Sunday, March 1, 2015

Plane-making videos (and other resources)

When I first started making traditional planes, there wasn't much information out there. The only book on the subject, John Whelan's Making Traditional Wooden Planes, was long out of print. There was plenty of information on making "Krenov"-style planes, but not on making traditional abutment-style planes (a much tougher task). Larry William's has a great video, Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes, but it unfortunately doesn't cover bench planes.

Well, things are looking up. Whelan's book is now back in print. Caleb James has published a bunch of scaled drawings for various planes on his blog. A few other bloggers, including me, have put up tutorials. And most recently, David Weaver has put up a mammoth series on making a traditional double-iron plane on YouTube.

To say that these videos are comprehensive would be an understatement. There are over 20 videos, and I'd guess total running time at 10 or 12 hours. Every aspect of making a double-iron plane is covered, from the tools you need, to wood selection and grain orientation, to every step of construction. At the end, there are a couple videos showing the plane working really well.

If you are looking for a slick, fast-paced production, these videos are not for you. This is one guy shooting the videos on his Iphone, one take, no editing. But that's good in my book. There is a tremendous amount of authenticity in these videos, like the utterly charming moment when his daughter wanders in to get her bike helmet tied. At one point, Dave gets the mouth of his plane a little larger than he wanted, which on a double-iron plane is a cosmetic blemish that doesn't harm the function one bit. He proceeds to spend the next 20 minutes beating the crap out of himself for this minor error! It's really painful to watch, but it's also very real, an honest-to-God person obsessing about his woodworking project, not some slick salesman trying to convince you how easy it will all be. There is no effort to hide his mistakes, and he makes a few, just as any experienced woodworker would, but none of them are fatal.

There are a few things Dave does that I could quibble with, but it's pretty minor stuff. All in all, these videos are a great resource. If you've ever wanted to build a traditional double-iron plane but were intimidated, I recommend you watch these videos, and maybe get a copy of the Whelan book, and you should be all set. If you want to start at the beginning, here's the first video.

Incidentally, Dave also wrote the definitive article on how to set a cap iron. If you thought the cap iron (or "chipbreaker," if you prefer) is just for holding down the blade, think again. Read the article, try it out, and before long you'll be leaving tearout in the rear-view mirror.