While putting a new tool through its paces for a future review, I was reminded just how important the basics are and what a fine job a regular bench plane will do when sharp. I was delighted with the new tool I was using but I was equally delighted with my normal “go to” planes. I’m very pleased to see the options we have now regarding specialist planes for shooting and innovative sharpening media, but even those tricks that we find up our woodworking sleeves can’t help unless the simple matter of a sharp edge and time at the bench are not applied.
The plane above is a totally standard Record No 6. It was a rather tatty affair and needed a bit of cosmetic TLC to make it comfortable in the hand. The iron is the standard version the plane was fitted with and it was sharpened on an 8″ x 2″ India combination stone with a strop to finish. The surface left on the end of the Utilie was flawless.
I also used my wooden jack that is set up in the same way. No surprises – the results are also top drawer. Don’t, however, think this is a post about “vintage is better” or anything of that nature (I’m not sure there’s enough room on the head of that pin for much dancing). The point really is, it does not matter much about the sharpening media, the type of iron in your plane or the incline on your shooting board; the key ingredient it the ability to get sharp for your needs and control over your tools.
If you want or have a need for that new thing, whatever it may be go for it. Enjoy the quality, enjoy the experimenting and even the added benefit it may bring. But what my time with the new tool reminded me was that if you’re new to woodworking, buy one good-quality regular bench plane, new or vintage (new will be easier if you are a total novice), get a sharp edge and spend time in the shop – it’s amazing what falls into place from there.
— Graham Haydon
Editor’s note: If you’re in need of an excellent book on sharpening (that dispels myths and explains everything you ever wanted to know about sharpening in a no-nonsense manner), I recommend Ron Hock’s “The Perfect Edge.“