You did what with a plane???

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Blog entry by Tom Adamski posted 02-26-2008 04:36 AM 1726 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ll say sorry for this rant up front so you can stop reading this and go onto more interesting things if you wish…
I was reading a blog that was on another website… (don’t wory, i started here and somehow surffed to this guy’s website. I won’t mention his name as I don’t want to give him the press. (Bad publicity is still publicity) But I will post the segment that riled me… Oh and of course my reply. Please click you back button now if you are easily offended.

Then, the day happened. I was building a low credenza entertainment center – my first real paying project. The top was going to be 24 inches wide, seven feet long and made of solid red oak. The rest of the project had been a piece of cake, but the top was giving me heartburn. How was I going to make this top work without a jointer? I had neither the cash nor the space to provide for this essential piece of woodworking equipment. I thought and thought and thought some more. I even considered loading the wood back into my minivan, driving it back to the hardwood supplier and having them do the work.

As I was getting ready to cart the wood to my van, I looked at my workbench. There sat an antique No. 5 Stanley plane from about 1935. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I wonder if that would work?” I clamped the piece to my workbench and took a swipe with the plane. It didn’t glide like I could make it now, but it sliced off a pretty decent curl of wood. Another pass – another curl. Before long, I had planed the boards nice and smooth, and they fit together tightly. And, boy, was I impressed!

With no experience? You planed 7 foot long boards and mated them to a respectable level? Either you are the worst lier in the world or you thnk the people that read this are stupid.
What a bunch of crap. You should write fiction elsewhere…

Comment by Tom Adamski — February 25, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

11 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4828 days

#1 posted 02-26-2008 05:10 AM

Hi Tom,

I would find it difficult to believe as well. I am a power tool guy period. But with all the posts here about the use of hand tools I began to feel guilty and refurbished a #5 and #8 pair of planes that originally belonged to my father and I had consigned to the back of a cabinet for years. The first time I used them I was consistently producing nice curles that you could see through. Feeling pretty good about this I decided to plane some edges and got pretty good curles (at least I thought so). Putting my square on to check showed me the error of my ways as I had managed to plane a bevel on the edge rather than making it 90 degrees to the face.

Needless to say hand work, in my opinion, is a skill that must be learned largely through trial and error. While I really can’t understand why anyone would deliberately post a misleading blog I do realize that it does happen. I tend to be too accepting at times but in this case I would have my doubts as well.

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

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4789 days

#2 posted 02-26-2008 05:19 AM

I’m with you – this guy is blowing smoke. If he barely remembered that he had a hand plane, what are the chances that it was really sharpened to begin with?

P.S. Follow up with his response, if you get one…

-- Eric at

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4880 days

#3 posted 02-26-2008 11:59 AM

Hand planing is definitely an art. Not a last resort.

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4945 days

#4 posted 02-26-2008 01:43 PM

Personally, I’m not surprised that he could do what he said. Hand work is a matter of muscle control, hand/eye coordination and an understanding of the theory behind the technique. It is not a fact that you must make mistakes even though it may be a common experience. I have known many who were proficient at a skill from the beginning, so I’m not sure I understand the passion of your response.

-- Working at Woodworking

View schwingding's profile


133 posts in 4831 days

#5 posted 02-26-2008 02:00 PM

I’m with you. Jointing is not something you just pick up in an evening. I consider myself to be a hand plane user of advanced experience over most woodworkers, and 90% of the time I will go to the powered jointer rather than using my jointer planes.

A #5 is no jointer. It is hard enough with a #7 or #8 to get gap free joints, but a #5?

The post is suspicious, I’d agree.

-- Just another woodworker

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4968 days

#6 posted 02-26-2008 03:13 PM

Maybe the boards were S2SE. LOL I use my jointer fence on my #7 and still have to check with a square. Well, anything is possible. I’m surprised he managed to start with the grain. On some boards that can be a little confusing especially if you’ve never used a plane.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 4777 days

#7 posted 02-26-2008 07:08 PM

It is not very often that someone gets under my skin, but when someone who claims to be a woodworker and has the stones to write a story like this; well, it bothered me. I did receive a reply from him after posting this comment and in all fairness I’ll post it below. Still sounds a little left of center to me. My only advice to anyone who has the desire to write in a forum that is read by the masses… Be Genuine!


