There Was a Time…

…Once upon a time…

…when I looked back to an era knowing that hand planes and saws, chisels, draw knives, braces, things such as that, were more artistically and creatively created by what might have been called artificers using their hands to make, I was pulled into thinking to myself, ‘What happened?‘. Fact is, that that pinnacle era of hand work and design was never repeated. Mostly design was dumbed down to what comes easily off a machine. That’s what machines and CNC efforts have reduced creativity and life art to. The era when all men and women fashioned the needs of life by hand and no one referred to themselves as particularly special was an era of humility because their making was, well, quite the ordinary thing to do. Everyone but everyone made. It was a taken-for-granted thing that people did, everywhere, make things. Today an engineer sets up a factory, large and small, buys in some programable milling equipment to manufacture parts for him to assemble on a production line and we give them credit for copying things that mostly already existed a century or two before they were born.

In its day this Norris plane was new and innovative, mostly because of its combined depth adjustment with lateral adjustability in a single stem. lee Valley Veritas copied the mechanism for all of their planes.

I’d love to see something new, not pure knock-offs stolen from 150 years ago. I suppose in my sphere I am talking planes and saws and such. I associate better with these. I often wonder why new things such as tools rarely if ever emerge from an era when everyone has a degree in one thing or another. With nothing new coming in we face an era of total and boring sterility. Could it be because the era of effort and survival no longer drives progress and the inventors prefer safe living? Or is it because no one can better what we’ve already invented. At one time tasks were hand tasks and good handwork and design was critical to a man’s reputation. The inventor developed skills and found others with skills to progress ideas. Survival of the fittest if you will! There were of course no CNC routers suspended from platens routing out shapes for a zillion saw handles. Handles  identically pumped out with that look-alike clunkiness mass-making leaves us with. A man came to my walking cane business and said he could sell me a machine that would make a 38″ dowel in any wood ever two seconds. I said what will I do with thirty sticks a minute? He said as long as you load the machine by hand you can still call them hand made. Most walking canes today have plastic stick on handles and tips. They are all made in Asia and today can buy the same cane in China, Australia, New York and London and all ports in between. Nothing new.

This saw works exceptionally well. As well as the very best made. With juts a little thought and about 10 minutes work on the handle it would have no competition.

Funny though, with all of our post modern contrivances we have yet to come close to matching the standards accomplished by men of old using mere hand skills and hand tools they sharpened and honed themselves at the workbench. Plane makers and saw makers, tool makers generally, most of them, not quite all, seem more to have become assemblers of component parts along a conveyor now. This Henry-Ford-production-line demoralised people, of course it did.  There is not much art to this type of working; if any at all. I know a man with a masters in engineering that sits at a polishing sharpener all day long sharpening carving sets on a series of buffing wheels. It’s quite skilled but takes only minutes to become masterful. No degree was needed, but he’s contented to do that now and forever.

A panel raising plane like this was innovative too. Beautiful to use and leaves a finish that needs no sanding when done. A man with vision made it in his day.

That doesn’t mean that the output from such mini and maxi factories doesn’t look nice or feel good. More that it is kind of soulless I suppose. More that what they make has that certain hallmark of sterile, samey sameness, that’s all. I know it is true that they couldn’t compete using hand methods in an era of mass making, and I am not lamenting those ‘olden days‘ at all, more questioning why, with all of the technologies now available, we haven’t actually come up with anything quite new and distinctive—innovative even. And of course I am not talking about handles made from pouring casting resins into silicon moulds or composite plastics and such. Not much to those things at all. Reminds me of people running grooves with a router and pouring epoxy laden with powdered turquoise and calling it inlaying. Not art at all. I guess such things wouldn’t impress me.

A brace made of beech. Not fancy, but the chuck has a button and you press it to lock the bit ion place.

It seems to me at least that all that’s happened is the constant acceleration to the fastest finishing line, the main product of consumerism. Whether you believe in global warming and climate change or not, the reality is that we are about to live with shifts resulting directly from greed and consumerism. The Industrial Revolution has not been without excessive waste in incalculable ways. Where some producers manufacture the worst quality goods, others produce the best, There seems to be this massive margin that no one seems willing to occupy apart from through the importation of mass made knock offs. I believe this is more about an unwillingness to take risk than anything else. A router plane and a saw, a hammer, a knife or even a decent plane can only cost a fraction of the selling cost. £220 plus for one quite regular handsaw compared to £25 for another that works equally as well tells me that it has to be more than just low labour costs. I know that without the US market all the tool making in England (and most likely Europe too) would disappear over night. So I’m not altogether sure where the entrepreneurs are these days. At one time the entrepreneur invented, designed, went out on the limb for something believed in. I wonder how Leonard Bailey felt when he made the invention a reality for all the planes Asia and the USA and England currently copies. Lee Valley Veritas in Canada has proven a consistent maker of innovative hand tools. Whereas reproduction tool makers copying Leonard Bailey designs and then western saw makers from the UK do produce  slicker, smoother copies, they are not new and innovative.

