Traditional Chinese Woodworking #2: Preparing stock

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Blog entry by chscholz posted 07-01-2009 01:05 AM 6181 reads 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Liu Shifu Part 2 of Traditional Chinese Woodworking series Part 3: The Mystery of Sung Hua Stones »

It’s all about efficiency.

For us hobbyists it is interesting to see how full-time hand tool users perform the dreaded task of stock preparation. Well, it’s all about efficenty.

It is important to note that Liu Shifu currently does not have an apprentice who would possibly be helping preparing stock. Yes, he would like to see someone take over his shop, continue his life’s work so to speak, but this is not an option at this point. In some way it is lucky that we met Liu Shifu at the end of his career: early in his career a Chinese Shifu will hardly ever allow outsiders to watch them work, not to mention photograph. In fact, Liu Shifu was very interested in the prospect that his life’s work could find a forum in the United States.

Stock preparation starts with the equivalent to a broad ax which, with enough pratice, get’s you farily close to the final dimensions of the board.

The ax is, like many tools in China laminated and for obvious reasons a-symmetric

Next is the equivalent of the Jack/scrub plane.

After that the equivalent of a fore plane, i.e. a long plane to smoothen out the hills and valleys left by the Jack plane.

And finally the smoothing plane. Without asking Liu Shifu explained that the smoothing plane is shorter than the previous planes and has a steeper bedding angle.

Similar to Western planes with Chinese planes you start the stroke with pressure to the toe of the plane and end the stroke with pressure to the heal of the plane. Of course since the ergonomics of Chinese planes are very different to Western planes this shift of pressure is nothing more than a simple movement in the wrist. So instead of coordinating left hand/arm/shoulder and right hand/arm/shoulder
to adjust the down pressure distribution just about right, you only habe to put a bit more pressure on your index fingers or your thumbs.

Checking for squareness. Notice the position of the feet realtive to the workbench. When using Chinese planes you stand almost directly behind the pice you are planing. This probably contributes to the excellent performance of this type of plane.

Highly efficient, is it not?

Thank you for listening.

Chris, Arlington, TX

-- Chris Scholz, Arlington, TX,

7 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#1 posted 07-01-2009 01:07 AM

Very interesting thanks for sharing

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3339 days

#2 posted 07-01-2009 01:20 AM

back to the basics .
how many carpenters today ,
even own hand tools ?
thank you for bringing him to life !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4075 days

#3 posted 07-01-2009 01:37 AM

Amazing. I have marked this as a watcher. Can’t wait for the next part.

-- BLOG -

View woodworm's profile


14468 posts in 3588 days

#4 posted 07-01-2009 03:15 AM

I was reluctant to say a word, but could not stop my fingers from typing this :- chopping axe in woodworking shop,... that is awsome.

:early in his career a Chinese Shifu will hardly ever allow outsiders to watch them work, more or less its true.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3359 days

#5 posted 07-01-2009 03:42 PM

The quality of work that can be turned out by these craftman with such basic tools is fantastic.

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3439 days

#6 posted 07-01-2009 11:56 PM

Big thankyou for the detailed pics. The workbench is so simple and the bench stop looks interesting, kind of our western monstrosities look like overkill. Will add this to my favorites list.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View charlton's profile


87 posts in 3406 days

#7 posted 07-02-2009 01:18 AM

Nice. Gotta love the picture of the dude smoking while he’s working. :) Can’t wait to see what the final result is. We’re so spoiled here in the western world with our power tools and LN/LV hand tools. :)

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