My Hand Tool Journey #2: Hand Plane Use

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Blog entry by Kent Shepherd posted 11-25-2009 01:46 AM 3627 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Journey Begins Part 2 of My Hand Tool Journey series Part 3: Wood Moulding Plane --Set-Up »

In part one of this series I showed you many of the hand tools I have accumulated over the years. I guess having fantastic tools doesn’t mean much if you never use them. To be honest, I owned several of mine long before I really knew how to properly tune-up, sharpen, or use them. I guess having my Bridge City planes kinda of spoiled me, because they were so good from the box, I needed no skill to set them up or sharpen them. Then I bought a Leigh-Nielson low angle block plane. It too needed no work to get it going. Still, I didn’t really use these planes much. Sure, I appreciated the quality, and often admired the tools, but as far as work was concerned, they weren’t much value to me. I guess at that point I was more of a collector. I don’t know that there is anything wrong with that, but I’ve always been more of a doer, so this didn’t fit me too well. After opening our tool store in April of 2007, I found I had much more time to spend online. Now that’s not exactly a good thing because I would love to have customers in constantly, but being a new business, that didn’t happen. It turned out to be a good thing though, in that I could learn lots of new things that I didn’t have time for before. I have received Fine Woodworking for years, so when I got the invitation to sign up for access to the website, I jumped on it. I began to watch their videos on hand tool use, especially hand planes. With a growing interest, I started applying what I learned. I pulled out all my own old cheap planes and began to work on them. I thought it was satisfying to use my quality planes, but wow, what a rush it can be to take a piece of junk and make it cut like it should. My biggest thrill was probably taking an antique moulding plane, Set it up and actually make a piece of moulding with it.

OK, I’m late getting home so I will continue this tomorrow. Hopefully, I have peeked you interest. Next time I would like to show how I have tuned up this plane, as well as other wooden hand planes. It totally fasinates me how so many wonderful woodworking projects were done for centurys with only minimal hand tools like these. How spoiled we are.

I hope you will stay with me as I share my journey with you.


9 comments so far

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3902 days

#1 posted 11-25-2009 02:16 AM

I know what you mean about collecting and not using… thats great for some people but not for me. I have been collecting hand tools for a couple of years but the transition to using them has been slow.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10123 posts in 4080 days

#2 posted 11-25-2009 03:11 AM

Nice plane… nice pattern…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Rj's profile


1047 posts in 3659 days

#3 posted 11-25-2009 04:08 AM

Sure looks like you tuned that one up real good I like those shavings!
I’m with Blake I’ve collected quite a few hand planes etc. But taking the time to get over that learning curve has been slow in coming .
I think I’m going to put aside some of my projects & devote time in just getting to know my hand tools .
Once you start getting them to perform there’s nothing in woodworking more satisfiying.

Thanks for posting this it makes me start thinking about my hand tools again.

-- Rj's Woodworks,San Jose & Weed Ca,

View studie's profile


618 posts in 3174 days

#4 posted 11-25-2009 05:37 AM

Kent I too have many planes over the years & have not used them to their full potential. I can see that to make them sharp is an art in itself but wait you don’t have to breath dust and get to listen to that wonderful shrishhhh sound.

-- $tudie

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3382 days

#5 posted 11-25-2009 11:15 AM

Kent… I had the opportunity to purchase a full box… and I mean a box that was built to house them… of wooden moulding planes.. over 100 in a box… all in their own little space… held there by wooden turn buttons… all for the princely sum of AU$600…... not much now but then with 3 daughters in school and not much of the readys available… well they are now only a memory…I truly hope they went to a good home!!
As for the satifaction of turning a piece of #@)*& plane into something that schooshes… I do know that feeling but only now and then… too busy using all the electron killers… when I have more time… ..when I only have to visit the shed and not have to go to the other job.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3936 days

#6 posted 11-25-2009 07:28 PM

Kent, Nice looking edge and hand plane. I can’t wait to see how you rebuild it with some of your exotic wood you’ve been known to build your jigs with. As for using hand tools, this past year I found out that using hand planes, hand saws and chisels made it easier to do some jobs AND was much more enjoyable. Then again, it’s only a hobby for me and the added time doesnt cost me. enjoy your journey to Gallootville.


-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3362 days

#7 posted 11-26-2009 07:47 PM

Great blog Kent. A whole generation of woodworkers who actually knew how to tune, sharpen and use is long gone. a great pity. Most folks including myself for the most part, have no idea what a joy it is to use hand tools and it is really great of you to do these blogs so we can all learn more.

I was just out in the work shop and I had only a short piece of the wood to make a part for my project. It had to be a little over 1/4” thick. I resawed it on the bandsaw and then handplaned it to final thickness. A short piece like that couldn’t be put through the planer, so if I couldn’t hand plane it, I would have had to sand it to final dimension which would have been a whole lot of sanding. As it was, it only took 2 or 3 minutes and no dust or machine noise. Even this modest bit of planing makes me feel like a better craftsman.

I’m a little late with this, so now I’m going to read your next blog in the series. Keep up the good work!!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View a1Jim's profile


117126 posts in 3604 days

#8 posted 11-26-2009 08:02 PM

Super Blog Kent , I always marvel at Roy Underhill when he whips out his planes an shaves an amazing fine shavings curl off the wood. Yes i can sharpen an use my tools but like you I enjoyed the provenance the tools had more than there use . I use them off and on but most of the time if I’ve got power tools i use them first.
look forward to more of your blog,have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Mike's profile


252 posts in 3410 days

#9 posted 12-01-2009 12:30 AM

Very nice, thanks for sharing

-- Mike, VT

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