Love Hand Planes


Planes & Shavings

One of the processes of wood working I really like is the art of taking a plane and using it to create a smooth and square surface.  There’s something very satisfying to watching that shaving of wood exit the planes throat  and seeing the progress you’ve made right there before your eyes!  Is it time consuming and labor intensive?  yes indeed; but for someone who enjoys the process of the work as much as the final results it’s a welcomed process.

One of the members of  Sin City Woodworkers made a really nice, wine bottle presentation box from a single 2×4  which inspired me to make one of my own.  I’ll be using a piece of quarter sawn white Oak for the sides along with Walnut for the front and back.  My plan is to have a sliding lid of Walnut with a piece of Leopardwood laminated in the center.  The first step to wood preparation is planing.  In Marc Spagnuolo’s new book titled Hybrid Woodworking goes into his philosophy of blending power tools with hand tools to produce his work.  I actually emailed him about the term of hybrid woodworking because it’s one I use in my blog as well.  He was very gracious in his reply and showed me where he’s used it years ago.  My interpretation of hybrid follows his pretty much in that I use the power tools I have as my apprentices, in other words; they perform the grunt work!  There’s a saying we have that if you ask 10 woodworkers the same question you’ll get 12 answers and this concept is no different.  One area he and I differ on is using a jointer to create a square edge and the difference is simple; he has one and I don’t!

So, after creating a flat face on one surface of your board the next step is creating an edge that is smooth and square to it.  For me that means using a jointer plane.  I always enjoy watching my students  eyes light up after they’ve set up their plane blade and created a long, thing shaving.

WoodworksbyJohn-CustomFurniture-LasVegas-Handplaning-6It’s very important that your edges are square and true before you can laminate boards together.  If they aren’t the glue joint will fail — you need to have full contact the entire length of the boards being joined.  Sometimes we create what’s called a spring joint to compensate for moisture and humidity changes but here in the desert that’s usually not an issue.  For laminating I have a set of clamps I picked up many years ago from a cabinet shop that was going out of business.  I love them!  They have no markings or brands on them but they hold the boards flat while the edges are securely clamped.   This is the lid for the future wine presentation box.

The glue of choice for me when I laminate boards is Gorilla Glue.  The Leopardwood is somewhat oily so before glue up it was wiped down with acetone.  After allowing the glue to set up overnight it’s time to prepare the surface.  That begins with scraping the excess glue, this is one thing I like about the Gorilla Glue, the excess foams up and is easy to remove:WoodworksbyJohn-CustomFurniture-LasVegas-Handplaning-7After that, it’s time to plane the boards level.  It’s important to check your grain direction whenever you laminate boards together.  If at all possible the grain should be oriented in the same direction on each board to make planing easier and avoid tear out.  The first plane used is my old Stanley that will soon be on eBay!  This has been my go-to plane since I bought it at the lumberyard I worked at as a teenager in the 60’s!  I love this plane and it’s served me well but Santa has given me some gift certificates to Lee Valley so it’s time to buy one of their junior Jack plane — honestly a tough decision to make.

WoodworksbyJohn-CustomFurniture-LasVegas-Handplaning-8After working both sides with this plane it was time for my favorite plane of all, a Lie-Nielsen bronze smoother.  The Walnut is easy enough to smooth but the Leopardwood with it’s interlocking grain was more of a challenge.  By setting a very tight mouth and a light cut the board is finished as I like.WoodworksbyJohn-CustomFurniture-LasVegas-Handplaning-9

Completed lid

Completed lid

The final work done on this project is squaring the edge of the Oak that will become the sides of the box.

Squaring the edge for the sides.

Squaring the edge for the sides.

I plan to dovetail this project and will use it as a challenge box to see how creative and small I can get with that joinery.  I suppose I’ve put the cart before the horse by doing the lid first but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere!

About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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1 Response to Love Hand Planes

  1. Great read, I too love the process. A couple nights ago my wife strolled in the shop and picked up my great-grandfathers 100+ year old jack plane and stated “So what would I do with this?” After a few short minutes she had successfully removed the rough sawn face out of some rough sawn pine and went on to final smoothing with a #4. Afterward, she too like your students, couldn’t hide a certain level of understanding/satisfaction of the pristine surface left behind.

    It’s very neat that Marc got back to you! The term seems to be creeping up more and more but hey, what else would you call it!? Having a read of his book is definitely on my list of things to do to compare processes and possibly improve workflow a little. (While keeping more to the hand tool side of the hybrid scale of course!)

    I do like how you call your machines you apprentices, the term couldn’t be more true!


    Liked by 1 person

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