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Finishing rough cut wood - tool advice

 
pollinator
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I’m working on a bench like the ones in this PEP badge:

Green Wood Bench

This is what I’m starting with. It’s cherry, btw, so pretty tough to work with.



As you can see, it’s got a wicked twist on it but there’s enough wood to make a flatish seat.



I started by cutting horizontal cuts, eyeing in where I wanted the finished surface to be. I’m not looking for fine furniture grade finish, just a smooth surface to park a few bums. (I realise that might mean different things to Brits v Americans . . . Behinds?)

I then removed most of the meat with an axe.



Finishing with an adze



Now I need help. My next tool is a large wooden plane I restored last year. The blade is very sharp and it works, but it’s really slow. I don’t mind the time it takes, this is my thinking project, something I can work on when I’m tackling the mental component of other projects.



After two hours



The issue I have is, I now have blisters on both hands even though I was wearing gloves. And there’s probably a better tool, I just don’t know what it is. Can you help?

I should mention I could have built a jig from 2 x 4’s and a router sled. But that’s not the path I’m taking on this project. I’m seeing how much I can do with hand tools, as started in this thread:

Human Chainsaw
 
gardener
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Flattening an entire log is no easy task. I was fortunate to have a broad axe and hatchet along with a flat adze. It looks like you got it pretty smooth. With the broad axe, the curved handle and flat side I think made a big difference for me. That is a beautiful log by the way.
 
gardener
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Sorry about your hands. I get blistered up when I get too into a task without paying enough attention to my body's feedback. Yesterday I had a nerve pinch make my finger go numb for 20 minutes after peeling chestnuts... Blisters are especially frustrating though because it feels like you got kicked off the team for medical reasons, even though you were going at it with full vigor!

I second Robert. A side axe or a broad axe is one traditional tool used for the purpose. I've seen a remarkably smooth finish done with a side axe (on youtube). Some people leave it with an adze for an interesting textured finish. You could use a drawknife, but it's likely to pull off big splits of fibers when you hit them if you're not careful. Edit: Nah, on second thought your log is probably too wide for a drawknife to get much action.

I planed my big flat log projects, but they were also cedar and cypress, and that goes a lot faster than planing cherry. It still took me a several days of planing sessions to finish my planing board. Also, dry wood planes more easily than wet wood in my experience, the reverse of true for things like hewing or carving.

I would say you might want to have a pair or triplet of planes at hand for the job when your blisters get better. I had a couple planes set-up as such:
1. A roughing plane for clearing the big bumps and chinks, and 2. a more carefully set smoothing plane for a second or third pass.

Having two at hand makes it easier for switching back and forth as you need to make adjustments as you go.
 
L. Johnson
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This youtube search gave me what I was looking for: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=german+traditional+woodworking+hewing

Shows using side axes to surface logs.
 
steward
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One thing we learned this summer at the SKIP event is that a smaller plane will follow the curves of the surface and clean it up much faster than a large plane.  The surface will have more undulations but it'll be smooth.

Another possibility would be a big honking spoke shave.

A third one that probably won't work for your situation is to saw the surface lengthwise with a ripping saw.  Avoiding all that other work with the adze, hatchet and cross cut saw.
 
pollinator
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The hewing axe may be the 'correct' tool for the job.  If it were me, however, I would get my draw knife good and sharp....

 
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I only wear gloves for cold or handling abrasive materials. I find using them with tools tends to cause blisters. A natural wood handle is one of the most perfect interfaces for human skin in my opinion. Just enough friction, but not so much it causes blisters. I have found technique is important to not get blisters as well. Learning to hold a tool just right can allow hours of use at a time. Fit also plays into this.

I think a scrub plane is what you are looking for. They are pricey, but I think Paul Sellers did a video where he reground the iron on a No. 3 Stanley or similar and it did a pretty passable job as a scrub plane. A scrub plane will cut a surprisingly deep swath with surprisingly little effort making a neat zipping sound. If this is what you are likely to be using the plane for in the future, you may regrind its iron to have a more pronounced radius. It would be less ideal for finishing work, though.  

More work with an axe or adze could help. If your adze is a gutter adze in the pic, the round cut may be less ideal than the axe. A proper hewing axe or hatchet would be good, but a typical felling axe can work.

You are cutting across the grain, just to be sure?
 
Edward Norton
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I knew I could count on some awesome replies - makes me wonder why I didn’t ask earlier!

My blisters are healing but it’ll be a while before I can use that plane. I wasn’t aware I had a problem until I took my gloves off and left skin behind. I was wearing them because I was alternating between axe and saw and plane, mixing stuff up. My soft covid hands are starting to toughen up!

L Johnson’s query gave me just what I was looking for. I hadn’t thought of rotating 90 and using a broad axe. Too many years of gaming have programmed my brain to think “Weapon” not “Tool”. I have a much smaller plane so will have a go with that, following the curves makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of a large spokeshave. I’ve been reading a book on making tools and I think it’s something I could have a go at one day.

Cheers folks, help much appreciated.
97C631E8-D86E-48F6-9F10-F1D37FE00900.jpeg
Gruesome blisters
Gruesome blisters
 
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