Reinforced, this brace receives different sized bits. It was innovation.

In times past, a century ago and more, artisans hammered out their beliefs into raw steel on an anvil. Men poured molten brass into forms in sand for casting into beauty. They made 30 planes in a few weeks, individually, yet they never called such beauties works of art for the work to them and all was work not art. When they worked the handles one by one with rasps and scrapers they felt them until they felt just right. Every edge was shaped by a man’s eye and hand, rounded by sensitivity, hollowed with a single gouge and a spoon bit in a wooden swing brace. Nothing was ‘cranked out‘. Things drilled and countersunk by hand set screw heads dead level. Metals were precisely dovetailed like wood and then peened into permanent union to form the sides and soles of planes. These makers, they had reputations at stake, were local, competitive with neighbours, they performed their art as makers of community standing. I think of a man taking planes to make planes as the individual output of his individuality as a maker of ‘playnes’. His work exemplified his whole life. I’d like to see such skill come back to us. The lost arts. When I consider  what we have come  to accept over the past century or so, today, in our quest for globalised consumerism, I wonder if something can’t be reversed.

It takes a skilled man just an hour or so to make a decent saw handle by hand, a plane handle too. Turned knobs take 5 minutes max. Plate steel is rolled out, chopped and shaped into a saw by a mechanical tooth punch followed by a mechanical filer holding a saw file to exact angles. A saw plate appears in two minutes from such things. It’s the handle that makes the saw. Assembly is sliding studs through predrilled holes. Not complicated.

So, here in my work I feel a heightened excitement knowing that there is action taking place enabling a new generation and a new genre of woodworker is emerging as a direct result of our 3 decades of output. It’s a generation that sees the need inside themselves to develop and master skill and a generation prepared to work to that end. Inch by inch they’ve ventured out, turned a corner and are finding new and perhaps even untrod paths. They thought that they would never become skilled as a skilled artisans might be but they took a few first steps and found it wasn’t so bad to use a tenon saw and sharpen a plane. After a year, maybe two, three, four, the tasks they thought hard to begin with became a piece of cake. Are these the new entrepreneurs yet to be born? Are you one of the new entrepreneurs? I think so.

50 comments on “There Was a Time…

  1. Paul – if you and Joseph haven’t already you ought to check out Iowa entrepreneur Gary Blum’s (Blum Tool Co.) wooden planes and now new infill plane with the just recently patented adjuster – took him eight years to get his patent. I’ve had five (all in mesquite) including the block plane for over three years and love them as a hobbyist/amateur. Just got the infill smoother five months ago and love it.

    take care – Bill in Kerrville

      • The outstanding craftsman toolmakers striving to innovate in hand tools deserve our recognition. They should not be expected to work for free. You write a long blog post about the lack of innovation in hand tools and in the same sentence dismiss the toolmaker because he expects to be compensated for his efforts. At the same time you advocate a cheap saw without any innovation whatsoever, made by a faceless company exploiting Asian manufacturing opportunities.

        I will much rather give my hard-earned money to the one actually striving for excellence.

        • This did make for some interesting contribution. I made an adjustment to my comment, Mikka. Also, whereas craftsmen toolmakers are out there, and I know it is hard to come up with something new in hand tools, most of them have not improved much on what has existed for over the past 150 years. In my view, making planes much heavier is usually not an improvement but for some reason we seem to see thicker and bigger and beefier as progressively better. In reality, most makers today seem to me at least to have copied what was here in the beginning of the mid to late 1800s and 1900s and that’s all. We should actually be expecting that anyway, but most things deteriorate with each ensuing generation of production. Spokeshaves, planes and saws, chisels and such either remain basically the same or have most often seen reduction in quality standards. Some have minor alterations in the steel quality or engineering standards, but even the engineering standards are now programmed for automated manufacturing rather than a skilled operative in many cases. Better engineering standards are made all the more easily using CNC equipment. Show me a modern day socket chisel and I’ll show you its origin a hundred years or so ago. Planes laminated from five pieces chop sawn wood and assembled takes only minimal skill compared to creating the throat with chisels and floats, which was highly skilled workmanship. I compared skilled work and innovation with modern day component makers on production runs. I wasn’t comparing faster methods with even faster methods to consider this as innovative. I like the idea of our seeing something new come forward. I saw a particular plane type faithfully copied and someone condemned me for not supporting an enterprising entrepreneurial set up. Well, it wasn’t actually entrepreneurial by way of design. Setting up a manufacturing system the same as one from the 1870s can be innovative as far as production goes but that makes the production innovative and not the design of the product.

