Hand Plane Challenge! Improving Hand Planing Skills

No matter what I do I am always trying to improve . I am a cyclist and earlier this summer I noticed a that I was not performing as well on hills.  I have a buddy who also struggles with hills but prefers to ride the flats and is content with not improving as a rider on hills. The solution was a simple one for, ride more hills! That is exactly what I did until I improved my ability to ride hills. So were am I going with this and exactly what does this have to do with woodworking. If you are like me, there are several aspects of woodworking that I would like to improve on and one them is my skills with hand tools. I claim to be a hybrid woodworker but until I can plane a board square and accomplish other hand tool oriented tasks, that calling myself a hybrid woodworker is not being honest with myself.

I have been reading a lot of Robert Wearing’s The Essential Woodworker lately and that in September I am going to focus on improving my hand planing skills. I have no intention of milling all my lumber by hand…yuck! I just want to be able to plane a board square and have confidence in my planing ability. I thought it might be fun to see if other woodworkers out there would be want to improve their hand planing skills along with me. I am going to practice different exercises during the course of the month like the one I wrote about here and share them on this blog. I encourage everyone to try them too.

Now what fun would it be if we only practiced hand planing skills, we have to put them to some use. My goal is to build a try square at the end of the month and true the edges by hand. Now I have no intention of making the entire try square by hand, just milling the pieces by hand then truing it. I will probably use the bandsaw roughing the material out and maybe for other joinery. Now to make a little more interesting, anyone who participates will be entered to win something. Not sure what that is yet but I will let you know when I figure it out. To qualify for the drawing you have to make a Try Square and submit a picture of it next to your hand plane. All pictures have to be in by September 30th and the winner will be selected at random on October 1st.

Hopefully there are some of you out their who want to join me in this challenge! Post comments if you are in.




20 thoughts on “Hand Plane Challenge! Improving Hand Planing Skills”

  1. I’ve seen some really, nice lookin shop squares, and I want to make one, so I guess I have to hang up the excuses and get busy!! LOL Of course I wanted to use brass, so I better find a place. I’ll have to make mine by hand, cuz I don’t have a table saw, band saw, planer, jointer,etc.lol I do have the fire though!! lol This is gonna be fun!!

  2. I disagree. For me, hybrid woodworking is all about picking and choosing whatever workflow is best/cheapest/fastest/prettiest/etc. I’ll use a jack on rough lumber to get it in the ballpark so it can go through a machine. Then maybe I’ll use a smoother on show faces at the very end. So, I use AC power to do the “medium grit” job instead of a try plane. If that makes me not a hybrid…what am I?

    That said, the try square challenge sounds fun. Lots going on this month and I’ll see if I can get a clear bench to give it a go.

    1. I think you make a good point Rob. I was only trying to say that I would like to improve my hand tool skills and become a more dynamic woodworker. My hand planing skills are weak and I would like to improve them, thats all. Thanks for commenting and I appreciate the dialogue! I hope you find time to participate.


      1. I’m in, needed incentive to start, been very hot here,but no excuse
        Heat pump in shop! Now to hunt for stock(enough for two, one for prototype, lol). Where’s my workbench?

  3. Well as I mentioned before, I’ve seen some really bada?? looking shop made squares, and as easy as everyone says they are to make, I don’t wanna just throw 2 straight pieces of wood together, I’d really like make something cool. I guess I’m gonna have to make it out of oak, seeing how thats all I have laying around. A few pieces of scrap oak, some common boards, and I do have a piece of some really cool lookin mahogany, but if I make one with that, it will have to be a lil one cuz it’s a scrap piece of 1″x2″. I would like to have a 2″ or 3″ square, since I have a 4″, 6″, 12″ 16″. Ok it looks like Ima make about 3 of em, a 2″ or 3″, another 6″ and a 24″ Why not, right?? I found a place to get some brass for wear bars, but I don’t really wanna order 6′ of one measurement. lol Oh well!!

      1. Yea that’s what I’m gonna do, I’m actually gonna do both, oak handle, and mahogany blade, then vise versa. I know I seen one somewhere made outta mahogany, with no brass strips for wear, and I was real curious as to how long it would last, then I found it and he had ebony strips. I’m still unfamiliar with all the different species of wood and their characteristics. oh and yea James the grain is really straight. Well I spent some time grinding and honing my plane iron and chisels, and got them so sharp, “You just look at the edge and you get a cut on your finger”!! I just wish I was workin with something better as far as saws are concerned, a coping saw, 14″ Buck Bros tenon saw, and a big rip saw, just aren’t “cutting it”!! lol Now just to decide on what kind of joinery I’m gonna use. I already messed around with a couple mock-ups, hence the saw trouble. We shall see!!

  4. I have been looking at shop made squares recently. Where I live, near a lake, it is very humid, especially in the summer. I wonder about the consistency/accuracy of a wooden square. Would a wooden square made of all one type of wood be more stable than one made of two different woods? Am I over-thinking this? I’d like to give this a shot!

  5. I have wondered if LAMINATIONS of same and/or different species would solve/alleviate the problem? Baltic birch maybe?

    1. I have seen both of these before but did not buy the Schwarz one, but I might now. Jim Tolpin also has a good square plan in his book The New Traditional Woodworker, which is an excellent book!

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