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Karl Holtey’s Final Plane: The 984

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If you ever hear a criticism of the pioneering work of Karl Holtey it’s that his planes are “too perfect” or “lack a soul.” I’ve always been a little befuddled by these comments because I have used a good number of planes that have no soul by the likes of Harbor Freight, late-model Stanleys and other Far East makers. These “planes,” which can only be called by that word because […]

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Sharp (and Clean!) Fixes Everything in a Handplane

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Sharpening a misbehaving tool will almost always fix its wagon. But I always take an extra step when taking apart a handplane: I clean the interior of shavings and dust with a brush and an oily rag. It might seem like overkill, or like I am on the verge of compulsive, but I don’t think that’s the case. Little fragments of shavings or even dust can wreak havoc on a […]

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Working Without a Cambered Iron

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The cutters in my bench planes all have cambered irons. The jack has the most – a 10” radius curve – followed by the much slighter curves of my jointer and smoothing planes. The curves do two things: They prevent the corners of the iron from digging into the work and creating “plane tracks,” tiny unsightly rabbets. And the cambered irons also allow me to remove material in certain areas […]

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The Lever Cap Isn’t a Screwdriver (Or is it?)

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When I bought my first Stanley No. 5 in the mid-1990s, I regularly used the lever cap as a screwdriver to adjust the tension screw in the center of the frog and to tighten and loosen the cap iron screw. Then one of my fellow employees dressed me down. You should never do that, they told me, because that illicit activity could chip the lever cap. This is advice repeated […]

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An Imperfect Surface

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For those of you who think that sanding and abrasive technology is a fairly new thing, I have news. Sanding is older than handplaning. As Geoffrey Killen points out in “Egyptian Woodworking and Furniture” (Shire, 1994), Egyptians did not use handplanes. Those tools were invented by the Romans or Greeks. Instead, Egyptian woodworkers used an adze to dimension pieces and then finished off the wood with sandstone. His book shows […]

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An Imperfect Surface

opener_imperfect_surface_IMG_2928

For those of you who think that sanding and abrasive technology is a fairly new thing, I have news. Sanding is older than handplaning. As Geoffrey Killen points out in “Egyptian Woodworking and Furniture” (Shire, 1994), Egyptians did not use handplanes. Those tools were invented by the Romans or Greeks. Instead, Egyptian woodworkers used an adze to dimension pieces and then finished off the wood with sandstone. His book shows […]

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Adjusting Wooden-bodied Planes

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Handplanes that secure the cutter with a wedge need to be adjusted with a series of taps from a mallet or a hammer. The principles below apply broadly to all wedged planes, whether it’s a wooden jack plane, a delicate 1/16”-wide hollow plane or a wedged infill plane with a metal shell. However, you need to use some common sense. Do you really want to beat that 1/16”-wide moulding plane […]

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An Improvised (and Excellent) Sticking Board

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Sticking boards are an excellent benchtop appliance when cutting mouldings by hand. A proper sticking board is an L-shaped device that holds the wood you want to “stick” (the old fashioned term for “cut mouldings.”) The fence on the sticking board prevents the wood from bowing along its length. The adjustable stops at the end (screws in the example below) restrain your wood while you cut your mouldings. I’ve made […]

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Start Handplanes on the Skew

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One of the little challenges for beginning handplane users to get a clean surface at the start of the cut, particularly with a smoothing plane. They push the tool forward and it leaves little bumpy chatter marks for about 3/8” of an inch until the plane starts to settle down and cut cleanly. The problem is particularly exacerbated in hard woods, such as white maple. One of the reasons these […]

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About My Love of 35°

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I sharpen all of my plane irons and chisels at 35°. Here’s why: I do this to keep my sharpening regimen as simple as possible. I don’t want to pick up a tool and wonder: What angle is this sharpened to? I also don’t want to sharpen a tool, discover that I used the wrong angle and have to resharpen it immediately. And I don’t want to have multiple jigs […]

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