Hand plane journey

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 10-15-2007 03:59 AM 1523 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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

7 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4394 days

#1 posted 10-15-2007 04:01 AM

You are on the slippery slope!

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 3985 days

#2 posted 10-15-2007 04:12 AM


Welcome to that world of hand planes. I use a Stanley #4, #5 and a#8. I enjoy using them all.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3956 days

#3 posted 10-15-2007 04:33 AM

Aw heck, Betsy, you’ve already heard from me. Good for you. Now try something like a #4. You are gaining all the time. Keep at it. don’t give up.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4091 days

#4 posted 10-15-2007 04:39 AM

Very nice. Looking forward to seeing where it leads you.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4030 days

#5 posted 10-15-2007 05:59 AM

I’m on the same journey. I started with using hand tools to do joinery. After I learned some joinery methods (and still learn) I started using hand tools to smooth the end result. Now, with the help of many on this site…two of whom already replied to this thread, I start to use hand tools, in some respect, in every part of my woodworking. It’s a slippery slope, yes, but it’s a gratifying one. Congrats!’

My single best piece of advice…Learn to sharpen well. The rest of the journey is eased considerably!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4155 days

#6 posted 10-15-2007 12:32 PM

a great blog!!!!
Now that’s the tips that I need to read—really basic, how to start.. Nicely done. Thank you.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Proclamator's profile


42 posts in 3890 days

#7 posted 10-15-2007 01:55 PM

Betsy, you’ve done it now. You will have a continual yearning to try the other sizes and types, it’s great.
Here is a link for a sharpening method that works great on planes.

-- Dave Idaho

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