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!!!!! Are draw knives and planers that horrible?  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I've been slowly learning some roundwood woodworking through the PEP curriculum, and I've seen a lot of mention of draw knives and planers for smoothing the wood. I called up my dad to see if there were any extras from when my grandfather moved out of his house and into a retirement apartment, and I was told that there was no reason to use a draw knife or planer. That they were too hard to use, and to just use a electric sander. I don;t really like power tools, and would like to learn the traditional skills. But, currently everyone seems to be saying that these older ways of smoothing wood are hard to use, inaccurate, and possibly dangerous. Are they really that bad? Should I just learn to use the sanders that we have, and not look for a draw knife or planer?
 
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A sharp hand plane will leave a surface finish that would take a lot of work to approach with sanding. Chisels, planes and draw knives don't require hand, eye or ear protection and of course no electricity.

Making a long shaving with a hand plane is magical thing.

I really like Paul Sellers on YouTube for woodworking by hand instruction.
 
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The very first electric drill was invented about 100 yrs. ago. Sanders were invented less than 100 years ago. Every single building and every single piece of furniture in the world built before 100 yrs. ago was built with hand tools. ~~Not bad for "hard to use, inaccurate or possible dangerous" tools. Especially considering that many of the world's most beautiful buildings and finest styles of furniture date to before 1900. As for me? I prefer hand tools. www.ohiofammuseum.com  P.S. When I was younger, I  worked at a place where a guy was using an electric planer, with rotating blades. He slipped and the planer took all the fingers of his left hand right off. Rather dramatic to see (and very red). If he had been using a hand plane and slipped, he might have got a nick. Oh well.
 
pollinator
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Draw knives are great! Don't use a planer on roundwood.
All this wood i've done in two hours i think, with a visitor of my neighbour. The French farmer is holding the beer in the second picture. This wood was robinia pseudoacacia, black locust, cut in april, we didn't have to use a drawknive, we could just peel it off with a knife, if the sapstream is going it's super easy.
Have used the drawknife a month ago when peeling roundwood. You've got to get into what i think they call the cambium layer and draw towards you. Sharp knife makes it easy. It depends on your muscle strength as well.
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pioneer
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marty, the man of this outfit, does most all of the building and maintenance in this here outfit...but, i can tell ya...although we do have some power tools, he HATES the sounds of power tools...and his preferred method of carpentry are his old hand tools picked up here and there...resale stores, auctions, trades, etc.  his draw knife and planers are among those tools most used in his toolbox...i wish i could get him to share on here...but, he is a quiet man and an old cowboy :)  

so, ill do it for him...to the best i know how...he was SOOOO brought up in the old ways...and has so many gifts!!!  i love to watch him whittle away at a piece of tree...whatever size or shape, and turn it into something marvelous! :)
 
pollinator
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I've used a draw knife and I think they are fun.  The key is to keep them sharp.  My husband is much more skilled in woodworking than I am and has carved puppet parts with a draw knife (he was a professional puppeteer in a previous career).

 
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My father had a box of broken glass he used as shaves held perpendicular to the work.  Try it... carefully...
 
gardener
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Years ago I had a part time job after school working for a furniture company. They sold antiques & some very expensive mass produced furniture. They also had an old time master cabinet maker, named Erno, from Hungary or somewhere near that region. I forget, it's been many years. He made custom designed furniture for the very wealthy. One day I asked him why he did not use power tools. He pointed to all the beautiful precision furniture he made & explained his work was about craftsmanship not quantity. He explained that one can feel the wood with hand tools & that makes all the difference in bringing out the best qualities of a particular piece of wood.  I'm quite certain he departed the earth long ago but his amazing furniture will be cherished for many more generations to come. There's a little Erno in my wooden spoon.

Plus, what are the available options if the power goes down hard??? Hand tools are good. Many tools can cause injury. Powered or not. There are "rules" for staying safe with them. Wear appropriate safety gear. Pay close attention to the task at hand. Learn the safe method to use them. Don't use them for something they're not intended to do. Don't try to force them. Keep sharp tools sharp.

Hand planers are fairly safe. Draw knives are more dangerous but following the rules above will help prevent injury. Neither are suitable for young kids without adult supervision. Just because something might be more difficult does not mean that it is not worth learning.
 
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my draw knife is a lawnmower blade with two pieces of rebar tackwelded to the ends (for handles)  sharpened with a hand file.   For debarking roundwood it is good, but its a workout.  Definately work the wood as green as possible. And know know the sap-timing.

i can strip 4  3m logs of  15 cm diameter doug fir in an hour, but if you do that more than a few hours in a morning the next morning should not be an abs or triceps day.

Safety not an issue,  i mean, i would choke if i tried to swallow it, and i suppose i could crack a bone if i wacked myself with it... i cant imagine an unintentional injury.  

 
pollinator
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I don't exclusively use hand tools, but was taught how as a young boy by my father.  I still use hand tools from time to time and enjoy it. I actually used a handplane just last week on a tabletop I had glued together. Handplanes are not too dangerous as you are generally pushing the tool away from you.  A drawknife can be more dangerous as you are pulling the cutting edge towards you.  Just use common sense, keep your tools SHARP and go slow until you learn how to use them.
 
Joseph Michael Anderson
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Also, you can push a draw knife away from you, like when you are tired of going in the same motion,  make your angle between the knife and log less than when pulling because you tend to push down more "in reverse".    
 
pollinator
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I prefer hand tools over power tools for woodworking, and if the success of Lie Nielsen says anything, hand tools are not going out of style. I would have to check the website, but when I worked there as a machinist, drawknifes were still being made.