          Designs and the risks involved are usually compensated for in the finished product price as an entrepreneurial design and we see all the time how that is reflected in the final pricing. Computers and cell phones are a prime example. It’s risky. No one expects anyone, let alone “the outstanding craftsman toolmakers striving to innovate in hand tools” to work for free. Where did that come from?
          Whereas I agree with the comment, “faceless company exploiting Asian manufacturing opportunities”, the saw maker made no claims as to innovation.

          • Paul, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

            My “working for free” comment was an exaggeration and a reply to you calling them “too expensive”. I will explain what I meant:

            In my opinon, Gary Blum, as mentioned by Bill Morris in his comment, has innovated in hand planing in every sense of the word. His planes are patented with 20 new claims. An impressive feat, at least quantitatively speaking.

            Do the innovations in his planes represent breakthroughs in planing? I do not know. I would not have the experience to review the performance.

            However, it does not matter if the innovations are groundbreaking. New methods require trial and error. New designs may not be better than the old ones but inventing them is innovation in itself. Only after the design is tested can it be determined if it is better than the old one.

            In my opinion, Blum’s planes are far from being overpriced. They are cheaper than, for example, Lie-Nielsens or Cliftons to which they should be compared. Blum is a craftsman toolmaker, probably spending more time crafting a single plane than the companies thus making less profit for his time.

            If we would expect him to sell his planes cheaper than they currently being sold, we would essentially be asking him to work for free.

            They are not cheap. Not everyone can justify purchasing them. Yet, they are reasonably priced and within reach for the majority of woodworkers should they choose to spend their money, in the same way Veritas or Clifton are.

          • Actually, throughout my life people have told me I can’t compete with this or that company. They all got it wrong! One time a man told me I couldn’t compete with Walmart’s prices. My rocking chair at the time sold consistently for a high dollar and as many as were made sold. Oh, and a famed US Resident as three of them. You see it wasn’t the functionality of the design that sold it but the looks, functionality and comfort. So I said to the man, “Friend! You have it wrong. Walmart can’t compete with me because Walmart cannot make what I make!
            I don’t think an independent manufacturers should make their planes cheaper at all. In fact, I think, regardless, they should get as much as they can for them so I didn’t say that they should. Setting planes up on a production run is the most efficient use of time and planes can be made in batch quantities making it highly profitable. That’s all part of the fun of engineering products Metal parts these days are not usually made individually by an operator as in times past though parts will be loaded by hand. I think many of today’s makers have come up with what was seriously lacking in the Stanley and Record models of old which is greatly improved quality, hence Bailey model replication on three of the five continents all competing for the same dollar. They all have very polished handles, nicely milled soles and sides and components. They arrive sharp and feel wonderful to touch. Whether that’s always entrepreneurialism, others can decide.

          • Yes Paul! Love the comment about Walmart not competing with you. I co-worker said something similar to me when I first started woodworking and joined you wwmc in 2012. I told the colleague I wasn’t trying to compete with China. I was making quality things that would last a lifetime compared to all the furniture that is made well below sufficient.

    • Pretty crazy that Paul laments the old days of unique design, only design, while definitively stating anything not newly created is without sole and, thus, without value. Then, when offered a new, patented design that is different than anything he’s referenced while well within the categories he’s defined, states that it’s too heavy (lighter than the Stanley which he praised) and too expensive (cheaper than any plane in the 18th/19th century which he idolized).

      Seems… contradictory? Old-fashioned and juvenile? idealistic yet petty? high-class and poor? Pro-craftsmanship yet anti-ingenuity? Anti-your opinion, pro-only his own, even if it means contradicting himself 20 times in 8 self-serving, run-on, nonsensically obnoxious paragraphs exclaimed loudly, profoundly and lowly with a single, entirely contradictory response, to a person that was merely offering him a quite valid answer to the nonsense he proposed.

      P. S. Paul Sellers will tell you he has furniture in the Whitehouse (purchased without the buyer’s money, mind you) within minutes of him introducing himself to you (not you to him). Then, when you nod your head and continue your previous activity, he will repeat that he has furniture in the Whitehouse. Seriously.

      Think about that.

      • Actually, Molly you are right on a couple of good points. One, I said too heavy but I had looked at the first plane I opened up at and saw the weight and cost of their premium brass and steel version smoothing plane weighing in at well over five pounds ( Stanley and Record #4s weight a tad over 3 pounds). I understand that some people do like a very heavy plane but for a general smoothing plane this to me would be quite extreme. But then I later saw their wooden planes which I assume are likely much less in weight but I didn’t find weights to gauge them by. So, I owe an apology for that. I do like wooden planes especially. They are so frictionless, the exact opposite of all steel soles.
        I also looked at that particular plane’s price, which I am sure is well worth the money but possibly too high for most. The all wooden versions are a fair price for anyone looking for a wooden plane I think.
        As to run-on sentences, you did pretty good yourself. Anyway, thanks for this, it made me rethink and look again and I should have been more careful.
        So, to give a fair assessment of the #4 smoothing plane all the way through, you know, check out how well it adjusts, takes strains and stresses, sharpens up, holds an edge and so on, I think it best to buy one and see how it feels/compares to all the others available after a couple of months in use. That’s what I may do.
        As does happen with many modern makers, they often imply that former or ‘other’ models like the Bailey and Bed Rock pattern bench planes had built in problems and then make erroneous comments about them. This turned out to be the case with the planes and the plane maker in question. Many things presented as problems were not problems at all. You see to dis one make to promote your own is really quite disingenuous so I am glad that you made me return to the content to read EVERYTHING there so I could make a better evaluation. The fact that hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of practicing crafting artisans earning their livings using Bailey pattern planes flawlessly for a century and a half seems of no consequence. I could go on but I will park it there.

