TOOL PORN! Do I really need every plane in the catalogue?

It seems there are only a handful of things in life that you can absolutely rely on, Benjamin Franklin suggested there were two, “Death and Taxes”, which is a cheery thought, something that we’ll return to later. There are, of course, several other deep and meaningful ones out there but I would add a couple of my own – “a sock will always vaporise during the washing process” and, “whenever you want to glue up your latest wooden creation, someone in the workshop will already be using all the cramps”.  

Another of life’s certainties used to be that if you were at a woodworking show in the UK, at some point in the proceedings a diminutive Chinese chap would appear with a big smile on his face and weighty looking tool-shaped packages under his arms. Martin Chung was well known by all of the main tool dealers, a Mercedes mechanic during normal working hours, a woodworking tool enthusiast and collector of all things concocted from iron, bronze and exotic alloys of steel, at all other times. Martin was a man on a mission and his particular personal mission was seemingly to collect every item in the Lie-Nielsen catalogue, not as easy a challenge as you might think because Tom’s catalogue was, and still is, constantly growing. I remember at one particular show that there was a triumphant cry from Martin as he announced that he had, at that moment (to the best of his knowledge), having just purchased the latest thin-plate, variable pitch, tapered bladed, cocobolo handled dovetail saw, the complete set of Lie-Nielsen products, not just planes, but every different type and size of chisel, saw and screwdriver, the works; now it was time for him to turn his attention to Clifton. So, in Martin’s world, the answer to the ‘Do I really need every plane in the catalogue?’ question was undoubtedly ‘Yes!’  There are plenty of people out there who collect woodworking tools but have absolutely no intention of using them, Martin actually wasn’t one of those, he had come to one of my weekend cabinetmaking courses. He arrived in a Mercedes estate that looked like its rear suspension was being taken well beyond its official load-carrying capacity, much like those cars that used to be seen struggling down the ramps of cross- channel ferries at Dover, loaded down with very reasonably priced French vin de table, except that Martin’s car was struggling to cope with the several hundredweight of steel and cast iron that was his plane collection. Needless to say he didn’t manage to sharpen and use all of his many planes during the course, but he did take great delight in producing yet another specialist plane for the assembled company to admire, with a cry of ‘I got one those!’ he would dash off to the carpark, to return with yet another box with “Lie-Nielsen” printed on the lid. Sadly, one of Mr Franklin’s certainties, in the form of a massive heart attack, caught up with Martin before he was able make full use of his vast tool collection. I have no knowledge of the other certainty, but I remember that he did like to pay for his tools with cash!

Leafing through ‘Tool Porn’ catalogues has, for as long as I can remember, been a standard activity during a workshop tea break, although this is destined to be a thing of the past as more and more tool dealers are saving on their printing costs with exclusively ‘on-line’ operations. Soon we’ll only have the Dictum catalogue to drool over, a very lovely, beautifully produced thing, if you haven’t ever come across one I suggest you get one ordered from those lovely people in Bavaria, you won’t be disappointed.

So, to return to my original question, ‘Do I really need every plane in the catalogue?’ – the short answer is ‘No’! But that shouldn’t stop you from indulging yourself if you feel the urge, some of the specialist planes are very, very good at doing one particular thing, and in any case tools are lovely things to have and it does mean that Mr Lie-Nielsen can keep a group of people in Maine in gainful employ and finance his penchant for a nice vin rouge.

Which leads me, I suppose, to ‘Which planes are essential if I’m going to embark on the process of making lovely things with wood?’ Sadly, if you’re a bit of a tool junkie, you only really need four!

Woodworking Planes John Lloyd Blog

  1. Bench Plane – I tend to use a No. 6 , but that’s mainly because Mick Hudson talked me into buying one of the Clifton 10th Anniversary planes. I would also be perfectly happy with a No.5 or 5½ . These are biggish planes that become your ‘go to’ plane, you will end up using this for planing just about anything, of any size, big or small.
  2. Block Plane – Make sure it’s the ‘Low Angle’ variety. A nimble little plane that can be used one-handed and is great for dealing with end grain, or as a miniature smoothing plane when fitted with a blade with a high bevel angle.
  3. Shoulder Plane – With a blade that extends right across the width of the sole, not surprisingly, this plane is good for dealing with shoulders, but also for any situation where you need to plane right into a corner.
  4. Rebate Plane – ‘Rabbet’ if you hail from North America! Often replaced by a router these days, but they don’t hurt your ears like a router and, in my book, still a great plane to have in your armoury.

And finally onto last month’s homework question – What, if anything, happens to the ‘Cutting Angle’ if a plane is skewed when it is pushed forwards to take a shaving?

The answer is that the angle decreases – great for dealing with end grain, not so great for coping with tear-out. So, think before you skew!

 
 

Spread the word. Share this post!

The Author John Lloyd

John Lloyd trained in Furniture Making and Antique Furniture Restoration & Conservation with Bruce Luckhurst at the Little Surrenden Workshops in Kent, where he graduated with distinction.  He also taught antique furniture restoration at West Dean College, Chichester.  

John was awarded the City & Guilds of London Institute Silver Medal of Excellence,  the highest possible award, as First Prize for Advanced Studies in Furniture for Furniture Making and Antique Restoration.

With the experience of a 25 year career as a successful furniture designer/maker and restorer behind him, John now teaches intensive courses from his delightful workshops in rural Sussex.  He also regularly contributes articles to the leading furniture making magazines.

John is a full member of BAFRA, The British Antique Furniture Restorers’ Association.

Subscribe to John's Blog, We will notify you of new posts so you never miss out.

Enter your email address below to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

John Lloyd Competition

WIN A 2 DAY TOOL SHARPENING & TUNING COURSE
19-20 August 2017

 

Simply answer this question to enter:
How many years ago was John Lloyd Fine Furniture established?

Entries close Sunday 30th April 2017
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Answer
Secure and Spam free...