Popular Woodworking 2006-02 № 153, страница 41

Popular Woodworking 2006-02 № 153, страница 41

Too often we hear that hand tools are slow and power tools are fast. Even people who love hand tools talk about how they enj oy handwork because it forces them to slow their work on a project, to ponder the details, to enjoy the smell of the freshly cut lumber and to labor in quiet harmony with the wood.

That's all very bucolic - but it's also a bit ill-informed.

To my mind, people who think hand tools are slow are either using the wrong tool for a task, or they are people who will work slowly no matter what tool is in their hand. I have found that to become truly efficient at woodworking is to first ignore whether or not the tool in your hand has a power cord or a finely honed blade. Instead, you should make sure that you know whether that tool is a coarse tool for hogging off material, a medium tool for refining and truing the work, or a fine tool that's the last to touch your work.

This classification system -coarse, medium and fine - works for many of the tools of the craft, from sandpaper to hand planes. And putting each tool into its place is the first step toward knowing its true use at the bench.

Once you know what each tool is used for, you'll also be able to figure out which tools (if any) should be used before it and which tools (if any) should be used after

it. Plus you'll know - in general terms - how long you should be using that tool before you switch to a finer one.

The net result of this is you will become much faster because you'll always have the right tool in your hand.

To show how this approach works, let's look at surfacing lumber. This coarse, medium and fine system will first help you understand what bench planes are for and then show you how bench planes can be blended seamlessly with powered j ointers and planers and other surfacing tools.

First Understand the Bench Plane System

Bench planes are the mainstay of a shop that uses hand tools or blends hand and power tools. Bench planes were designed to make lumber smooth and true before any joinery operations (and before applying a finish).

To surface wood with bench planes, you need three planes: a fore plane, a jointer plane and a smoothing plane. It sounds simple, but the problem is that over the years, hand-plane manufacturers have designed bench planes in many lengths and widths (too many, really), and they have given them misleading numbers. Stanley, for example, numbers its bench planes from the diminutive No. 1 up to the massive No. 8. And there are more than just eight planes in that numbering system (there are Nos. 4/2, 5V4, and 5V2, too). Do you need all 11 planes? No. Do you need to start working with the No. 1 then progress to a No. 8? Absolutely not. So which planes do you need? Good question. Let's hit the books.

Ignore Some Numbers

What's more important than the model number that's cast into a

plane's bed is the overall length of the tool - that's the key to unlocking its function.

And once you understand the plane's intended function, then you'll know how to incorporate it into your shop, no matter what set of tools or machines you own.

In a nutshell, the fore plane is the tool for coarse work, and it does a job similar to a powered jointer and power planer. The jointer plane is the medium tool, and it works like a random-orbit sander, drum sander or belt sander (in the right hands). And the smoothing plane is the fine tool; it does the detail work performed by powered pad sanders, hand scrapers and sanding blocks. So let's first take a close look at these three planes.

Fore Planes: Rough & Ready

Fore planes are between 14" and 20" long and are so named because they are the planes that are used "before" the other hand planes. They are the "coarse" tool - the roughest of the bunch. They

require more strength and stamina to use than any other hand tool, and I use mine as little as possible now that I own a powered jointer and planer.

In the Stanley numbering system, the No. 5 (14" long and commonly called a jack plane) and the No. 6 (18" long) planes qualify as fore planes.

The fore plane is used to rapidly take a bowed or cupped board to a state where it's reasonably flat. Fore planes don't take a fine shaving. They take coarse curls of lumber so the work gets done quickly. Their middling length is an advantage. They are long enough so that the sole touches a lot of the surface of the board. This helps you true the face of the board more easily and prevents you from overshooting your mark - turning high spots into deep valleys by accident. (Why are scrub planes so short, then? I think these 10"-long tools were used more for hogging wood off edges or for localized work - but that's another story.)

Like a powered planer, the fore plane produces thick curls so it can rapidly reduce a board in thickness. Shown is my crusty-but-trusty Stanley No. 5 (some people call this a jack plane) and my sweet Scioto Works 16" wooden-stock fore plane.

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