Chris Schwarz's Blog

Stop Spelching with an Unlikely Ally: Sandpaper

When you shoot end grain with a handplane, you have to be wary of spelching – when the end grain breaks off at the end of your stroke. There are several ways to avoid spelching; one of the quick ways is to use sandpaper.

This trick works best when you are just trying to clean up some end grain by removing tool marks. If you are instead trying to correct an out-of-square end or have to remove a lot of material, I think it’s best to instead bevel off the corner with a chisel or a plane to avoid spelch.

So here I’m cleaning up some handsaw marks on the end of an odd-shaped dowel. The first step is to take some sandpaper (#120 or #150 grit is fine) and break the corner that is in danger of spelching (see the photo above). You want just a small bevel – like what you would get if you were breaking the edges before finishing.

Place the work on your shooting board and the bevel will be pretty obvious. Take a stroke or two with your handplane and the bevel will shrink. If you do it right, the bevel will still be intact and the corner will be intact.

I like this method because it’s generally a lot faster than beveling the corner with a handplane or chisel.

— Christopher Schwarz