        • I will add very little more to this thread – but it did initiate some thoughtful examination of a current entrepreneurial platemaker’s attempts at something which can be viewed as in the eye of the beholder – and that is an “easy plane to use”. BTW Gary’s all-wooden planes are very light in hand in my experience using them – but then I am admittedly absolutely no doubt strictly a hobbyist in these matters – not an almost 55-year user as Paul is. Tongue in cheek here but this is really all his fault for getting a lot us started down the path of hand tool woodworking !!! And I for one love this path.

      • Hi Molly,
        I would ask just one simple thing from you…
        Have you gotten just one tidbit of knowledge from Paul that you did not have before coming to his website or videos?
        As a man approaches 70, and has done so much to encourage the continued use of hand tools through his dissemination of a lifetime of skills to future generations, mostly free, he might be entitled to blog his random thoughts out to all who are interested. We all come here and read what Paul has to say because we are kindred spirits at heart. Is everything he says 100% correct to my way of thinking? Of course not. But I enjoy the varied views of a Craftsman so willing to share.
        I would humbly ask you to think twice before posting such dribble again…
        Or share a link to your website and your work so we can all pay homage to your lifetime of work…

    • Bill
      The adjustment mechanism looks like it could get real touchy to set right since you have to adjust two screws to set depth. Have you ever had issue a with it? This is whats kills the 12-404 stanley .

      The blade holding is interesting in that it is a bit of history in reverse as Blum has taken the power planer blade mechanism and used it on a hand plane.

      Luxury tools, but very pretty luxury tools. Don’t see many infills from the planemakers that much anymore.

  2. I am humbly training the next generation and i thank you for getting me here. This years class of craftsman and craftswomen have completed cheese boards( with stop-cut methods) and meticulous handplaning of the delicate pine. They have attained the shimmering surface that cant be obtained with sand paper. Using all their senses and gaining sensitivity to their work every day. We are now making tool boxes, some students enjoy roundovers so much, i have to give them new challenges. My star completed her first dovetail joint 2 days ago! All students reach for the rag- in- a can before they begin a cut with plane or saw.

    Keep the faith Mr. Sellers!

  3. It used to drive me crazy everyday in the UK, how disposable everything was. I was always skint there, like so many others and I think that’s a big part of the reason these arts and skills are disappearing. The industrial revolution has a lot to answer for. One of the final straws for me was when the bearing on my washing machine failed. The aggravation I went through to get the part was unreal, but I’d always heard about the days when you could pick bearings up at the hardware shop and if they didn’t have one there was always some sort of engineering shop that could turn one for you. Not for so for my generation, I was emailing Turkey for the part. When it finally arrived I discovered that the case for the drum was a single unserviceable piece, rendering the machine unfixable. What kind of diabolical company does that? I just can’t imagine having the stomach to do that to people let alone the earth, but that seems to be what it takes to be an entrepreneur nowadays.

  4. Time is the issue. It takes too long to satisfy the mass market buyer with unique hand made anything, and the costs are too much, regardless of the quality.
    There will be no return to your halcyon days. Sad, but true.

  5. A vision, and sometimes re-visioning, is the mother of invention and/or enterprise …. Other times humankind just needs someone to come along and give us a good shake or thump on the head to get us to truly begin thinking again with that lump that sits on our shoulders and dons an occasional hat or cap!

