Its Good To Have Hand Planes


I had such high hopes that magically I would get the sliding doors for this cabinet finished in one day, haha. There’s so many little details I always forget until I’m in the thick of it. For instance, cutting stopped dado’s by hand with a router plane can be a time suck, but I love it.

I’ve been keeping my tools right beside me as I work, very convenient. It never ceases to amaze me how many hand tools you can fit in a small space.


I started by mortising the stiles. Brought the aburatsubo out because these mortises will see no glue, just a wedged tenon to hold things together, so no worry of spoiling the glue surfaces. I love working with an oiled tool, it really eases the work. Camellia oil smells wonderful too.


Each of these mortises is in a different state of being cut. First is a ‘v’ notch (on the right). Then a hole drilled down in the center, in this case a smaller diameter drill than the mortise width. The hole allows the chisel to drive quite a bit deeper for the last operation, cutting straight down and to the end grain lines. Normally I’ll cut all the ‘v’ notches at once, less switching between tools and postures. The faint wetness around the edges of the mortise is from the oil that lubricates the chisel.


With the mortises cut I pulled out my router plane and tackled the stopped dado that house the interior panel.











The router plane scoops into the cut, and I chop down a bit ahead of the cutting depth at the end of the cut to free the shaving. Once all of the dados are cut in one direction I re-set the fence to finish the groove at the other end going the opposite direction.

How about some action footage?


Notice how I offset the panel groove from the mortise and tenon to preserve the strength of the mortise. This kind of detail is straight from Odate’s book “Making Shoji”


Most days these cool planes sit on a shelf gathering dust. Today they all get to come out to play. I used my plow plane on the rails, after cutting the tenons, to drop in the panel groove.


And then the skew rabbet plane got some action cutting the rebate on the outside edges that ride the sliding door grooves in the cabinet carcass.


Lastly my little chamfer plane worked some of the edges. I love the skewed cut on this little guy, gives a brilliant shine to the cut surface of the chamfers.


What was once a simple stick, two days later becomes quite a bit more complicated in cross section. Why would I spend half a day doing something I enjoy when I can spend two days in the doing?

Seriously though, tomorrow I’m going to finish these doors up and get the cabinet rolling.

6 thoughts on “Its Good To Have Hand Planes”

  1. It’s good to see these interesting planes in action. Sadly, I’ve yet to even touch my plough plane. I got it all the way from across the pond, and it just sits there… I really should try it out.

    Thanks for showing some great examples here!

  2. The photo of the tenon showing some of you typical level of care…….it brings beauty to my morning. Such subtle details are appreciated, even if your average customer might not understand its true value. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the sliding doors, as I’m less and less enamoured of hinges.

    Surpringly (to my wife at least!), I don’t have a router plane, although I often feel it’s lack. I should probably do something about that, haha. I’ve fixed up a few, just never my own.

    The nice mentori-ganna (chamfer plane) that you show is another of those unsung songs that should be shared more often. For precision work where the chamfer must be *exactly* the proper width, they are nearly indispensable. I didn’t really understand their value until I had one. Yours, with the adjustable width and skew blade, is a perfect choice. Those tiny osae-gane, like a postage stamp.

    Nice, as always. Why don’t you drill for your mortice right from the start? That bit of drilling at the end, that’s a new one to me.


    1. I love the mentori-ganna, got it for making a jaguchi rail extension that allows for a classy continuous miter on the inside of a shoji frame. For the doors I made on this cabinet I set the rail back a bit in depth from the stile to allow for chamfers, but still need the mentori-ganna to plane the chamfer on the stile right up to the rail consistently. As far as drilling the mortises first, great technique, I just suck at it, haha. It takes me about the same amount of time to chop a mortise with chisel as to drill the waste first and pare (unless the mortise is timber frame size). I feel like my mortising is a lot more consistent with the chisel for furniture work, and chopping a ‘v’ notch allows the waste to be removed plenty fast. So drilling after then with an under sized bit keeps me from overstepping my mortise line or blowing some grain out on the edge, while at the same time allowing the chisel to drive a good bit deeper starting the cutting straight down.

  3. I envy your care man, I was making a stopped dado too for the kitchen, and just didn’t stop soon enough. Will be into a mortice anyway, but feel the failure.

    Today got internet in the house, finally. But was not so lucky with the pigeons still living on the roof. I followed the whole series from my window (there’s free internet there, if I put the laptop outside the window ) but was too uncorfortable to comment. I wanted to ask you if you could come over and build a kitchen cabinet for us… love your way of working.

    1. Great to hear from you Sebastian! It’s been slow going on this cabinet a times, but has really pushed my technical development to the next level. I’m ready to really study the tansu form and I also want to know more about federal period furniture, inlay, carving, and ornamentation.

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