritas’s compass pencil attachment draws curves with the same point the compass cutter will use later.
Lie Nielsen offer cutting blade widths from 0.03” up to 0.062”, and Veritas 0.025” up to 0.040”. The Veritas string groove cutter’s
hooked-shaped blade scores the wood as you push it away and then cuts the groove as you draw it towards yourself, good in theory but not as clean-cutting as the Lie Nielsen string groove cutter.
Lie Nielsen have separate blades for their string groove cutter and compass radius groove cutter, whereas with Veritas, you need to change the head over (fiddly with an allen key) or buy an extra cutting head and blade. The Lie Nielsen string groove cutter was easier to guide along the edge as its entire length rests on the workpiece.
The Veritas contacts the workpiece at only two points on the top edge and affords less stability. The Lie Nielsen groove cutter has a limited reach of only 104mm, compared to 235mm with the Veritas. Veritas also offer 254mm extension rods however these had a tendency to slightly twist and flex at the cutting head, which wasted a good piece of wood when I went off course.
The Lie Nielsen string slicing cutter is more comfortable to hold in use and the larger bulk helps too. I found the Veritas just a little light and not as easy to control. A larger fence might alleviate this tendency to jump, or maybe I just need more practice.
The Veritas compass radius groove cutter point is hard to see and locate. I cut the body sides away and this considerably improved visibility of the compass point. The Lie Nielsen compass radius groove cutter blade extends well above the head and this can be hard on your hands. A better grip and some tape helped. I found the Lie Nielsen tools the most comfortable and competent but this is not to say Veritas is not up to the job.
Based on my experience I would be looking at the Lie Nielsen set but an off-putting consideration is their price. The Veritas tools may take a little more practice to use but they are good value for the money.
Phil Perkins is an avid woodworker who in real life is a high school math teacher. Making Sam Maloof style rocking chairs from Australian timbers is his specialty. His story appeared in issue 84, Australian Wood Review.