Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chris Schwarz Handplane Class

This weekend I was able to take a class on Handplaning with Chris Schwarz which was the best $100 I have spent in a long time. We covered the basics from sharpening to squaring and flattening lumber with a plane. In addition, he brought some amazing planes that we were able to put our hands on. Many of the items I have taught myself through reading books, magazines and forums but have not been able to perfect or get over the hump. The class was really beneficial to have an expert like Chris show the little tricks or items I was not seeing prior to the class. Not to mention that he is a great person and teacher.

We spent most of the day flattening and squaring a piece of lumber after we learned to sharpen and set up the plane. This was helpful as I have done this in the past but needed some clarification on the approach and what to look for. However, the one item I gained the most from was in the morning when we covered sharpening.

I have struggled with sharpening since I started woodworking and acquiring hand tools. I have read numerous articles on this topic and tried just about every method. I have come a long way with my sharpening skills but he gave me the final polish I have needed to be able to do it quickly and effectively.

The first item that was a huge help was using David Charlsworth ruler trick to flatten the back of the blade. Of course, I have read about this method but never gave it a try. Using your sharpening method, i.e. waterstones, you place a small thin metal ruler on the long edge of the stone to lift the blade a very small amount when you sharpen. You then place the blade onto the ruler with the sharpening edge at the opposite edge that the ruler is on. This will give a very small back bevel and focus on the end of the blade where you want to flatten. It only takes 6 to 12 passes on each stone to get a 1/8" to 1/4" flattened spot at the blade tip. Works great.

The second item that I have had a challenge with is putting a camber on my blades. I am not sure why I have had this problem after Chris explained it as it is a very methodical approach...and that is my entire brain. He uses a simple $10 honing guide and breaks down his blade into 5 different pressure zones as shown below on my personalized Sketchup software.

He will sharpen with pressure on each zone and form the camber by the number of strokes. He uses six strokes on zones 1 and 5, three strokes on zones 2 and 4, and finally one stroke on zone 3. If you want more of a camber then do more strokes on the outside zones. He will do this through all of the stone grits. Pretty simple....not sure why the camber scared me so much.

The final touch is to go back to the ruler trick and give the back of the blade one or two good strokes on the stone to remove the burr. I was amazed as I was able to fully tune up three blades in about 30 minutes. It greatly improved and quickened the process so I can be doing more woodworking and less sharpening...which I hate.

At the end of the day we ended up learning many great skills and went home with a shooting board. He is also doing a handsawing class which sounds like it is going to be a great class. I really wish I had signed up for both. Next time I will certainly sign up for that class as I would like to learn more about handsawing.

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