All Replies on Hand Planes - Why?

  • Advertise with us
View BoxJoint's profile

Hand Planes - Why?

by BoxJoint
posted 03-08-2013 02:43 AM

1 2 next »
54 replies

54 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


6912 posts in 2568 days

#1 posted 03-08-2013 02:47 AM

The finished surface a hand plane is capable of leaving behind is far superior to any mechanical device or sandpaper. You are also able to get precision fits with less effort and set up. They are not noisy, nor do they cause dust. These are a few reasons.

View Ripthorn's profile


1454 posts in 2955 days

#2 posted 03-08-2013 02:51 AM

As someone who until recently was in your shoes, here are the things that I have noticed that hand planes do that your power tools won’t or aren’t as good at:

- Sneaking up on a measurement. Trying to fine tune something on a miter saw is not all that easy, but taking off a couple thousandths at a time lets you get a perfect fit.
- Quick chamfers. A block plane will let you chamfer something quicker than setting up a router.
- The finish of a smoothing plane. I like to sand projects up to an obscenely high grit, but no matter how high you go, you can’t match the glossy shine of a nicely planed surface.
- Knocking down high spots to save stock. I just took of a weird high spot on the edge of a board that was going to go through the jointer. Knocking off the high spot save probably 1/4-1/2” on the finished width of the board
- Getting rid of twist. This is similar to above, but twist is a killer. You can get it out with a jointer, but you will waste a lot more stock.
- Working small pieces. You can’t do anything shorter than about 6” in a jointer or planer
- Keep in mind that jointers and planers are not finish tools. They still require something after them. It can be various grits of sand paper, but a plane will not only leave a better finish, but will leave the surface flatter as well
- Working with really large pieces. Try running a 15” board through your 13” planer. Nuff said.
- Flushing up mating pieces and removing burn marks. A block plane will trim up things like plugs in a piece really easily.

Those are just the ones off the top of my head. They are totally worth it. Start with a block plane and see how much you use it.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3329 days

#3 posted 03-08-2013 03:05 AM

IMHO, using hand tools (planes, spokeshaves, chisels, etc) is just more fun. I don’t have to turn on the dust collector, I can listen to music or TV, I don’t have to wear safety glasses, and I can relax and not have to worry about losing a finger or 3. Yes, you can still hurt yourself using hand tools, but you have to work at it. The other aspects that have already been mentioned are also part of it, especially the sanding. I hate sanding. There are also times when its just quicker/more efficient. I can make some really nice molding using a couple of planes in less time than I can set up a router table.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2153 days

#4 posted 03-08-2013 03:05 AM

Lack of noise and dust, for one.

Let’s look a little more closely into why a hand plane gives a better surface than rotary power tools (jointers, planers) and sanding.

With a rotary power tool, the multiple blades are spinning, digging into the wood, then exiting, creating very small “waves” in the surface of the wood. This is even more pronounced with helical head cutters. You can get a good surface just with power tools, but the small waves will still be there.

With abrasives, as you work your way up the grits, you’re creating scratches that are knocked down and replaced.

A hand plane cuts off a thin layer of wood, often in a long strip in one pass. The wood fibers are cut in a single plane, not chipped out (power tools) or scratched (abrasives).

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View LukieB's profile


966 posts in 2300 days

#5 posted 03-08-2013 03:08 AM

All those machines leave behind their marks…all of them. Tablesaw, jointer, bandsaw….even the planer. Marks that have to be removed to get a fine finish.

Sanding works, and did for me for a lot of years. But with sanding comes dust. Dust that I find hard to control.

I was skeptical that a hand plane could do that kind of finish work, and leave behind a surface ready for finish.

But the first time I got my hands on a truly sharp plane and realized I could eliminate sanding through 3 grits of sandpaper (at the least) and all the dust and noise that comes along with that, with one swipe of the hand plane…..I was hooked.

Don’t get me wrong they’re not the answer for everything, and I still have a full arsenal of sandpaper in the shop. But lately it’s only purpose has been sanding down knobs and totes on my plane restorations.

