Miyagi woodworking

Do you want to make your planing easier?


If not, then avert your self-flagellating eyes and go wash your hair shirt.


One of the evolutionary dead-ends in the development of the plane was the “transitional” plane.  It was an attempt to hybridise the easy adjustments of the new-fangled iron plane (even though the Romans had iron-soled planes) with the wooden plane’s smooth glide.  Wood on wood is smoother than iron on wood, and this frictional reduction was their main selling point (that, and their lower price).


But this attraction is largely rendered moot by a simple observation: iron planes weren’t necessarily designed to use without lubrication.  Further, using a lubricant on wooden plane soles was a well-established tradition by 1867 (when Leonard Bailey introduced his version of the iron plane), notably including candles that included both tallow and beeswax.  Peter Sellers uses a bean tin with an oiled rag in it.  I tried that, but found I preferred using simple beeswax.


Every so often, I’ll just take a few swipes of the block across the sole, and that keeps everything working much more smoothly than without.  Not only does it make it easier to plane, but it also improves the surface left behind, since the plane can cut more smoothly.  When I’m planing end grain, as when I’m squaring the end of a board, it is an even more marked difference.

One other application that I use bits of beeswax for is a finish.  Especially on the lathe, I use what’s known as a polissoirI’m (in)famously cheap, so I didn’t buy one.  I made one instead, from an old broom and a little cord.  Despite its less-than-refined appearance, it works pretty well, leaving a very hard wax coating burnished onto the work.


So for making your planing easier to acting as a finish, remember the mantra: “Wax on, wax off”.