Thicknessing with hand planes might seem like a slog. It’s certainly physical work, and if there’s a lot of boards to thickness, then it could soon become a workout. But with the right technique, planing wood by hand should feel more like a nice brisk walk, than an uphill struggle.
What do you reckon to dovetail jigs for routers?
I would guess that many of you are reading because you’re hand tool lovers. Perhaps a dovetail jig is the ultimate crime, & the thought is making you regurgitate your dinner?
Or maybe you’re more open minded and anything goes so long as you’re enjoying yourself?
Personally I’ve never used a dovetail jig. I don’t think much of the results, or anything about them.
If I need to be quick, then scruffy, hand cut dovetails will hold remarkably well. And if I need to be presentable, then I definitely won’t be reaching for the router.
Lately I’ve been getting back used to having a hand tool only workshop. It’s brought me to pondering on the perception, that the preparation and thicknessing of boards is really just the ‘donkey work’.
I’ve always enjoyed the processes of planing wood by hand, right from the rough preparation stages. It’s something that I’ll do the majority of time when I’m building furniture.
But I’m also happy to have access to a machine thicknesser, and quite content with the excuse that I can throw my boards through at the start of a project.
After all, it’s ‘just the donkey work’.
A Hand Tool Only Workshop
I have no machines in my new workshop, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to ask why I’m happy to call it this.
‘Donkey work’ seems such a disrespectful term for a set of skills which I happen to feel are so important to the craft of woodworking.
I’ve concluded that it’s no more than an excuse for making me feel ok, when I can’t be bothered to prep by hand.
A little like when my neighbour pops for a ‘Quick Smokey’. His quaint term, which perhaps relieves some of the guilt of going to quaff on a fag.
Planing Wood By Hand
Avoiding The Ear Muffs!
Each of us has different intensions for what our furniture will be, and why we build. We’ll also avoid different processes because we don’t like doing them.
I don’t sand because I hate sanding, it’s as simple as that. No excuse should be needed.
Creating my new hand tool workshop, is helping me to remember exactly how I like to woodwork, when it’s all on my terms.
I know if I start a project and think, ‘first job, ear muffs!’ then I’ve started it wrong. Both my mind and thoughts on the project have started on the wrong foot.
There are many reasons why I enjoy the process of hand prepping. With a small item of furniture and the right approach it doesn’t even take that long.
There’s a lot more I’d like to share at some time, about why I feel hand thicknessing is an important stage in a project.
The question for now though; at what point did dovetailing become such an important process to the hand tool woodworker, compared to the prepping and thicknessing of boards?
Why would I feel any more dissatisfied in cutting dovetails with a router, than running my stock through a planer?
I’m asking this of myself personally, and not suggesting that any of us need to excuse the way in which we choose to work.
I’ve come to realise that in my workshop there’s no reason that hand thicknessing should be considered an inferior skill to practice than any other.
I could equally start to call case dovetails on a large carcass donkey work, when there’s a lot to do. Especially since they’ll be barely visible once covered with a moulding.
And most mortice and tenons won’t be seen once assembled.
Hand prepping is probably one job, that will give you the most knowledge of your timber. And Planing wood by hand builds up the many skills, that you’ll benefit from at every stage of a project. Yet it is likely the job that the least number of people do.
I’ve decided to never again call the prepping the donkey work, and would love to dull the perception that it has to be a time consuming and boring task.
It will teach you to read your timber momentarily ,and become a problem solver to many difficulties you’ll come in to.
Prepping with hand planes is certainly a very valuable process to learn.