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Paul Sellers magic No. 4

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Forum topic by AGolden posted 01-25-2021 06:15 PM 946 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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AGolden

98 posts in 343 days


01-25-2021 06:15 PM

Hey all, I want to get your opinion on something.

If you haven’t seen any Paul Sellers videos I really recommend you do, he is a really engaging teacher and has a lot of good information to offer.

That being said I take issue with some of the things he says and I am trying to get a read on what the forum here thinks.

first thing is that in his videos he uses a No. 4 for everything. EVERYTHING, chamfers, smoothing, end grain, ...Jointing….what? I really appreciate that he is trying to make woodworking accessible and show how you can do things if you only have one plane but at the same time I don’t appreciate how simplistic this can get. Sometimes the feeling i get from his videos is that not only can the No.4 joint a board in a pinch but that it’s the ideal tool for the job, which is definitely not true.

The second thing is this video in particular.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbAo4RpM7oM

I am sorry but telling people that all you need to do is sharpen to 250 grit and you can get shiny perfect end grain with an old Stanley No. 4 does not pass the smell test for me. Not because I think this man is a liar, but because when I was starting out I know that sharpening to 250 grit wouldn’t get me the results I wanted and I know that it still wont get me the result I want so there must be something else going on (i.e. the way his plane is set, the wood used, the target final surface). Maybe a hand plane sharpened to 250 grit works if you design your finishing, workflow, and lumber selection around it, but to just say a No. 4 at 250 grit is good enough is a little misleading.

TLDNR:
It’s nice that Paul Sellers is trying to show people that you can get work done without a lot of tools, but I think he goes to far and may give beginners the impression that they should be able to get perfect results with only a No. 4 and a chisel sharpened on 250 grit sandpaper. I know this can be a detriment because I WAS that beginner spinning my wheels, getting frustrated with older tools that weren’t sharp when really I just wasn’t using the right tool at an appropriate level of sharpness.

Anybody have any thoughts? if you do use some sort of Paul Sellers system how do you make it work?


29 replies so far

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

1763 posts in 610 days


#1 posted 01-25-2021 06:32 PM

Why would he use a 250 grit sandpaper if he has a set of diamond plate stones for sharpening? Only thing I can think of is he is demonstrating that one could get by with it if no other options are available. I always like the way he shows several ways to work a piece that are often low tech or low cost.

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Loren

11018 posts in 4656 days


#2 posted 01-25-2021 06:34 PM

Japanese craftsmen joint long boards with fairly short planes (maybe 14”). There’s a lot of technique to it.

I’ve jointed guitar plates with a no.4 but not tried it with a lot of longer stock. If you snap a straight line and saw to it in theory you could smooth it out with a no. 4 and glue it up.

View TarHeelz's profile

TarHeelz

71 posts in 3089 days


#3 posted 01-25-2021 06:40 PM



Why would he use a 250 grit sandpaper if he has a set of diamond plate stones for sharpening? Only thing I can think of is he is demonstrating that one could get by with it if no other options are available. I always like the way he shows several ways to work a piece that are often low tech or low cost.

- controlfreak

Exactly. Sellers’ sharpening video on YouTube certainly doesn’t suggest 250 grit.

-- Tar Heelz, Durham, NC USA

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Jim Jakosh

25920 posts in 4114 days


#4 posted 01-25-2021 06:42 PM

The last point he makes when using the 15,000 grit is a good one..he has to roughen the surface up for glue adhesion after using it so it is impractical. It seems that Paul is a very practical fellow and if it works for him. That is fine. I don’t think he has anything special in the plane or the iron that makes it work so good. I sharpen to 300 and then 600 on my diamond stone and that works for me. If you want to take a look at the blog Mads ( MAFE) did on the microscopic view of the edges after 1000 or greater water stones and you can decide if you need it. The real fine sharpening does make the tool, whatever it is, work much easier, though because the “ripples” on the edge are much much smaller.

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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mitch_56

56 posts in 1481 days


#5 posted 01-25-2021 06:45 PM

Saw that video when it first came out. Paul is just trying to demonstrate that it’s possible to get good results without a dozen different sharpening stones going up to 200000000 grit. In fact, for those of us who actually watched the video, he says exactly that—the first words out of his mouth in the video.

And as usual, Paul is right.

At no point in the video did Paul say anything like, “All beginners must sharpen using only 250 grit”, but there’s always someone who will interpret it that way. Welcome to the internet ¯\(ツ)

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SMP

3429 posts in 914 days


#6 posted 01-25-2021 07:00 PM

You have to listen to his words carefully. He is trying to make woodworking more accessible to the average guy. I just watched the whole video. He doesn’t say anything that isn’t true. Now one thing to note he is using a straight grained European redwood(pine). He wouldn’t get the same results on a figured wood. He also strops his irons like 32 strokes with green paste. If you sharpen to 250 and strop, you will get fine results on straight grained wood. Also keep in mind he uses a cabinet scraper on most surfaces so getting something “good enough” to cabinet scrape takes less.

As for using a #4 or 4 1/2 for jointing that is pure skill and muscle memory. I have jointed a 6’ board with a 5 but it took a lot of checking and knocking off high spots, rinse repeat. A number 8 makes it foolproof.

But what he says is true, you can get by with this in most sutuations.

View AGolden's profile

AGolden

98 posts in 343 days


#7 posted 01-25-2021 07:02 PM



Saw that video when it first came out. Paul is just trying to demonstrate that it s possible to get good results without a dozen different sharpening stones going up to 200000000 grit. In fact, for those of us who actually watched the video, he says exactly that—the first words out of his mouth in the video.

And as usual, Paul is right.

At no point in the video did Paul say anything like, “All beginners must sharpen using only 250 grit”, but there s always someone who will interpret it that way. Welcome to the internet ¯_/¯

- mitch56

I think you misinterpreted my comment, the point i am trying to make if you read the comment is that a video saying “this is 250 grit and is more than adequate smooth” lacks a bit of the nuance you would need to understand why it works within his system.

To another users point the 250 grit might work if you are using certain finishes, sanding afterwards, or using a card scraper, but I am just saying that some of these videos might give beginners the wrong idea, especially if they haven’t developed their own system of work yet.

didn’t mean to offend you.

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metolius

296 posts in 1739 days


#8 posted 01-25-2021 07:03 PM

Kudos for Paul to let people know that they don’t have to give up until they have a fuller toolbox.

I think I’ve used a 4 for most any task at some moment. Its not much to get hung up on.

+ Jointing with a 4 may let you tune in a bit of spring.

-- derek / oregon

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AGolden

98 posts in 343 days


#9 posted 01-25-2021 07:10 PM



You have to listen to his words carefully. He is trying to make woodworking more accessible to the average guy. I just watched the whole video. He doesn’t say anything that isn’t true. Now one thing to note he is using a straight grained European redwood(pine). He wouldn’t get the same results on a figured wood. He also strops his irons like 32 strokes with green paste. If you sharpen to 250 and strop, you will get fine results on straight grained wood. Also keep in mind he uses a cabinet scraper on most surfaces so getting something “good enough” to cabinet scrape takes less.

As for using a #4 or 4 1/2 for jointing that is pure skill and muscle memory. I have jointed a 6’ board with a 5 but it took a lot of checking and knocking off high spots, rinse repeat. A number 8 makes it foolproof.

But what he says is true, you can get by with this in most sutuations.

- SMP

I think you are right in that you wouldn’t expect to get the same results on figured woods and that the stropping as part of his sharpening system makes a difference. which are both things he doesn’t mention in the video

I also agree a No.4 will work for jointing but as you said it takes skill and muscle memory. Which again goes to my larger point, telling people you can do anything with a No.4 is true but its not as easy as it looks and there are certainly better tools for the job sometimes. I just think this gets lost in a lot of his videos.

I just want to save some people the frustration we all went through at some point. A good craftsman shouldn’t blame his tools for poor work but sometimes it really is the wrong tool for the job! I think everyone could agree with that.

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SMP

3429 posts in 914 days


#10 posted 01-25-2021 07:28 PM

Another thing to keep in mind is that in his various videos and Woodworking Masterclasses and Common Woodworking etc, most of his projects are designed to be made in easy to use woods like pine, walnut, maple. And they tend to be smaller in size. Now most people can easily joint a board twice the planes length. So for a 4 1/2, which is his go-to plane, that is a 20” board. And even then, many of his beginning projects don’t require jointing. So everything he says really does allow beginners and amateurs alike the ability to not get discouraged, and know they can at least start getting to work with minimal tools.

View AdmiralRich's profile

AdmiralRich

15 posts in 3534 days


#11 posted 01-25-2021 11:15 PM

Sellers is in the business of having to come up with new ideas all the time because he is using his website to make a living; sometimes he simply has brain farts. There are many things he has touted from time to time that fit this category, Aldi chisels, the #4 opinion, lots of stuff. He is a very talented and knowledgeable guy, but sometimes he goes too far. So I take what he says with a grain of salt, especially when what he is saying does not jive with my own experience.

