Why Hand Planes Still Make Sense


plane shaving 

Thin plane shavings.

Photo by Steve Maxwell

My ability to work with wood has proven to be one of the most valuable self-reliance skills I’ve used in my 30+ years of homesteading on a rural island in Canada, and hand planes are a big part of this capability. “Hand planes!”, you say. “Aren’t those slow and outdated?” No, not at all. The reason some people fail to appreciate the value of hand planes is because they’ve probably never used a high-quality model that’s been properly tuned and sharpened. Get these details right and hand planes are delightful, productive, quiet and effective woodworking tools, as you’ll see. 

There are three main ways I use hand planes at my workbench, and now is an especially good time in history to learn to use one yourself. A handful of companies around the world have created a kind of renaissance in hand planes, manufacturing some astonishingly good, brand new hand plane designs that rival the best of yesteryear. More on this later. For now, let me tell you why I’ve found woodworking hand tools in general, and hand planes in particular, still make a lot of sense.

Do you like to work quietly and dustlessly with wood? Woodworking machines are great, but the noise and dust they kick up can get on your nerves. They also require eye protection, ear protection and breathing protection. This is precisely why more and more people are taking hand tool-only woodworking seriously, focusing on hand planes in particular. 

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