Hand Tools Archive

Re: Past game changers..
Response To:
Re: Game Changers..... ()

david weaver
...and why at least on hand tools, we're a little slow to declare a second theory of relativity has been achieved in a hand tool sense.

(playing devil's advocate here, and not trying to start an argument)

* synthetic resin stones - oops, these aren't new. They've been made for razors for more than a hundred years, and the bench stone sizes didn't catch on. They can still be bought cheaply if you can find them. They were resin bonded with aluminum oxide in them...and the new ones are.....resin bonded with aluminum oxide in them.
* fine carborundum stones - sold for the price of good natural stones originally, bought in droves, often used little (get a hand full of silicon carbide particles floating around on your fingers and it's like having sharp fine dirt all over the place - I understand why they weren't favored so well - none of them finish an edge)
* A2 (and other diemaking steels) - it does make a decent plane iron for high wear situations, but few of us actually need them or get a real time gain with them. With certainty, they make it easier for a tool maker to heat treat an iron with minimal warpage. Terrible for chisels, but good for the tool maker. Makes no sense for the user, though - even in a parer where you could suppose long planing cuts. Very popular with companies obsessed with accuracy (Karl Holtey started them commercially, and Karl would probably love a plane made of parts to be used at absolute zero where every single molecule has stopped moving so that perfect indefinite stability can be achieved).
* any number of adjustment mechanisms that's supposed to be more precise and better than the stanley bailey adjuster (I have tried a lot of them, none are better but lots are quite a bit more expensive.)
* heavier planes (insert all of the ping pong with a cast iron frying pan smoothers here - stole that from warren). All of them feel great for a few strokes, and get really heavy and sticky on a board once you start to sweat and notice weight.
* super thick irons - same as heavier planes. Feel great, like riding an old cadillac that had power steering so jacked up that you could hardly feel the road through the wheel, and you could turn the wheel with your pinkie while driving over a 4 inch deep pothole. Pain in the rear end to grind - combine high alloy with very thick "two improvements in one", and you have something exceptionally slow to grind. They also remove your senses when it comes to feeling tearout when smoothing.
* two handed saws and various saw guides - every gadget has its own learning curve. Probably not a bad idea if freehand is no option, but limiting otherwise and a pain to learn to use and then what do you do when you can't use one on a cut. Suffer through risky cuts, I guess.
* Primus smoother - I mention it because it literally claims to have solved every stanley plane shortcoming, yet it somehow is a relatively undesirable plane to most people who have tried one.
* Stainless steel infills - the ultimate collector's item - won't rust despite the fact that you don't actually use them. Hope the iron is stainless, too, because it won't be replaceable by the time you find it rusty and the maker's style has changed. Maybe just paint the iron with shellac in advance.
* planes with disposable blades - no comment needed
* planes with super hard irons - great idea if it takes 15 minutes to sharpen. Not so great in practice once you learn to sharpen quickly (George Wilson used to tell me all the time that irons should be right at the edge of being file-able with a good file, which I thought was too soft. He has publicly stated before that irons 62+ hardness in common tool steels are too hard, so I'm not stepping on toes accidentally by stating that.). Just like heavy planes are wood show planes, I've started to refer to those super-hard irons as catalog tools. As in, you buy them when you view them in a catalog because they have a higher number than other tools. It's like getting more french fries in a combo meal - the number is bigger - it must be better. When the maker charges more for the higher number, of course it must also be better.
* planes with or without handles that depart significantly from what was used when people made a living using planes heavily. Krenov said handles are uncomfortable, so lots of people believe him because he said that. Never mind the tens or hundreds of thousands of period woodworkers who didn't find much favor in going without handles.

There are some improvements, but it seems like a 100 to 1 thing (what's actually an improvement for all). For refreshing hardened steel, CBN is just better. It's faster, no water (I never used water to begin with, but now the iron isn't even too hot to put it in your palm). Certainly, it's not necessary, but it's better and may be cheaper in the long run.

Belt grinders - not particularly useful for regular woodworking, but in tool and knife making, and rasp making, better than a wheel for a lot of operations. Not many deadly accidents with them, either.

Carbide - also not much of an improvement for woodworking, but making tools and working metal, huge improvement for certain things.

Stanley bailey plane design - an affordable metal plane with interchangeable parts, great adjuster, great cap iron design.

(I can think of gobs of things that have improved in terms of metalworking, shaving, etc, and enthusiasts of those things tend to figure that if there were improvements in those, there should have been in woodworking, too, but I don't see much practical improvements in actual tools since the introduction of the stanley plane with a lateral adjuster. things have definitely gotten cheaper in terms of days of labor needed to afford a given tool, but a lot of the subtleties are lost).

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