Small steps into a new world

Welcome! Forums Off-topic Small steps into a new world

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #554717
    Paul Oram

    Ive been preparing my workspace at the end of my garden. Ive bought a selection of tools, some new, some old. But nothing could prepare me for the emotive experience of stepping into a warehouse full high of a myriad of woods, some exotic others more commonplace.

    I took the train today to Amsterdam (I’m an Englishman living in The Hague). There deep in the docks, now surrounded by designer apartments on all sides, sits the last surviving importer and trader of quality woods. The Amsterdamsche Fijnhouthandel has existed since 1898 and been in the dockland area of the city since the 1960s.

    As my first experience of being surrounded by the heady scent of such a vast array of exotic woods, I was a little in awe of what to do, but with some help from their friendly staff I gathered a few samples to take away – some beech, poplar and oak as well as some African padoek. I enjoyed looking for rift cut planks – looking at something with fresh eyes.

    Priced by the m3, they explained how to work out the price of everything – so most planks come to less than 10 euro or so for a metre length machine planed. In the end they sold me 5 short planks for 15 euros!

    I will use what I have bought to practice making joints, the plank of beech was rough cut and a little warped – I bought it on purpose to practise making it square. I think I may attempt Pauls coat rack and the shelf holders – I may have enough to make a drawer.

    Very exciting days ahead.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by Paul Oram.

    Those prices sound much more reasonable that what has been posted in the past from forum members living in England.

    You’re doing exactly what I do for almost every new joint I learn — buy a board about 4′ long, cut it in half, square up the halves, join side A to side B using the new joint (sliding dovetails, M&T, rule joint, whatever), learn from my mistakes, cut the joints away. Repeat until the board is gone. By the time the board has been used up, I’ve always been comfortable enough with the new joint to use it with reasonable success in a project.

    As for walking into a great lumberyard and feeling like I’m in the Chocolate Room in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — yes, that still happens. What also happens is you buy some exotic wood for it’s beauty, and discover it’s a nightmare to work. I’d recommend reading up on any crazy jungle wood before buying, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into…

    Have fun!

    Paul Oram

    Thanks for the comment.

    I managed to square up two nice planks out of the rough cut warped bowed and twisted bit of Beech I bought. Took an hour or so, amazing the amount of shavings! My low angle jack plane worked the best, but the best thing was just a squiggle of wax on the sole – worked a treat.

    Yeah your right about the exotic woods – I’ll stick to more common hardwoods.


    An hour for two boards! You’ll exhaust yourself before getting to the joinery. Strongly consider making or buying a scrub plane and / or a fore plane. Having both is ideal — you’ll find for many aspects of woodworking that the Chris Schwarz approach of “coarse, medium, fine” gets you there far more efficiently. So first the rough tool to do most of the work, then the medium tool to set you up for success, then the fine tool for that perfect result.

    An example of coarse, medium, fine with sharpening stones: you wouldn’t take your chipped, rusted blade to a strop — you’d die of old age before it got sharp, right? First you go to the grinder (or coarse sandpaper, or coarse stone), then you work up the grits to the finest.

    With saws: You might buck a log with a lancetooth crosscut saw, cut boards from that log with a 2-3 ppi frame saw, dimension those boards with a 10 tpi panel saw, and do joinery with an 18 tpi dovetail saw.

    And with planes: A #40 will eat as much as 1/8″ of wood per pass in some soft woods. A fore plane can probably do 1 mm per pass or somewhere in that ballpark for softer woods. All the way down to your smoother, set to take less than a thou per pass.

    A Paul Sellers-style, converted #4 ( is more of what I’d call a fore plane (light camber on the blade), but still much better than taking thin shavings with a flat iron, and you can make one easily, as Paul shows in the video. A Stanley #40 style scrub plane is amazing in how fast it can hog off material, and will leave a fore plane in the dust. Since it’s such a rough tool, it doesn’t need to be finely tuned (just make sure the blade is reasonably sharp), so it’s an easy first plane to make, or inexpensive to buy used, since, again, it doesn’t need to be in flawless condition.

    The important thing: they’ll make dimensioning easy enough to where you won’t burn out, or start to dread the process. Lots of beginning woodworkers give up on hand tools because of the volume of work involved with dimensioning. Two of the least expensive planes, a fore and a scrub, will enable you to avoid that unpleasantness, and focus on learning the skills rather than recovering from exhausting workouts.

    If you’re always going to be buying S4S lumber from a quality lumberyard, then maybe the Paul Sellers converted #4 (or other fore plane) is enough. A good lumberyard will generally have thicknesses from 1/2″ on up, so if you need a 3/4″ inch thick board, you can just buy one. Buying lumber very close to your final requirements means less time spent thicknessing, so you can sort of do what Chris Schwarz does in this video: and be ready for joinery very quickly. If, OTOH, you’re getting very rough boards, or even logs, then you’ll be very happy to also have the scrub plane, and a wider variety of saws, too.

    Paul Oram

    Yes, I think I would stick to machine planed wood most of the time, this was a good exercise to try out my planes – a vintage Stanley 7, a Lie-Nielsen 62 and a Woodriver 4 and get a feel for them.

    Of these two planks, the first took 40 minutes, the second half that – just trusting your gut seems the best way.

    Thanks for the great advice. Much appreciated.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.