I'm looking to start my next project and was thinking of hand planing
all the stock to build it.
As an armature who's barely used a little block plane am I crazy? Or
can the skill of hand planing a 4/4 to 3/4" be learned over the course
of a few months?
If so which plane would I want to look at. I was thinking perhaps a
#5 probably either an antique or an expensive new one (for the weight).
I had the very same thing in mind a couple months ago. I have access to
a bunch of rough Walnut but I have no planer. I worked at it for a
while with a #5 hand plane, got half of the board pretty smooth, enough
to see the beautiful color but it was VERY uneven. I tried some more to
get it flat but I finally gave up.
My new thickness planer should arrive sometime early next week!
Cant beat technology, in my opinion.
Dont get me wrong, Its great fun to see the thin shavings come off the
hand plane and that sound of the sharp blade slicing through the hard
wood is fantastic but, its a lot of work and skill.
Good luck, let us know how you do. Hopefully someone else can encourage
you more than I have.
I'm looking for less encouragement and more sanity check. I need
excercise and would love to have the patience that it would take to do
that. But I don't want to get discouraged and quit either.
I'm relatively new to wood working. Having done a small handful of
projects over the years with some good success. I'd hate to set
myself up and quit.
I may find a cheap thickness planer and get a good handplane to finish
In my opionion getting the boards smooth isn't too big of a deal
(although that mush wood will be a workout). Getting it actually flat
and evenly thicknessed (both across the width and along the length) is
a MUCH bigger deal. Getting multiple boards the same thickness is (for
most inexperienced people) pretty much impossible in my opinion. So,
if you can at least get them smooth and at least semi-flat with
parallel sides, some design planning needs done to minimize the need
matching thicknesses on multiple boards. I would thnk that minimum
planes would be a #5 with a scrub blade and a straight blade (or two
#5 one set up as a scrub - #5s are cheap and plentiful). Probably a #4
tweaked out well as a smoother and, for those longer side boards you
might do well with a #7 jointer. Well setup #5s could serve OK as a
small jointer and an oversized smoother, but it is easier for the
inexperienced to use planes desined for the task.
Perhaps you should start on a smaller project and work up. For
example a decorative box or perhaps a cutting board. With a project
this size, the amount of stock that has to be planed and dimensioned
is relatively small, thus it's easy to get positive results and
experience quickly. As your experience grows, so will your confidence
in doing larger projects.
If you want to reply via email, change the obvious words to numbers and
Another learning approach is to do the rough dimensioning with power tools
and then do the final dimensioning/surfacing with hand planes rather than
take the final dimensioning passes on the jointer/thickness planer and
sanding. When I started it was with stock that was purchased as surfaced on
four sides and I'd straighten it out and smooth it with the hand planes--it
was never flat, straight, or smooth coming from the supplier.
Alternatively, just figure that you can do it and plow ahead!
FWIW, I have an experience that might be
worth relating. The other day, SWMBO
found a log in the firewood pile that
she saved for me. "Here, this has lovely
burl, fix it up and give it to your
mother for Christmas.:" The burl was
nice and the shape was cool, so I
thought it was worth a try.
Like most firewood, it had been rough
cut with a chainsaw and I do mean rough.
I don't own a bandsaw, nor do I have the
pleasure of having a planer. So I said
I'd handplane the roughish side and get
someone to bandsaw the other end which
was still covered with bark. She figured
I'd just munge up the burl with the
plane and ruin it.
What I did do was nick the plane iron
quite nicely on some embedded dirt
(always clean off real rough lumber, he
But after I re-sharpened the iron, and
got to real wood, it started to look
really nice. At that point, I figured it
was maple, which is a bitch to plane by
hand especially if it's figured like
this log is, but ya know..once it starts
to smooth out a bit, it's really a joy
to work with.
I don't have L-N or even Veritas planes.
Mine are run of the mill, but I do know
how to sharpen. And once you get to the
point where the iron is making that
"swoosh" sound over the wood, it makes
it all worth it.
To the OP: in the long run, what other
guys have said about roughing down your
wood with a power plane is good advice.
It's a lot of work otherwise. But
someone else said finish it off with a
hand plane, and I think that's a very
good way to introduce yourself to one of
the most enjoyable and rewarding parts
of the hobby.
Certainly can be done. Takes a lot of elbow grease, but is great exercise & more fun than the gym, IMO.
A lot would depend on the type of wood you're planning on planing; walnut would be much easier than white oak.
Also, when hand planing rough stock, it's a good idea to plan the project so you don't need to have the sides all exactly 3/4". Why not aim for ~7/8" and let the thickness float a tad?
As to which planes, personally, I would knock off the high spots with a smooth plane, then true it up with a jack or fore plane, then get a final surface with a scraper plane.
There are a lot of other tools that you might need/already have that would make this project go easier: a heavy bench with dogs, a very good quick and easy sharpening system where you can keep the iron sharp with a minimum of fuss/wasted time. A good straight edge. >8^)
Maybe inspirational, maybe not, but this was hand-planed:
Certainly you can learn the skill. The downside is that you'll probably
want multiple planes...ideally you'd use a scrub, jack, jointer, and
The scrub plane removes material fast, the jack is a bit less
aggressive, the jointer makes things flat and straight, and the smoother
makes them smooth. You can do it all with one plane (and I have) but
having more than one makes the job go way faster.
You'll also need a solid bench of some kind with a way to hold the
material while you work it, and you'll likely want some sort of marking
gauge and a straightedge as well. Lastly, you'll need to be able to
sharpen your plane irons.
I would learn to use "hand planes" as a side project.
You are going to be (1) Exhausted (2) disappointed
(3) screw up a lot wood (4) did I mention tired ?
Do you have "excellent" sharpening skills ?
Do you have the sharpening tools ?
Planes must be "razor sharp"(scary sharp) to even
remotely work well.
Spend your time saving up for a planer.
It's quite an ordeal to even learn the different
There is a really good reason you don't see
hand planes sold in hardware & tool stores much
It's great to be "one with the wood" but you might
lose your desire for woodworking during the process.
Learn about hand planes a little at the time.
: I'm looking to start my next project and was thinking of hand planing
: all the stock to build it.
: As an armature who's barely used a little block plane am I crazy? Or
: can the skill of hand planing a 4/4 to 3/4" be learned over the course
: of a few months?
It's the sot of thing that's good to do once. It'll give you good experience
in technique, sharpening, measuring, etc. But keep in mind this was done in Ye
by underpaid peons, not the shop craftsmen.
: If so which plane would I want to look at. I was thinking perhaps a
: #5 probably either an antique or an expensive new one (for the weight).
Don't worry about the weight -- better to make sure it's properly
tuned and sharpened.
A #5 is a good choice, as is a #6, which may come cheaper.
-- Andy Barss
I just wanted to thank everyone for the feedback.
I managed to find a small (10inch) used bench thickness planer for not
very much. I'm going to buy a few older planes off ebay or something
to play with and hopefully use to do some finishing some day.
The thickness planer seems to work very well. Leaves a pretty good
finish on the wood (nice sharp blades in it). Now I just need to tear
my shop apart and get it setup right so I can do some serious work.
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