In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes

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Legendary English craftsman Alan Peters used a Stanley No. 7 for every bench plane operation.

David Charlesworth uses a No. 5-1/2.

Joseph Moxon says you need a fore, jointer and smoothing planes.

And many woodworkers use just a bevel-up jack plane.

After years of teaching hundreds of people to use bench planes and answering thousands (yes thousands) of e-mails, phone calls and questions from woodworkers, I became convinced that the more you read about bench planes, the more confused you’ll get.

So a few years ago I began to rethink the Western bench plane system. Not to develop some idiosyncratic new way of using them , that wouldn’t be helpful. Instead I set out to explain the bench plane system in a way that embraces historical approaches, explains all the modern ones and gives you the power to adapt your existing set of planes to your work.

The key to all this was to stop focusing so much on the size of the plane and to focus far more attention to how it is sharpened and set up.

This DVD “Handplane Basics – A Better Way to Use Bench Planes” is the result of all that work. Over the course of a month, Drew DePenning, Megan Fitzpatrick and I boiled down this approach in a 70-minute DVD that:

1. Explains the bench plane system so you can immediately understand the proper use of everything from a “scrub plane” to a “panel plane” to a “fore plane.”

2. Shows you how to sharpen, set up and use the three planes you need to process rough lumber into gleaming boards.

3. Explains and demonstrates how to four-square your lumber. I take a rough board and show exactly how to deal with its faces edges and ends so you get a project part that is flat, square and good-looking.

I’m quite proud of this DVD, from the content itself, to Megan’s direction to Drew’s filming and editing. The DVD is being pressed as we speak and should be shipping withing four weeks. If you pre-order the DVD, you will get it for $19.95 , that’s 20-percent off the $24.95 retail price. This sale ends on Dec. 31, 2009.

You can read more about the DVD or order a copy from our store.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 7 comments
  • Ron Boe

    OK, I’ll buy if you promise to stop producing books and DVD’s for a little while.

    Rats, purchased before I made that ultimatum above. dang! Merry Christmas to me then! woohoo!

    Happy Holidays to you and your crew before time gets away from me and I forget or it’s too late. It certainly seems to have been a very productive year for you folks from my perspective. Good job.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I’d say it would be great for beginning plane users. Intermediates will get stuff out of it, too.

    And some day I’ll be an advanced tool user….


  • Jim Paulson

    As someone already quite familiar with handplanes, it would be helpful to know the intended audience for "Handplane Basics"? Are you folks focusing on beginners, intermediates or advanced woodworkers or perhaps all of the above?


  • Doug Martin

    Any chance this will be available through the Woodworker’s Videoshop?

  • Richard Dawson


    I’m ready to pull the trigger, but first a few questions:

    1) Since Megan is involved in this production, is there any footage of her jumping up and down on any planes? Stilletos?

    2) In introducing "Handplane Essentials" your modesty got the best of you when you made statements to the effect that there wasn’t really much new for experienced woodworkers. I find that book to be very informative, as apparently others do, given its popularity. Do you have the same, or similar thoughts about this DVD?

    3) Does the free shipping offer apply on orders made right now, or do I need to find another book or DVD to qualify?

    4) When are you going to release a Chris Schwarz designed book/DVD case to hold all this stuff?

    Finding well thought out opinions, stated in a clear and concise manner on these basic subjects has been a real challenge for many of us. Your contributions to this aspect of woodworking have have been very helpful and greatly appreciated. I’m sure this DVD will meet or exceed your high standards and am looking forward to seeing my copy.



  • Nate

    You are a machine with how much you put out there and I love it (perhaps it would be more fitting if I called you a ‘hand tool’ rather than a machine?)!

    I just ordered it.


  • Shannon

    Wonderful post. Hope Santa brings this DVD on Christmas morning!!



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