Hand Tools Archive

Romanillos on planes and breakers

Jose Romanillos is a well know classical guitar builder from Spain who has lived off and on in the UK, where he taught himself to build guitars from an American book. In the English language he is know as one of the most articulate exponents of the Spanish style, though in Spain there are many guitar makers with a long history behind them.

Romanillos has been building since the 1960s, and a few years back he published a book about his method that is more generous than most in exposing his methods. He is a teacher and author, but he is not a specialist tool theorist who can argue all details of plane construction and meaning. The sections in his book on planes are short, and made up of irrelevant details like the mixture of planes he uses and details that relate to badly made planes he is making do with. But he makes a living in hand tool woodworking and as we all know the easy way there is to use planes for accuracy tasks.

Guitar making is also a mish mash of very expensive and difficult woods, put together with many instances of grain reversal or mixtures of end grain an side grain, hardest woods and softest woods. So planing is an interesting task.

And what is the kernel of his technical advice. Set the breaker close. For him an open breaker for easy chip passing in rough work is .4mm-1mm he doesn't say how tight he sets the breaker but from that point forward it has to achieve a result for the woods in question. He will bail at times and use a toothing plane.

He recommends that beginners experiment with breaker positioning, and says the following:

"The corollary is as follows; for planing wood against the grain or surfaces with potential lifting configurations, back irons should be set as near as possible to the cutting blade of the planes [sic]..."

His book was published in 2013.

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