Several weeks ago I was planing a piece of palm when my hand slipped, and a deep sliver of the nasty grass dove into the middle finger of my left hand.
I dug out as much of the splinter as I could. But now almost six weeks later, the foreign object (as my doctor calls it) is deep inside my soft tissue. I can wait things out, or I can see a hand surgeon (I’m a good waiter).
Wood can be nasty stuff. Rosewoods make my tongue swell up like a Ballpark Frank. Some species (redwood, especially) sting like crazy when I get a splinter. And spalted stuff can kill you dead.
But aren’t you worried about what wood can do to your tools?
On Wednesday I was slathering epoxy into the cracks of my workbench top when Megan Fitzpatrick asked me if I was worried about what the epoxy would do to the blades of my handplanes.
“I don’t really give a weevil’s (expletive deleted),” I replied.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I know how to sharpen.”
The way I see it, unless the material I’m working is going to split my tool in half, I’ll plane it. Laminated veneer lumber? Plywood? MDF? OSB? Epoxy? Plastic resin glue? Yup, I’ve planed them all. Here’s why: It’s easier to sharpen a handplane blade than it is to sharpen the blades in my electric jointer or planer. So I think a handplane is a great tool for dealing with engineered material. This is wacky chat, I know.
I too was afraid of planing odd stuff until one day in the late 1990s. We were training our fellow publishing employees in basic woodworking techniques, and each student was building a little project with our help.
We let the students pick the wood for their project, and half of the women in the class picked purpleheart. Purpleheart, I discovered, is not a wood. It’s a mineral. After two swipes, my block plane began to dull. I had to hone my block plane a lot that week, but we made it through the class.
After that experience, I stopped worrying about what I was planing and focused on becoming a faster and better sharpener. The way I see things, a dull blade is a good thing because it means two things. 1. You are working the wood and not just fondling the forgings. 2. You get to sharpen it, which makes you a better sharpener.
And now back to scraping epoxy (which cuts a lot like maple).
– Christopher Schwarz
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