As many of you know, I am trying to incorporate more hand tools into my woodworking. I’ve started reading up on hand planes and have bought a low-angle block plane to start with.
I’ve decided that for myself and for anyone else who would be remotely interested that I would start a blog to document my progress (hopefully not my lack thereof).
The first thing I’ve learned is that while it is very easy and useful to read everything you can get your hands on and ask anyone who will stand still long enough all the questions you can think of—- there is no better teacher than a block of wood.
I’ve taken my plane apart—- and finally got it back together after sharpening it the best I could, clamped a long piece of manky poplar on my workbench and just started by gliding the plane across the wood and advancing the cutter just a little bit at at time until it started to bite. Once it started to bite I realized that I was not really cutting anything because it would go a bit and then just “hang up”. I finally figured out that I did not need to press down hard on the plane as I was pushing it across – I was working harder than I needed to.
So now I was getting a bite but no pretty curly strings of wood. Then it dawned on me that if I start trying to plane the edge of the board (the corner) maybe I’d have better luck. So I bascially started to chamfer the edge and just like that – success!
I then proceeded to chamfer the edge and then just started slowly moving to the face of the board. Pretty soon I was getting long curly pieces of wood. Basically, I “edged” into it. I found that I am starting to get the feel for how the plane should glide across the wood. As I moved up the edge to the face I was also rounding the board so that was an interesting effect.
After about an hour or so, I’ve progressed to having pretty consistent ribbons of wood. And, despite being a less than stellar sharpening job, and using a block plane—I now have a large pile of ribbons and a smooth as a baby’s backside piece of rounded poplar!!!
So this is the start of my journey into traditional hand tools.
-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine