The Pursuit #1: Paul Seller's plane sound

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Blog entry by sansoo22 posted 01-29-2020 10:32 PM 497 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Kicking off a new blog series I’m calling “The Pursuit” which I hope to chronicle my endless chase for perfection. I know by now this is impossible but the drive to try is always present. As I get older I’ve learned to slow down and appreciate the journey as much as the outcome.

This first entry is about my love of hand planes that I know many fellow jocks share.

When I started working with hand planes, as with all things I take the time to learn, I went over board in my pursuit of “perfection”. And while I don’t know what perfection is, many internet searches kept leading me back to Paul Seller’s and his planes. One thing I always noticed as I watched him fettle, tune, and use his beloved #4 Bailey is the distinctive sound it made. I have watched several, several, like a stupid amount, of videos on planes. While many other wood workers have planes that glide as smoothly as Mr. Seller’s none of them had quite that distinctive sound.

On November 21st of 2018 I bought my first trio of planes from a seller on ebay that “specializes” in restoring planes. I didn’t want to start from scratch with a junker so I paid for decent users from the start.

Aren’t they lovely! They pretty much immediately went to work on a Christmas gift.

From there I fell in love with how they work. I bought a couple more from this same seller. And then I got even more hooked and bought even more! I think my first 8 planes came from the same seller. He does great work but the costs were adding up. On top of the plane purchases I was investing in sharpening setups. Starting with double sided DMT diamond stones and Norton water stones.

No matter what though I couldn’t get a plane to be as smooth or sound as nice as Mr Seller’s. And after all this is where I set the bar for myself so I must achieve it. It was around this time a neighbor gave me a Craftsam block plane of unknown origin and in terrible shape.

Here is what I was given. The body was just as rusty as that iron

And the efforts of that first restoration. Oh ya I bought a surface plate just to flatten this little block.

That is a pretty crappy restoration from what I can do now but it gave me the confidence to try a type 18 #4 and then a #5. For a time in the spring of 2019 I was buying just about any complete plane I could find for under 30 bucks.

In the summer of last year I bought a house. I had gone from 3 planes I think every wood worker should own to moving 4 tubs full of them all wrapped in bubble wrap.

I didn’t stop when I hit the new shop either. I branched out into even better sharpening solutions. Sure I could spring for like 2 Work Sharp 3000s for what ive spent on stones but I want to learn the hard way first and thus here is the current set of stones

Along with the stones I have several diamond files, honing jigs, angle jigs, a strop and some other things I’m probably forgetting.

Since hitting the new shop I’ve added a buffer and a make shift spray booth in my basement. A spray booth was a luxury I didn’t have before. With those 2 things and some help from LJ members in regards to finishes I’ve got a nearly fool proof method for finishing handles.

Now let’s not forget all of the time and vast amount of money I spent was still in pursuit of one thing. That was a plane that would glide across wood seemingly effortlessly while making that lovely sound that a Seller’s plane seems to make. I recently added a Starrett tool makers square to make absolutely sure each plane I do is dead flat and square. Most call it overkill or unnecessary.

Whether my methods are necessary or not I finally did it. This rusty piece of iron and steel you see here is that plane

Here it is returned to its former glory. If it looks familiar its because I posted it on the Show Your Restoration thread. It was posted before I sharpened it as I got all excited about how it looked.

And the piece of Douglas Fir I was planing when I first heard that sweet sound. It may not show up in these small pics but this board practically sparkles.

Loose grained fir has always given me grief. No matter how tight my plane was set or how sharp it was you could always feel those big grain lines. Not any more.

If you read all the way to here congratulations. Go get yourself a cookie for reading the ramblings of a what many might consider a mad man. Was it any one thing that got this tool performing as well as it does…I dont know. I justify all the time, energy, and money by saying it was a combination of everything. Would i recommend anyone take on this pursuit…probably not. I was told all throughout my educational years that my mind is like a sponge. Once I set out to learn something I have to know all there is. While that’s an exaggeration I do believe that tendency to be both a blessing and a curse.

9 comments so far

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3921 posts in 3052 days

#1 posted 01-30-2020 12:19 AM

Nice blog entry, Sansoo. I understand (as many others will) about the sound a sharp plane makes as it takes its gossamer shaving. I wonder if Paul Sellers has a microphone near the iron . . .

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View sansoo22's profile (online now)


996 posts in 455 days

#2 posted 01-30-2020 04:16 AM

Thanks. Its been a crazy long year. I got tendinitis from using my planes on a wobbly bench so as soon as that started to heal up I built a real bench for my old shop with a job site saw, a miter saw, and a fleet of planes. All construction lumber jointed and surfaced with nothing but hand planes. And 3 months after it was done I moved. So looks like 2020 is the year of a new bigger bench.

View HokieKen's profile


14485 posts in 1939 days

#3 posted 01-30-2020 02:42 PM

Looking forward to the series sansoo :-) I think Paul’s production team puts that sound in during post-processing. There’s no way a plane can sound that sweet ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Steve's profile


101 posts in 3774 days

#4 posted 01-30-2020 02:50 PM

I just got my first hand plane about 2 weeks ago. They are addicting!

-- Free Wood Videos Here:"

View Sylvain's profile


1051 posts in 3300 days

#5 posted 01-30-2020 03:45 PM

Look for a Paul Sellers video titled “Bad Vibrations”

for planing jump at 4’11”

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16791 posts in 3419 days

#6 posted 01-30-2020 04:00 PM

I know that sound.

A hardy “Congrats!” for attaining your goal! One of the bigger challenges I have at this point is maintaining that level of sharp (or as close to it as I’ve managed with my setup) across all the edge tools I have (chisels, scrapers, planes, etc.).

Nice work, great blog series.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View BurlyBob's profile


7689 posts in 3066 days

#7 posted 01-30-2020 04:29 PM

I have to agree. Taking an old plane, cleaning, tuning, sharpening and then hearing that wonderful sound as it slices off a thin shaving is extremely satisfying. Guess that’s why I keep coming back for more.

View sansoo22's profile (online now)


996 posts in 455 days

#8 posted 01-30-2020 10:02 PM

Sylvian – Thanks for the video. The blog post for that popped in my google feed after i was fully contempt with my new sharp plane. It was like reading explanations to all the thoughts I had running my head. Somehow I missed the video that went with it.

Thanks to everyone else who read and commented. It makes me feel better knowing my pursuit isn’t as crazy as I thought.

I’m very impressed by those that sharpen by hand and get excellent results. For me that is not a thing I can do. A couple old football injuries have left my hands with some nerve issues. I have wonderful dexterity still but touch sensation is hit or miss. Find the bevel they say…well I can punch you in the face and not really feel it but finding a bevel isnt going to happen.

I have to rely on precision instruments and jigs for many tasks others might consider trivial. Even doing basic joinery I have to pull out some fancy squares to make sure I got it right some days. On a bad day I could be off by a 64th and barely be able to feel it.

View HokieKen's profile


14485 posts in 1939 days

#9 posted 01-30-2020 10:38 PM

Not a thing wrong with jigs and sharpening aids. And anyone who says there is is an ass ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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