-- Elvem ipsum etiam vivere

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AGolden

98 posts in 343 days


#12 posted 01-25-2021 11:31 PM



Sellers is in the business of having to come up with new ideas all the time because he is using his website to make a living; sometimes he simply has brain farts. There are many things he has touted from time to time that fit this category, Aldi chisels, the #4 opinion, lots of stuff. He is a very talented and knowledgeable guy, but sometimes he goes too far. So I take what he says with a grain of salt, especially when what he is saying does not jive with my own experience.

- AdmiralRich

^this is what i’m talking about. I sharpen my planes up to 6000 grit on a King water stone and strop afterwards. after a good day of work I can tell the planes are failing to catch, tearing out the wood, and sometimes even leaving other defects in the surface. maybe it would still work if I was only working vertical grain pine, but I know for sure that I wouldn’t be getting good results if I was working oak or cherry.

I mean, just look at FineWoodworking, they are pretty knowledgeable over there and I don’t think anyone over there would give a thumbs up to stopping at 250 or even 1200 grit.

I used to think that was all sharpening snobbery until I saw how much of a difference it makes myself and that’s why the Paul Sellers video just doesn’t feel right to me.

Again, maybe he is doing something different after he planes but I like to be able to go right from the plane to my finish and so far sharpening to 6000 has worked where I know 250 or 1200 wouldn’t

View SMP's profile

SMP

3429 posts in 914 days


#13 posted 01-26-2021 01:24 AM

Haha, now I am curious. I am going to try and sharpen one of my planes to 250 and try on some various scraps.

View AlanWS's profile

AlanWS

124 posts in 4566 days


#14 posted 01-26-2021 03:26 AM

I think he does a good job of showing that you can get by with few simple inexpensive tools. I congratulate him for that. But I agree that he goes too far, and frequently seems to say that some of the problems that don’t make too much difference in some circumstances are actually benefits.

For instance he demonstrates freehand sharpening and purposely adds an enormous curve to the bevel. In my mind this would be fine if he just said “Don’t worry about it. Notice I did a worse job than you are likely to, and the plane still works.” But he suggests you should waste your time trying to reduce your clearance angle to an unknown degree.

The 250 grit sandpaper was another example: he clearly doesn’t sharpen only to 250 himself, but he was demonstrating that if that’s all you’ve got, go for it. I would add that you can learn a lot about grain direction by planing with a plane that is not tuned well, while turning out useful work.

Overall, he is a benefit to beginning woodworkers, but in my opinion more care in what he says could greatly increase that benefit.

To be fair, I’m commenting on what I saw of his work several years ago.

-- Alan in Wisconsin

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OSU55

2738 posts in 2998 days


#15 posted 01-26-2021 09:01 PM

First, stand up and unwad your panties. You’re overreacting is my opinion.

Thanks to Paul, I use a #4 for a lot of things one might not think of. I have longer planes and generally use them for jointing, but I will use a #4 where a lot of folks use a block plane, usually because of grip ergonomics. I support Paul’s claim that the #4 is the most versatile plane, and everyone should have at least 1. That doesn’t mean it is the best selection for everything.

As for only sharpening to 250 grit – since you have learned how to tune and use a handplane, and get an edge on an iron, have you tried only going to 250 gr and trying it? I think you will find it works, just not for that long. The benefit gained by creating a smoother edge is a longer lasting edge. Hard stuff, knots and whatnot, can chip and/or fold an edge, but otherwise, the dulling of the edge occurs as microscopic pieces fracture off the edge. The rougher the edge the easier for the microfractures to occur, because there are already plenty of them in the edge from the abrasive, providing plenty of of places for them to start. The smoother the edge the slower the progression of microfractures, and the longer the edge will last.

Paul doesn’t say “perfect”, more like good enough. May not be good enough for you and that;s ok. No reason to bash him though. I sand all of my planed surfaces with 320 so I get consistent results with finishes. Very difficult if not impossible to get the same surface finish/texture everywhere in a hand planed surface.

Paul Sellers is the last guy I support bashing, even if he makes some mistakes – he is human. I’ve read several responses over the years where he readily accepted responsibility for being wrong. He’s the only one I can watch and not feel like “All this person really wants to do is move $ out of my pocket to his”.

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