Hand Plane catastrophe...or almost nearly a catastrophe!!!

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Blog entry by Matt posted 04-16-2007 05:34 AM 2450 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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

17 comments so far

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4161 days

#1 posted 04-16-2007 05:44 AM

Matt – What a story. I was reading along almost hearing and smelling the whisps of cherry p[eeling out of the plane when disaster strikes. Hope you and the 4 1/2 are doing well!


View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4120 days

#2 posted 04-16-2007 05:49 AM

Ouch! You might want to make a planing stop. Christopher Schwarz has on in his latest issue of Woodworking Magazine. It’s on page 4. It basically mounts in the vice on your bench and can be ajusted for different thicknesses of materials.

Also the approach in this link could be useful. I could see this mounted to a piece of 3/4 MDF instead of the bench.

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

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4333 days

#3 posted 04-16-2007 11:33 AM

I too love the finish left by a hand plane compared to sanding. I’ve bumped my clamps when planing,but without damage to the sole.

WayneC, thanks for the link.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#4 posted 04-16-2007 11:58 AM

a sad story with a happy ending. “She” has become even more dear to your heart.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Wooder's profile


163 posts in 4209 days

#5 posted 04-16-2007 01:53 PM

Matt, been there, done that…makes yer heart hurt, don’t it? Glad you recovered and got “her” back to square one.


-- Jimmy

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4108 days

#6 posted 04-16-2007 02:21 PM

I feel your pain. Sometimes, Life just makes you want to cry….you handled yourself well and probably learned a valuable lession. And now you have that distiquishing mark on your tool to remind you. Grandpa use to say, ” A tool without signs of use is not being used.”

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View Thomas Porter's profile

Thomas Porter

127 posts in 4153 days

#7 posted 04-16-2007 07:11 PM

Like grains of sand… so are the days of our lives.

If Norm was a soap star, this would be his pilot episode.

-- Thomas Porter, Phoenix, AZ,

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#8 posted 04-16-2007 07:27 PM

backpacks with the logo on them so when we are travelling, we’ll be spreadin the word. (haha I typed WOOD instead of word hahaha)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#9 posted 04-16-2007 07:29 PM

and what about the good old fashioned wooden yardsticks /metrestick with the logo on it.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4110 days

#10 posted 04-16-2007 09:46 PM

Ouch… just got my first lie-Nielsen plane and i can understand having personal feelings for your tools…


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4349 days

#11 posted 04-17-2007 02:09 AM

Hey, theres this podcasting guy who’s been talking about planes and how to tune them up… perhaps he can give you a hand with getting than one back from the DL ;)

Oh, and Happy Birthday Buddy!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Matt's profile


119 posts in 4439 days

#12 posted 04-17-2007 03:14 AM

Thank you for all your kind words and the concern you have shown me and my dear No.4 1/2. The experience has brought the two of us closer than we have ever been. I now have more of an excuse than ever to check up on things down in the shop.

-- Straight grains & sharp blades

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 3723 days

#13 posted 04-25-2008 05:42 PM

I’ve converted to the Galoot techniques of holdfasts for when the board needs hogging or dogs for the fine stuff (this is beginning to sound more like a barnyard…)

Of all my flock, or collection, or harem of handplanes, I have one (1) new plane, a Lie-Niesen No.-97 chisel plane that I skrimped and saved for until I could pay cash (I may have sold a car, I can’t remember.) What a beautiful piece of art… er, tool. You can now imagine how I felt when I looked down at it heading iron-first toward the concrete floor… Angels where there and guided this girl… er, tool, to land on one corner of the iron, taking a 2mm chip out of it. Okay, that’s easy to repair, a little grinding, a little sandpaper, and we’re scary sharp again. But she (definitely a she) has personality, and wouldn’t talk to me for a month after that. I don’t blame her. I’ve since signed up for a 12-step program that helps those who abuse their hand tools. “Hi, my name is Mack, and I dropped my LN-97.” (Gasping sound from audience followed by a tense silence…”

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View Matt's profile


119 posts in 4439 days

#14 posted 04-25-2008 08:59 PM

Mack I hate to say it, but you’re absolutely not alone in this horrible crime against good tools. At least once a month I find myself on the edge of a near catastrophe. You’d think by now I’d know better, but it just seems to happen.

I guess I need to spend a little time in that 12-step myself. Perhaps the next time you see me I’ll be standing at the podium saying “Hi my name is Matt and I’ve hurt another loved one again!”

Thanks for not judging me!!

-- Straight grains & sharp blades

View mzmac's profile


94 posts in 3689 days

#15 posted 06-13-2008 01:15 PM

I feel much better about talking to my own tools now. I’m not alone

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