Edit…sorry if my post is a little redundant, I type real slow and am easily distracted. There was only 1 reply when I started typing, LOL

-- Lucas, "Someday woodworks will be my real job, until then, there's this"

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3251 days

#6 posted 03-08-2013 03:19 AM

Hand tools are more accurate and often more efficient than power tools. I remember building jigs and going through tedious setups to do simple things I can quickly do with hand tools. It’s a matter of trusting yourself and learning accurate layout. Of course you need to be able to work to layout lines.

I do some of the work I do on metal type machines where I can dial in settings in thousandths. Still, the most accurate work I do is by hand.

While I make planes, I don’t subscribe to the better finish stuff. I hand sand and sanding is one of the most highly skilled tasks I do. It’s too easy to wipe out crispness or even fine features with sloppy sanding. The stuff I produce is hand sanded unless there’s a reason to avoid sanding.

I can easily produce most any molding I design and can design to fit the scale and proportions of a project. You can’t do that with a shaper or router unless you’re willing to pay high dollar for custom ground cutters/bits and wait for delivery. Machines can’t undercut but I can undercut by hand, this is because of the linear travel of the material over a cutter or bit.

I’ve always gotten by with a 6” or 8” jointer. I can quickly and easily flatten wider stock on the rare occasions I need wider stock without laminating. I can also produce a better butt joint on long glue-ups with a hand plane. You don’t get the inevitable scalloped surface with a hand plane that you get from a jointer or even a planer.

View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2330 days

#7 posted 03-08-2013 03:31 AM

The substance of your question has already been more than adequately addressed.
I just want to say something regarding “dumb” questions.
No one is born knowing the answers to these kinds of things. More importantly, don’t ever let the fear of looking silly get between you and the answers you need.
I guarantee you that no one whose opinion matters finds the asking of questions anything except admirable.

View JayT's profile


5590 posts in 2181 days

#8 posted 03-08-2013 03:43 AM

Definitely not a silly question. I think most machine based woodworkers do not understand the advantages of a hand plane—I know I didn’t for a long time. My school shop teachers taught us to use machines and it wasn’t until learning to tune and use a plane last year that I began to understand the benefits. The guys above have covered the reasoning very well.

Even if you stay using mostly machines, having a good block plane and smoother will allow a lot more flexibility and precision in your woodworking.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View waho6o9's profile


8168 posts in 2547 days

#9 posted 03-08-2013 03:45 AM

“I guarantee you that no one whose opinion matters finds the asking of questions anything except admirable.”

Well said Doc!

View BoxJoint's profile


3 posts in 3675 days

#10 posted 03-08-2013 03:56 AM

LJocks rock! What a great variety of answers!

Thank you very much for your time in responding and your support.

-- "You only live once - but if you work it right, once is enough" - Joe E Lewis

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2467 days

#11 posted 03-08-2013 04:04 AM

They exist to soak up your disposable income.
Buying just one is a metaphysical absurdity and three irons are required apiece.
And let’s not talk about sharpening stones/systems until your line of credit is approved.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3099 days

#12 posted 03-08-2013 04:18 AM


I think its a great question. I often ask myself the same thing. To me it also involves the question of am I sculpting wood or just machining it? So is there a practical productive place for hand planes in a modern machine based shop? By this I mean not just because they are good for us mentally or emotionally which in fact they are. They are for me anyway. Planing wood by hand in a quiet shop is soothing, where as buzzing sanders combined with howling vacuums is not – in fact its nerve jangling. Stickley, which has been making outstanding furniture of uncompromising quality for over a hundred years still hand fits each drawer box – sculpting them to fit each individual bay. I can’t think of a better tool for this than a hand plane. Another good example of practical application has already been mentioned – removing milling marks. Hand planes can be a great practical additions to machines for this reason alone. When I joint a board on a 78” long jointer its straighter than any hand plane is going to make it, but its has milling marks. I keep a #3 bevel up with a straight ground blade just for smoothing jointed edges. Its both practical and satisfying. I also use hand planes to smooth and shape drawer fronts to fit flush on inset drawers. Yeah, there are a whole lot of practical uses for hand planes in a machine based shop. I suppose ultimately keeping the woodworker calm and happy is also a practical idea – hand planes are real good for this too. Start collecting them and Enjoy!

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2455 days

#13 posted 03-08-2013 04:22 AM

In addition to the other fine answers here, I’ll give another reason for using hand planes.

