Modern Wooden Planes … Why?

ModernWoodenPlanesWhy_2Let me be honest: I do know how to use a handplane, and I have used a jointer plane once or twice. But it was a metal-bodied plane – only remotely similar to a wooden-bodied plane as used during the 18th century. I liked the feel of the plane, and its long body made sense for one of its purposes of shooting edges to join boards. That said, I’m still much more inclined to drag my boards to my 8” Delta jointer and run the edges there.

So why are we seeing a renaissance in wooden planes? Not just using them, but making them? Yes, it’s part of the current hand-tool movement, and I do understand the low dust, low noise benefits …  there certainly is a level of charm and tranquility involved in the process, and a wooden plane feels good to the touch. But I’m still not convinced that building one is a task I feel pulled toward.

I recently watched a just-released video with Bill Anderson on making an 18th-century jointer plane. It didn’t make me unplug my Delta, but it did give me a bit more insight into the passion for using (and possibly making) wooden-bodied planes. I watched with a reasonable level of curiosity as Bill moved through the history and all the steps necessary to create a functioning plane that could have been created hundreds of years ago. What caught my curiosity was the mechanics of the plane and how it worked the wood. Slight adjustments in the throat, and how the blade is positioned and held in place, make a significant difference in the quality and performance of the work being done. And you know, it’s a good thing to have a better sense of what that sharp chunk of steel is doing in the wood. By taking the process down to a basic level, the workings of my Delta also make more sense. And here’s another admission, my Delta doesn’t offer the flexibility and variety of functions that “old” plane will.

If you’d like to get a glimpse into what Bill is teaching, take a look at this short video below with a bit of history and practical info on wooden jointer planes. This video is an excerpt from Building a Traditional 18th – Century Jointer Plane, available for pre-order now on DVD and digital download.

— David Thiel


maintaining-accessorizingBuilding a Traditional 18th – Century Jointer Plane

In Building a Traditional 18th – Century Jointer Plane, Bill Anderson makes build a handplane simpler in this step-by-step tutorial. This lesson offers a visually stunning and very detailed video about traditional plane making that is comprehensive enough for even beginners to successfully follow along and build a jointer plane of their own. Filmed on location in Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Bill shows how to make an 18th Century jointer plane with only traditional woodworking hand tools. Bill simplifies the complicated hand plane building process, including wood selection, layout, mortising, using floats, building handles, chamfering the edges, truing the bottom, and finishing the plane.

3 thoughts on “Modern Wooden Planes … Why?

  1. David Weaver

    Before this video came out, we had a very in depth discussion on one of the forums regarding the design elements and how to make a double iron mortised wooden plane. As someone who has no pow jointer, and who has used every type of plane, I think anyone who is considering jointing by hand should probably examine looking at a double iron jointer. the layout is a bit more complicated, and some of the cuts in making one are less convenient (some of them basically terminated “into a wall”), but a double iron plane will plane faster, cleaner and stay in the cut for longer with each sharpening.

    My videos are on youtube, they are ad free (i’m not promoting anything, either), and they are long, thorough and not intended for a casual viewer who won’t be building a plane. It would be impossible to watch them and not be able to bring an old plane back into spec though (which makes a lot more money sense than building a new one from scratch, given the difficulty in finding decent 16/4 beech and buying floats, etc).

    I’ve been jointing all of my boards by hand for 8 years now, and i don’t miss a power jointer. I think many who have a very nice power jointer probably would, though, and wouldn’t think it’s a change for everyone to make.

  2. Bill Lattanzio

    I’m not a traditionalist, but if there is one power tool I do not like it is a jointer. I would much rather joint edges with a plane, which I’ve found to be more accurate and far safer. As far as wooden planes, I can’t say if one is more accurate than the other, but the wooden planes do have a nice feel to them, and they are also fun to make.

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