hand tool | advice | plane | how to


Hand Tool Help

Last week Rob wondered what sort of hand tool information you’d like to learn more about. Lots of you have shared your thoughts! – Editor

“How do you adjust the blade on planes. I’m talking about all different planes and sizes for different applications. Smoothing planes from small to large, especially a large jointer plane like an 8 or 9, for leveling a bench top so you don’t tear out chunks. Block planes for chamfering edges with the grain and cross grain on the ends. Shoulder planes for dadoes and rabbets. And lastly, setting the chip breaker so the throat doesn’t plug but it’s close enough to do its job.” – Ron Grover

“Making and decorating picture frames would be the item I would like to learn more about.” – Lynn Wise

“I enjoy working with hand tools so much more than power tools! I feel any discussion on hand tools would be welcomed. I feel I wasted years trying to figure out power tools with so much frustration and mistakes. When working with a hand plane or chisel, you become more into the wood or feel the wood if that makes sense. My newest old tool is a hand plough plane — what fun! Would love to learn how to really use the darn thing!” – Claudia Fletcher

“Many people talk about shooting boards, but few explain how to really use them well. It’s such a basic thing, but because it is so basic, it’s largely ignored. This topic should help those of us that use hand tools, and also those who use power tools.” – John Root

“I’d like to understand the angles in normal and low-angle planes. They don’t seem to differ much. I’m interested in the Japanese tools, especially planes. I’m interested in understanding quality construction standards. There are some lousy expensive chisels, for instance.” – Alan Dechovit<

“As a luthier and longtime hand tool user, I would start with the basics: Back saws (types, i.e., tenon saw, dovetail, etc.) vs. Japanese pull saws; Hand drills (types, i.e., auger bit, brad-point, regular, the old brace and bit) vs. drill press;Planes for various uses, but don’t spend a ton of time on sharpening chores. You can always have your blades sharpened by a service, and sharpening seems to be a big hurdle for many. (I’ve been told Tage Frid sharpened his chisels on a belt sander!) And I would suggest an emphasis on how easy hand tools are for one-time jobs, where you can just reach for the tool and go as opposed to spending a lot of time on setup, etc., which is better for making multiple identical parts with power tools. Avoid multiple articles on dovetail joints!” – Michael “Turko” Turcot

“I prefer using hand tools, and my favorites are my hand planes, marking gauges and saws. I use my SawStop and band saw for many things, and yes, I love my Festool sanders and track saw. But I use hand tools for everything else. Let’s face it, nothing beats hand-cut dovetails, and the detail shaping planes add to a table top or furniture legs. Have you ever hand-cut dadoes with a back saw and chisel? Or cut dadoes with a Stanley No. 239 dado plane? I have, and hand planes are my preferred method, especially since I have 27 Stanley planes. When I make furniture (my business), I can truly say it
‘s hand-made. Before you ask how long it takes me to make furniture, in reality, several weeks longer than the power-tool junkies (a gentleman’s chest in about eight weeks, a lady’s dresser in about 12 weeks). Far too many people are dependent on power tools and without them could not even make a box, let alone cut wood straight with a hand saw. If you’re interested, in Pittsboro, North Carolina, there is a store called the Woodwright’s School Store, and they have hundreds of planes and people to show you how to get back to the real art of woodworking. So to your question on what I would like to see and learn, I would like to see more articles/videos on using planes and spoke shaves, tricks on using marking gauges and how to sharpen with stones versus your Tormek, etc. Hope this helps.” – Rick Smith

“A well illustrated article on how to use a spokeshave would be helpful. But a separate one on sharpening.” – Bernie Kopfer

“I’m new to woodworking and as such have very limited knowledge and/or skill with hand tools. I have recently acquired a few old Stanley bench planes that I honestly don’t know how to use. I’ve also bought some older Stanley and Buck Brothers chisels that I am struggling with. With this in mind, whatever you can offer I’m am interested in learning. I have been watching a lot of YouTube trying to learn, but as you know, some of the instructional videos can be hard to follow for beginners.” – Wayne Miller

“I have started using hand tools a lot more since retirement. I even made some hand-cut dovetail joints. When I need advice or have a question, concern, etc., I just go to YouTube and get all kinds of information. I recently acquired a couple pre-war Stanley/Bailey hand planes (using YouTube advice) and learned to sharpen them, tune them and use them after watching several videos. After a few months of practicing, I now keep them handy and find more and more uses for them every day. I used the same process for employing backsaws, Japanese saws, marking gauges, marking knives and so on. I’m not sure if I can answer your inquiry, since I look for varied information at various times.” – Rich Franks

“Hand tool tutorials would be great!” – William Stiles

“I have never had any luck making hand planes work right. Try as I might, I can’t adjust them correctly to get those beautiful curls that seem effortless to others. Even when I know the blade is sharp, and it seems straight in the mouth, and it seems to be extending just the right distance out of the mouth, I usually just get a gouge. And when I back it up just a tiny bit, all I get is a little dust. Help!” – Bob Finn

“Although I can use hand tools, I just have a basic knowledge of how to use each tool. I would like more information on the proper use of each tool. For example, the use of a screwdriver is basically easy to understand and apply, but a card scraper is harder for me to understand; do I pull it toward me or push it away? When properly working, is what I scrape off a powder or should it be ribbons?” – Basil Carney

“I would like to know how to disassemble a block plane and then reassemble for use.” – Thomas Martin

“I would like to learn how to better use hand planes, especially how to set the iron, when to use specific planes and the difference between bevel-up and bevel-down planes. I understand the difference in that one has the bevel up and the other has the bevel down. But what’s the difference in capability, and is it just a personal choice?” – Mike Anderson

“As a retired machinist, most of my woodworking has been done in my pole barn with power equipment. Due to the heat of summer and the chill of Michigan winters (and my aging body), I’m setting up a basement shop with the intent of transitioning to more use of hand tools to not make so much noise and dust. That said, I understand your direction. Looking forward to some inspiration.” – John Carey

“If Rockler would offer more than the rare hand tool class, I would be there. Probably to most if not all of those sorts of classes. Hand tools seem to be a lost art. I’m in Texas and we have a Heritage center in Waco. They offer hand tool classes, but it’s rushed. Hurry, hurry, hurry. I gave up after the first dovetail class. Online tutorials are okay, but live classes would make me work at it.” – Bob Bender

“I’m embarrassed to admit that despite working with wood for many years, I don’t know much about some hand tools, especially the ones you mentioned (hand planes, spokeshaves and marking gauges). I have a basic hand plane, but I can never seem to get the hang of it as it always seems to snag somewhere. Is the blade not sharp enough? Wrong angle or depth? Working in the wrong direction? That’s where I usually give up and break out the power tools. Can you please cover these for beginners, especially hand planes?” – Cary Arnold

“There are quite a few people who focus on teaching hand tool woodworking (Paul Sellers, James Wright, Matt Estella, Rex Krueger, Rob Cosman) but not as many who teach the use of hand tools to enhance your craftsmanship or expand your capabilities in a primarily power tool hobby shop. Using hand tools when fitting machine-cut joinery, how to use hand planes and a surface planer to true up stock when you don’t have a jointer or how to use marking gauges/knives to improve precision are just a few potential topics. This type of hybrid approach to woodworking would probably be interesting to a lot of your audience and would differentiate you from many of the hand-tool educators already out there.” – John Blocher

“I have questions about hand planes and hand saws. How specialized are they really? Can one saw or plane perform a variety of jobs?” – Paul Klix

“One of the most useful hand tools is the lowly block plane. It excels at finish, as all planes do, but within a smaller footprint. Also, few know how to properly adjust a plane to make it a dream to use rather than a chunky nightmare. I have also witnessed many people that don’t seem to know just how to make the final few adjustments to a joint with their chisels (Sharpening not addressed, but very important). I have helped many people understand when to bevel up or bevel down. Also the cutting differences between hardwoods and softwoods takes time. All about the above references didn’t come to me overnight. I received good instruction from time to time when I was younger.” – Tony Newman

“How to cut a straight line with a hand saw. Best marking tools – marking knife, pencil or mechanical pencil, felt pen, chalk? When to NOT use a hand tool? How to hit the nail on the head, consistently and effectively. Hand scraper front edge prep/condition. How to get a consistent burr on a scraper, for both straight and curved edges. Proper use of a level – how centered must the bubble be between the lines in the vial? How to judge hand-tool quality – can it be done? Can you really use a jack plane to get a straight edge for board glue-up or to get a table top flat? Lighting and magnification – is it necessary?” – Tom Triola

“I’m pretty comfortable with hand tools and use them when I can and when it makes sense. I have over a dozen planes that I bounce around using. There are tons of YouTube videos about sharpening chisels and planes but not so many about using them. Ernie Conover did a good set on both in your WJ premium videos. I would like to see something about using scrapers. I have used just a scraper by hand and have figured out how to put an edge on it. But I also have a couple of scraper planes, a #80 and a #12, that I’ve not really used. I’d like to see something on tuning, adjusting and using these planes, including the advantages or disadvantages between using the planes versus using just the scraper by itself.” – Don Gwinn

“I’d like to learn how people make table legs that are tapered and then curve outward in the last 4 or 5 inches near the floor, while maintaining the tapered cross section. They look like a long lower case ‘j’.” – Ken Bayer





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