I really enjoy it. The tactile sensations, the feel of the wood as it travels through the plane to my hands tells me a lot of information that would be lost with power tools. Information that says whether you’re pressing down too hard or going too fast, or when it’s all dialed in and it all feels right.

Then there’s the sounds. Oh man, the sounds. At the risk of sounding like a hippie stoned out of his gourd, the wood, it like, talks to us, man. It makes such happy sounds when the tools are sharp and moving like they’re supposed to.

Can’t forget the visual component. Seeing beautiful smooth ribbons of wood fibers appear, leaving behind a glassy surface that was nowhere near that nice just a few seconds ago.

And some woods smell great when they’re being worked. Although I don’t favor pine for nice projects, the smell of it freshly planed adds years to your life, I tell you.

So yeah, it’s a feast for the senses. The fact that it bombards you with so much to process at once, makes it very easy for me to quickly work myself into Zen-like focus, and all the mundane daily toils cease to matter, at least for a while.

-- Brian Timmons -

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2660 days

#14 posted 03-08-2013 04:27 AM

It’s a very slippery slope (see Gene’s post #12 above)!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15283 posts in 2588 days

#15 posted 03-08-2013 04:29 AM

How about an example that addresses your question as to ‘why a hand plane?’

Say you want to build a small side table with tapered legs. If you’ve built one before, you may have a tapering sled, or jig, of some sort to use with the table saw (or even band saw) to cut the angle you want. And while that gets you close, it’s still over to the jointer, then the spindle sander or ROS to get each angled leg ‘done.’

With hand planes at your disposal, and a solid bench in which to hold the work, cut the leg angles ‘just kinda’ up to a line that’s you’ve drawn. Then clamp the legs in the bench and plane to the line. When you’ve hit the line, you’re done. No jigs, no jointer, no sanding. The first time you do this, you’ll be hooked. It’s incredibly simple. :-)

Hope this helps. Oh, and it’s the method used as I was goofing around with this table build in an afternoon.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2268 days

#16 posted 03-08-2013 04:36 AM

Fitting is a big deal with handtools like when you saw a board and it just likes a little hit it with a handplane for perfect fit or tablesaw and have a 1/8 inch gap

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View Ron Harper's profile

Ron Harper

133 posts in 1886 days

#17 posted 03-08-2013 05:09 AM

Way too many reasons to list here. Your first clue is that the elite names in the craft all use them. As a very simple example of why….....get ready to glue up an edge joint. Use your jointer till you think it is ready to glue. I will bet you a hundred bucks that I can improve the joint with a couple of passes with my 608 jointer plane, your power jointer leaves almost invisible tiny ridges on the edge of a board. A couple of passes with a properly tuned plane removes them. Producing a visibly better joint. A sander abrades the surface of a board. That crushes fibers. A sharp smoothing plane slices fibers the clarity and chatoyance is quite different. I use block planes constantly. I do not understand how anybody works without one.

-- Ron in Kokomo

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15283 posts in 2588 days

#18 posted 03-08-2013 07:04 AM

Ron, until you take some passes on ‘jointed’ boards with the #8, you just don’t know how much better the surface can be. The sharp plane will chop the tops of ridges you didnt’ know were there…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10057 posts in 4022 days

#19 posted 03-08-2013 07:36 AM


The only stupid questions are the ones NOT asked… Not asked will not get answers…

Hand planes… Yes, they are old-fashioned… Get one & play with it… Really get the blade sharp (plenty of threads on sharpening)... just using sandpaper… & nothing fancy…

1. You can joint two edges at the same time that will go together perfectly without requiring special attention.

2. They will give you a little more exercise using some muscles that you haven’t used very much before… burns a few more calories too!

3. It’s a real pleasure to hear a good sharp plane cut with a nice clean ‘swish’... getting a nice thin curl…

... just a little more they do…


-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Tony_S's profile


857 posts in 3053 days

#20 posted 03-08-2013 10:53 AM

Personal satisfaction? Without a doubt.
Zen like ambiance? No question.

Far more efficient and ‘better’ end product in every way shape and form as some would purport in this thread?......complete and utter horseshat.

The air is thick with elitism in this room….to a near offensive level.

