Keep Simple; Keep Sharp

Record No 6 Shooting

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.

Wooden Jack Shooting

 

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.

CATEGORIES
PWM Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs
Graham Haydon

About Graham Haydon

Graham Haydon is a Joiner based in the UK, working in the same woodworking business his great grandfather started in 1926 alongside his father, brother and a small team of craftspeople. The business makes custom architectural joinery, simple furniture and custom kitchens along with a variety of other woodworking projects. He served an apprenticeship in both Joinery and Carpentry and also gained a National Certificate in Building Studies. During his spare time he enjoys woodworking mainly with hand tools.

10 thoughts on “Keep Simple; Keep Sharp

  1. Bill Lattanzio

    I have to ask you: Are you a hollow grind sharpener or not so much? I’m a firm believer in a “flat angle” sharpening system, however, I am subtly beginning to lead towards hollow grinding some of my planes; some being the key word.

    1. Bill Lattanzio

      After just having read the other comments, please feel free to offer your own opinion about any woodworking topic using your own professional and dare I say, expert experiences. Not that you need my permission, or anybody’s permission for that matter, but I felt the need to offer it anyway. Thanks.

      1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

        Indeed I will Bill and thanks for the encouragement. I fully anticipate drawing some heat here as it is a lot more public than any other woodworking contributions I’ve made online. And I’m happy when it comes along. I like the interaction and appreciate all comments on woodworking.

        Cheers

        G

    2. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi Bill,

      For my hobby stuff I grind a 25ish degree bevel and then add a secondary bevel freehand at 30ish degrees. I stay steady while honing keeping it flat enough to give a good edge. When that honed edge gets a bit fat I grind again. For my job tool kit it’s surprising how often I just spit on my stone and work the tool up and down until I feel a burr and grind only when I hit something that damages an edge. I did 2 x pretty poor videos of my hobby approach here on chisels https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpWmcmhntGs and handplanes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpUbUJqaqoA . As long as the work left in the wake of the tools is top drawer you’re golden (and I know yours is top drawer). I’m yet to have a client ask “how fine are my shavings”. Thanks for the comment!

      Cheers

      G

  2. Bear

    Ron Hock’s book is excellent. His discussion about steels, heat treating, etc was better than the texts I had in engineering school; practical, down-to-earth, but with enough technical content to move it from my woodworking library to my engineering library. With that technical set-up, the sharpening piece became very clear and easy to understand and distinguish the advertising hype from the real value to the woodworker.

    1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi Bear,

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve only read some of the stuff on Mr Hock’s site and it does seem to be down to earth. Seems someone at PW agrees as it’s now linked at the bottom of my post :-).

      Best

      G

  3. robert

    Do you have a copy of Chris Schwarz “Handplane Essentials?” It was published by your new employer, and is going out of print. You might want to pick it up if not. It is an exhaustive treatment of all that is handplanes. If you can add something beyond this coverage, feel free, otherwise…

    1. gumpbelly

      WOW snarky reply, or would you actually believe only Chris has an opinion about planes, sharpening, and all things hand tools. Chris has written a lot on the subject in a short time, emphasis on SHORT TIME, but even he will admit his knowledge is a mix of what he read FROM OTHERS, and practical experience. Open your mind, and you will learn.

      1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

        Hi gumpbelly

        Thank you :-). I’ve never spoken with Chris so I don’t know his exact thoughts on the topic. I would be surprised if he thought his book was the last word on the subject. As you rightly point out if we stay open minded it amazing what info we can absorb from various sources both new and old.

        Cheers

        G

    2. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve not yet read that book, I’m sure it’s very good indeed but I guess I’m lucky to of completed an apprenticeship and woodworking has put food on my table since leaving school. This post was aimed at “new” woodworkers with a view to keeping things simple. We were all new to things once. Thanks again for the feedback.

      Best

      Graham

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