Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
I am building a desk of ash. It will not be stained. It will be finished with some water based finish that will remain water white (acrylic of some sort). Water on a sanded surface result is swelling and fuzz. Water on a planed surface has much less effect. This desk has many off-set intersections that will be hard to sand between coats, especially the primer coat that will raise grain more, or optimistically less.
I stain most of the woods I build from. I can't control pigment staining on a planed surface. Hence, I have never had need, or desire, for a planed show surface before. My planing has been confined to fitting which is stroke here and there to remove a bit to get a fit. If the result showed it got sanded. My desired goal was to get through a project without the need to sharpen till the end.
Mr. Weaver has done a lot of teaching on the art of planing. I have learned enough from him to attempt planing the show surfaces of the ash parts. I am not attempting these show surface because I believe they will look better than sanded or to achieve a woodworking life style. I am hoping for the practical goal to minimize the time in the finishing step.
What became apparent, as never before planing a few seconds at a time to get a fit with large time gaps between, I could feel the plane getting dull. After what seemed like a small amount of progress, pushing the plane and keeping it in the cut became more effort. But when I did a quick calculation the planing feet add up quick, which leads to dulling that quickly became noticeable in this hard ash. Looking at the blade it was still plenty sharp for any fitting I had ever done, but not for full width shavings off a show surface. The need, that planing enthusiasts advocate, to be able to quickly restore an edge became apparent.
The jury is still out on whether I find planing a show surface of practical benefit in the way I work. It has got to save time on a water based finish. It will not be a benefit for stained cherry and walnut. But I have shown I can do it if need be and thanks to David for getting me to this point. It was quiet and dust-free compared to the 5HP compressor and air driven ROS, but not as fast.