Two years ago, my girlfriend and I visited her movie-star looking friend, Dagne, in Arizona. After a hike with her husband, the four of us did some antiquing at a rural shop. It was there I found a Stanley #4 smoother…and fell in love with it. I had to have it. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what “it” was.
I’ve used the Internet for years but researching this hand plane—really getting the adjustment-thumb-screw measures an inch for a Type 11; and an inch and a half for a Type 12 details—was an epiphany. It had never dawned on me that such esoteric tomes were available to lose myself in.
From there the rest of my vacation was spent learning how to rehab the plane, occasionally eating and pretending not to notice disapproving sideways glances from my, now neglected girlfriend.
The point of this whole story is not that I’ve spent the last two years fettling with this plane—picking up new info here and there and trying it out to achieve that glass-smooth finish on cherry. No. The point is that Superstar Dagne got me in touch with my inner woodworker.
I’ve always loved wood. And I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. Like snow skiing, woodworking puts my mind on a single, highly focused, time-has-stopped, I feel inner-peace track.
Woodworking engages my senses completely. The sound of a finely-tuned smoother, spilling forth whispy-thin shavings has its own cadence. It’s not a religious experience, but it is…elevating…like a Mozart, or Beethoven string quartet.
To me the smell of freshly cut or planed wood has that comfort-smell feel of fresh-cut grass. And after that finely-tuned smoother does its magic on some reddish cherry, the glassy feel of it passing under my fingers makes me smile with a sense of accomplishment. It refracts light too, sparkling like a gem. But the eye candy doesn’t stop there. Nature’s beauty is on display through burled and cathedral grain pieces.
Yes, it’s fair to say that, the plane I picked up served as the gateway drug…uh, tool…to get me back into woodworking. That was seven planes ago. About a year ago, I decided to use primarily hand tools for my craft. That timing suspiciously coincided with the downturn in my professional industry. It’s easy to stop coveting that $1,000 table saw when that scratch could better be used, oh, say, paying car payments and buying my lady a fine, steel-cask aged chardonnay.
So I’ve started out modestly. Shop projects to learn basics like squaring boards and assembling things. My first marking knife. And simple boxes.
My hand tool journey is underway. Join me. Share your experiences.