Sometimes I feel the need to test myself, particularly when it comes to crap I say and crap I do.
For many years I’ve contended that using handplanes is faster in almost every workshop situation – versus even a random-orbit, DA and drum sander. (I’ve not faced an industrial wide-belt sander. Yet.)
Recently I bought a nice drum sander for dimensioning thin lams for a big load of bent lamination work ahead on my schedule. Drum sanders excel at this kind of dimensioning work where planers fail. Plus, the used machine was an amazing deal.
Now before you jump my case about my drum sander skills, let me say I’m an ace with this machine — including this brand — and have it dialed in perfectly. I’ve used them for many years in a production environment.
This week I decided to use it to process about 100 board feet of backboards for a 12′ run of shelving I’m building for a friend. After running the poplar through the planer I sanded it at #100 grit on up to #180 grit. The whole process took eight hours and – despite my dust mask and excellent dust collection – I was still mining black boogers for two days after.
This morning I sprayed on two coats of shellac and was, well, disgusted with the results. The vertical scratches left by the drum sander collected the shellac. And while most people (non-woodworkers) would say it looks OK, I wouldn’t put my name on it.
So I took the backboards to the bench and in 14 minutes flat I had one-third of them cleaned up. The junky shellac and sanding scratches were gone and the boards were ready to refinish.
Though I flushed eight hours down the potty of life, I do feel confident in saying: Handplanes are better than power sanding. Period.
Yes, learning to handplane can take some time. But you will get it back in spades during the long haul.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Want to learn to tune up a vintage plane? We produced this video several years ago that shows you how to turn a vintage plane into a fantastic tool: “Super-tune a Handplane.”