When I started collecting flea market planes and trying to use them, I quickly became frustrated. They worked poorly, often doing more harm than good. Few books were helpful; they focused more on plane history than the practical information I needed.
THE HAND PLANE BOOK is the owner’s manual I wish I had had back then. It explains the dynamics of how a plane cuts, and vital information about tuning, sharpening, and adjusting every plane you might ever want to use, to work better than you ever thought possible. There’s some interesting history and stories of unusual planes, along with lots of essential information on planes for smoothing surfaces to a polish, to planes that cut joints, moldings, edges, even tiny wooden shoe pegs. Included is advice for setting up a bench and your shop to use planes more efficiently and accurately, such as simple jigs to hold your work securely.
Planes were once the most important tools in a carpenter’s chest, and I believe they still are today. The quality and variety of planes is on the rise, as is interest in using them to build fine things of wood. I like to imagine this book well worn and sitting on a shelf in your shop, a complete guide to using these indispensable tools.
After delving into planes so thoroughly in THE HAND PLANE BOOK, I began to think about all of the other hand tools– saws, chisels, marking and measuring tools, rasps, boring tools that I can’t imagine working without. Of course I use machines, but it’s working with hand tools that I find most pleasurable. They are quiet, accurate, efficient, they encourage me to discover new ways of working, and many of them are just plain beautiful to hold and use.
So I went around my shop and started making a list of all of the hand tools I use, as well as some peculiar and interesting ones worth knowing about or with unusual stories. Each chapter covers the tools for a specific task, such boring, sawing, and planing. I cover in detail how they evolved, the variety once available, which trades used them, how to tune and use them, even repairs and making your own tools. There are also sections on workbenches, clamps, buying used tools, restoring them, and how to store them.
One of the most enjoyable parts of writing this book was traveling to England, Canada, and throughout the United States searching out museums and private tool collections. My photographer and I even went to an amazing English tool auction, where thousands of lots of unusual tools sold in hours. The breadth of what we saw — and in my case handled and used — gives depth to the photos that often contain the tool, the shavings it produces, and other tools used along with it. But my favorites are still the engravings taken from old catalogs that show in crisp detail the incredible variety — and beauty — of the classic tools once available to every woodworking trade.