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Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) #4: The tool kit part 3 Planes

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 1077 days ago 9159 reads 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: The tool kit Part 2, Saws. Part 4 of Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) series Part 5: The tool kit part 3.5 (benches) »

Your have brought the wood over to your bench, it’s rough and warped. It needs to be flat and square. This is the job of the planes.

Before I get started on planes, let’s just make one point clear, you can REALLY go nuts on these tools…it’s OK if you do, they are worth the money. Compare a Jointer, Jack, Smoother, Block set up from Lie Nielsen, to a 24” Jointer planer from Laguna and you will see the value in these tools. You are either going to spend a lot of time or a lot of money on your planes, the choice is yours…but might I recommend a happy medium…?

The first plane you will pick up will be Jack. Jack’s and interesting fella, he can do just about anything the other planes do even if he does not excel at it. Some guys prefer just jack, and they dispense with the rest. But planes work so much better as a system. A well set up jack plane is the beginning of that system. Traditionally speaking Jack used to be named Fore, because it was the plane used be”fore” the others. A fore plane was anywhere 14 and 18 inches and had wide mouth and a well cambered iron to allow it to take massive shavings (thickness of a dime to an 8th in some cases) when used across the grain….sounds a lot like the scrub plane huh? That’s because we use a scrub in place of a fore these days based on working narrower material then we used to (bigger trees back then), but I think the scrub goes a bit too far, it’s too short to effectively do the initial flattening of a board (you can use one, but it requires more thought) and an 18” fore can be very tiring to use for the initial scrubbing process. Jack fits in that “just right” category. We will talk about how to set the plane up later for now what do you look for? I don’t recommend buying a brand new jack plane since it’s going to do rough work, I prefer a per-war Bailey, but a wooden jack will do just as well (and will be easier to flatten the sole).

This one cost me $25 and required very little prep work.

After the jack is done making a mess of your bench and your board, the jointer comes in to flatten it out. With its long body, it is able to ride the hilltops made by the jack, shearing them off until one flat surface remains. Two schools of thought on the jointer, one where you use a straight blade, and the other with a slightly curved one. They both work, and I suggest you get two blades so you can try both. For this project you can get away with just the straight blade since you will be gluing up a panel for the top. Metal jointers are a pain to flatten so if you are in love with Iron I recommend you buy new (unless you enjoy restoring tools). Wood on the other hand is rather simple to restore and a solid wood jointer with a history is a nice thing to use. As this is a smaller project you could get away with a fore size plane with a flat blade. I own one made by WoodRiver that I am fond of (this brand is what I consider to be the cheapest usable planes on the market), but a full size jointer is probably a better long term investment.

The Jointer will have left scars here and there. The smoother cleans them up. This is often the last tool to touch your work, so don’t skimp here. You need a smoother with a sharp iron a flat sole and a VERY tight mouth. I made mine using mesquite and a blade from David Finck. It’s my favorite tool because it fits me. whatever smoother you get make sure it’s tuned to perfection and has a properly relaxed edge and you will have little need for sandpaper.

And finally the block. What a handy little guy this is. Handles end grain so well (in either low angle, or standard), makes chamfers. Used as a small smoother, one-handed, two-handed, forwards, backwards….in a word versatile. We will be using the block mostly help square edges in the even that you don’t grab a curved iron for your jointer but it’s useful enough to throw in the kit anyway. Get one with an adjustable mouth, and that feels good in your hands (both of them as well as one), this is a personal choice so I recommend going to the antique store and handling a few before you make your decision. They are of all the planes the easiest to tune up.

I am not one hundred percent today, so if I left anything unclear let me know and I will try and help.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan



21 comments so far

View Mauricio's profile

Mauricio

6749 posts in 1753 days


#1 posted 1077 days ago

Thanks for posting RG. You mentioned you were going to discuss your preference for Stanley Jacks over a wood bodied Jack. I’d like to get your thoughts. Hope you feel better soon.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#2 posted 1077 days ago

Your right. I like the Stanley’s mostly because they can be put to service doing jointing and smoothing in a pinch (this is attributed to the adjustable frog), they are also common enough to find replacement parts for should something go wrong (or you just grind a blade into nothing over time).

