Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scrub Plane or Rip Saw?

I’m often asked about using a Scrub plane to remove material in a hurry or when I choose to saw away the waste instead.
” too much to plane and not enough to saw…”
Where do you draw the line?
How much material can you remove with a scrub plane?
How little material can you rip with a hand saw?
I recently saw someone demonstrating how quick and easy it is to remove up to a quarter inch of material from the edge of a board with a scrub plane and the entire time I was thinking that it would make more sense to simply saw it off. Granted if you don’t have a good rip saw and a proper saw bench designed for ripping wood then maybe a scrub plane is the way to go-
These days I find my scrub plane is collecting more and more dust because I’m reaching for my hand saw instead.

This past weekend while I was building my saw bench ( which is perfect for ripping wood as it has one side square to the top so no worries about sawing into splayed legs as well as a ripping notch down it’s length for supporting both sides of the cut when sawing thin material ) I needed to remove a little under a 1/4″ of material for two of the legs that are about 2″ x 2 3/4″ and approximately 20″ long.  In the past I would have reached for the scrub plane and in a few minutes be left with a pile of shavings. The idea of ripping a thin slice of wood was a challenge and it always seemed to be a struggle when ripping wood in general. I often hear wood workers saying they use hand tools for everything except when it comes to ripping wood. I can’t say I blame them if they’re not set up properly.
Well those days are over and my approach now is to rip away the extra material. Instead of hamster bedding I get some thick veneer or thin stock- whatever way you look at it I’ll have an off cut of solid wood instead of a pile of shavings. Those thin offcuts are great for small projects, lamination work or even small drawer sides.  Maybe they’ll eventually become fire wood or land fill but at least I’ll have the option.
Where do I draw the line?
At an 1/8″ ? Maybe.
If the wood isn’t anything special and is full of checks or cracks then instead of ripping it I’ll grab the scrub and hog off the excess material but nine times out of ten I’ll saw it off. Of course if you’re trying to turn a 1″ board that’s 10″ wide into a 3/4″ board you’d be getting into some serious resawing and that’s another thing altogether.
Ripping wood is one of the most intimidating jobs for new wood workers in the hand tool shop. But I promise if you put in the time and practice the technique it’ll be second nature in no time at all.
So anytime I need to remove a bit of material off the width of my stock it’s a rip saw I reach for.
Just thought I’d share that.
PS. the sawyers bench is one of the projects in my new book~; )

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