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Is woodworking genetic?

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Blog entry by Ethan Sincox posted 02-09-2007 09:29 PM 683 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A while back, LJ Phil recommended a book – Traditional Woodworking Handtools by Graham Blackburn. Putting a lot of faith in Phil’s judgment (and adding to that the fact he actually uses a lot of hand tools on a daily basis), I ordered the book that week. It arrived several days ago and I’ve been “ploughing” (Chapter 21) through it ever since.

One section on Smoothing Planes stood out at me, as if highlighted by neon signs. In it, Graham states, “It is true that one of the most fundamental joys of woodworking derives from the impulse to make wood smooth…”

Is this why I enjoy sanding so much? Do I have “smoothing” genes?

That might explain a lot… including why I had such an affinity towards blanket binding as a baby.

But he continues, adding that the smoothness achieved by sanding is a far cry from wood that has been surfaced by a smoothing plane. The sanded wood is still an abraded surface, no matter how fine a grit you use, while the plane actually sheers the wood fibers off, and then the back of the plane slightly burnishes it, achieving a wholly different end result. It probably does so with less effort and time, too.

That makes me wonder if I should heavily consider adding a smoothing plane to my arsenal of woodworking weapons… Instead of starting with a lower grit sanding paper and working my way up, smoothing the surface with a smoothing plane and leaving it at that might be a much quicker route.

I don’t think it would totally replace my need for sand paper – it would certainly be more useful on any project as small as, say, my fist, where the use of a hand plane would be a quite a challenge.

Something for me to think about… of course, I also have to think about how I’m going to learn how to use one! My initial attempts at using larger planes were not terribly successful. I really can’t afford to go to any of the better woodworking schools at the moment, and I bet their classes are mostly filled, anyway. That might be a great question for the next guild meeting, which is just next Thursday.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com



14 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 3053 days


#1 posted 02-09-2007 09:59 PM

I have the same feeling about carving. The sharp chisel leaves a much smoother finish than the finest sandpaper.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2927 days


#2 posted 02-09-2007 10:25 PM

What methods do you use for chisel sharpening, Dick? Could you make a blog entry on your sharpening techniques? Do those techniques change when sharpening big chisels vs. small chisels?

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2990 days


#3 posted 02-10-2007 12:10 AM

O.K. So now I can bring this up again …. I need to start my plane inventory, because the two I have just don’t cut the mustard… or the wood.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2914 days


#4 posted 02-10-2007 02:16 AM

Ethan, my question would be: what is your intention??
Do you want to enjoy the process of sanding your projects (which I think I remember hearing from you before) or do you “just” want a smooth surface??
I’m far from an expert but I would say that if “smooth” is the goal then use this as a great opportunity and validation to buy a new tool :) !! :)
If you are in love with the process of making the “smoothness” perfect, then you might be happier with the sandpaper route.

Just my thoughts..

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 3080 days


#5 posted 02-10-2007 02:20 AM

I must like sanding as well… (just not the sanding part, or the dust – only the smoothing). One of Christopher Schwarz’s blog entries last year made me think about getting floats.

All this reminds me that I was always trying to achieve smooth images in my (fine art) painting too. An art director later told me to celebrate my brush strokes, yet I was still trying to blend them in!

Refinishing the upstairs bedrooms gave me the impression that the floors were “more comfortable” after the first two passes with the massive sander. I felt I could perceive the difference in the surface, despite the immeasurable difference it made. (other than visually of course)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 3053 days


#6 posted 02-10-2007 06:51 AM

Ethan
Thanks for the offer, but there are all kinds of tutorials out there that can do a better job than I can. It’s not the same anymore like when I started. I didn’t have the advantages like you have nowadays. Here is an excellent tutorial PDF. I even learned some new tricks from this.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2927 days


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

Dick,
I actually haven’t ever taken the time to sign up for the FineWoodworking website; the jury is still out as to whether or not I like the idea of making me pay for a magazine subscription and then also making me pay to access a website that was free as of a year ago.

So any time you post with a link to the FWW website, it does me no good. Sorry.

Debbie, I’m not really sure what I like most – the process or the end result. The methodical action of sanding is quite soothing to me. The idea of greatly reducing my amount of sanding and achieving the same result in far less time with a hand plane intrigues me.

A while back I picked up a Stanley No. 5 at an estate sale that had a full original blade and needed very little by way of cleaning or fixing up; I checked on the Woodcraft website the other day and they have a plane tune-up class where I can at least start learning about things like how sharp my plane blade needs to be and setting it up to plane properly. I think that’s a good first step. If it goes well, then I’ll start looking for more advanced instruction.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1999 posts in 3159 days


#8 posted 02-11-2007 06:04 AM

Hey Ethan:
Graham’s book on Furniture Design is equally as good. I refer to it whenever I am worrying about proportions on a new idea.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 3053 days


#9 posted 02-11-2007 06:09 AM

Ethan,
Nobody has ever told me they can’t watch the links I attach from fine woodworking. Tell me if it’s true, so I don’t waste my time.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1999 posts in 3159 days


#10 posted 02-11-2007 06:10 AM

If you are looking for “quick” smoothing process, you should consider ordering a Grizzly wide belt sander. Now, that is quick, and expensive.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3068 days


#11 posted 02-11-2007 06:12 AM

Dick I just got a place to log in with a password. So I passed it by.

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 3080 days


#12 posted 02-11-2007 07:14 AM

Dick, some we can see, some we can’t… I always look at the differnt magazines “online extras” in the front of each (printed) issue, and usually never go check, as I’ll get frustrated with the limited scope of the free offerings vs, the paid content. Heck, the newspaper I work for makes you sign up to read most of whats online.

I did trade in my Cooks Illustrated print subscription for the online one, and I think I like it better that way – much easier to find old recipes and reviews.

I’m on the verge of going for the online subscription to FWW… Yeah, I agree with Ethan, and it should be free. but I guess if it’s barely more than a dollar a month, that’s not a big deal. Just more principal than price. That said, more and more pubs are giving us so much more online, and it’s not like FWW is a measly fly by night rag. I expect the videos etc, are top notch.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 3053 days


#13 posted 02-11-2007 07:30 AM

Thanks Scott,
They say you can Email a copy, so I assumed this would be similar.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View Billp's profile

Billp

784 posts in 2953 days


#14 posted 02-14-2007 06:38 AM

I just used a plane with the grain for the first time. Woooh. Talk about cool. I could plane till my arms fell off what fun.

-- Billp

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