Their weight is just right for roughing out wide boards without being awkward on narrower ones. Old wooden planes tend to be a bit longer and off balance for cross grain work. Also because I do reclamation work, I have to put some thought into what dirt and dust can do to a sole, the jack plane is the first to touch my work so it’s going to take the most abuse. Steel holds up better than wood in that regard, the trade off is it’s harder to flatten (a plus for corrugated soles, but that’s about the only one with ANY credibility).

I know you want to make your jack, I did too. I decided when there are so many vintage planes out there that could be pressed into service for this task that I could just get a vintage and save my tool building time for finer tools. I like Krenov style planes for fine work, but for rough work, it’s nice to have a handle and a sweet chunk of steel.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1276 posts in 1600 days


#3 posted 1077 days ago

For the people new to hand tools:

There are differences in work flows that people use working with hand tools. They come from habit and are more style than hard and fast rules. The thing is not to get intimidated if you don’t have a full stable of planes to draw from. You can do a passable job with just a block plane. A block plane and a jack plane will open up 80-85% of anything you can do with a plane. A block, jack, and jointer will hit about 95-97%. The specialty planes are for that 3% left over.

There are several schools of thought about plane flatness. The Japanese intentionally hollow parts of their planes to reduce contact surface. Some people prefer a plane to be sorta flat and will flatten if it isn’t that flat. Then we have the ones who obsess over it. If you enjoy lapping planes, I will be the last one to say not to. I am in the “yeah, that is close enough” category personally.To each their own.

Metal or wooden planes. Well, honestly, until you are used to planes, go with the metal planes. They work just fine. The adjustment is a bit more mechanical and don’t require having a “feel” for it. Both wooden and metal planes work and both can do the finest work. It is about feel and preference. Choose when you get used to how planes work and how they should feel. I personally prefer the wooden planes and other people wouldn’t have them if you gave them one. The more expensive planes have tighter tolerances and fancier adjustments. Cheap ones can be tuned up to work well—assuming you know what to do to them. They can be an exercise in frustration if you don’t.

Here is an explanation of some of those specialties:

A scrub plane is a wood eating monster. It is where you start if the wood is nowhere near flat. It is a half step away from a hatchet or adze.

Jack and fore planes: A fore plane is kind of a big jack plane. Maybe a bit coarser. Jack planes and fore planes are somewhat interchangeable. If you are working on big stuff, a fore plane is a good direction to go rather than a jack plane. They are you general purpose go-to planes.

Jointers and smoothers are your finishing planes. The only real difference is that shorter planes can take out little pockets of roughness and jointers really flatten stuff (like gluing up panels or big table tops.) The longer, the flatter. Coopers had jointers that would be 6-7 feet long.

The finest planes are scrapers. They don’t really scrape, they cut. It is a skill to put a cutting edge on one. When you are sharpening a regular plane, you take the burr off when sharpening. With scrapers, you are cutting with that burr. They are the last thing you touch some wood with. They just take of microscopic wisps of wood.

Now you have a block plane. It can smooth but it is also just a handy plane to keep in your pocket to pull out when you need to trim stuff off.

The shortest planes are the spokeshaves. Great for curved stuff. Everyone should have at least a dozen. :)

Stanley numbering system for beginners:

Stanley made bench planes numbered from #1 to #8. They are sorted by size. (Mostly) Unless you just enjoy collecting, the range is to give you a range to choose from to pick a smoother, jack, and jointer. Which one you choose for each role mainly depends on your size. I prefer a larger jack plane. I have a #5-1/2. They also have a small one, a #5-1/4. Most people are fine with a plain #5. Same between a #7 and #8 jointer. The #8 is the big manly plane. #7 is for those not big enough to wield a #8. :) Same between the smoothers. #2 is dainty, #3 is smallish, #4 is a bit larger, #4-1/2 is a bruiser. #6 is either a big jack or a dainty jointer. #1 is basically a salesman’s sample and only really usable by maybe a 7 year old’s hands.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

View Mauricio's profile

Mauricio

6749 posts in 1753 days


#4 posted 1077 days ago

RG,

I hear you on the Stanley, I have a Stanley #4 and it works ok but I suspect I haven’t mastered tooning it up because I still get chatter some times. If I had better results I would be more into the stanley’s. I havent given up though, I have some work to do on the frog.

