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