View Full Version : The joys of hand planing

Dave Anderson NH
09-01-2003, 10:45 PM
I HATE sanding and will do almost anything to avoid it. Those of you who have seen the normal results you get when running boards through a planer know there are only two choices- sand or hand plane. Sanding abrades the wood and leaves a surface which if looked at under a magnifying glass shows little hairs sticking up everywhere. The finer the sandpaper, the smaller and more numerous the hairs. Hand planing on the other hand shears off the fibers and leaves a silky smoothe surface which provides a nice tactile experience and a bit of a glossy shimmer.

I started on my wall mounted rack for my handplanes this weekend and like always handplaned all surfaces after they come off the mechanical planer. If left untouched, the small evenly spaced ripples from the planer make a mockery of your workmanship when you are done. Taking my trusty Lie-Neilsen # 4 1/2, I set to work to remove the ripples and get a truly smoothe surface which will take a finish without any sanding at all. Yes, it's only shop furniture, but it's fun to work up a sweat jointing the edges and smoothing the surfacess of all of the boards which will become the plane rack. The advantage of this work is that the finish will go on an even surface and water based dyes, lacquers, paints, or whatever I choose to use won't raise the grain. Invest a little time up front with a well tuned hand plane and save yourself some steps down the line. On a sensory level, the gentle swoosh of a plane as it removes thin ribbons of wood is a workout for the body and a calming influence on the soul. Try it, You'll like it.

John Miliunas
09-01-2003, 10:58 PM
Hand plane? Oh, I see. There's no cord. Gothchya'! So what, do 'ya stick the batteries in the wooden handle there or what? Must admint, I ain't never seen no cordless planer before, but it appears to do a nice job! :D Seriously, I'm sure you get wonderful results. Question, though: If, after coming off the pigtailed planer, couldn't one use a nice, sharp scraper for similar results? I realize you'd need to have a real fine "wire" on the scraper, but I thought the above use is one of it's strong points. Yes/no? :cool:

Lloyd Robins
09-02-2003, 12:03 AM
That is one beautiful ribbon of wood! I love my Festool sander, but I might give a smooth plane a try some day. I will be getting a jack plane soon, so I will do my learning with it. Please keep posting pics.

David Rose
09-02-2003, 12:44 AM
Hey! What are you "forked tail" dudes doing over here??? Well, for that matter, what am *I* doing here? :rolleyes:

I guess like many I have gone the power route and really enjoy hand tools for some things. It is amazing what a properly fettled Stanley plane with a Hock iron will do. I will be even more amazed I'm sure if I ever get to touch an L-N to wood.

I think the finishing Dave mentions is one area where power can not do it as well. So far I am still sanding almost everything. But more and more I grab the cabinet scraper and/or hand scraper. There is just something about slicing wood that taking out "chunks" or grinding into fibers cannot do.

I wish I had wall space for a decent cabinet for the planes and scrapers, but then they would be sitting on the bench where they are handier than going to the jointer or some other forked tailed tool.


Dave Anderson NH
09-02-2003, 7:02 AM
John- I do use a scraper when the need arises. It's particularly good for gnarly and highly figured wood and for getting into corners and tight spots. I plane more often because it's faster when removing a lot of stock and it leaves a slighly better surface than a scraper. You are right about the turned burr on a scraper though, it's a "must" if you want to get really good shavings rather than making dust.

David- The hand planing is the ultimate way to avoid having to raise the grain when before applying water based products. The sheared fibers from the plane don't lift when water based is applied so you miss at least two rounds of sanding. Right now my hand planes are mostly sitting all over a table in the bench room and on a counter. This project will be their new home and I'll post pictures when I finally get it done.

Tom Scott
09-02-2003, 8:54 AM
I'm anxious to see what you end up with for your cabinet. This is on my list to do, and I've started making some sketches. So, I'm hoping yours will be good for a few more ideas.
Any chance of posting a sketch of what you're planning?


Dave Anderson NH
09-04-2003, 12:54 PM
Hi Tom- I'll post some pix as soon as I start the assembly process. I figure the initial assembly will begin Sunday or Monday. My sketch bears only a passing resemblance to what I've actually made and is on 11" x 17" graph paper. It also lacks any details of the top section which I'm sort of designing as I go along. Briefly, the lower section of 3 shelves is similar to Andy Rae's pigeonhole setup on his famous tool cabinet and the upper section is an angled ramp with hinges which allow it to lift up for access to additional hidden storage a la Chris Becksvoort in a Fine Woodworking article a couple of years ago. Not a good description I know, but photos will make it clearer.

Tom Scott
09-04-2003, 1:33 PM
That gives me some idea of what I have to look forward to.
Funny, I've played with both vertical storage and shelf-type plans, but haven't decided definitely on either. I did't even think about mixing the two...Duh!
I look forward to seeing yours, as mine will probably not happen until winter when I don't have the yard and outside stuff to worry about.


Doug Littlejohn
09-04-2003, 4:06 PM
Dave, I sure look forward to seeing the photos. Besides the quality of your work, I will enjoy seeing how your ideas were implemented.