Working on My Game

It just feels right in the hands. A golf club which is the right length, has the correct shaft, and is in balance, is important. It is one’s technique which gets the ball down the fairway. If the technique isn’t understood one will spend more time walking though the underbrush of the woods, searching for the elusive and rather expensive Titleist. Those sneaky little white balls are so much easier to find when they are sitting in the fairway. So one who loves golf must practice and if done frequently enough, the reward is the sweet feeling of connecting perfectly and watching the ball sail off towards the horizon.

I was trying out my Stanley Bailey 4 1/2, after my first session of tuning. I felt like I was on the driving range of woodworking. Many of my passes with the plane were far from perfect, but some of them would sheer up lovely streamers of wood. Like a perfectly hit drive, the sound of a full and thin shaving of wood is distinctive, and satisfying. The sound of a perfectly hit drive is equally divine.

Last evening, after I had put up the Ch 20 of the Henry Wood saga, I enjoyed the new Sherlock Holmes move, while lapping my plane. I lapped for the first half of the movie, then switched to working on the blade. Tonight when work was done, I was not under the impression that I had finished tuning my 4 1/2. I was however dying to see how it worked. I grabbed a piece of practice wood, which I had spent 50 cents on. It has lots of flaws and isn’t really good for much of anything, and when I saw it, I thought it would be good to practice on. I was right. It is serving it’s purpose well.

I planed the edge for a bit.  There were several tricky areas and it made for good practice.  Then I flipped the board on it’s side and went to work on it.  This was fun.  The big wide shavings were quite a treat.  Does the board look like a finely planed masterpiece?  Not even close, but again, it was about the practice, so there was value in the exercise.

There are many reasons I am giddy over my new hand planes, not the least of which is that while I am reading my ‘Working with Hand planes’ book, from the Taunton press, I have some planes to use in learning their tips. I really like the book, but the first time I flipped through it, it was a bit difficult to fully grasp what they were saying, without actually being able to look at one.

In the introduction to the book by Anatole Burkin, he wrote, “My first hand plane almost ended my interest in woodworking. To say it was useless is an understatement. It did not plane. It hacked. I wasn’t sure whether to fault the tool or the user.” I had the book well before my first plane, and that first paragraph made me realize how important it is to get a quality tool and to take the time to learn how to tune it correctly. I have created my sandpaper and marble squares, because it makes it easy to spend the time required to do the job right.

It also seem fortunate that I was able to get my 4 1/2 and 5 from someone who really knows hand planes. He explained why the 4 1/2 would take much longer to get in shape, and this helped me set my own expectations. Each new skill I attempt to gain always has a bit of mystery about how much effort is going to be required. I don’t mind putting in the work, but it is nice to know how long it should take. With my practice cuts, it seems like I am making progress, but it may take a few more than 100 lines. Still, having a goal of 100 to start with, was really helpful. I have cuts 81 – 100 yet to do. Perhaps I will do them later. Perhaps I will watch the Cavaliers and the Celtics and continue to work on my plane. Maybe I will do both? I am a man who likes to live on the woodworking learning edge.