But hey…whatever floats yer boat.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View Marcus's profile


1163 posts in 1989 days

#21 posted 03-08-2013 12:01 PM

I’ve been into woodworking one way or another the last 15 years and just seriously used a hand plane for the first time last night. I was shocked at how forgiving of a tool they are. You can really make very VERY precise cuts (I was using the plane on some stringing on a desk leg). I also got a great sense of satisfaction that I would never get running the leg over the jointer.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15283 posts in 2588 days

#22 posted 03-08-2013 01:19 PM

Now I am left to wonder if Tony just called me an offensive elitist. Wow…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View needshave's profile


175 posts in 1929 days

#23 posted 03-08-2013 01:29 PM

I have a well stocked cabinet/woodworking shop that has pretty much all the power equipment that I will every need. I have been woodworking over 25 years. I also have all of my grandfathers and great grandfathers woodworking tools and for me when I use my hand planes and hand tools – I made it. When I use the power equipment, the tools made it. If I want something very precise and to have special meaning to me or other I use the hand tools. It is very much a gratifying experience.

View mds2's profile


310 posts in 1914 days

#24 posted 03-08-2013 01:38 PM

I was going to mention the state of zen you get in when using one, but someone beat me too it. It is true. I have no idea why, but taking a plane to a piece of wood is just like tranquility and so damn satisfying.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2457 days

#25 posted 03-08-2013 01:47 PM

Isn’t the state of Zen just east of New Jersey and south of the state of total Chaos?

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View JohnChung's profile


407 posts in 2044 days

#26 posted 03-08-2013 01:53 PM

It is a good question. Here is why I use it and spend money on handtools.

1) The surface of the stock can be smooth as silk. Try this with sandpaper….
2) Accuracy. It depends on your skill just like power tools. But shavings thinner than paper is possible :)
3) Less dust
4) Less storage space.
5) Exercise…...
6) Being able to produce things which ONLY machines are possible at:)
7) Much safer but can STILL hurt yourself. Blades AWAY from you.

But it can’t beat power tools for mass production.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2416 days

#27 posted 03-08-2013 01:53 PM

I must admit Even though I own 5 hand planes,I don’t use them that often,I can not seem to get the hang of them, specially on a wide surface I tend to leave more plane marks and make the piece look worse.
I now can handle narrower thickness stock but have a hard time on anything wider than the blade width.
The planes blades are sharp enough to remove hair,the plane bottoms are all nice and flat,I keep adjusting the depth of cut . I have realized I need to practice to get good at it.
So here is one member who is in woodworking for 2-3 years(a newbie) that can only rely on machines to get acceptable(to me) result.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View Mosquito's profile


9280 posts in 2262 days

#28 posted 03-08-2013 01:56 PM

I think he did, Smitty… But then again, I pay little attention to anyone who responds like that to these subjects. My suspicion is that they gets paid for woodworking, so care more about the time savings and mass production than we would.

Edit: Ken, when you’re sharpening your smoothing iron, try putting more pressure on one corner, while still having the plane blade engaged with the sharpening surface, for a few swipes, and then do the same with the other corner. It slightly eases the corners, and makes the tracks less noticeable, if at all

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View RussellAP's profile


3103 posts in 2256 days

#29 posted 03-08-2013 02:09 PM

I mostly use them for minor corrections that I can’t get a ROS into on things that I’ve already assembled partially or wholly. Learning how to cope with mistakes you make along the way will eventually lead you to planes, rasps, brushes, chisels, and a whole lot of minor tools you don’t use on a regular basis. No matter how careful you are when you build something with multiple parts, there will be some occasion to use one of these tools in the process and you’re only fooling yourself if you think you can make an outstanding piece without them. It’s also important to have the right plane for the job. So before you go crazy on Ebay, consider what you need a plane for. I personally like to have a complete set from a 4 to an 8 and a few specialty planes. I found some little brass planes at HF that have a really great edge on them for like 6$ for a package of three. Great quality and the blades hold an edge. I probably use these more than anything to true up edges during assembly. I don’t know if they still carry them or not, I got them off the little table they have outside.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2416 days

#30 posted 03-08-2013 02:14 PM

Thank you Mos,I ‘ll give it a try,didn’t mean to high jack the thread though,just wanted to say it takes skill to produce smooth surfaces ,surprise surprise lol.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3128 days

#31 posted 03-08-2013 02:28 PM

What power tools will you use to do the following…?

