Woodworking forums can be helpful, no really they can. It’s thanks to a forum that I read a discussion between George Wilson and Zach Dillinger (really looking forward to Zach’s book towards the end of this year). They were discussing the size of plane totes from early wooden planes and why they were smaller than the typical “Bailey” style tote we are all familiar with. The reason put forward was that with planing done in such volume in pre-industrial times, it was essential to the long term health of the woodworker to push the tote with an open hand with the web area between fore finger and thumb providing the grip.
If totes were bigger or “normal” on early planes it would’ve made it more likely the person planing would exert too much gripping pressure leading to issues similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. Although very few of us will ever approach the volume of planing those early woodworkers did, being open to the reasons why they used their tools a certain way can prove useful. After all they were doing more with their planes than just removing snipe or a few mill marks.
I’m well into my workbench build now and I’m using very accessible but also very roughly finished construction grade timber. I’m dressing the surfaces and there is much to be done. Holding the budget #4 I’m using with an open hand, in a similar way to a wooden plane, has proven very comfortable. You can see my experience with this below.
If you find yourself with discomfort during planing consider taking a cue from the early masters or even consider visiting a woodworking forum.
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