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When Someone Asks How Do You Hold a Plane…

For more information on planes, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

…You Will Say

Some say this way is correct. It’s the only way…

…Then you will say but I have been taught that this is a better way…

…and then this way, now this, and this, and this, and this, and this…….

But when the wood takes me in a different mood I can adopt this hand position for my back hand in a punch position and as my mood changes I think then this one.

Oh, on yew I do this mostly and on walnut this one works really well.

Experience tells me to adopt this and shun that then someone says shun this and not that but I choose for myself because that’s the wonderful thing about being a craftsman and a craftswoman is I can pick from multiple options because I have perfected my planing skills.

So now the argument ends. Do what seems right in the zone, in the moment in your workshop at your workbench on your wood. Please yourself!

10 Comments

  1. Mario Fusaro on 1 November 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Paul, there must be a thousand “proper” ways to hold a hand plane as per all of the “experts”. I agree with you, 100% in that the wood and the task dictates how you hold the plane. I also love watching these “experts” pushing down with all of their might and taking a hunk rather than a shaving. I always start with a backed out iron and eye it just proud then take a pass. I’ll adjust the plane as needed, never taking off too much at once. Rather spend 10 minutes on an edge taking it gradually instead of trying to take 3 or 4 passes, pulling hunks out and ruining the piece. Heck, even when I used a jointing machine, I used to take many more light passes as opposed to these experts feeding a piece into the machine for one pass, taking chunks out of the wood.



  2. António Santos on 2 November 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Besides showing us the different hand positions, it would be very interesting to demonstrate in which situations we can use a specific hand position. I understand that each one of us has a different style and a prefered position, but I think it would help a lot to identify how to tackle the wood.



  3. Ed on 2 November 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Paul, when you were training, was the attitude more “Take the time to do it right, even if that means working slowly, and speed will come in time,” or was it more, “Work with decent speed, even if things aren’t as good as you could do, and accuracy will come with time?” I’d be interested in a blog post about this. I work slowly and can do accurate work, but never seem to get faster. I wonder if I should force myself to work faster, accept the inaccuracies, and wait for the accuracy to come back? Maybe you were only given simple tasks to start, ones a beginner could do quickly, and then were given harder tasks as your skill progressed?



    • Paul Sellers on 2 November 2018 at 9:28 pm

      Expectations were high from the bosses but the men also expected me to pull my weight otherwise they had to take up the slack. Mostly the men knew what to expect from each apprentice in each year. No one liked a lazy boy so that was never tolerated. I think expectations matched tolerance though. I always liked to please and was never lazy so the men were generally kind towards me.



  4. lou tucker on 5 November 2018 at 1:23 pm

    What ever feels right for you and get you the best results is the correct way for you.



    • Paul Sellers on 5 November 2018 at 1:56 pm

      What on earth does that mean?



  5. Stephen McFadyen on 5 November 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Paul, my group of drug and alcohol rehab people, many of whom have never touched on creating and making ask me the same question. Planes spoke shaves scrapers and a variety of cutting tools are a mystery to them. I have taken to showing them how a plane works and how to get the best results they can, there are some very strange holds and actions from individuals, but the results are there after their exertions.
    I use your experience as an example, I hope you don’t mind



    • Paul Sellers on 5 November 2018 at 9:04 pm

      That’s why we are here doing what we do, Stephen.



  6. Dante on 7 November 2018 at 1:10 pm

    Paul, thank you for all your knowledge
    A small question
    Can I use a Stanley N 5 Hand plane to Square, Flatten, & Dimension Rough Boards by Hand? Because getting a Planer (a 6, 7 or 8) here in my country is almost impossible.
    Thank you in advance



    • Paul Sellers on 7 November 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Yes, yes you can and I would never buy the longer planes anyway as you do not need them for any planing event.



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