- smooth the edge of a board after planing it.
- bring proud fingers of a box joint back to level.
- remove remaining stock from a 6 1/2” wide board after resawing 6” of it with a table saw.
- milling parts of a project after something is already glued up.
- removing glue squeeze-out from a project.
- trimming a tenon to fit.
- creating a mortise on large works or already glued up projects.

For some of these things, like smoothng the edge of a board, the beginner might be inclined to use a random-orbital sander…and at some point, you get tired of rounded over edges on your projects.

A thousand other things require planes, chisels, scrapers, rasps, files, and yes, sandpaper. The faster you realize what those things are, the more precise, beautiful, efficient, and pleasurable the woodworking experience becomes, IME.

-- jay,

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2968 days

#32 posted 03-08-2013 04:11 PM

Most of the important things have already been said but hand tools have their place even in the most plugged in shops.

If you are looking for repeatability, machine tools are great. When you are looking for precision, hand tools still outperform machine tools in most ways. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about woodworking tools or precision instrumentation, the most accurate finishing work is done by hand. Part is just because of the limitations in machines. Say you have a table saw with a 10” blade. If there is 0.002” wobble in the blade (which would be a pretty high end table saw) you have that angle extended by 10” at the cutting edge which makes it worse out at the edge of the blade. Then add the harmonics of the blade vibrating as each tooth makes contact with the wood. You end up with a rippled surface even under the best conditions. On high dollar machining, after machining, the parts are hand scraped to get the best and most accurate finish.

A different problem comes with sanding. On a microscopic level, some sawdust will get jammed into the pores of the wood. Shearing off the wood with a plane or scraper will keep this from happening. The waste wood comes off whole. This cleaner surface left by a plane or scraper will show the wood grain more clearly in the finish.

If you are doing this for a living you might not be able to afford to add the additional work or expense of hand finishing work but that is a different problem.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Ron Harper's profile

Ron Harper

133 posts in 1886 days

#33 posted 03-09-2013 01:47 AM

I very much understand that if one is making furniture for a living, power tools make sense. In our culture, it is difficult to get folks to appreciate ( pay for ) hand work.

If you do this for fun, it makes much more sense to use hand tools.
1). They are much cheaper
2). They are safer
3) they require much less space to use
4) they are quieter
5 they do not make dust. They make large or tiny shavings that fall to the floor
6). The learning curve seems formidable, but there is an unmanageable amount of free instruction on the web
7). In spite of what you have heard, for one pff projects, they are not much slower than power tools with the exception of hand thicknessing, and you can buy lots of wood already planed
8). You can carry all the tools that you need to make fine furniture in aBox the size of a medium suitcase.

I very much realize that these are my opinions. I also realize that you may not share them. I recently switched from a very nicely equipped power tool shop to doing almost everything with hand tools. I got rid of my table saw, jointer and 4 routers, a mortiser and a small trailer full of jigs and fixtures. I have not regretted it for one second. I admit that my ability to produce beautiful furniture has temporarily taken a step backward. I will soon catch up. I am having much more fun

-- Ron in Kokomo

View RussellAP's profile


3103 posts in 2256 days

#34 posted 03-09-2013 02:00 AM

Good points Ron, but I think you stretched it a bit on number 7. It takes me a couple hours to buy, plane, join, cut and sand a project like a blanket chest. Perhaps half a day if I goof off. You can’t do that with hand tools and if you did, you’d fall over from exhaustion.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2968 days

#35 posted 03-09-2013 03:19 AM


Depends on the approach. The guys (and gals) that rive stock can put stuff together pretty quick. Too bad there are no trees around here.

In general, operations like complex moldings, chamfering, dovetails, can sometimes be done faster but when you look at the complete project from raw stock to finished piece, the time difference can be minimal. Planning, layout, finishing, stock selection, assembly, glue ups, and such take the same either way. The actual time making cuts isn’t always a major part of a project.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2474 days

#36 posted 03-09-2013 03:21 AM

Boxjoint, did you do any reading at all before asking this question? Or do you just like to submit questions?

