Sunday, May 30, 2010

Taking Adam Cherubini's Challenge, part 2

(Go back to part 1)

As I practiced a little more, I wasn't satisfied with the shavings I was getting from the jointer. They were much too narrow. Looking closely at the mouth, I could see it was slightly dished. Not a problem for a jack, but a problem for a jointer or smoother. Time for a little sole flattening.

With the iron retracted but wedged up to get the proper stresses in the body, flattening the sole on 80-grit sandpaper on glass. Glad I got that long glass plate from the home-center shelving section!

After some initial sanding, the dishing in front of the mouth is apparent.

After a few more minutes: the dishing gone.

I touched up the iron on the fine stones and put the plane back together. A little finessing with the plane hammer and some scribbling with a beeswax block and I was in business. Now it was taking nice wide full-length shavings.

I wanted to get used to adjusting the iron with the hammer, so I spent some time practicing edge-jointing. That was very satisfying. I got to the point where I could advance and retract the iron with reasonable control. It just takes light taps, far lighter than you would expect with the wedge in tight.

One issue that came up is tendinitis in my elbows. I've had to deal with it for 15 years. I think taking very heavy cuts directly across the grain brought it on this time. This puts a lot of shock on the elbow as the iron digs in. So I went back to diagonal cuts with the jack planes. This is less violent both for my arms and the wood, producing less tearout and chipping. It still gets the job done plenty fast. I don't want to hone all these skills only to have to stop using the tools!

The three videos below show the results. There are no cuts, so you can see just how quickly the tools can work. The first one goes through edge-jointing, practicing adjusting the iron. The other two show taking 1/8" off SYP and oak and restoring a smooth face.

I still need practice, but I have a lot more confidence with these now. The one I have most difficulty with is the smoother, because of its short length. So I'll definitely invest some time in that one. But in general, Adam's statements hold: the wooden planes can do just as good a job as the metal ones. It's just a variation on the skill set.

Recommended Books and Videos
Hand Tool Essentials: Refine Your Power Tool Projects with Hand Tool Techniques (Popular Woodworking) The Wooden Plane: Its History, Form and Function Coarse, Medium and Fine (DVD)


  1. Crazy how much fun it can be just taking shavings when your planes are set up and working well.

    Jamie Bacon

  2. Steve,
    I really enjoyed your lessons on Adam's challenge and your thoughts about using a blade instead of of rod for the marking guage. Your plane hammer- is it sold at TFWW? I've seen several people using it. Is it iron? Problems with deforming the blade or plane body. Thanks for your wonderful sharing. Mark

  3. Thanks, Mark! That's just a cheap little plane hammer that I think I got at Rockler. It is iron; I know a lot of people use brass. A hard wooden hammer would also work. In fact, Mike Henderson has a post about making a plane hammer with one brass and one wooden side at


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