    Very eloquently and timely stated, Paul. I wish I could have met you or crossed paths with your material 40+ years ago — I would have loved to have put myself under your tutelage. Ah, but there is no time like the present, and no use lamenting over spilled or soured milk. But for all of the modernizations brought on by us mortal humans, we have certainly gotten ourselves into quite a quandary of situations like you have described. The ultimate questions to ask about such modernization is where are the real and true modern day craftsmen and artisans — not only in woodworking, but in other crafts as well. I think we are on the path of so-called modernizing, and so-called educating, ourselves and our children and grandchildren into blithering idiots who are becoming completely unable to do much of anything for themselves, and nor do they have much desire to do so. A huge percentage are utterly unable to sew an article of clothing or bake a loaf of bread for their family; change oil or install new spark spluhs in their automobile; or plant and raise a potato or a tomato to produce their own food even if their lives depended upon it. Maybe that is a reason then, that they/we don’t depend on those skills anymore as others once did. This then begs the real question — “To whom and to what are we depending upon to give and sustain our lives, and that of our families?” “But as for me and my house, ….” (Josh. 24:15)

  6. Paul…..all very interesting but once again you have shown a wooden moulder in action…..I have asked so many times and you have replied, saying there is not enough interest in them I would disagree.
    They can be a little time consuming to set up but amazing to use. Why do you reply to me by say you do not like a “router like finish” with moulding details because you prefer square edges, or words to the effect and then tell us how smooth a finish they give…….surely your teaching should not be restricted purely to your own tastes. Others have asked, as I have, for embellishments? So Paul before the lights go out can we please deviate away from your own tastes

    I have sold some of mine, again just recently, on eBay with very nice comments received… a 3/4″ edge bead to a 27 year old carpenter working in a stately home….5 spoke shaves to Austria…..every time I receive greatful comments. SORRY THERE IS INTEREST OUT THERE and you could with your enviable knowledge further that interest.
    Please take all of this, not as a moaning complaint but more a constructive request.

    Thanks John

    • Not as long as you continue trying to manipulate me by unfairly using statements such as “deviate away from your own tastes”, Sir. Remember that most of what is already given and given willingly is free!

    • Did I read correctly, that you’re asking Paul to endorse wooden moulding planes in the hopes that the sales of your own will go up?

      • Hi Todd …..actually no, as long as I receive a reasonable amount for my own treasured tools I am happy. ( i.e. Not a business seller) I would be more concerned that they are given a good home and used with the respect they deserve. That’s why I go to great lengths to insure they are in as good a condition as I can.
        I see so many tools in a terrible state with eBay sellers asking just greedy money, not me. I know that when I fall off my perch I want my tools to go to a good home
        I was just asking Paul to give us a bit of his time to show them in use. I don’t know why Paul has to, unfortunately mention £ i.e. free instruction, I could answer, but I won’t.
        I have learnt so much from Paul and grateful for it, but I am not just going to sit back without making polite constructive comments…….without wishing to in anyway annoy him…….john

          • Oh Paul now I feel guilty!!
            Ok I will put together a few and, as you have asked, give you time as you and the team are very busy.
            THANK YOU ….John

          • For what it’s worth, the use of and making of wooden moulding planes is something I have been trying to find find good resources on for a while. Personally, it would wonderful to see a Paul Sellers treatment of these topics on woodworking masterclasses

  7. Paul,
    I think your points hit on a fundamental issue facing all of us. The problem is as you point out that none of us is dependent on others for our own success.

    When someone makes the plane that someone else depends upon to create the tables that someone else uses in their pub there is a chain of dependency, all our reputations and success are dependent on one anther.

    In the old days when a banker took advantage of his clients, his clients would shun his wife and him at church and presumably he’d stop cheating. Now days, the banker is located in a distant city and only knows other bankers, so when he makes a profit on someone else’s back, he’s congratulated by his friends and most likely has no idea what the impact is on the actual customers. Global warming same thing, my actions don’t have consequences for me.

    As you say, it all comes back to being able to feel the wood through your tools and react accordingly.

  8. I am an avid hands on furniture maker who works relentlessly in my garden shed making traditional local vernacular English furniture. But alas I do not think anybody cares any more whether its hand made or mass produced. For example iv’e tried selling my hand made furniture on a couple of well known web sites but disappointingly no one has taken the chance to buy one of my beautifully crafted pieces. (that is my view of them ha ha I don’t take myself that seriously) I admire your encouragement to all the wood workers that enjoy your web pages and blogs , and it gives me great encouragement to carry on with my projects. In fact if it wasn’t for reading your blogs and watching your videos I would have given up years ago. So Paul any advice, or am I wasting my time I hope not. Keep up the good work of encouragement to us all .
    Many Regards.

    Paul

  9. Shoe manufacturing was once a cottage industry. Only relatively well off folks could afford to buy new shoes and most people wore second hand or hand-me- down shoes. Once the manufacturers in New England figured out how to machine-make many of the parts, the price of new shoes dropped dramatically and many more people could afford to buy new shoes. The same process happened with watches and, rather unfortunately, handguns. Similar advances also lowered the cost of food production, paper making, and many other things. If you’re not impressed with modern maufacturers, try riding on a Boeing 787.

