In this age of information, your question has likely been asked and answered a few dozen times or more. Sometimes the information you need is far too buried, but we often see the exact same questions over and over.
You Gotta Search
Ask your favorite search engine. It’s amazing what you can find with just some good keywords and Google. If I’ve got a question, I’ll generally attempt about 10 minutes of searching Google, Facebook, and/or Reddit before posting it.
It’s also important to research ahead of time so you can be prepared and ask good questions. You might not get a direct answer through a search, but you will often come across information that helps you frame your questions more directly, to the benefit of the conversation & the people answering your queries.
Admittedly, a Google search can fall short with some of these topics. But there are several other sites which can help get you started that also have search capabilities. Here’s just a quick list of some of my favorites that are perhaps a bit off-the-beaten-path from sites like Fine Woodworking or Popular Woodworking:
- Unplugged Woodworkers (Facebook)
- Great group focused on non-power tool woodworking and my top go-to place.
- Other groups are linked at the top of this if you have more specific needs.
- Antique Tools Buy, Sell & Trade (Facebook)
- While primarily a buy/sell group for antique tools, we love getting “what is this” questions and general discussion.
- /r/HandTools (Reddit)
- The Reddit equivalent to Unplugged Woodworkers. Some very helpful people there, with good search functionality.
- /r/Woodworking (Reddit)
- This is where I got my start; and where I found out about Unplugged Woodworkers.
- A lot of project-based posts, but certainly lots of good information as well.
- A very active forum community with a specific “hand tools” subforum.
- Time Tested Tools
- TTT has a wealth of information mostly about hand planes. If you want to find out how old your plane is, he’s got either the info or a link to what can help date it. I consider site owner Don to be a friend and he was the one who helped host my first article (which gave way to this site).
- WK Fine Tools
- An amazing collection of articles on a variety of woodworking topics. Well-curated, well-written, with excellent pictures. Lots of information about wooden & infill plane restoration, how-to’s, and procedures.
- Moulding Planes Beginner’s Guide
- I have to pitch my own content, right? The article was written & curated from the knowledge of those who use moulding planes both daily and to support themselves. It’s a really good place to start if you’re looking to get into moulding plane use.
What are some other sites & forums which have been instrumental in your learning? I’d love to add to this list.
Bonus: Common Topics
We in the online communities often see the same handful of questions come up ad infinitum, questions which generate lots of misinformation and heated debate. Here’s a shortlist; I’m sure others exist.
- Saw Nib: There are about three or four ideas of what it was for, but little consensus. Know it generally means the saw is older, and generally of excellent quality. Not because of the nib, but because of when nibs were made. Given their lack of use after a point, it sure seems that it was found to be of zero benefit.
- Setting the Plane Down: On its sole or on its side? This is about as useful as asking Mac vs PC. If you were raised on one, you’ll think it’s the way, truth, and life – and fight religiously for it. Just because it’s how you’ve always set it down or how you were taught, doesn’t make it the only way.
- Corrugated Planes: While there’s not a definite know, it’s likely these were a marketing gimmick, perhaps to lure people into metal planes and away from wooden ones. There’s zero benefit from corrugated vs. flat, except that a corrugated one will be easier to flatten – something that was assuredly not a manufacturing consideration.
- Bevel Up vs Bevel Down: Really a matter of preference. Try both and see what you like. You’ll get the “religious” on either side who will do their darndest to convince you why the other way is wrong, worse, bad, etc.
- Sharpening Medium: Oil stones, water stones, diamonds plates, sandpaper, and more. I’ve read enough from wiser people than me who have tried them all, and the answer is really find what works for you and stick with it. If you find yourself hating it, try another.
- Wooden vs Metal: Try both and see what you like. Some people like the heft and feel of the metal planes, and find them easier. Some like the feel of wood-on-wood, the way a 100-yr-old bench plane glides across the workpiece.
Did I miss any? Let me know!