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How do you use your hand planes?

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Forum topic by MattinCincy posted 10-05-2010 06:52 PM 1465 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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MattinCincy

128 posts in 2614 days


10-05-2010 06:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

This past weekend I bought my first real plane – a Tiawanese style pull plane – which I absolutely love. After setting it up and honing the blade, I began making these beautiful wispy thin shavings from some scrap wood I had lying around. Before I knew it, I was standing ankle deep in the stuff and the wood I had started with was noticably smaller. “Wow! This is great” I thought. But now what? I began to think about what I would do with such a plane that would help me in my woodworking. Although I have yet to post any projects (I’m working on that, I promise!) I consider myself a fairly accomplished woodworker and DIYer. I build furniture and decorative boxes mostly, and I started thinking about when in the process of building would I use a hand plane. Regardless of what I’m making, the process is usually similar; prep stock with jointer, planer, table saw, cut joints, assemble, sand and finish. (this is obviously a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea). I don’t need a plane for any of the stock prep work, because frankly, my jointer makes quick work of flattening and squaring stock, and the planer creates uniformity in thickness that I could never match with a plane.

I can see where planes can help when fine tuning joinery, especially a shoulder plane, and I have heard many people say that they don’t sand at all and rely solely on the planed surface as the basis for finishing, but if that’s the case, how would you accomplish something like that on say, a frame and panel door? The panel isn’t a big deal – plane that before assembly – but the frame would need planed after assembly and you would have to deal with a cross grain situation.

Sorry for being long winded, but i wanted to be thorough in my question. For me, although I love making shavings, hand planing just doesn’t make a whole lotta sense – what am I missing?

-- Wag more, bark less.


7 replies so far

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Brit

6711 posts in 2304 days


#1 posted 10-05-2010 08:15 PM

Depending on the wood species and grain orientation, sometimes you can turn the corner with the plane without causing tearout.

Other uses for your plane might be sneaking up on the final fit of drawers and doors. Also, the exterior surface of a piece can often be improved after machining by careful use of a handplane and/or scraper. This reduces the amount of time you have to spend sanding and the number of grit sizes you have to go through. Over time you can also save some money as Sandpaper isn’t cheap! With the money you save you can buy another handplane and before you know it, you’ll be unplugging the jointer :-) Sometimes you don’t need t sand at all. Just make sure you haven’t got any plane tracks as they will show when you apply your finish.

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

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MattinCincy

128 posts in 2614 days


#2 posted 10-06-2010 02:09 AM

Thanks for the replies.

Barry – interesting about the stiles being thicker than the rails on antiques – I never noticed (but I’m sure gonna look now!). So you’re saying that you prefer a planed surface for finishing over a sanded one? Does it save you time?

Brit – I agree with you about fitting drawers – makes a lot of sense. But what about tearout? One swipe of a plane can cause enough tearout in a finished piece to require major time to fix, if it’s even fixable and not too deep. Are the risks worth the rewards?

-- Wag more, bark less.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2136 posts in 2570 days


#3 posted 10-07-2010 07:37 PM

I think part of the vibe I am getting here is that hand planing is being looked at as an all or nothing approach. I think it is a great tool to have on hand but not one that has to be used in a “purist” fashion. I recently purchased two block planes and a smoothing plane. The two block planes I am using for end grain and the edges of boards. They remove the saw marks, jointer marks, and smooth the surface so well that planing is just unnecesssary. The smoothing plane leaves a great surface on most boards The cuts are super thin and they reveal grain that sanding sometimes hides. There is also less mess as I am not dealing with a cloud of dust when I am done and the wood doesn’t need to be cleaned to unclog dust particles that settle in the surface. However, sanding does have its place and if the hurdles to planing a small surface were greater than sanding it, I would just go with the sandpaper and avoid complicated setups to make sure everything was planed rather than sanded.

My two cents,

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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MattinCincy

128 posts in 2614 days


#4 posted 10-07-2010 08:05 PM

David, thanks for your 2 cents! Reducing sanding dust is important to me also – I have a basement shop with no windows so sanding is not a pleasant experience, even though I take as many precautions as possible to reduce airborne dust (extraction, filtration, mask, etc.).

You mention planing boards, not assemblies – am I to assume that you use your smoother to prep your stock prior to cutting your joinery or do you cut your joints first and then plane? Either way, it seems like you would be introducing error into your work by creating varying thicknesses in your stock. You say that the cuts are “super thin” but even that can create problems (at least for me – I tend to be rather anal about precision in my woodworking – and I’m used to dealing with very tight tolerances in my job). And what about the occasional tearout that is inevitable once in a while? It can ruin a piece of stock or a whole project!. As I get further along with a project, I tend to get more conservative in my work and won’t take the risk of introducing tearout in a piece – so I sand. Also, if you plane your boards early in the building process, what do you do about the inevitable dings and dents that occur during the build? Plane again?

-- Wag more, bark less.

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7209 posts in 2837 days


#5 posted 10-07-2010 08:29 PM

I use my handplanes mainly for things that I can’t do faster and more easily with power tools. Fine trim adjustments, flatting surfaces wider than my planer, chamfering an edge, etc. I also like to use handplanes for my final edge, because they tend to come out smoother and shinier than with sanding.

I enjoy using handplanes but don’t use them as an alternative choice to power tools…they’re a lot of work and typically take more time, which I’m usually short on….maybe someday when I retire though!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2136 posts in 2570 days


#6 posted 10-07-2010 09:05 PM

It depends on the project and the stage of it. I am rather new to planing myself. I have used the block planes frequently, the smoothing plane is new. Basic strategy will depend on the project. Some items best to have prepped before assembly, some afterwards, sometimes a little of both. You are right that project parts need to be uniform, but even sanding will cause differences in thickness and width. I just think of all tools as assets to the arsenal and try not to limit myself to one type or the other. Hand tools require practice though, and I have performed some items with strictly hand tools just to become familiar with them.

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View rance's profile

rance

4245 posts in 2622 days


#7 posted 10-07-2010 09:30 PM

Boat anchors, weapons, tie a small one to a rope and sling it across a high limb…

Seriously, I only use them for rough work. flattening boards enough to run them through the planer(when they’re too wide to face on the jointer first). I don’t have the time to tune and learn to use them for finish work.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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