Paul Sellers dressing out a board by hand

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Forum topic by TopamaxSurvivor posted 242 days ago 876 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14721 posts in 2302 days

242 days ago

I just watched both parts of Paul Sellers dressing out a board from a log by hand. I am wondering how many of the hand plane guys go all the way from rough cut to finished stock by hand? It seems like the time involved would be a great deterrent.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

13 replies so far

View sgmdwk's profile


259 posts in 499 days

#1 posted 242 days ago

Depends on the size of the board. For a small project made from one or two pieces of rough stock, it doesn’t take so much time to work with planes. Faced with a stack of rough boards and plans for a large piece of furniture, power tools would seem like a good idea. If It’s practical, nothing brings me as much satisfaction as honing a good edge on a plane and seeing beautiful grain appear as I peel off paper thin shavings. It’s a tactile pleasure I just don’t get running boards through my power planer.

-- Dave K.

View stefang's profile


12874 posts in 1960 days

#2 posted 242 days ago

Hi Bob, I totally agree with sgmdwk. Squaring up a rough board can go pretty quick, but not nearly as quick as using the jointer/planer, but for smaller pieces it’s fun to hand plane. In fact, you really shouldn’t try to machine plane a piece under 12”, so a hand plane is a must for the really small stuff. On the other hand if you have large quantities like the maple planks I recently machine planed then it would be masochistic to use a hand plane.

In fact I found an even easier way to machine the last of those planks. They were warped very evenly, so instead of first jointing them, I ran them through the planer with the convex side up first and after that was flat I turned it over and ran the concave side through. It worked really well and I didn’t have to do the physical work of shoving them through the jointer. I still got pretty tired though handling all those heavy planks.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View b2rtch's profile


4310 posts in 1674 days

#3 posted 242 days ago

I ‘love” Paul Sellers’ teaching.
He is my favorite teacher.

-- Bert

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 2429 days

#4 posted 242 days ago

I do a fair amount of hand milling. My ‘city shop’ doesn’t have a working jointer, so I often use a hand plane for that stage. The planer is too loud to use in the evening, so for 1-2 pieces I just do the whole process by hand. It is not that fast, for large projects I will do a batch in the country. Either way, I am finishing with a smoother.

I would guess Sellers is not particularly fast, he normally uses machines for the milling process, and prefers a bench height well suited for joinery work. More and more I am finding I want two benches.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


14721 posts in 2302 days

#5 posted 241 days ago

Thanks for the replies. When I was watching him do it, a couple of thoughts popped into my head. Anyone who does this for a large project is going to have to be in good shape ;-) There is another thread on here about the issues developed by cutting dovetails all day. Certainly, planing is a lot more demanding than that!

The other, of course, is time. Most people will not have the time for a large hand tools only project starting with rough stock.

I have a couple of plane. Now I guess I’ll have to figure out what to do with them ;-))

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Tim's profile


1241 posts in 587 days

#6 posted 241 days ago

I think it was in that video he mentions that even in the 1800s it was common to get rough stock decently finished from a lumber supplier. Before that they made a lot of use of riving (splitting) because it was quicker, and they only planed the show surfaces in some cases. Otherwise they had an apprentice to do the grunt work. So hand planing like others have said is probably better for special pieces, unusual sizes, or if you really want to get your exercise. I really like the exercise but at some point I’ll probably have to get a planer or jointer if I have more time to complete projects. Problem is that first power tool requires a pretty substantial investment in a dust collection system.

View b2rtch's profile


4310 posts in 1674 days

#7 posted 241 days ago

Topamax , working with hand tool is a pleasure
People who choose to this way do it knowing everything you said above but they love to do it.
In part I am one for them.
Using a well tuned and sharp plane is pleasure like no other and in fact it can be quite fast too.
What takes the most time using power tools is set up,how many timas do you spend 10 minutes to set up a saw of another tool to use it only two or there minutes . With hand tools most the time you do not have this issue

-- Bert

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Don W

14832 posts in 1193 days

#8 posted 241 days ago

Its not uncommon to see short cuts in pieces that are made by hand. Like only one side finished on stock for the back etc.

I’ll surface rough stock with planes on small stuff. anyhow. On short pieces its just as quick as getting the snipe out.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Texcaster's profile


651 posts in 300 days

#9 posted 241 days ago

Luthiery is probably the one of the few trades work by hand is actually viable, because an instrument has such a small timber content. These fellas do it by hand because they have to.

-- Bill....... I listen very closely to the timber and then impose my will.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


14721 posts in 2302 days

#10 posted 241 days ago

I’m sure a plane is to woodworking what a fly rod is to fishing. I intend to get into this more and a bit of turning to boot. I have only used planes to do a bit of trimming or fitting.

Bert, A friend of mine who lives a distance away told me he wanted to learn to make dovetails. I told him I intended to do it too. A year or 2 later I asked him if he had learned yet? He said he got a jig and router and he did learn. I did mine by hand; tails first, of course ;-) Never even thought of doing it with a jig.

The local PBS station used to have the Woodwright’s Shop and New Yankee on in succession on Saturday afternoons. I often thought about Roy having something done by the time Norm got set up ;-))

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 2429 days

#11 posted 241 days ago

The tool rack project I did recently was done entirely with hand planes, from rough boards. I did that in large part to improve my planing skills, and ended up being not that time-consuming. I would guess the first side piece took over a third of the milling time, then I picked up speed.

One of the things that is important to understand and avoid is the difference in mental approach. If you try to do machine processes by hand, it is just a slower version – in part because you do a lot of unnecessary work. You need to learn when flat has to be dead flat, and when it has to be looks-flat, when you are planing for a joinery surface versus the appearance of the whole. You also stop doing everything in 3/4” – if the board can be 7/8” and it is now flat…you stop. You become far more aware of grain direction in a surface.

View Oldtool's profile (online now)


1777 posts in 817 days

#12 posted 241 days ago

I am wondering how many of the hand plane guys go all the way from rough cut to finished stock by hand?

With me it depends on how many board feet are in the project and how badly the boards are out of flat. I don’t have a jointer in my small shop, no room even if I had the money, so for large projects with bad boards (I always buy rough cut lumber from saw mills) I made a router sled that references off of my bench & can handle larger boards.
I don’t do commission work, so I have all the time in the world, as with my current project for my daughter – a tv center, and fortunately the lumber is pretty flat, so I surface one side by hand, the show side. I have a thickness planer, but find I use it less and less. I don’t suscribe to the 3/4” need theory, I use the boards at whatever thickness they are, as long as this doesn’t create a problem. Example, doing the rails & stiles for the doors, I just make sure these are all the same thickness, currently by hand after assembly. The top will be about 15/16” thick, nice for edging with a molding plane.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View richardwootton's profile


1153 posts in 581 days

#13 posted 241 days ago

I have personally started using only hand tools, mainly to hone my skills and learn the trade as it was done by our ancestors. I am currently building two work benches, one that is smaller and I will be using inside my house when the weather is less than desirable, and a larger Roubo style bench. These benches are being built with reclaimed 4×4 timbers that are nasty, dirty, twisted and cupped. So, I have been putting my planes to hefty work lately, and I have 6 now done with 4 more to go. On the bright side, my arms, shoulders and chest have definitely grown much larger!

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

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