Woodworking Tips, Tricks and Techniques


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Hand Planes

Hand Planes

  Hand planes have become a healthy obsession for many of us. While some prefer to seek out antiques and restore them to perfect working order, and others, who specialize in reproduction furniture, will go all out to get a hold of period planes, to permit them to follow along the same path as the old period masters.


My own personal preference is to buy new planes. For all of us in this category, we owe a big debt of gratitude to Lie-Nielsen. Here's a guy who has taken many planes from the past, and reproduced them, only he made them better! This is due in part to the increased technology available today, but more, a result of the company's commitment to perfection.

Recently featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine, his tool line has expanding into other areas as well. One thing that has remained the constant, is the quality built into the entire line.

  lie nielsen planes  Hand Planes - Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Logo  lie nielsen planes

These tools are of the best quality, and are priced fairly. We use them regularly, and have only the highest respect for this tool maker.

Admittedly, we also have lesser quality, (and lesser cost), planes in our arsenal of tools, but they're not allowed in this drawer. They too, get heavy use and are tuned to work well, but are used where finesse isn't an issue.

Planes are available in various designs, sizes, and shapes, based on the use they were designed for.

For most of them, the basic tune up consists of flattening the sole, (the lie-nielsen planes I have came through with soles that are dead flat), but the lesser cost planes needed considerable work to flatten.

A good way to accomplish this is with a sheet of plate glass, about 3/8" thick, by 12" square. Wet the glass enough to allow wet sandpaper to stick. Then working through the grits, you can bring the sole to flat, and move on to polishing the bottom to a mirror finish. Once done, a coat of wax will keep it from rusting and reduce friction.

Some would think that's getting carried away, but I can assure you, the difference in using a plane with a polished sole, compared to one right out of the box is amazing. It's won't take long before you too, are rooting through your planes, and polishing them.

The next step would be the blade itself. Using the same procedure for flattening and polishing the back of the blade, prior to sharpening it will also increase the plane's effectiveness many fold. It may sound as though I have too much time on my hands, or maybe have a secret desire to polish shoes, but that's just not so.

In fact I'll dress up and go out with unpolished shoes, but I won't use a plane that's not received the above treatment. (Even I have my limits).

As mentioned, the reason behind these steps is the fact that it reduces friction. A plane that glides, will cut with considerably less force, resulting in smoother surfaces, and finer work. This process typically only needs done once, with an occasional touch up.

The sound made when using a well tuned plane is a beautiful thing. The shavings that are so thin you can see through them are almost enough reward for the efforts. But what really makes it a requirement in my book is the extreme control you gain over the tool. The increase in the quality of your work is the big payoff.

For more information on planes visit this link: Garrett Wade

For photos of various planes visit this link: Lie Nielsen


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