Mark ( on October 17th, 2007

This past weekend I had a few simple tasks left to complete on a sofa/hall table that I’ve designed an built (more on that in a future post) before starting the finishing process. What I needed to do was to simply cleanup the edges of the table top and then to put a small chamfer on all of its edges.


To do this, I had a few choices: grab a sander and go at the edges to remove the milling marks with successive grits of sandpaper and find the chamfering bit for the router and set it up to relieve the edges of the top – or – enlist the help of my trusty block plane and accomplish both tasks more quickly, quietly, and possibly with less dust and mess than with the other methods. If you haven’t guessed after reading the title of this post, I chose the latter.

It never ceases to amaze me how efficient well tuned hand tools can be for various woodworking tasks. Once you learn how to tune and sharpen planes and chisels and learn the basics of using them, so many woodworking tasks can be accomplished with extreme precision and efficiency. I don’t believe in doing major milling operations with hand tools – the amount of time I have available to me to do woodworking causes me to want to get those tasks done more efficiently with power tools. However, for me fine tuning joinery and some certain surface preparations are better suited to hand tools.


Caliper_with_Shaving.JPGThis weekend I made quick work of smoothing all of the edges and chamfering the top of the table in just a few minutes. The resulting surfaces were pristine and I enjoyed some peace and quiet working in the shop – the only noise to be heard was the crisp swish of the plane as it removed fine shavings from the wood, a really great sound if you’ve never heard it. The experience of doing this was a lot nicer than revving up the router and sanding myself into a cloud of dust. I was able to engage my hands a little bit more directly in the work and I think that the end result has just a bit more of a hand-made quality to it.

I don’t have too many hand tools and planes in my arsenal – just some basics: chisels, a card scraper, a dovetail saw, block plane, jack plane, and a shoulder plane. However, the more I use them the more I think that a smoothing plane is in my future! I like the idea of quickly removing milling marks on the surfaces of work pieces and minimizing how much sanding (if any) I have to do. I’m all for less sanding!

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