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2467 days

#37 posted 03-09-2013 04:30 AM

Rather unfair don’t you think DKV? He threw out a common yet unusual question, much like you do oft and again, and found a wealth of interesting discourse. Where’s the harm in that? People like to talk about what they believe in, wax poetic about it at times or are simply generous with the results of their experience. He drew them out.

This happens to be an ur question of woodworking. In a mechanical age, why would I bother to pick up that plane when there are so many other easier ways to achieve roughly the same thing? If sandpaper didn’t exist, (and it hasn’t always) what would you do? Personally, I believe we need to feel a certain competence in a hand skill based on experience that should not be lost, else we forget an important connection to the craft and the material that shapes our lives, even as we shape it.

BoxJoint sees hand planes everywhere in discussion and use and figures perhaps he’s missing out on something. Yes, he could read endlessly about them but he’s asking this crowd, right now, why. Bully for him.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2416 days

#38 posted 03-09-2013 05:54 AM

Boxjoint’s question was a fair question and I certainly benefited from reading the comments here.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10057 posts in 4022 days

#39 posted 03-09-2013 06:00 AM

Me too….

Nothing wrong with it at all…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3863 days

#40 posted 03-09-2013 06:02 AM

there is nothing that compares to the crisp smells of sweet slivers of wood cascading about your feet

and seeing the smile of the mind you captured

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View BoxJoint's profile


3 posts in 3675 days

#41 posted 03-09-2013 06:40 AM

DKV writes “Boxjoint, did you do any reading at all before asking this question? Or do you just like to submit questions?” .....a little of the pot calling the kettle black I think

To all other LJocks responders…Thank you very much for the time you took to respond. I appreciate the consideration and the wise responses. I do quite a bit of reading but the question of “Why?” isn’t always answered. I clearly understand the benefits now and look forward to the opportunity to learn and use a new skill!

-- "You only live once - but if you work it right, once is enough" - Joe E Lewis

View robscastle's profile


4904 posts in 2174 days

#42 posted 03-09-2013 07:00 AM

Yo Box joint,
Well there you eh, lots of comments relating to the role of a fairly basic tool in the woodworkers workshop.
I can add my own experience.
When I was at school aged 16- I was doing Woodwork as a subject.
One of the activities in the task book was to use a hand plane and square a piece of timber.
So its a skill level you learn and possibly never forget.
As to where it is now some 50 years later I think its with my second son Daniel in his late 20s and is used in his electrical business.

I can remember buying a Jack plane as a youth and the teacher showing me how to sharpen and maintain it.

Lose power and all our tools including mine are useless
A Jointer Planner does exactly the same job only quicker, a hand planer in the wrong hands can reduce stock to a pile of shavings without any effort

-- Regards Robert

View Tugboater78's profile


2741 posts in 2162 days

#43 posted 03-09-2013 07:01 AM

I see both sides and im leaning more toward the handtool aspect in what i am building at this time.. one little thing that put it in perspective for me was a video/interview that the wood whisperer gave to Christopher Shwartz in his home shop.

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View JohnChung's profile


407 posts in 2044 days

#44 posted 03-09-2013 08:49 AM

Most handtools used properly use less energy that originally thought of. For example
hand planing can be tough but you need to seat back and think. Did I use the right tool?

1 inch of stock to remove from the side of a plank could be a handsaw but my favourite is a scrub plane. The list
goes on. Even smoothing is fun with a hand plane and TAKES a lot less that power tools or sandpaper. Sometimes power tools are the answer. Try ripping through 4 to 6 feet of plank 3 inch thickwith hand toolsMaybe less tiring with the correct handsaw but still quite awhile.

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1901 days

#45 posted 03-09-2013 11:48 AM

... of course there’s always osmething to be said for the romance of hand tools. It’s what Paul Sellers calls `real wood working` – the more effort we spend setting up jigs and fences and dado stacks etc – the less we become woodworkers and the more we become mere machinists.

If you’re makihg a thingy-whatsit for your wife – how much more special is the gift knowing it was hewn by your own two hands, rather than a product of machines?

Human’s have been using hand tools for zillions of years, from the first hand axe to the Clifton heavy jack plane. For me, using hand tools is a connection to what makes us human.

Also it keeps you fit.

