Hand Tools

Practical relevance of surface appearance

Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
Very little furniture is built that is not finished. It has been demonstrated that once finished a properly sanded surface yields the same result as a planed surface. Hence, the subtle differences observed between these steels is of no practical importance to almost everyone.

Furthermore, if one were to ask how many pieces of furniture were built by readers of this Forum in the past 5 years that employed no final sanding I expect there would be few hands raised. Hence, the tiny chips that lead to tiny tracks are of no importance to anyone doing a final sanding of a project.

As a side note, how anyone can build a piece of furniture without experiencing scuffs and dings that need to be corrected before finishing escapes my experience in these matters. It is obvious that most of a piece of assembled furniture is no longer capable of being planed. So what corrects a scuff that yields the surface that the best of this planing yields?

Only a person of exceptional dedication to hand tools would be planing pine knots.

Conclusion: ease of sharpening, resistance to wear and cost are the only metrics of practical importance in selecting a plane blade steel for almost everyone. The rest is interesting but doesn't guide a blade purchase.

As a further aside knives seem to provide people something to tinker with with no practical purpose. Evidence for this observation is the fact that few knife makers make knives for where knives are actually used-the kitchen. The same metrics that guide a plane blade purchase would guide my purchase of a kitchen knife, if offered a choice. I am left with 440C, usually poorly heat treated for my needs, and whatever Japanese knives are made from as the only choices. The number of animals field dressed or enemy killed with the knives made from the steels researched by knife makers is likely not a large number. Unfortunately little of this research winds up with a kitchen knife. My kingdom for a boner whose edge will last one deer preparation.

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