Fair Woodworking

March 15, 2014

Speaking of Anarchy…

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 1:04 pm

the other day I bought a pitchfork.

No really, I did! But it was for work.

You see with winter construction, in my part of the world, open excavations need to be protected from frost. We do that by spreading straw, and that helps keep the heat in the ground, or at least slow the freezing process while pouring footings and such.

But when it comes time to pour your basement floor, you will need to warm the ground up, and the straw is now in the way of the warming process. When we are busy, I have people to remove the straw for me, but when things are a little slower, I don’t mind strapping on the old tool belt and do some honest work.

Now the last time I decided to remove the straw from a basement myself, I decided that I would save myself the expense of a new tool (Pitchfork), because I was sure I could get by with my trusty rake. Just for the record, although a pitchfork is nice to have when dealing with straw, you can do a beautiful job with a rake. Also for the record, it will take forever, and you may not be able to walk the next day.

So I go ahead and fire up my sweet new pitchfork, and man is it awesome! There is straw flying everywhere, and that straw is moving the heck out of the basement. I got the bulk of the straw out in record time, but wait…

I was left with a thin layer of straw over the entire basement floor, and no matter how careful, the pitchfork just wasn’t fine enough to pick it up.

Trusty old rake to the rescue!!! The rake was fine enough to collect all the leftovers into a couple of larger piles that the pitchfork could really sink its teeth in to.

Two tools worked better than one.

Like slinging straw, handtool woodworking is real work. Unlike slinging straw, handtool woodworking can be fun, and while you can fully dimension all your boards with one not quite ideal plane, having a few dedicated planes will make it all the more fun.

So, should all beginners avoid starting with just one plane?

I think beginners can go through a three step process as they learn, and starting with more than one plane is confusing.

Step 1 – I made a shaving. Beginners should at this first stage be enamored with making shavings in the same way as a first crush. They should lay awake in bed lusting after the chance to go make more shavings. If all goes well, they will get a good understanding of how to sharpen, and set up a plane here, and multiple planes would muddy the waters.

Step 2 – Squaring up a board. Beginners that rush to this point, may get frustrated. Planes that still don’t work how they want them too will distract them from their new task, and make them feel like they are not smart/skilled enough to do this simple task. I also think this is the best time to learn how different tools, set up differently, will make the process much more smooth and effective. This is also a great time to learn about tearout, and wood selection.

Step 3 – I need to build something! I feel sorry for people that skip steps 1 and 2, and I think many handtool dropouts mostly come from people like this. This is the wrong time to learn how to sharpen, set up, and joint six foot curly maple boards with a block plane…


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