The trick to becoming fast at handplaning is to never pause during stock preparation.
No matter how you prepare your wood for a project (with machines, handplanes or some combination of the two) the biggest mistake you can make is to stop during the process for even an hour. Once you joint and plane the stock, you should take it as far as you can – even if that means smooth-planing parts that still need a little work.
Why? Wood moves and I’ve found that it moves soon after you process it. Sometimes this is because the wood is adjusting to the humidity in your shop, and sometimes it is because the process of stock preparation releases bound-up tension in the fibers of the wood.
Here’s an example: Today I had to prepare some pine stock for shelves that was 7/8” thick. It had to be 3/4”. So I jointed and planed the stock down to 3/4” and began smooth planing the shelves. Then I looked up. It was 5 p.m. and I had to start making Sunday dinner, or I was going to have a grumpy family on my hands.
So I reluctantly put down my plane, knowing full well what was going to happen.
Two hours later, I returned to the shop and resumed smooth-planing the shelves. All the shelves had cupped slightly on the bark side of the board. You couldn’t see it with your eyes. But the plane knew. It took about four or five times as many strokes to get the middle of the bark side of the board planed flat. Luckily the heart side develops a small hump across its width when this occurs, so it’s no problem to smooth plane those quickly.
This is just one example of how you should never pause during certain operations. Here’s another: Edge jointing. As soon as you joint two edges to be glued together, put them together pronto. The edges can distort within the hour, spoiling the joint. Plus, a freshly planed joint always glues better than one that has been sitting around picking up dirt.
— Christopher Schwarz
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