Mark ( on November 26th, 2008

Continuing the series of reviews for the SmartFlix Hand Tools course, this time I review the Chris Schwarz DVD Coarse, Medium and Fine.

Course_Meduim_Fine.jpgLike the earlier reviewed DVD on Hand Scraper preparation and use, this one was shot on location at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in 2005. The DVD covers the subjects of surfacing rough lumber with hand planes, plane setup and use, and joinery techniques. During the DVD, Schwarz demonstrates the various techniques while building parts of a Shaker Cabinet to add some context for how and when to use each technique.

The basic premise behind Coarse, Medium and Fine is that there is a sequence of steps that should be followed (equally valid whether using hand tools or power tools, by the way) involving tools that offer a gradually finer finished surface on the wood. Specifically:

  • Coarse Tool – used to hog off lots of material from rough lumber at the early stages
  • Medium Tool – used to refine the surface left by the course tool and to prepare it for finishing with a fine tool
  • Fine Tool – used to bring the surface of the wood to a state that s ready for finish to be applied

As Schwarz mentions in the DVD, the important point to understand here is that you should not skip a level. If you do, you will expend significantly more time and effort to get to the end result.

With the concept introduced, the first thing covered was the process of surfacing rough lumber with coarse, medium and fine tools. Schwarz discussed both tool selection as well as proper techniques for use. This discussion included the thickness and quality of shavings to shoot for with each tool as well as where to spend the most time and when to switch from one tool to the next. Schwarz’s admonition is that most people tend to skip the medium step in the process (whether using power or hand tools) and that this presents a false economy.

Next Schwarz spent time covering the setup and merits of each kind of tool and when to use each. Included in this section were discussions on the size of the mouth of each plane, the camber of the irons and set up of the chip breakers. Also covered here was the relative importance (or unimportance) of the flatness of the sole for each level tool.

The final section of the DVD covered various joinery techniques using hand planes. This is where Schwarz utilized the Shaker Cabinet parts to illustrate when and how to refine joints with hand planes. Covered here were: fitting a shelf to a dado, rebates and fillisters, edge joints, mortise and tenon joints and creating and refining curves. As an added bonus, the plan for the Shaker Cabinet that Schwarz was building is included on the DVD as a PDF.

In summary, Schwarz defines true efficiency in the workshop as: using tools that were designed by their makers for a single purpose, in sequence. Course tools for heavy work, medium tools as a mediator between course and fine and fine tools to produce the finished surface. The process is simple and most efficient if followed as described. I found the DVD to be well done and informative. Most importantly, by understanding the designed uses for each type of tool it becomes easy to contemplate following the simple process from a rough to finished surface.

Even if you will not use hand tools to completely surface rough lumber, the process and its parallel to power tools is important. Using both power and hand tools in sequence in a hybrid approach is something that also becomes apparent after seeing the process unfold on the DVD. I think that the content is equally valid for both hand-tool-only users as well as hybrid woodworkers like myself.

Don’t rofget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting this DVD before the full Hand Tools course is developed, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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3 Responses to “DVD Review: Coarse, Medium and Fine”

  1. Hey Mark………how are you???? I was wondering if he goes over a scraper plane in this DVD.

    Without fail………somewhere along an extended time frame of scraping with my Stanley #80, I loose concentration and “cha-cha-cha” a nice set of 3 chatter marks. Not to concerned about end panels , but more for instance on a sideboard top.


  2. Hey Neil,

    I’m doing well. I did not recall anything detail on scraper planes in the DVD. So, I checked my notes to confirm. Schwarz does talk a bit about them but there were no detailed demonstrations. Instead he notes that the simple cabinet scraper can be used in conjunction with the smoothing plane for the “fine” steps of preparing the surface of work pieces.


  3. Thanks Mark……….very little out there on the scraper plane. I find I loose my concentration with cabinetscrape and push the edge longer than I should and chik-chik-chik……a nice little series of chatter marks. Tossing one around haven’t decided yet.

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