Making Traditional Wooden Planes, by John Whelan
Making and Mastering Wooden Planes (Rev. Ed.), by David Finck
Wooden planes, aka "a study of man's ingenuity" are interesting.
I'm currently on the second of Garrett Hack's two books "Handplanes" and
"Classic Hand Tools".
Can anyone provide a short comparison or review of the 2 wooden hand
plane books I mentioned at the top?
It would not hurt to have both, each book has merit, I think either
would offer enough info to make a nice plane....I have made a couple of
nice smoothers over the years, and I used techniques from both
books....also there was a fellow here ( Steve Knight of Knight
Toolworks) that sold me a couple of awesome cutters..and offered advice
on planemaking and tuning as well...
All in all it takes a time or two making and tuning, but once you get
over the learning curve...you may find the smoothers you made will plane
as well as a Clifton....or maybe a Lie Nielson...I did...it's a slipery
I have both books. As someone already mentioned, the Finck book stresses Krenov
style planes. The
author assumes the reader does have a great deal of expertise with hand planes,
and covers all the
fundamentals that apply to both metal and wooden planes There is a lot of
background info provided
as it takes until page 72 to start discussing building a plane and wraps it up
in 50 pages. The
last 50ish pages are devoted to plane and scraper techniques.
There are a lot of illustrations and photos, some in color. I personally don't
care for the
esthetics of the Krenov style plane, however, they work well and that is the
important point to most
people. The book does devote a good amount of space to tuning and tweaking a
wooden plane, and also
discussing technique. It also has a chapter on sharpening and using scrapers.
I have not done a
good job reading this book since I only have an electronic copy picked up from
one of the alt
groups, and I don't really like electronic books for serious study The book is
out of print and is
listed used on Amazon ranging from $65 to $141 plus shipping.
However, I have been working on catching up with unread messages, and recently
saw a post from a
Galoot on another list to alert us that Dave Finck has apparently self published
a new edition of
the book. You can buy it directly from him for $25. I need to order a hard
copy myself. His
blades are supposed to be very good too, but I have no first hand experience
with them. Good site
to browse while you're buying the book.
I stumbled across the Whelan book in the library of the local WW club (
www.wwch.org if you're in
the Houston area - meeting this Saturday at 9am) last fall. We have a large
enough membership to
support a small splinter group of hand tool aficionados. Anyway, I was quite
pleased with the book,
but one of the other splinter members saw me with it and I was forced to return
it on time so he
could check it out of the library. I recently bought my own copy from Amazon at
a cost of $18.76,
but eligible for free shipping. I needed some other stuff anyway, so got the
free shipping and my
order arrived exactly a week later. I am still perusing this book.
The Whelan book is not nearly as fancy as the Finck book. No glossy photos, no
color, no slick
paper. But it does have about 130 pages of good, solid instruction about plane
making. The author
assumes you are no beginner to woodworking and know something of the care and
feeding of wood
planes. The only introductory material consists of a few pages to make sure the
reader is aware of
the terminology,history and materials used by the old-timers. A whopping four
and a half pages are
devoted to tuning a wooden plane.
Page 17 starts with making a laminated (Krenov) style plane. Page 22 begins a
two piece Jack plane,
and the rest of the book is devoted to traditional plane making methods for
another 17 or so
different planes. Additional types discussed are smoother, jointer, bullnose,
edge treatment planes, dado and various plow planes plus fences. The
instructions and drawings are
not particularly detailed. However, if you have a copy of the plane you want to
recreate in front
of you for reference, the discussion in the book is pretty clear. The author
states in the summary
that he hopes people will be creative, and not just copy, which is why there are
If you're interested in building just one or two block or bench planes in your
life, you will not
need the Whelan book. However, if you are a Galoot at heart, you will want,
nay, need it. Then you
need to buy some more tools like floats and planemaker's saws and chisels, which
like clamps, are
always insufficiently inventoried.
Check out the following site for some beautiful hand made tools, including
planes. Derek is
extremely talented and energetic. Going through his site is a joy, especially
when you keep in mind
this is just his hobby, and only does this in his spare time. I don't think he
sleeps. Go to the
"Shopmade Tools" heading to see his planes. Check out the mesquite jack plane
way down at the
bottom of the list. Love the razee style.
Crap, I didn't mean to blather on. Buy both books. It's only money and another
couple steps down
that slope. There's a bunch of us already part way down the hill waiting on
Roy, Great reviews! I copied your post to my desktop. As far as that
slippery slope, I bought about 10 packages of sandpaper today (for
sharpening planes and chisels), and picked up a set of (3 cabinet) scrapers
while I was at it. Thus, according to your review, I need David Finck's
book! I've already requested it from my local library. As you suggest,
having both books would be nice...I have plenty on my plate... :) What
gets me is you can get both books for about the price of a new Hock plane
iron--which seems crazy!
Nope, for sharpening, you need Leonard Lee's book, "The Complete Guide to
Sharpening". Best book
written on the subject I have seen. Available from Lee Valley (of course) and
I'm a scarey sharper myself. My local True Value stocks wet/dry packs up to
1500 grit for $1.89 for
3 sheets. Thin paper, but it works fine glued to a piece of glass. 2-4 strokes
on 600, 1000, 1500
grit is all that is needed to restore the edge. Just remember to sharpen on the
pull stroke, not
That's a straight line if I ever heard one.
Thank you for your suggestions. Hopefully the chisels won't give me too
much trouble. But, as
you well know, on a plane there are more parts to think about than just the
I should review what Mr. Hack wrote about it--or re-examine Lee's book. I
borrowed it from
the library a few years ago.
Suppose you wish to sharpen a blade in a curved manner (like that of a scrub
plane--to be used for
the same purpose). I watched someone from Lie Valley/Veritas using a blade
shaped like that at the Woodworking Show.
He was using a low-angle plane (I hope that is not an issue; I don't expect
it to be--it just occurred to me.
Is there a reasonable approach that doesn't involve a grinder (like using a
file or 50 grit)?
I'm more afraid of burning up a new iron than I am of buying a grinding
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