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Thread: Handplane courage

  1. #1
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    Handplane courage

    OK, Neanders, I admit, I used sand paper. I am making a dining room table and handplaned the top. Leveled with the jack, smoothed with a Clifton #3 Blade so gently sharpened to reduce edges...gossamer shavings, looking great. Used a scraper. I put a raking light on the top and I saw plane tracks. I probable shouldn't have done that, but I am putting on a glossy finish and I don't want any "defects". I probably have a lot to learn about using a fine smoother. BUT my question is this...has anyone posted a completed project over the past few years in the woodworking projects sub-forum using only handplanes ( and scrapers )? If so please reference it. Or when the project is close to complete do we get some anxiety and resort to sandpaper?

  2. #2
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    i recall that Brian Holcombe used to post some all handplaned projects; that might be a good place to start looking. Of course, anything Brian does is worth looking at.

  3. #3
    Even old pre -sand paper stuff was sanded with horse-tail reed which has grit that ranges from 180 to 220. And long before “sand paper”
    guys were putting glue on paper and sprinkling sand on it. Read that when I was a kid, then I made some “multi-grit”….useful and easy
    to make !

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rainey View Post
    OK, Neanders, I admit, I used sand paper............... I put a raking light on the top and I saw plane tracks. ...................
    Sack cloth and ashes for you!! LOL, nothing wrong with sanding in my book, Mark. (I'm sure other opinions will be expressed) Smaller pieces get hand planed, then scraped and then sanded with an ROS, and finally sanded with the grain by hand to remove the swirlies. Larger pieces get scraped (sometimes) then sanded. I just don't have the stamina anymore to hand plane large pieces, like table tops. A more discerning eye might see a difference, but I like the finish I get on most of the things I make. And so do the folks who have my work. 10 to 1 this devolves into how to put a camber on a plane irons.
    Stand for something, or you'll fall for anything.

  5. #5
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    It's pretty difficult to get a large surface like that perfect enough to apply a high gloss finish.

    If you learn to set the cap iron and sharpen well, you can get a very smooth tearout-free surface without needing to scrape. For best results, you also need to get it flat enough that you can take a series of very thin shavings with a smoother that are full-length from one end of the table to the other, with no low spots that the plane skips, and with each pass overlapping with the previous. Anywhere the blade comes out of the cut will leave a visible mark once you start getting finish on.

    This can be frustrating to achieve on something wider, especially if there is any flexing of the piece going on. Even when I manage that, I still see some little scallops once I build up the gloss enough. It isn't really plane tracks, but more like the camber of the blade (which is tiny on a smoother) showing where the passes overlap. It's not apparent from all angles but in the right light I could see them.

    If I use a thinner finish like a light french polish, OSMO, or danish oil, the little scallops aren't noticeable, and I do think the result is a little "livelier" than a sanded surface. Especially with an oil finish, it can increase the amount of blotching (or figure, depending on how you look at it) versus sanding to a higher grit like 400.

    So on those kinds of surfaces I would hand plane until very flat, no tearout, but not go all the way to perfection. Then get out my half-sheet sander and go from 150 up to whatever grit. This gives me a flat surface that is very even in terms of taking finish.

    Flatness is very important for the high gloss finish to look good, and hand planes will get you there if you don't have a wide belt sander. I've seen some slab tables where they just went to town on a rough milled slab with a ROS, and with a high gloss finish you can see every dip and wave, with all the knotty or crotchy areas standing proud.

  6. #6
    I never really use sandpaper on furniture pieces. Just a smoother and sometimes a scraper if there’s a problem area. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sandpaper – I just don’t want to go through the effort. Can you occasionally see a planing mark if you look really carefully? That black end table if you look really carefully you can find a diagonal plane mark that I didn’t fully get rid of with the smoother on the top. But here’s the thing, once you start using the piece, nobody can see any of that stuff. I made these pieces and when I finished them I had complaints about every single one – motivation for improving. But after a few months I can’t really remember where the flaws are. I’m not making museum-quality pieces like some people in this forum, nor am I even going to try! I suppose if I were trying to do that, it would drive me nuts.

    That said, sometimes with pieces with a lot of curl I can get annoyed trying to get the finish even without having to put on so many coats of finish, so I keep telling myself I should sand the whole thing to 220 before putting on finish. But then I forget…..

    I wouldn’t worry about a stray plane track that is so subtle you need a raking light to see it. That’s how you prove to people you made it by hand! If you make it too perfect, then people think you made it in one afternoon with fancy power tools. I make a lot of gifts for family members and I kind of feel like I need to intentionally make sure there’s a clear defect so everyone knows how hard I sweated with hand tools to make it.
    02.jpg01.jpg03.jpg04.jpg05.jpg06.jpg

  7. #7
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    Mark, I am just now wrapping up a project where I set out to go sand paper free. Unlike you, I finished the piece with a satin finish; when it was done and I turned on the overhead light at night and saw all of the tool marks, I decided nope, not gonna live with that. I had prefinished the parts and done a dry fit. I won’t say how long the piece sat in my shop before I finally got around to resuming work. I Sanded out the finish and the tool marks on all show sides and refinished. I will try the no sand paper method again some time in the future. I hate the dust and the noise, but for what it is worth, you are not alone. Been there done that or been there doing that.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick McCarthy View Post
    i recall that Brian Holcombe used to post some all handplaned projects; that might be a good place to start looking. Of course, anything Brian does is worth looking at.
    I agree Patrick. If Brian can't do it no one can.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Carey View Post
    Sack cloth and ashes for you!! LOL, nothing wrong with sanding in my book, Mark. (I'm sure other opinions will be expressed) Smaller pieces get hand planed, then scraped and then sanded with an ROS, and finally sanded with the grain by hand to remove the swirlies. Larger pieces get scraped (sometimes) then sanded. I just don't have the stamina anymore to hand plane large pieces, like table tops. A more discerning eye might see a difference, but I like the finish I get on most of the things I make. And so do the folks who have my work. 10 to 1 this devolves into how to put a camber on a plane irons.
    Bill, I am glad to hear you are in the same boat. And like you, heavy handplaning can be physically tough - many years ago I enjoyed planing for a couple hours with soaking t shirt and shavings up to my ankles. Those days are gone.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hazelwood View Post
    It's pretty difficult to get a large surface like that perfect enough to apply a high gloss finish.

