This is actually Part II of the series, Part I is in part II of the series and Part II is here, hopefully Part III and thereafter will appear in the correct sequence.
One evening after work last week I was finally able to carve out a little time for the NFWB project. I am waiting for a drill press on back order so in the meantime I thought I would start squaring up some of the stock I had previously cut for pieces of the bench. In this photo on the left side of the saw horses is what will become the planing beam.
I spent a couple of hours working it with my Stanley Jack Plane to take the roughness out of the stock. One of the things I find rewarding about handplaning is that I really get a close look at the wood. This piece was in rougher shape than I first thought from the equipment used to saw it out of the log, staples from the wrapping and a place or two where knots were running through the stock.
At the end of the evening I had made good progress getting the piece in much better shape, sharpening the edges and removing much of the roughness. There is still some improvement to be accomplished in the quality of it, but it is coming along nicely. You might notice some of the grain in the edge of the beam popping a bit from being planed smooth in the photo. It also has some twist in it introduced through my uneven planing, though I plan to follow up with some of my nicer planes to get it all squared up.
I would put myself more into the camp of the hand tool romanticists as opposed to the power tool centered practicioners out there. However, I am enjoying woodoworking for the process itself, if not moreso than the finished objects. My livelihood doesn’t depend on woodworking and at the pace I work, that is a good thing. It really rewards my creativity and wonder though and in the process of planing my mind often wonders about the tree it came from, where it was located, how the big knot with the hollow spot was oriented in relation to the rest of the wood, and taking time to observe how it is changing. I can completely appreciate how much easier and quicker this would have been using a jointer and planer, and looking at my pile of stock yet to be planed… well I don’t have enough room for them anyway.
In the course of the evening, I began practicing conscious incompetence as I knew my plane blade’s edge was degrading in sharpness and it was requiring more effort to get shavings. The right thing to do of course is to stop and resharpen, but I chose to add more effort to it instead, not wanting to disrupt the experience. A little lesson from taking that path occured when the brass set screw in the knob worked a little loose and apparently into my palm. At the end of the evening I had a nice momento of my time.
Reflecting on the experience I considered the options of how to improve the situation for my next planing session. I perused the Hock blade site as that seems to me to be the gold standard in plane blades… cryogenically treated steel. Sharpen it up and how long could you go before having to sharpen again? A little research revealed that the blade and chipbreaker would be in the $50 neighborhood plus or minus. Well worth it in my opinion to have a premium quality tool. However, I also thought about my primary use of the Stanley plane I have is likely to be for cleaning up rougher stock and I have a couple higher end ECE planes for jointing and smoothing. My Stanley planes frog also had a little irregularity near the sides of the leading edge which I repaired with some JB Weld. Not perfect, but much improved in terms of eliminating the chatter along with tuning the other elements of the plane. At the end of the day I decided to purchase two standard Stanley replacement blades for my plane at a cost of about $20 and sharpen and hone them both up for the next session so I will have three blades to switch between in the course of working the stock.
-- Michael, Seattle, WA