A few months ago, I read about Schwarz’ ambitious teaching schedule here. I’ve taught a few classes and enjoyed them thoroughly. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty since I always feel as though I learn as much or more than the students.
In a recent class, I got to see the performance of a wide range of hand planes working along side of my cheap, antique, wooden planes. I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, but I DO want to be clear: I continue to be unimpressed by metal jack planes, the bevel up planes, and indeed most new planes FOR THE WORK I DO. With the machines switched off, I need to remove wood quickly and easily. And my planes haven’t seen their equal in any classes, conferences, or demos I’ve seen or conducted.
I’m looking for a plane that has a slippery sole, a cambered iron (pretty sure you can do this to any plane, but BU blade geometries will be different), that is light weight and holds it’s adjustment through rough work. Ditto, work benches need to have super stiff (and I prefer wide) planing stops (loose bench dogs designed for tail vises just don’t seem to cut it).
In my shop, and I think ANY shop without machines, jack planes need to remove wood fast. I’m looking for shavings that are .060″ or thicker. You should be able to remove an 1/8″ of pine from a 1″x6″x3′ in a matter of minutes.
I think there are things you can do to a metal plane to improve it for the functionality I seek. Waxing the sole really helps. Cambering the iron helps. With so many replacement irons on the market, it makes sense to buy a spare and experiment with camber. Of course, this will necessitate you learn to hone free hand. You can adjust throats by moving the frog. You can even file the mouth open a little. But this is an awful lot of work.
Wooden planes seem to offer many objective advantages. Their irons are always quite thick, their beds extend all the way to their soles, they are liight weight, and offer low friction.
Maybe you’d be better off just buying an old woody from ebay, or your local antique shop. The plane you buy will be one less plane for TGI Friday’s walls or Cracker Barrel’s ceiling of shame.
Most importantly, if you want a sense for the capability of hand tools, you need to focus on tools that remove wood quickly. Your saws, planes, and chisels need to be capable of removing great amount of wood. This is a different value then that held by manufacturers and tool reviewers. We need to do something about that.
I have this dream of teaching hand tool only classes. But I continue to be concerned that the project I want to do will be too difficult for folks who lack tools like mine. I’m currently trying to wrap my head around supplying future students with full kits of 18th c style tools. Like most other things I do, the cost is insanely prohibitive. But that hasn’t stopped me thus far.
I’ll write more about this in the future, but you can help by thinking about how you remove large amounts of stock and how long it really takes you. I think most guys are using machines to prepare stock and just finishing the boards with hand planes. This “hybrid” approach (hybrid is probably the wrong word) has skewed manufacturers and users values to think of all planes as essentially smoothers. This approach is limiting what we are capable of, what classes I can teach, and what tools our kids will be able to buy. Seeing good woodworkers with expensive planes struggle to do what my planes can do was a real eye opener.
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.