Hand Planes In The Modern Shop

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Review by Gary Roberts posted 09-07-2011 09:24 PM 3593 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Hand Planes In The Modern Shop No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Kerry Pierce is a widely published author (19 books and 200 articles) on the subject of woodworking as well as a practicing cabinet/furniture maker, hand tool expert and all around good guy. A while ago he contacted me regarding the use of some images from my website to be used in a book he was working on, the subject of which was to be the use of hand tools in the modern woodworking shop. I’m always please to offer assistance in instances such as this so we engaged in some pleasant conversation over what would be of use and what bearing the images have on craft.

Published in late 2010, Hand Planes In The Modern Shop exceeded my expectations. The nitty gritty:

Hand Planes In The Modern Shop
Kerry Pierce
copyright 2010: Schiffer Publishing
8.5×11; 192 pages, full color photos, hand drawn illustrations, gloss paper
ISBN: 978-0-7643-3558-7, List price: $39.99 ($30.39 from Amazon).

Putting aside my minor contribution of some images, I have to say this is my favorite book to date on hand planes. That’s saying something as I’ve been reading about them for nearly 35 years. First off, here is the chapter listing:

A brief history of planemaking
Bench planes
Joinery planes
Molding planes
Block planes
Shop-Made planes
Modern Planemakers
Restoring antique planes responsibly
Plane collecting
Illustrated gallery
Trouble-shooting your planes

Kerry is not one to dwell on myths, of which there certainly many when we talk about hand planes. He does not push any particular brand, new or old. His discussions are clear-headed reviews of what he finds to be advantageous or less than acceptable about all types of hand planes. The subject is how to make use of both the common bench planes up through the complex or esoteric planes one might find use for in a given project.

Even more so, Kerry is not a hand plane fanatic. For him, they are tools to accomplish a task, which task is to make furniture to support his family.

The book is fully illustrated with both color photos as well as Kerry’s personal artwork, which is excellent. For each type of plane he reviews a bit of history and recommends uses, how to clean, adjust, correct problems and finally put to use the tool. I particularly enjoyed his forthright writing style, in which he clearly states these are his opinions and not the last word. If he likes something, he says so and explains why. If he doesn’t like something, you will learn the details needed to make your own decision.

There is included an illustrated gallery of planes, modern & old, wood & metal, which alone is worth the price of admission.

Not just for experienced woodworker, Hand Tools In The Modern Shop is a must read for any woodworker. You don’t have to be a hand tool type, just someone who likes to work wood and would like to learn more about some of the tools involved in the craft.

Often, when I read a modern book on this subject, I find myself grumbling over historic inaccuracies, usage myths perpetuated, brands pushed for the sake of advertising or simple outright mistakes. Not in this book. If Kerry says something is his take on it, you know it’s just that and the subject is open to further research or interpretation. That’s a rare find in a book.

Buy it and enjoy it
Gary Roberts

-- Gary Roberts,

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Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3868 days

9 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3501 days

#1 posted 09-08-2011 03:07 AM

Thanks. On the list for me.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View bvdon's profile


502 posts in 3861 days

#2 posted 09-08-2011 06:39 AM

Newbie… I need this. Thanks for the info.

View bvdon's profile


502 posts in 3861 days

#3 posted 09-08-2011 06:43 AM

So… I told the guy at Woodcraft what I was doing (cut a scarf joint on a bass guitar neck and needed to plane the cut sides smooth) and he suggested a block plane. I bought the WoodRiver Standard Block Plane. Not bad, but I really needed a Jack Plane… guess I’ll keep the block plane and get a jack plane as well. The block plane works out nice for end grain and breaking edges, and some small pieces, but clearly was not cut out to the job at hand. Lesson learned.

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3868 days

#4 posted 09-08-2011 08:52 AM

Yup. A block plane is good for small trimming jobs, breaking edges and so on. To get a surface flat and smooth, you need regular bench plane. Or, a decent mitre plane if you can find one

-- Gary Roberts,

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 4205 days

#5 posted 09-08-2011 10:15 PM

Nice review. I’ll have to put this on my Bday/Xmas list. Thanks!!

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

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12609 posts in 3935 days

#6 posted 09-09-2011 01:38 AM

Thank you for the review Gary.
It sounds like a book for the wish list.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View woodzy's profile


418 posts in 3525 days

#7 posted 09-10-2011 02:40 PM

There are so many great books out there and then a ton of precieved great books.
Thanks for the review, it helps me cut through the fog and choose a really great read appreciated by woodworkers.

It’s on my list now. Thanks.

-- Anthony

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Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3868 days

#8 posted 09-10-2011 07:51 PM

I like that “perceived great books”. I see a blog post in the offing.

-- Gary Roberts,

View pariswoodworking's profile


389 posts in 3331 days

#9 posted 09-17-2011 05:18 AM

Thanks for the review, I have been wanting to learn more about planes.

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

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