Popular Woodworking 2003-04 № 133, страница 94

Popular Woodworking 2003-04 № 133, страница 94

Out of the Woodwork

Plane Night

We'll take a thin, wispy shaving over a royal flush, strike or touchdown any day.

Some people have poker night, some bowl in a league once a week and some watch Monday night football religiously. But for one of my best friends and me, nothing is more relaxing than "plane night."

I've been fascinated by tools for as long as I can remember. Around the age of eight, I recall finding a couple of my dad's planes in a workbench drawer. They were dull and clogged with shavings. After fiddling with these contraptions for a considerable amount of time, I gave up. Even with the cutter protruding an eighth of an inch, I still couldn't produce a shaving - no wonder my dad had them stashed in a drawer.

Those less-than-pleasant memories stayed with me for a long time. The planes on the color-coded tool racks in my high school shop weren't any better than the planes my dad owned. They were simply relics of a hazy past: wooden ships and iron men or some such nonsense. Looking at those planes, I was thankful for electricity.

After graduation, I started building some furniture for my own use. It was 1970, and I was in love with contemporary furniture and power tools. I was stuck in this rut for about three years. Things took a strange turn when I started working with a fellow named Frank. He was into woodworking too, but not my kind of woodworking. Frank liked antiques and restoring them. Oddly enough, we hit it off in fairly short order. I soon became intrigued with antiques, and we scoured yard sales together, searching for treasures on which to "hone" our skills.

We soon discovered that in order to accomplish our tasks, we needed to improve our hand-tool abilities and increase our hand-tool arsenals. We started haunting flea markets and auctions for tools. One of our almost simultaneous acquisitions was antique wooden jack planes. We hoped that these simple tools would perform better than complex metal planes. Acquiring these tools was

easy, the hard part was learning to sharpen and tune them. This was no small task, because in those days, information on setting up hand tools was not as readily available as it is now. Grinders and honing stones were added to our growing collections.

Somehow, we managed to get a decent edge on those old irons, and the night came to test our restored planes. We met at Frank's and headed for the basement. The first hour was filled with tedium. The initial hurdle was setting the iron. Tap the wedge too hard and the iron projected too far. Tap the heel and the iron would disappear into the body of the plane. But we were determined and fueled with desire (and a couple of beers), and soon we were taking shavings off of pine like nobody's business. Those shavings curled freely from the iron and the uncanny "snicking" sound of the sharp iron traveling over the wood made us giddy.

We were knee deep in shavings when Frank's wife, Patrice, came downstairs with some munchies to see what the "boys" were up to. I think she was impressed, and we even let her have a hand at it. We spent several hours making toothpicks that night and as I was leaving, Patrice asked when our next "plane night" was going to be. From that point on, these encounters have always been referred to as "plane night."

We get together a couple of times a month now, and our "plane nights" don't occur as frequently as they did in those early years. Now that we know what we're doing, we actually use the tools on real projects. Often, we are working on a project together and the evening will turn into a spontaneous "plane night." Many times we will be in the middle of tuning a plane or just making shavings and, sensing that we are odd, wonder how many other people in the world might be doing precisely the same thing.

Nearly 30 years have passed since then, and we have progressed. From Stanley #4s to the daunting #55, rabbet planes and compass planes, we have tuned and used them all. Our sharpening techniques have changed and improved. We have far more planes than any man has a right to own, and we continue to buy more. Sometimes, we pull those old wooden jack planes off of the shelf and try them out for old time's sake. Many things have changed for us throughout the years, but there is nothing that we enjoy more than a good, old-fashioned "plane night." PW

Craig Bentzley is a woodworker, writer and demonstrator residing in southeastern Pennsylvania. His friends think he's just "plane" crazy.

96 Popular Woodworking April 2003

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