Posts tagged technique
Wooden Planes

King wood 50-degree smoother and Indian rosewood 45-degree smoother

I blame Scott Meek. If you don't know who Scott Meek is then you really need to check him out. Scott makes beautiful wooden planes that are as comfortable to use as they are handsome looking. A few weeks ago, Scott was in my shop for a visit while he was in my neck of the woods for Woodworks and we chatted about my own wooden planes that I made when I was a student at Rosewood Studio.

I've never been all that good at using wooden planes and I assumed that I was just missing some secret to their success. I asked Scott what the trick was and he said to not use my metal smoothers for a month and I will become a pro at it. Like any other woodworking skill, using wooden planes takes practice. I know....tens of people are shocked by this news. I've always liked the idea of wooden planes, especially for smoothing because the wood sole burnishes the wood and gives you a gorgeous surface.

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day tuning up my wooden smoothers and sharpening blades. I also have an old wooden jack that's in rehab and will become my new scrubber (more on that later). There was a lot of hammer tapping and shavings flying but the technique of adjusting a wooden plane started to come to me. I was able to start recognizing when I hit the iron too hard or not hard enough just by listening to the sound of the hammer strike. Eventually I was able to get fine shavings just as I would with my metal smoothers.

I guess I should thank Scott (not blame him) for rekindling a love for wooden planes. If you're in the market for a stellar wooden plane check out Scott's stuff, you won't be disappointed. If you want to give a wooden plane a try, visit your local tool pusher and pick up an old wooden plane to learn on. You'll spend about $20 on a plane that is in good shape and you'll learn a ton rehabbing and learning how to use it. 

In order to understand, you must do. - Vic


I know, I's been awhile. What can I say? Life gets in the way and my writing took a hit. Let's move on shall we?

Recently I was reading an article that was singing the praises of WD-40 as a Godsend for woodworking hand tool maintenance. Whoa! Hold the phone! WD-40 in the woodshop? Are you kidding me? Everybody knows that WD-40 will ruin any chance of having finish stick to wood. Follow my thinking here - you're spraying down your hand plane after using it and some over-spray makes onto a component you've been lovingly preparing for finish. The WD-40 over-spray wicks into the wood and makes it impossible for any finish to stand a hope in hell of sticking to the wood.

Picture it, finish flows onto the wood, finish runs for the hills leaving fish eyes everywhere, your work is ruined, you start drinking and next thing you know, it's 20 years later and you're still drinking while living in a van down by a river.

OK. Hyperbole right?

Fine. It's a sub-compact, but the point is you can't use WD-40 in the wood shop. The writer even went on to claim that he had tested the theory by spraying WD-40 on a board letting it dry there and then having no trouble getting finish to stick.


Now I'm on a mission to prove this wrong because ever since I starting woodworking over 10 years ago I was told that WD-40 is the devil of the wood finishing world. A can has never been in my shop in fact it has been relegated to the shed to help maintain things like shovels, rakes and other garden tools.

So I bring the WD-40 into my shop, carrying it like its nuclear waste, and spray down a piece of cherry. I left the cherry to dry and soak up the WD-40 for a few days and then started apply polyurethane just as I would to any other piece of wood I would finish. I applied three coats, sanded the third and put on a final.

Today was the reckoning. Today I show my woodworking knowledge and prove the goof to be dead wrong.

Well holy sh*t! The finish was perfect. Well, as perfect as I get finish. No bare spots, no fisheyes...just a smooth piece of finished cherry. Well.

Turns out you can use WD-40 in your woodshop. Turns out what I thought to be true wasn't. Hmmm...Just goes to show you that no matter how much you think you know, there is still more to learn. I don't mind being wrong, which is good because it happens often. I'm glad that I took the time to test this out because there really isn't anything better for rust removal than WD-40.

So all this time I've been searching out something to take care of minor rust when all I needed was good ol' WD-40....


To understand, you must do.

This is my idea of time well spent in the shop
Today in my shop, I realized that I was proving the point that I made yesterday about when I choose to use power tools over hand tools and vice versa. Today I was preparing legs and aprons for finish and I chose to do this with hand tools rather than power.

Here is what I did:

removed all the machining marks with a smoothing plane
removed the arrises on the corners - effectively applying a 1/16" round over
applied the first coat of linseed oil to all the parts

Parts are oiled and waiting for more
All of this took 90 minutes to complete. Now had I decided to do this with power tools things would have been different. The sanding alone would have taken 1.5 hours and I would have filled the shop with dust and noise. Not to mention the challenge of sanding narrow surfaces like the tapered legs without ruining the facets by rounding them over. If I used the router to put a round over on all of the edges, I would have had to set the router up, did some test cuts and then shape the edges - the whole time hoping that the router bit didn't rip out a huge chunk of wood that could ruin the piece.

The legs are made of cherry with a maple edge band seen
 in the shaving - ever take pictures of sanding dust?

The legs are made from cherry with an edge band of hard maple seen in the shavings. Ever seen someone taking pictures of sanding dust?

This is why I do the last 40% of the work at the bench with hand tools instead of with power. It's faster and the surfaces are superior, letting the chatoyance of the cherry through - not to mention the lack of dust in the shop and the only noise was 'The Black Keys' coming from the stereo.

 - To understand, you must do.