Hey, Tom, thanks for writing.

Just wanted to drop you a line about the comment you made regarding my hand planing article. I can understand why you might have questions regarding my claim that I was able to get satisfactory results using a hand plane the first time. I went back and re-read the article and saw how, yeah, at first blush, it seems like a pretty wild claim.

However, at the time, I was limited by the number of words I could have in the article, so I had to omit some information about the process for space considerations. Here’s some additional background that might help explain the happenings of that afternoon further:

1) That afternoon was not the first time I had ever used a hand plane. By the time I got to that project, I was already pretty handy with the block plane, chisels, etc. After using them, I was in love with the whole concept of un-powered woodworking.

2) I am a huge fan of Roy Underhill of the Woodwright’s Shop. I’ve seen the planing process numbers of times as practiced by Roy on the show, and have read his books several times over. Also, by that time, I had also read Garret Hack’s The Handplane Book several times. So, by that afternoon, I had some working knowledge of the process.

3) The plane itself had been very well taken care of. Apparently, an older gentleman who had worked as a carpenter still puttered around with the plane until he passed away. The family was getting rid of a number of very well preserved hand tools he had used, and the plane was in very good tune. If I had picked up a true beater, I might have been sunk.

4) The actual process took a combined total of four hours to complete. With the top made up of three boards, only two joints had to be perfected. I had made several goofs which I corrected along the way – for instance, when I started planing the first board, I worked against the grain,which led to tear out. Fortunately, I was able to correct that, and spent more time looking at the board before I touched steel to wood for future passes. I did write “before long” to describe the passage of time – but, compared with the rest of the project (which took some four weeks of nights and weekends to build), four hours was merely a drop in the bucket – and a very decent afternoon’s worth of work. (Believe me, I was pretty sore the next morning)

As you can see, if I had incorporated every single detail into the account, this could have easily been a 2,500 word article instead of 750 to explain the entire process – well above my target.

Also, that’s not the first time I was able to get a decent result from a new hand tool in just an afternoon’s worth of work. For example, last year, I purchased a Japanese smoothing plane from Lee Valley. As you are aware, Japanese planes are pulled rather than pushed, have a different blade geometry, have no handles and are considerably lower than western planes. Within a few hours, I was planing transparent shavings from a mahogany board. Were the first few hours tough? Sure they were – and frustrating, too. But, I’m the kind of guy who will stick with something until I can do it well, and I like to learn at least the basics in one workshop session. Today, I reach for that plane when I need a smooth surface, and my technique hasn’t really changed much since…. I am also self taught on the use of spokeshaves, draw knives, cabinet scrapers, rasps, etc – most of them I picked up after a day or two at the max in the shop – and I incorporate them as much as possible into my work.

Since that article was posted on my blog, I have also posted step-by-step how-to articles on face- and edge- jointing. I tried to be as thorough as possible in those articles, since describing the technique in easy-to-follow details is key to teaching the exact process.

I would like the opportunity to post your comment about the article and expand on the process of how I was able to accomplish this feat, but I’m not sure that the tone is right for the board. If you would be willing to rephrase it, I could copy the gist of this e-mail to the comment field and make it a more complete description of the entire process to eliminate any further confusion.

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 4777 days

#8 posted 02-26-2008 07:11 PM


Russel… I’d be suprised as hell.

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5224 days

#9 posted 03-05-2008 07:35 PM

Tom, as a guy who has puttered around just a bit with planes but never had the patience to really work on learning to use them properly, my first reaction was the same as yours.

I’ve got to admit, though, the response he wrote to you, and the time he actually took to write it, makes me willing to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Like you, I still have those doubts, though.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 5027 days

#10 posted 03-05-2008 09:51 PM

I could do it , but, I studied under Super Dave” in the 70’S


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

837 posts in 4839 days

#11 posted 08-08-2008 11:45 PM

You understand wood, tools and you needed that piece of wood to be flat.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

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