Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bob Rozaieski

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.


  1. It is common for most of the hand tool teachers to pre dimension lumber before classes. I followed Bob @Logan Cabinet shop and his hand tool only approach but one needs to use modern day conveniences every now and then to get things done in a timely fashion.

  2. I like the idea of having a planer in my hand tool shop. CS says in his ATC book a lunchbox planer and a bandsaw go very well in a handtool shop.

  3. Ditto on the lunchbox planer. I don't use mine in the shop at all so it becomes a coin toss - do I take it outside (weighs 80lbs) or use hand planes in the shop. Hand planes usually win but I agree that more than two or three boards and it becomes a PITA to do.
    The upside is that I don't really need the lunchbox planer at all. With hand planes I can dimension stock without any restrictions. Yes it can be boring, tedious, and pure drudgery but it has a certain freedom to it too.

  4. Andy,

    Like many, I can 4 square and will every once in a while just to keep the skills. But if I had to do every piece of stock by hand my production would be close to zero.

    Here is what I've found: A 20" planer will take care of most stock when you "skip" plane first. My 8" jointer is almost as worthless as your 6" one. If I were starting to equip a shop from scratch I would buy the big 20" (IIRC the $5000 USD one) Powermatic band saw and a 20" planer. Add dust collection and that would be all the machines needed. I have often thought about selling the cabinet table saw just to reclaim the space but I still use it some for house projects and it wouldn't bring enough money for a good night out. The 8" jointer I will occasionally use on smaller stock but could easily do without.


  5. Well, while I was on the roof today, I have thus far managed to avoid falling off 😀. In all honesty, I don't like being up on roofs, so I hire that out if I can.

    I think the school's 15" Powermatic with helical head has spoiled me. I can plane one side of my stock flat at home and then take it to the school to thickness it if I have a lot to do. My reasoning for the combo machine was because I find most jointers kind of useless because they are too narrow. The combo machine solves that problem, though it does come at a price. Still, the Jet without the helical head is quite reasonable if one is considering buying separate machines. And if you finish with a hand plane, the helical head is kind of unnecessary. But honestly, I likely won't get one. I have access to the Powermatic at the school, and I don't have to maintain it 😀.

    Thanks for the plug!