  10. After work I woodwork in my shop. I’m finishing a storage dresser that has 4 drawers. It has improved my skill in making panel and groove frames (2 sides and a back). It has also helped me improve my skill in drawer making. I’m also planning cherry boards to thickness for my a toy chest that I’m making for a co-worker. I’m enjoying the process. Especially since I use a scrub plane to speed up the thicknessing. I’m I getting paid? Maybe for the toy chest but that’s not why I’m making it. Each project is building my SKILL. I want to walk into my shop knowing I can make whatever I want and make it gapless, square, and silky to the touch without any hard edges. I want to develop a project design that is completely original to my own skill and knoweledg of working wood with only hand tools. I’m getting there, and once I do I’m publishing a book about how to make the piece of furniture I’ve been sketching and refining as I continue to make more dressers. As of now, the dresser is slowly turning into a banquet style serving table that can be used to store fine dining ware or plates off food on it’s top. Ambitious? Of course. Without ambition I don’t think anyone who was innovative experienced success.

  11. Churchill said, “I’ve taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me”, I’d say the same for Paul Sellers’ website and videos. I’ve gotten infinitely more out of Paul’s teachings and books than Paul has taken out of my wallet. Even the free side of his website offers enough information to give a solid grounding in hand tool woodworking work. Those of you bashing Paul on a single blog response to a posting should ask yourselves what you’ve contributed to the world. Knowing Paul from everything he’s posted he certainly meant no ill will just an honest response. Paul has opened up a new world of woodworking for thousands of people and I am infinitely grateful for what I’ve learned. What he asks in return for his offerings is rediculously fair.

    • I will add very little more to this thread – but it did initiate some thoughtful examination of a current entrepreneurial platemaker’s attempts at something which can be viewed as in the eye of the beholder – and that is an “easy plane to use”. BTW Gary’s all-wooden planes are very light in hand in my experience using them – but then I am admittedly absolutely no doubt strictly a hobbyist in these matters – not an almost 55-year user as Paul is. Tongue in cheek here but this is really all his fault for getting a lot us started down the path of hand tool woodworking !!! And I for one love this path.

      • Hey Bill, Missing Kerville, but will be there in Texas this coming year. Would like to stay on the Guadalupe somewhere. I did correct my first thought on the weight and cost issues I might have been concerned about at first because I unwittingly opened up the page to the premium smoother. I think the prices of the planes seemed very fair actually, and can only guess that the wooden ones are comparable in weight to any wooden plane made in the last 300 years. I do think some of things said on line relate to statements of “chip breakers causing untold problems of all kinds or the thickness of irons causing this or that and so it goes. They actually cause almost no issues after some plane initialisation and I have been using mine for over fifty years. I am on my fourth and fifth irons with some!

        • Not just Texas but all of the US would celebrate a visit from our esteemed teacher/stand up commentator (I sat thru almost two days of your demos at the Fort Worth WIA show in 3/2013 and your dry wit is highly entertaining). BUT I’m sure you are coming for family visits and none of us would ever wish to disturb anything so important as cherished family times. Lotsa good places on the Guadalupe but you know that way better than I do… BTW I agree with you about a Stanley Bailey type properly fettled – I now have none of the heartache I felt before I ran into your videos/book in 2011. But in fairness to Gary’s ingenious mechanism it is very slick and innovative. Bill in Kerrville

  12. The man making “playnes” that you mention wouldn’t happen to be Bill Carter, U.K. plane maker would it? I found his video series of hand making an English infill plane fascinating. Maybe it was his personality, but watching him peen the metal dovetails together, and seeing him carefully work the metal cold with only hand tools was captivating.

      • I think misread the intent on that original statement. The maker I referenced is certainly not doing anything new. I doubt even his techniques are any different from those of a craftsman in the 1700’s.

        I do suspect that there is innovation out there that just never sees the light of day. I wonder how many improvements and features have been born and died in someone’s garage workshop because they didn’t know what step to take next, or didn’t feel they could take the risk in the marketplace.

  13. I would call myself a hobbyist or DIYer. My wife tells me I have too many tools. Many are older than me and often modified. Some I have made. Some inspired by Paul. Not happy with a wooden allen key router plane I made a brass bodied one, which is the one I use. Needing 1/16th / 3/32nd wood chisels, I made them. Many of my tools are unique, because I have modified them. Many I regard as friends, in many cases because their previous owner was a deceased relative / friend. Others because I have rescued / repurposed them. I think that coming from an agricultural background in my youth, this was the norm. It does make me sad that this is much less common now. I own 2 stanley no. 4 s. they are the same, but very different.
    I do see other peoples tools / workshops online and I sometimes wonder if they ever use them, mine always looks like it is used. I have known “engineers” who have very untidy workshops, but were great inovators.

