Long time fan; first time contacting you.
Frstly I’d just like to say thank you for sharing your expertise and experience with the world. Your youTube channel and blog are wonderful resources that will, I suspect, survive both of us.
But my question is this: why do we never see you use the jointer plane? You talk often about your 4 and 4 1/2, and I’ve heard you talk about using a jack plane, but even throughout the workbench build, we never saw you straighten stock with a jointer. Nor is there any mention of you recommending a jointer in your `buying good tools cheap` series.
… just curious really.
many thanks in advance
This is a great question, Ben.
I suppose technically we don’t really need them so much now that we have machines that dimension the wood to size and even plane surfaces parallel. Whereas it’s true, most lumber and timber(UK) suppliers have questionable standards of treatment to get their product to market and sold, in general we can rely on wood being planed to size and being square. Almost all wood is passed through machines whereby it would indeed be impossible for it to not to come out square. they are not using hands to make materials square but usually five-head cutter moulders that indeed make four sides dead to size and square. So, even boards that are not straight are almost always parallel and, in my local UK store at least, well-milled from dry stock and stored indoors until sold.
I would say that long planes are basically a thing of the past because of this. I have found that a truly flat jack plane can joint just about anything straight and most long planes such as cast metal jointers are actually rarely flat. That being the case, a jack plane will indeed true up long edges and surfaces just as well if not better than their longer counterparts of old that are indeed out of true. In fact, for me, these shorter planes do a better job, are more controllable, comfortable, and easier to work with. Now wooden jointer planes are a different animal altogether. The planes do stay true in general, and they are wonderful to use as they readily glide across wood and work better than any of their metal counterpart planes.
Having said all of that, I do have longer planes, #6, 7, and 8, a Clifton, Stanley’s, Records and of course my favourite, the Veritas. From time to time I use these long planes, but usually, almost always, on really fine work. One thing I do love to do is take the plane of choice, really spend time sharpening the edge, and then edge joint or surface plane the wood I am working on to the nearest I could ever get to perfection. This is time-out for me; a sort of metaphysical therapy that somehow renews me in ways other aspects of woodworking might and might not. Of course it’s momentary, temporary but I think it has a permanent impact on my wellbeing. It’s aloe something I walk away from feeling warmed and renewed.
Often you will see me working on something using only a minimal amount of tools. I write this way too and it’s because I don’t want anyone to think woodworking is only a rich person’s pastime or hobby. I have never taught woodworking as a hobby but always assuming that people have an innate desire beyond themselves that calls them to work wood in real ways and not by machine methods only but in deeper ways using hands and hand tools. Hobby somehow has a real worth I think because it is somehow therapy for the soul of man to work fluidly with their hands. This amateur level has great depth to it. I consider myself an amateur even though I have worked full time at it for fifty years now.. Amateur, from the root word amore, to love. Much deeper than say being a professional, even though most professionals are amateurs like me too. What makes the difference? If you took away all of the machines, tied their hands and imprisoned them, they would still find ways to work wood.
At the end of all of this, I made the bench with few tools because people can do that in real life. The bench I built is now functioning for Phil Adams in the Penrhyn Castle workshops in North Wales. He loves it. He’s just like me. It’s so easy to put people off with fancy tools when all they need is a handful to get started. I would love to know how many people have built my workbench now. Hundreds if not thousands I think. All because of a two-cent backyard video on YouTube that many condemned in the beginning.