Reply To: What 2 hand planes to start with.


A couple comments about expectations that will be in contrast to what Tom said, but not meant to debate or gainsay: In my opinion, you need to keep in mind what the goal is. We are less machinists and more artists. If the object we build looks good, feels good, and functions, it is good. Precision serves the purpose of achieving the piece we are trying to make and is not an end in itself. We are not trying to be machinists with human powered cutters attempting to make mathematical planes and arbitrarily high precision.

The purpose of the plane is to change the dimension or shape of the wood, not to make it perfect. I do not ever aim to get a continuous shaving along the length of a board. Yes, having such a thing can tell me something about the shape and flatness, but it is not my goal and I rarely produce one. In fact, I often deliberately break the shaving along the length for one purpose or another by lifting the heel of the plane.

I do not seek to make light, thin uniform shavings. I seek to change the shape or dimension of the wood. Sometimes, I set for really heavy shavings. I just want the wood to be gone. A great deal of plaining is like this, and I’m talking about planing long after the scrub is done and gone.

My bench top is garbage. It is a couple of pieces of MDF that I have meant to replace for years, but I always seem to start a new project rather than rebuild the bench.

If you try to be a machinist with hand tools, you will waste an enormous amount of time. If it brings you pleasure, fine, but I have the sense you are trying to make a living from this. You need to understand how hand tool work differs from using woodworking machines and learn where they can save time *if* you use hand tool methods, many of which were developed to achieve tight joints and high esthetics despite imperfections in the work. I built a table, for example, on which two surfaces of the aprons were barely planed at all and will not square or flat. I did not have to spend any time on truing or improving those surfaces. In fact, as long as the ends of the aprons are out of twist with each other, since there is no drawer, it doesn’t matter what happens along the length in between as long as it pleases the eye. Often, when smoothing, we just work out the imperfections locally and do not try to bring the entire surface into one uniform mathematical plane. This is *precisely* why smoothing planes are short…so they can get into small areas and work just those areas. Or, you can consider the shortest smoothing plane of all, the one with a sole that is only 1/32″ long, the card scraper.

You have a plane that is taking shavings. You need to go see (and do) project construction to learn what level of performance is needed and what isn’t. Look at it this way: If I put a perfect tool in the hands of someone who isn’t trained, the plane will not do perfect work no matter how much that person has read. Experience and skill are both needed (and those are different),. Nevertheless, a dozen of us showed up for Paul’s class and he put us to work on the first day. Over the month, we built a chest, a table, and a rocking chair. You have to be building to gain the context to tell you what is needed from the tool and, at the same time, you need to experience what the tool does to improve your building.

Go build stuff.

  • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 3 days ago by Ed.