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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
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Friday, January 6, 2012

My favorite books about hand planes

I have learned about almost everything I do from a book, followed by repeated practice.  Here are the books from which I learned about hand planes:
  1. Understanding Wood, by R. Bruce Hoadley. This is the first book I ever read about woodworking.  It is so clearly the best book for beginners to read, I can't recommend it enough.  It's also a must-read for experienced woodworkers who haven't yet opened the book.  I have seen and heard enough examples of master furniture makers experiencing "mysteriously" poor results, because of something they didn't find out about in Understanding Wood.  This book takes a narrative, scientific approach to the fundamentals of wood, from physiology to wood movement, to cutting wood, blade angles, stress and shaping, and so much more.  If you make furniture and you haven't read this book, then you don't know wood.  The sections on blades, chip formation, and cutting are fundamental to my work with planes.
  2. Sharpening, by Lie Nielsen.  It's a good over-all reference by a renowned metal plane maker.  It covers the sharpening of a wide range of tools.  It's organized like an encyclopaedia, which can be nice as a reference.  But I don't like this style if I'm learning about something for the first time, because it's hard to tell if you're getting the whole picture on a given topic.  For example, If you're trying to successfully use a hand plane, Sharpening will not get you there. 
  3. Making and Mastering Wooden Planes, by David Finck.  A great primer on sharpening, setting, and using planes.  It's also a decent guide to making wooden hand planes.  This book is organized in a narrative way, and is best read start-to-finish.  I use it as a reference as well.  Finck teaches his methods, rather than try and cover the gamut.  For example, a novice wouldn't know from Finck's book that different planing tasks and wood grains might be best suited to different blade cutting angles and wedge angles.  However, this was the most recent book I've read on the topic, and it's the book that finally got me going with hand planes.  
These three books show the why and how of sharpening and using hand planes.  Read them and practice what they tell you, and soon your plane will be2 singing away!

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