And it’s cheaper than power tools. Irwin sell the record number four smoother for £35 new – a good sander would cost £60 and then there’s paper to buy for it as an ongoing expense…. that’s before we think about dust collection and protective wear.

Ditto jointers – an okay jointer plane will set you back £150 (depending on your needs/budget) whereas to mill the stock by power you’d need to buy a jointer (or `planer`) as well as a thicknesser – the prices of which I can’t begin to imagine.

And on the subject of cost, the price of electricity to run the tools is also a factor for me. running a jointer, dust extractor simultaneuously can draw as much power as to trip the whole house! If you’re in your shop every evening – that soon racks up.

other hand plane only uses:

  • moulding planes allow you to make mouldings bespoke to your project – rather than limited to your router bit profiles
  • jointer planes can be used to level off boxes and lids for a flush fit
  • shoulder planes make for better tenon cheecks than tenoning jigs (in my experience)
  • router planes do sooooooooooo much!! they give a much more reliable depth of dados and rebates than table saws
  • jack planes can level a board ready for the power tools if the stock is too twisted for the bed of the tool.
  • you can flatten boards wider than your jointer. most power jointers are around 6” which isn’t much good if you have 8” stock.

Finally, (and this is really important) – as hand tool cavemen, we have the unquestioning, unflinching, ear-to-ear
grin from how smug we feel that we’re hand toolists

-- Ben, England.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2922 days

#46 posted 03-09-2013 12:14 PM

BoxJoint, you called it right. Just another a-hole who is trying to be good at his/her craft of being an a-hole. Calls out people for asking questions because it pisses him/her off for some reason. Contributes nothing to this site but mindless drivel then proceeds to ask his/her own questions, which, when a quick search is done, yields multiple answers to his/her question.

Quite frankly, it is none of that a-hole’s business what someone did for research or not before asking a question. Since when did this site designate them to be the official “Did You Research That First” asker? Stay in your own lane and mind your own damn business.

I appreciate you asking this question and generating new, fresh discussion on the topic from all those that contributed. It has been nice to read everyone’s input. Useless a-holes on this site who wish to suppress people’s questions and stifle relevant, thoughtful exchanges on the basis that they go find the answer somewhere else needs to stop. And those a-holes need to disappear.

Moderators, please take notice.

-- Mike

View Don W's profile

Don W

18686 posts in 2537 days

#47 posted 03-09-2013 01:10 PM

Remember the first time you drove a car, or kissed a girl, or flipped the switch on a cabinet saw? How about the first time a project came out perfect or you got a free walnut plank?

Grab a sharp hand plane, smooth a piece and add it to this list.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3363 days

#48 posted 03-09-2013 05:17 PM

first of all, what a great, genuine and interesting question….

Have you live in a great city before? big cities have everything someone could wish, intellectual and educated people, museums, theatres, great schools, public transportation, jobs, beautiful parks, restaurants, interesting districts, historical landmarks and anything to satisfy any interest or personality.


Many people want to go back to that little town lost in the mountains, they really long to be there again and fill their lungs with the pure air and scent of the green trees….they want to hear again the little creek sound and look for the birds…...We really miss our close friends and peers, is just a walk through the main street to feel we are at hoem again….

Hand tools are the very joy of any woodworking trade.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Ron Harper's profile

Ron Harper

133 posts in 1886 days

#49 posted 03-10-2013 12:36 AM


I said except for thicknessing. Lots of hand tool guys can do a blanket chest in half a day. I am not there yet, but I am gaining on it. I will guarantee you that a good hand tool guy can dovetail a drawer as fast by hand as you can with a router. I am not there yet either, but gaining on it. Now if we do multiple drawers the router will be faster becuse you can amortize your setup time.

-- Ron in Kokomo

View ScrubPlane's profile


190 posts in 2165 days

#50 posted 03-11-2013 01:00 AM

Two thoughts come to mind on your very good question.

First, like other tools in your shop…hand planes are just that, ‘other’ tools. Take the time to know them, sharpen them, and use them…and you’ll be rewarded with yet another skill set in your work.

Second, for many who utilize hand planes correctly, they simply provide another layer to the joys of woodworking not provided by power tools.

Finally…just try them for the experience unto itself.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

1 2 next »
54 replies

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics