Hand Planing the Ultimate Woodworking Skill
Hand planing embodies the essence of woodworking like no other woodworking skill. Often hand planing is an overlooked skill of new woodwork starters who so often drift of to power tools to do the job. Sure these tools can do the job but none of them will give you the satisfaction of seeing the end result of a hand-planed wood product.
What is Hand Planing?
A hand plane is used to shape wood predominantly to create smooth flat surfaces by shaving thin layers of the wood with each pass. Hand planing can be used on just about all parts of the wood and in skilled hands can be used to create everything from a close to a perfectly flat table top or if desired deliberately create a twist in the table leg, or in most cases to remove the twist.
Historically all wood was flattened/shaped this way but in modern times the modern woodworker tends to mix the hand plane technology with power jointer/planer technology. Raw cut wood is passed through a jointer to create perfectly square surfaces. The wood then is passed through an electric planer to smooth and to create perfectly parallel planes (top and bottom of wood parallel). After joining the wood craftsmen then will switch over to hand planing to clean up the joints and to remove unevenness which may have crept in during the joining process, or to remove marking left by the electric planers.
Bridging the mistery of hand planing
Hand planing can be a bit daunting at first due to the wide range of hand planers and their functions. We have been adding a number of articles which hopefully will guide a newbie through the process but in a nutshell, it works as follows;
- hand planers come in eight sizes (and in numbers in between), No 1 to No 8.
- the smaller the size the smaller the planer.
- the smallest planer are called smoothing planes
- the midrange is called a jack or fall planes
- and the largest is called jointer planes
Hand planing normally starts with the most versatile of all planners, a jack plane to remove the bulk of the material. This is then followed with a jointer plane to create a perfectly flat surface and only then if required a smoothing plane will be used.
For more on the types of hand planes read our post: How to use hand planes
Mastering the skill of Hand Planing
The actual act of hand planing is not rocket science but it requires some knowledge and experience to do it properly. To use a hand planer successful the following skills should be quired.
- Selection of the correct hand plane
- Sharpening of the blades (iron)
- How to set up a hand plane
- The use of a hand plane.
Paul Sellers is a world leader in the use of hand planes. He has put together a video which covers the basics:
Sharpening and Setting the Bench Plane (link to follow soon)
Paul’s recommended hand planer sizes (our choice of brand)
Our section on hand planing is updated periodically so be sure to return regularly to see what we have been upto.