Planes still prove challenging

No matter what you might think. No matter the flourish and flick of the magician plane salesman’s wrist,  or the expert presentation of magazine writers or the gurus of woodworking shows, planes remain an evolutionary work in progress.

Planes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and working on my new book has brought a more critical assessment of the essential value of each of the types developed through the centuries. In our present wisdom we wonder why craftsmen of old took 40 years to accept those with infinite adjustment. Truth is there were and are some things that the modern counterparts still cannot do and still do not have.

Anyway, my new plane book is well under way and the planes I use, have used and will us in the future are all featured in such a way that you will glean from my work and my ways of working the planes on wood.


Today I worked for 5 hours on a series of different bench planes made by different makers over the past 80 years. My findings changed from plane to plane and nothing was as predictable as I thought. Bevel-up, bevel-down, Stanley, Woden, Sorby, Veritas, Norris, smoothers, jacks and jointers, thin irons thick irons A1, O2, chrome vanadium, carbon steel all gave quite, quite  remarkable results that defy the modern-day exponents in their two-page magazine evaluations and assessments.


Something I realised today is this. There was a time when engineers asked we craftsmen what we wanted. We knew and we told them. They made it and we used it.


Things changed; handles, irons, weights, thicknesses and so on. Engineers have strayed from  trying to understand what we craftsmen want to telling us what we need. Some of the questions I encounter leave me bemused as I discover by my planing, new facts to challenge the sciences.


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