On the other hand, with my kernov smoother I dont get any chatter, nor with my wooden Jointer… not much any way. Also, I like the laminated blades on the old Ohio Tools planes. I’ve seen some cheap ones one that have gone for $5 on ebay I might pop one of those instead of making it, If I do make it just for fun, I will use the same blade.

I think the “Hand Plane of your Dreams” and “Buying planes on ebay” threads ares jacking up the price of #5’s, You cant get them for $25 these days, especially not a corrugated one like yours.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#5 posted 1077 days ago

Thanks David for the insight. I will be covering scrapers in the last category of the hand tool kit (the “save your hind end” category). I am with you on the “close enough” decision on hand plane flatness. As long as the area in front of the mouth is flat the rest just needs to be good enough to get the job done.

I disagree with one point for the purposes this class though, you cannot build furniture using hand tools only with just a block plane (or more accurately you could but it would be zero fun), the jack plane would be a better candidate for the “one plane” hand tool shop. After I have went through all the tools for the kit I will do a brief entry on a “bare bones” kit, for someone who wants to give this a try without investing to heavily (in either time or money).

I should also state this is not a “complete” set of hand tools, but it’s a solid start without anything unnecessary.

PS: What’s your favorite spokeshave David?

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1276 posts in 1600 days


#6 posted 1077 days ago

The reason I put the block plane in there first is that it is the one plane that even someone that works almost exclusively with power tools should have. They are just so handy and easy to slip into a tool belt or pocket.

The one spokeshave I have that I use most is possibly the crappiest cheap one that I have. It is a Stanley made in Mexico that has zero adjustments. It is about as bare as you can get. I keep the blade in it skewed so one side of the mouth is pretty coarse and the other fine. I also have an old wooded shave that I use a lot. It is the equivalent of a low angle plane with the way the blade sets in it.

The other ones I have tend to just sift down to the bottom of the tool shelf under the bench.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#7 posted 1077 days ago

Great info. Probably some discussion of standard angle vs. low angle block planes…. I prefer low angle block planes with adjustable mouths. Stanley examples would be a 60 1/2 or a 65.

Standard angle adjustable mouth planes would be a #9 1/2 or a 18…

Small Planes

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

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#8 posted 1076 days ago

I love it when you love a tool out of habit David.

The low angle standard angle thing…I am super not picky on this subject as long as the blade is kept VERY sharp end grain is not an issue with either. It’s one of those areas that comes down to personal preference, and since low angle and standard are usually the same price on the new market it may be wise to grab the low since it can do any of the angles the standard can.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#9 posted 1057 days ago

Thanks for the input Gary. When we get into using the tools I will cover the wonder that is paraffin, bees wax, and tallow. Veritas is a brand I have neglected, they are good tools. I am not a lover of low angle tools but that is a personal preference thing.

I have come to think that the Wood River planes just don’t have good quality control. They can make a good plane, mine has none of the issues that some people have (although I did have to tinker wit the chip breaker a bit), but it seems for everyone who is happy with their tool there is another guy out there who is ticked off about it.

Don’t worry, we will put the tools to use and explain the how and whys later.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#10 posted 1056 days ago

I did however forget to mention that if you are going to get into wooden planes you are going to need to find or make a tiny hammer (2.5 oz is perfect). I like this one (jeweler’s hammer that goes in an out of availability) because it has a nylon head that I use for the body of the plane, and a brass head for the iron.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#11 posted 1042 days ago

I forgot to mention it since this function was added after my class started. If you go to the Class tab and hit the subscribe button you should not miss any installments of the class.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1717 days


#12 posted 1039 days ago

I know you talk a little about the wooden Jack but that is the English type
the Scandinavien/German type that is alot shorter around 9 to 10 inch
like the smoother and is has a horn instead of a round nop do to they can
and does get pulled from time to time mostly the smoother though

Dennis

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#13 posted 1039 days ago

My wooden planes are all either American or Krenov style, they are just more comfortable for me to use on the pull stroke (or push… or side grip), so I favor them more, but if you have already fallen in love with your planes, great…that means they are getting the job done.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1717 days


#14 posted 1039 days ago

I was thinking more about the different in the lenght on the jacks
I still have to find out why they developed differently back in the historic time

than the diffrent in the front nops

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1256 days


#15 posted 1039 days ago

Ah. That might have to do with the availability of large timbers in the old vs the new world. But that’s just a shot in the dark from me.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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