Many of you will recall Bob Rozaieski's Logan Cabinet Shoppe website and the excellent videos he produced (they are still available here). Bob has since moved to a homestead in southwestern Virginia where he teaches classes, builds and restores furniture and maintains a new website with a lot of interesting information. He also has a radio podcast series which you can subscribe to here.
For those who don't know of Bob, he is very involved with pre-industrial revolution furniture, including the design standards, hand tools and construction processes of the time. I got involved with hand tool woodworking because of his outstanding video series on building a Porringer tea table with cabriole legs. He is an excellent instructor and took the time to go step by step so that folks like me with no skills could make a beautiful traditional piece. Bob is one of the two or three woodworkers that I would really like to take an in-person class from.
In a recent episode of his podcast, Bob talks about power tools in the hand tool shop. I listened with great interest and it surprised me that my conclusions are generally similar to his. I won't summarize them here because the podcast is well worth listening to, but I do want to comment about one thing he said which really surprised me: He is thinking about buying a combination jointer/planer. I was frankly astounded because Bob is so committed to using vintage hand tools that I cannot imagine him using one. I was tempted to email him and ask him if he fell off the roof of the cabin he is building and hit his head. :-) In his defense, he does say that he would not use it for period pieces he builds, but only to avoid the drudgery of preparing a lot of stock for other projects.
Bob isn't the only prominent hand tool woodworker to reach a conclusion like this. Shannon at The Renaissance Woodworker bought a large stationary planer, which I think is his only power tool. I am not sure, but I think someone prepares Paul Sellers' stock with machines off camera.
Bob certainly has the skill to prepare all of his stock with hand tools to high standards, no question about that. I can do it too, though with less proficiency. However, it is time-consuming and tedious. After the early satisfaction that came from learning the techniques, it quickly became drudgery for me. Others may feel differently, but I don't enjoy it. I think this is the reason many hand tool woodworkers turn to machines for stock preparation even if they don't use them for anything else.
The problem is that these jointer/planer machines are very expensive, really heavy and have large dedicated space requirements. The changeover is somewhat time consuming, especially if you have to remove then reattach the fence. Spiral cutterheads are very desirable but they add a lot to the cost. Taken together, these issues are enough to make me decide I won't buy one.
So where does that leave me? I currently have an older lunchbox planer that I use all the time and I regard this as the bare minimum. I also have a 6" jointer that I rarely use; it's not worth having in my opinion. 6" is too narrow and it isn't all that hard or time consuming to roughly hand plane one side of a board flat enough to run through a planer, which I am forced to do a lot anyway. Alternatively, Shopnotes published plans for a sled that allows a planer to be used for jointing which looks good to me. That is something I might build someday. So my decision is, get rid of the jointer but keep a planer. I will probably upgrade to a better one with a spiral cutterhead at some point though.