Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thoughts while planing

Yesterday, I was preparing some nice pieces of figured walnut.  I flattened one side with a #5, then put them through the planer resulting, as expected, in tearout.  This was the next step:

Several observations:
  1. I am continually amazed by the capabilities of this low angle bevel up smoother.  With a 50 degree blade, for a cutting angle of 62 degrees, I was able to get shavings as thin as .001".  In short order, the tearout was gone.  With intermediate sharpening skills, anyone can do this quite readily.  Yes, I know, I've watched Graham Blackburn do the same thing with a well-tuned Sears plane from the fifties.  Consider this though.  Less than a minute later, I can be shooting the end grain with a 25 degree blade and 37 degree cutting angle.  A toothed blade is also available.  The rest of my bench planes are Baileys and are perfectly fine.  This smoother is not essential, but is nice to have.  I have no desire to own any other premium bench planes, however.  
  2. My year of living without a vise on my bench, other than the Moxon portable one, is going very well.  In this picture, you see a vertical planing stop, a horizontal planing stop, and a side planing stop.  It is so quick, convenient and effective to work this way.  I don't know whether I will end up with a bench vise or not but I understand now why the standard Nicholson front vise is more than adequate. 
  3. I have had substantial reservations about making my bench only 34" high.  When I stand normally, it is midway between the pinky test and flat palm heights, but it feels too low, especially for planing.  Today, I noticed myself adopting a wide stance with bent knees (not that one!) to be comfortable for planing and it occurred to me that maybe that's the answer.  It lowers your upper body several inches.  A wide stance is stable and powerful, and it also allows you to plane a greater distance without taking a step.  You put your whole body into it.  Because I have sufficient upper body strength, I have never felt the need for using my legs and it will take some getting used to.  It's either that or raise the bench.    I think the current height would be fine if I used wooden planes though.
  4. Compare the totes on the modern smoother and vintage Bailey #4 in the picture below.  The angles are quite different.  The Bailey is more comfortable to use on a lower bench.  


  1. How do like using the LV tote vs the stanley on your bench? Have you tried a comparison planing on a higher bench?
    I found mine (LV totes) to be too awkward and replaced them with sets from Bill Rittner.

  2. I agree with you that the LV tote is somewhat awkward on a lower bench. Are you satisfied with the replacements from Bill Rittner. For the benefit of others, they can be found at