  14. Wow, some verbal ping pong going on over this post. A Saw is a Saw, a Plane is a Plane. etc. After so many centuries / decades it’s hard to improve on something that already works well. So it is hard to come up with innovative new or better designed tools. I think one of the points that Paul is making is that there is no pride anymore in a manufactures mass output, only how many and how cheap. One could say that the CNC is the innovation, but where is the pride in a completed project when it can be programed in New York and ‘Executed’ in Mombasa. But it is hand made because a worker manhandled a sheet of wood onto the cutting table. OK, Like everyone else I want to be paid a ‘Fair’ price for my work, and at my local going rate. Where in the not my part of the world is it decided what that price might be. Paul is very passionate and an advocate of more traditional methods and tools. He is very vocal about knock offs, poor quality tools, and the subsequent mass produced sawdust furniture. I can relate to that, and accept his views.

  15. I recently watched a presentation by David Icke talking about agenda 21 and this sounds like the causes of it. He said the agenda is what powerful people want to do to the world to depopulate and dumb people down and destroy small communities/businesses and traditional lifestyle etc etc etc(there is so much to it)… if I understood right.

    • I’d have to disagree with you there Ed.

      Honestly, it irritates me to read about ‘Krenov style planes’, as though it’s something in any way special. Here in Scandinavia and southwards in Germany and further still into southern, eastern and western Europe, ‘get it done’ carpenters, farmers and those who just needed a tool for the job centre parted a body blank and reglued once the cutouts were made to make it easier.

      It’s commonplace to find 50-100+ year old planes made this way and one thing is for certain, they weren’t made by people reading Krenovs books. Credit him as an author, not an inspired creator of something new.

      He was taking a shortcut commonly practiced by impoverished teachers, thrifty craftsmen and a myriad of others. They’re what I could find here in any old barn, if they haven’t found their way into the sauna firebox already.

      Those who praise ‘Krenov’ style planes (in general, this isn’t personal) simply do not have the skill to make traditional wooden planes. It’s just more internet whitewashing and waffle by people making a living by creating content with no experience or expertise of any note, trying to justify the absence of thought, effort and practiced skill to produce something of real quality, followed blindly by people who know no better.

      Any fool with a table-saw, a bottle of glue, a bit of dowel and a router/chisel can make one. They can use exotic hardwood and burning and polish the hell out of them. They’re still a lazy-mans effort, showing no skill and no better than something bought from Ali-blah-blah.

      Seriously,, there’s almost none of the people who ‘talk up’ Krenov style planes (grrr) as being great who could take a blank of European beech and produce a German style plane, complete with dovetailed horn handle and a well fitted wedge. They wouldn’t have the ability and never will, because they settle for a crappy old farmers bodge in laminating a blank because they lack the skill to make it any better.

      • Paul G

        Couldn’t agree with you more. Krenov did not invent that type of plane nor did I say he did. My point is that these planes can be made to work as well as any while being inexpensive, very ergonomic, and satisfying to make. If you can make a marking gauge, you can make this plane. Check the website I posted to see if this fellow lacks any skill. I must know a lot of fools.

        • Hi Ed,

          Indeed, your pal has plenty of skill and I meant no offence to either of you personally.

          To your point, as well presented as it is; I could sharpen a butter knife using a piece of 804 grading stone and use it to carve myself a spoon from a scrap of 2 x 4. I’d certainly manage to feed myself a plate full of stew and cut a few slices of bread with them, but there are better tools available and if I pushed myself beyond ‘good enough’, I could certainly produce finer variations from my own effort and the materials at my disposal, to a refined design and with some pride in what I’d produce.

          That old saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” comes to mind.

          Best wishes to you.

  16. Perhaps the problem is the way our economy works. Output takes priority over quality… even with quality items. Good quality tools are made from good quality materials and that is what the customer pays for. The production methods, however, tend to remain the same across the board with perhaps a brief process that can be called “hand finishing”.
    Our economy depends on continual growth, which, in reality, is unsustainable. Technology can and does ensure consistency. It also speeds up the production process and the speed of production is exploited by increasing output. What a waste of such an advantage! That speed of production could be used in allowing more time to focus on the craftsmanship element such as hand crafted handles, hand honed edges and so on. We don’t have to say goodbye to the skills of craftspeople… we just have to rethink the way our economy works.
    I have a Spear & Jackson tenon saw. Beautifully machined blade with perfectly set teeth… and a moulded plastic handle designed to fit a ‘generic’ hand… but not MY hand. I took the plastic handle off and made a handle out of cherry, which fits my hand and holds the sawblade at the optimum angle for my height and the working height of my bench. Now all I have to do is figure out a use for the plastic handle as I don’t like to throw away plastics.