I still think people using drawknifes for removing bark is the wrong tool to use. Here in Maine we always used a spud. Up until the 1980's, a logger made $5 more per cord if it was "peeled". Every old barn has one sitting on a sill somewhere for this reason.

 
Travis Johnson
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This was one of may most ambitious woodworking projects done almost entirely by hand. It used mortise and tenon joinery, dovetails and lovetails, the latter of which is impossible to do with power tools because the heart shape pins must be carved by hand chisel. You can see the lovetails on the drawer that is partly open underneath the engineers side of the locomotive cab. They are called Lovetails because when they fit together, they look like a series of hearts. (The cradle part isin back of the cab, but ahead of the radiator and where the engine would be).



Damsel-in-Distress.jpg
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pollinator
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I've been slowly learning some roundwood woodworking through the PEP curriculum, and I've seen a lot of mention of draw knives and planers for smoothing the wood. I called up my dad to see if there were any extras from when my grandfather moved out of his house and into a retirement apartment, and I was told that there was no reason to use a draw knife or planer. That they were too hard to use, and to just use a electric sander. I don;t really like power tools, and would like to learn the traditional skills. But, currently everyone seems to be saying that these older ways of smoothing wood are hard to use, inaccurate, and possibly dangerous. Are they really that bad? Should I just learn to use the sanders that we have, and not look for a draw knife or planer?



OK lets dig into this here.

You were told there is no reason to use these tools. With all due respect to your dad, I think he is mistaken. These tools will teach you the wood in ways a sander never will. A sander indiscriminately removes material with little to no care of grain and character of the wood. And this is likely why your dad thinks these tools are not needed, but he is missing the point of learning the wood. Knowing your piece of wood is important. Its grain, knots, bows, and character will tell you a lot of how it will perform. It will let you know what way it will warp, where it's strengths and weaknesses are.

You were told they are too hard to use. Yes and no. Yes to learn to be a master with them is a long process. But generally a novice can do fair with just a little practice with various samples of different types of wood to experiment on. A little time learning what the tools do in different situation and you can be putting what shapes you see in your mind into the wood with a fair amount of accuracy.

Power tools can be extremely dangerous, go talk to a shop teacher and hear some horrifying stories of accidents with power tools. However a simple bladed tool can be too. All tools have potential for disastrous accidents. Respect and care should be take with an electric sander and a draw knife.

I can tell you that some of the old timberframe stuff is amazingly accurate. Especially the old Japanese timberframe stuff. Joints that are just amazingly accurate and impossible to do with power tools.

If you have a desire to learn traditional skills, then give it a try. Do your research, find someone to give you in person basic instructions (especially about safety), and give it a go. We need all the people we can to keep traditional skills from disappearing.
 
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For me there is a more intimate connection when using a hand tool. You have to be more aware. My power tools are accurate when properly set up and faster by far. Noisier and require an awareness of the spinning, reciprocating flesh eating steel. The satisfaction of watching a thin curl of wood roll out of a plane and the sound is meditative. A craftsman version of OHHM. I admit I need a twelve step intervention for my tool addiction. I use power tools for most of my wood work, but have hand tools to take their place if need be. I find that even with power tools a cabinet scraper, spoke shave, chisel is used. When talking "round wood" I think the use of hand tools is required. I have large round tenon cutters for making rustic log furniture that fits a drill. But made my first first hand operated one that works perfectly fine. Bodgers never used electric tools.
 
Devin Lavign
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Nicole here is some inspiration and info for you to check out



And for Robert, some calm meditative tool use without any talking with the wonderful Mr Chickadee. If you weren't already familiar with his videos I would suggest you check out the rest, it is amazing. Just the sounds of tools and nature, no narrative or explanation. Just pure meditation of craftsmanship.


 
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Professionally speaking, hand tools are much too slow. I’ve spend decades behind a belt sander and can tell you, they make wonderful sawdust. Hand tools are for the romantic at heart, but you will get much more built with power tools. If you decided to cook would you use a mixer, or just dig out your old wooden spoon. When I’m working on a personal creative project I’ll use power tools 90% of the time simply because the project is more important that the process. Still most of my log furniture is worked with a draw knife. One of the most practical hand tools is a card scrapper. My favorite hand plane is a simple little 7 inch block plane. The good news is used hand tools are horribly underpriced.
 
Devin Lavign
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Nicole here is a well reasoned explanation about why to choose hand tools over power tools.

 
Devin Lavign
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Dennis Mitchell wrote:Professionally speaking, hand tools are much too slow. I’ve spend decades behind a belt sander and can tell you, they make wonderful sawdust. Hand tools are for the romantic at heart, but you will get much more built with power tools. If you decided to cook would you use a mixer, or just dig out your old wooden spoon. When I’m working on a personal creative project I’ll use power tools 90% of the time simply because the project is more important that the process. Still most of my log furniture is worked with a draw knife. One of the most practical hand tools is a card scrapper. My favorite hand plane is a simple little 7 inch block plane. The good news is used hand tools are horribly underpriced.



Sometimes it is less about speed and more about feeling the wood you are working, enjoying the process, and being able to be social and safe while doing the work.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I've been meaning to update this for a few days! When I was over at my parents' house, I was telling them how excited I was to find a manual drill in the stuff that my grandpa gave to me, and my dad went into his shop and came out with one of my grandpa's old draw-knives to give me! It needs to be sharpened, but I'm so excited to learn how to sharpen and use it!
 
Devin Lavign
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Awesome, congrats on getting a family heirloom draw knife.
 
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