    If you learn to set the cap iron and sharpen well, you can get a very smooth tearout-free surface without needing to scrape. For best results, you also need to get it flat enough that you can take a series of very thin shavings with a smoother that are full-length from one end of the table to the other, with no low spots that the plane skips, and with each pass overlapping with the previous. Anywhere the blade comes out of the cut will leave a visible mark once you start getting finish on.

    This can be frustrating to achieve on something wider, especially if there is any flexing of the piece going on. Even when I manage that, I still see some little scallops once I build up the gloss enough. It isn't really plane tracks, but more like the camber of the blade (which is tiny on a smoother) showing where the passes overlap. It's not apparent from all angles but in the right light I could see them.

    If I use a thinner finish like a light french polish, OSMO, or danish oil, the little scallops aren't noticeable, and I do think the result is a little "livelier" than a sanded surface. Especially with an oil finish, it can increase the amount of blotching (or figure, depending on how you look at it) versus sanding to a higher grit like 400.

    So on those kinds of surfaces I would hand plane until very flat, no tearout, but not go all the way to perfection. Then get out my half-sheet sander and go from 150 up to whatever grit. This gives me a flat surface that is very even in terms of taking finish.

    Flatness is very important for the high gloss finish to look good, and hand planes will get you there if you don't have a wide belt sander. I've seen some slab tables where they just went to town on a rough milled slab with a ROS, and with a high gloss finish you can see every dip and wave, with all the knotty or crotchy areas standing proud.

    Robert, thanks for your detailed and informative response. And you do point out the value of using planes to get a flat surface, even if one decides to finish with sandpaper.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
    I never really use sandpaper on furniture pieces. Just a smoother and sometimes a scraper if there’s a problem area. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sandpaper – I just don’t want to go through the effort. Can you occasionally see a planing mark if you look really carefully? That black end table if you look really carefully you can find a diagonal plane mark that I didn’t fully get rid of with the smoother on the top. But here’s the thing, once you start using the piece, nobody can see any of that stuff. I made these pieces and when I finished them I had complaints about every single one – motivation for improving. But after a few months I can’t really remember where the flaws are. I’m not making museum-quality pieces like some people in this forum, nor am I even going to try! I suppose if I were trying to do that, it would drive me nuts.

    That said, sometimes with pieces with a lot of curl I can get annoyed trying to get the finish even without having to put on so many coats of finish, so I keep telling myself I should sand the whole thing to 220 before putting on finish. But then I forget…..

    I wouldn’t worry about a stray plane track that is so subtle you need a raking light to see it. That’s how you prove to people you made it by hand! If you make it too perfect, then people think you made it in one afternoon with fancy power tools. I make a lot of gifts for family members and I kind of feel like I need to intentionally make sure there’s a clear defect so everyone knows how hard I sweated with hand tools to make it.
    02.jpg01.jpg03.jpg04.jpg05.jpg06.jpg
    Chris, thanks for your insight and pics of your beautiful pieces. I do agree that we can be a bit obsessive with finishing and assumed defects are usually not noticed by others. Some evidence of handwork can be desirable and even enhance the piece.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe A Faulkner View Post
    Mark, I am just now wrapping up a project where I set out to go sand paper free. Unlike you, I finished the piece with a satin finish; when it was done and I turned on the overhead light at night and saw all of the tool marks, I decided nope, not gonna live with that. I had prefinished the parts and done a dry fit. I won’t say how long the piece sat in my shop before I finally got around to resuming work. I Sanded out the finish and the tool marks on all show sides and refinished. I will try the no sand paper method again some time in the future. I hate the dust and the noise, but for what it is worth, you are not alone. Been there done that or been there doing that.
    Joe, thanks for sharing your experience and commiserating with me.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mel Fulks View Post
    Even old pre -sand paper stuff was sanded with horse-tail reed which has grit that ranges from 180 to 220. And long before “sand paper”
    guys were putting glue on paper and sprinkling sand on it. Read that when I was a kid, then I made some “multi-grit”….useful and easy
    to make !
    interesting Mel, thanks!

  14. #14
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    I tuned into a live webcast by Chris Scwarz a few months ago, dunno how many he has done. One of the "questions from a viewer" was how do I get a table top smooth enough for a clear film finish, both Chris and Megan Fitz said "sandpaper" more or less in unison.

    I have never been happy with the look of a freshly dried clear film without having used sandpaper on the wood. I am sure there are folks that can do it, besides Brian possibly Edwin Santos and maybe Derek Cohen that I know of. I wonder if Rob Lee uses sandpaper. He has more or less unlimited access to NASA grade sharp plane irons.

  15. #15
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    A sharp plane blade is the best finish you can obtain on wood. If you are adding 7 coats of varnish then sanding will be filled by the varnish and look fine. If you are using an oil finish sanding will look worse.
    Curving the edge of a plane blade will reduce track marks.
    If you sand, wipe the wood with a moist cloth to raise the grain of the wood that may swell, let it dry then sand lightly.
    Vacuum the surface, wipe with a cloth moistened with spirits to remove more dust then varnish.

    The more that growth rings differ in hardness the more sanding will enhance that difference, creating ridges. A plane will treat the rings the same.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

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