  17. Paul,
    I’m a machine design engineer by trade (liquid filling machines) for over 20 years now, coming from a machine shop back round as a very young man. I can tell you that manufacturing is all about price per piece. If I can save $1.50 a part over 2,000 parts, it adds up very quickly.
    Management demands the cost cutting, mostly taking all of our “artistic” abilities away while on the job. Even the corner radii we use is usually dictated by how fast the waterjet or laser cutter can cut the path. Castings are almost unheard of, unless we need 10,000 plus parts. Patterns are just too expensive and the cost of materials is thru the roof. Which brings me to my next point;
    Material costs are insanely high. My woodworking hobby is almost crippled by the cost of a decent piece of hardwood. Right now I’m re-sawing construction fir as that’s all I can afford to keep building projects. Even reclaimed lumber is insanely priced as worn looking furniture is in vogue right now.
    Cheers

  18. There are some fabulous Australian tool makers who produce high quality and innovative stuff. I have a Colen Clenton adjustable square – I have many squares but I only use the Colen Clenton now. They are not cheap but, in my humble opinion, are functional works of art. Vesper tools are another small manufacturer who produce beautiful squares and sliding bevels; they appear too good to use but I have to say my Colen Clenton square is the most used tool in my workshop.

  19. Whilst I agree with much of what Paul says (and I dare not disagree with his woodworking skills) I do think that there are new skills being developed and old skills rediscovered. In the UK there has been a huge resurgence in artisan (ie traditional) bread and beer making. There is also a huge interest in 3D printing and CNC machining and a refreshed interest in hobby computing/electronics with devices like the Raspberry Pi. If someone builds a hobby CNC machine (there are plenty of designs out there to be built from scratch, some in wood), then uses a home built computer to program it and then makes wooden objects carved on the CNC machine then surely this is something created with one’s own hands and brain? Although making dovetails by hand is so much more satisfying than making them with a router and a jig. Quieter and less dusty too. Although in my case maybe not so accurate, but then practice makes perfect.

  20. I understood every thought you wanted to convey to readers, probably because you and I are of the same age, and we have worked in the building trades. Both of us growing up in an era of self reliance and craftsmanship most of your readers will never understand. A real Building Trades Journeyman and certainly a Master is in touch with the tools of his trade, no matter what the trade. Someone with the years behind him can take any old Record or Stanley Bailey and conduct a symphony orchestra with it. It’s the hard, and I mean the hard won skills in the building trades and actually surviving an apprenticeship along with the pride the day you are turned out as a Journeyman with your tools and book that make all the difference The triumphs and sorrows you and your family encounter as a Journeyman in the trades, the new skills you learn while you work and get paid, that character can’t be bought with money. fancy tools, or substituted with a college degree. You know in your heart what I am talking about because you experienced it, I can tell. If I need a saw, I make it. If I need a drop leaf table, I make it. If I need a marking gauge, I make it. Rarely, will I buy a new tool. There are too many fine used tools out there to be reconditioned and put back to work. I love wood working. I was a straight A student in it for 6 years of High School, but I chose a different path. I served an apprenticeship as a Building Trades Steamfitter in the United Association and worked for 38 years until I retired. I have helped build power generation stations, refineries, and other steam systems all over the United States, Alaska, and even the Antarctic. There is a feeling of pride you can’t describe when you build a system, come back to it 28 years later and hear your helper say, “Bill, isn’t this your stamp on this weld”? I could only imagine the level of pride you must feel to have your craftsmanship residing in the White House. My Great Grandfather was a stop hand for Alexander Mathieson. I have the hand plane examples he made during his apprenticeship. I use them to this day. The moving fillister is pretty much worn out, but I still use the various sash planes building window sash and lighted cabinet doors. I can’t imagine using anything else. The feeling of picking up that hand plane that my Great Grandfather made, that my Grandfather, and my Father used and now I use, it’s almost as if I can feel their hands and experience guiding me while I work that plane. Paul, I do understand everything you wrote and I am comforted in the fact that my skills and the glory earned never given, will be taken with me when it’s my time to go. Thank you for what you do.

  21. As a tradesman of many many years, specializing in staircases and hand railing, I just want to say that after all that he has accomplished, surely Paul is entitled to say whatever he wants. He has the runs on the board, hard won through sweat and tears. His problem is simply that he is a human being with a soul. God bless you Paul, look up and forward as there is only dirt under your feet, and it aint worth looking at.
    David Lindsay

  22. I like some artistic touches in things like saw handles but bottom line is a practical feature that makes the job more effective and comfortable . Some decorative grooves in a saw handle are not much use if the two handed grip is not giving my left thumb a good hold. And why is there no preference for a nice groove for the right hand thumb which makes a saw like a favourite old jacket? That`s a swipe at plastic “take it or leave it ” saw handles . With planes , if a handle kept causing a callous on the thumb I drew a pencil mark round that area and made a groove to fit the hand . Fortunately I don`t get blisters , I get thicker skin .
    Also by copying the Atkins saw handle angle my hand is using the bottom half of the hand rather than the thumb side. ( If you draw a line down the middle of your hand ). That was a change from the Diston handle shape .A magical transformation . There is a similarity with you and Drew Pritchard , the Salvage Hunter in your appreciation of old quality in it`s many forms . We won`t mention the quick fix repairs to some woodwork though . You must watch those repair jobs through your hands .

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