Another New Fangled Workbench #1: Installment two: Getting to know the planing beam

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Blog entry by MichaelW posted 04-08-2008 09:48 PM 3230 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Another New Fangled Workbench series Part 2: Installment one, Thanks to the trailblazers and some basic layout and preliminary thoughts »

This is actually Part II of the series, Part I is in part II of the series and Part II is here, hopefully Part III and thereafter will appear in the correct sequence.

One evening after work last week I was finally able to carve out a little time for the NFWB project. I am waiting for a drill press on back order so in the meantime I thought I would start squaring up some of the stock I had previously cut for pieces of the bench. In this photo on the left side of the saw horses is what will become the planing beam.

I spent a couple of hours working it with my Stanley Jack Plane to take the roughness out of the stock. One of the things I find rewarding about handplaning is that I really get a close look at the wood. This piece was in rougher shape than I first thought from the equipment used to saw it out of the log, staples from the wrapping and a place or two where knots were running through the stock.

At the end of the evening I had made good progress getting the piece in much better shape, sharpening the edges and removing much of the roughness. There is still some improvement to be accomplished in the quality of it, but it is coming along nicely. You might notice some of the grain in the edge of the beam popping a bit from being planed smooth in the photo. It also has some twist in it introduced through my uneven planing, though I plan to follow up with some of my nicer planes to get it all squared up.

I would put myself more into the camp of the hand tool romanticists as opposed to the power tool centered practicioners out there. However, I am enjoying woodoworking for the process itself, if not moreso than the finished objects. My livelihood doesn’t depend on woodworking and at the pace I work, that is a good thing. It really rewards my creativity and wonder though and in the process of planing my mind often wonders about the tree it came from, where it was located, how the big knot with the hollow spot was oriented in relation to the rest of the wood, and taking time to observe how it is changing. I can completely appreciate how much easier and quicker this would have been using a jointer and planer, and looking at my pile of stock yet to be planed… well I don’t have enough room for them anyway.

In the course of the evening, I began practicing conscious incompetence as I knew my plane blade’s edge was degrading in sharpness and it was requiring more effort to get shavings. The right thing to do of course is to stop and resharpen, but I chose to add more effort to it instead, not wanting to disrupt the experience. A little lesson from taking that path occured when the brass set screw in the knob worked a little loose and apparently into my palm. At the end of the evening I had a nice momento of my time.

Reflecting on the experience I considered the options of how to improve the situation for my next planing session. I perused the Hock blade site as that seems to me to be the gold standard in plane blades… cryogenically treated steel. Sharpen it up and how long could you go before having to sharpen again? A little research revealed that the blade and chipbreaker would be in the $50 neighborhood plus or minus. Well worth it in my opinion to have a premium quality tool. However, I also thought about my primary use of the Stanley plane I have is likely to be for cleaning up rougher stock and I have a couple higher end ECE planes for jointing and smoothing. My Stanley planes frog also had a little irregularity near the sides of the leading edge which I repaired with some JB Weld. Not perfect, but much improved in terms of eliminating the chatter along with tuning the other elements of the plane. At the end of the day I decided to purchase two standard Stanley replacement blades for my plane at a cost of about $20 and sharpen and hone them both up for the next session so I will have three blades to switch between in the course of working the stock.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

9 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4798 days

#1 posted 04-08-2008 09:56 PM

Man, that’s a lot of work doing all of the planing.

Too much for me. I’d use a machine without even giving it a second thought.

I know you will enjoy your work when you get done though.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Yettiman's profile


163 posts in 4548 days

#2 posted 04-08-2008 10:18 PM

I totally understand your thought process. I had a plane that was less than sharp during an exam, used effort, trying to finish a apiece, as the clock was against me, I avoided injury, but the piece was damaged and many marks lost.

Glad to see the injury was minor.

-- Keep your tools sharp, your mind sharper and the coffee hot

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 4801 days

#3 posted 04-08-2008 10:51 PM

I feel your pain; I went through the same process with some 8/4 White oak this past summer.

As to Francisco’s comment on the scrub plane, I had the opportunity to borrow one recently and it sure does a wonderful job on rough lumber

I used the #40—> #5—> #8 and it worked out pretty well.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4632 days

#4 posted 04-08-2008 11:17 PM

Hi Michael,

This is a painful lesson but it is one which easily translates into the usage of other tools. When you are physically or mentally tired call it a day and start fresh tomorrow. Working with a “fresh” mind and body is very much akin to sharpening a dull blade.

I tend to agree with Gary’s comment about the amount of planing. I can understand the enjoyment you get from doing it by hand but it is just not for me.

Thanks for the post. I will enjoy seeing your progress.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4807 days

#5 posted 04-09-2008 06:57 AM

Looks like you had yourself some fun, despite the injury…

If you sharpen and hone your jack plane blade with camber and open up the mouth wide, you can use it as a more coarse tool, rather than getting a scrub right away. May be you already do this? Might not be quite as agressive as a scrub, but certainly a good alternative. Also, with three blades (!) you could experiment with the amount of camber that would work for you, at the same time as your plan to always have a sharp blade.

On blades: the Hock blades certainly do have a great reputation, as do the Lie Nielsen A2 steel blades that really hold an edge.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View MichaelW's profile


30 posts in 4558 days

#6 posted 04-09-2008 09:10 PM

I haven’t yet had the time to get back to the project since I posted, but thank you for these great suggestions. I actually do have an ECE Scrub plane, though the blade was poorly ground (bought it used on EBAY). My next session in the shop will be sharpening up the new blades and my old one. I have taken the scrub plane blade to the grinder for correction to a more gentle radius, so maybe this next sharpening session will be a chance to finish that job off and give it a try.

The hand is pretty healed up, one little split is going to take some more time to dissapear, but it is getting there. Thanks for the encouragement and well wishes.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

View MichaelW's profile


30 posts in 4558 days

#7 posted 04-14-2008 09:18 PM

Francisco and Chris,
Thanks again for the scrub plane recommendation. I dug out the scrub plane and got the blade ground and sharpened. I used it on a smaller project this weekend that requried a substantial amount of material to be removed in order to square up the stock and it worked like a dream.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4904 days

#8 posted 04-19-2008 07:19 PM

Michael, it sounds like you have things worked out with regard to a scrub plane. I do want to point you to a great article I recently read on Chris Schwarz’s blog however. He likes to use his #6 as a scrub. He grinds an 8” radius on one of his blades and uses that one when he as a lot of stock to remove. The benefit I see is that you will be taking much more stock than you would with a normal scrub plane (due to width of a #6 being 2 3/8).

Just thought I’d share. Here is the link:

I envy your commitment to using your hand tools. Great work.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View MichaelW's profile


30 posts in 4558 days

#9 posted 04-20-2008 05:55 PM

Thanks for the link Jeff,
Just finished enjoying that article, wish I would have come across it sooner as I realized in hindsight that not being sure of how to grind and hone the scrub blade was what was holding me back in using it. Whomever owned it before had put about a 5/8 radius on it and it took a fair amount of grinding to bring it back to flat. Eventually I just took my best shot at it, then came across the ECE Plane catalog and handbook on their sight and it turned out I was pretty much on the mark.

Will be posting another installment shortly

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

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