So there I was last night. Down in the shop putting the finishing touches on a piece of cherry that would become a part of the desk I’ve been making for my daughter Madison. The pieces are all cut and dimensioned so now I’m just using my smoothing planes to put that sheen on the face that only a sharp blade can achieve. I have nothing against sanding, but I promised myself a long time ago to keep on practicing when and where I can with the hand planes. I’ve come a long way since the days of trying to true up an bowed board with a block plane…I now own two working block planes and an assortment of smoothers, jacks, and a jointer.
So I have my favorite smoother, a brand new No.4 1/2 by Veritas. She’s be tuned up and ready to go on another project and just waiting to be brought down off the shelf. I mainly use her as a final smoother. Only light delicate wisps of shavings flow through her mouth and onto the bench. Just a few passes into the final board and I’m thinking I’m in the clear. The next step is assembly and glue up.
Maybe that was the problem, my mind was a few steps ahead of where I was. Because the next thing I knew, SMACK!!! The toe of the No. 4 1/2 plows in to the metal head of a clamp. I knew it was too close for comfort, but I was so near the last stroke that I didn’t heed the screaming voice in my head. I tried to shake it off. You know, “it happens all the time”, kind of talk. But what happened next…I still shutter about it as I’m writing this.
So I take that final pass…after I move the board a little ways up from the clamp head. There on the board was what I feared the most. A trail mark left by a dinged up toe. The collision had been so hard that a small dent forced an even smaller fragment of the edge down below the sole of the plane. And the result was a scar across the face of the board, of course it had to be the final pass.
I hit the roof, well the ceiling of the basement workshop, but you get the idea. How could I have been so stupid?? The scar on the board, came out with the help of my old No.4 smoother. But I felt like I let my No.4 1/2 down. She trusted me to take care of her and let her do her job all the way to the end, but instead I led her smack into an immovable object.
So tonight I spent a little time with a fine file, a little sweet talk and a lot more attention to the details. She’s back, as good as new and her scar? It’s still there, but now we both have something to talk about.
-- Straight grains & sharp blades