Friday, December 15, 2017

A Justification for Hollows and Rounds

Note 1: This article will be a further addition to my increasing FAQ page. Check it out.

Note 2: My wife, friends and editors always tell me that all of my introductions are too long. Deal with them or delete them. I consider them desirable.

Please consider these paragraphs an introduction to reasons these tools--hand tools--may find relevance in your shop.

(This picture only serves as click bait.)

The first financial commitment of my path into woodworking was the purchase of a table saw. With slightly more woodworking experience, I quickly acquired a 6” jointer and less expensive 12” lunchbox planer. With more practice and increasingly wild dreams I accepted that the combination of my jointer and planer was not able to prepare the desired dimensioned wood of my future.

I priced the various options for jointers and planers. I could purchase a 12” jointer for $2,000 or more (up from only several hundred,) but then I’d have +5x the price invested into my jointer over my planer. At that point, I might as well put another $1,500-$2,000 into a 16” planer. This inevitability, of course, would only leave me wanting a wider jointer, then wider planer, and then jointer, and so on. I was left going through the back and forth, chasing the “Jointer High.”

Do you recognize this?

The “Jointer High,” as I’ve termed the above, is the idea that if you buy the largest sized jointer you choose to afford then you feel that you owe yourself a similarly expensive planer, which will be much wider. Then you consider spending more on a jointer and more on a planer and the circle continues. Buy the widest of both of these and you still won’t have the ability to flatten the top of a 34” wide piece for a single board, pie-crust table.

At this point you do more research and you think that you will just build a router jig for that pie-crust table you’re considering only to recognize that you will not be able to flatten the bench top you intend to build with the jig you propose to construct. You then consider buying a wide belt sander or CNC machine because you’ll have to store the longer/wider router jig and you…

Stop. You’re frustrated…

There are two groups of woodworkers that I tend to disappoint. One of them is the hand tool-only crowd. These quickly disheartened craftsmen assume that I only use hand tools because I spend all day making them. I, however, am a hybrid woodworker. I use hand tools when I am able to accomplish my goal more completely, or more quickly, or without the inherent limitations, which there always are with machines.

These previous pitfalls may be avoided. Introduce a functioning fore plane and try plane into your craft and you may likely content yourself with that 4” Rockwell jointer you’ve seen on craigslist versus the 12” model you’ve considered coupled with your dreamed 24” planer. You need not ever be limited by your tooling if you’ve chosen the correct supplemental tools to your chosen machinery. Hand tools often provide the idea of infinity that all machinery cannot.

Your ability to use hollows and rounds in your work will introduce the same idea of creativity that using a fore or try plane did: exactly create what you want by crafting. Learn to use these bench planes to supplement your machinery then you won’t let your current mechanical tooling affect your actual choices.

Hollows and rounds offer the same idea and pursuit to all: infinite options. Know that committing to hollows and rounds does not commit you to making hundreds of feet of a profile for new crown moulding in your living room and garage. Hollows and rounds offer you the ability to create your thoughts or reproduce a previous maker’s conclusion, not some manufacturer’s interpretations of either.

 These manufacturers’ adoptions, history’s concusions, or your moulding profiles are all made up of the same concave, convex and flat surfaces. Hollows and rounds offer the ability to make these varying convex and concave surfaces. Hollows and rounds will introduce you to the idea of infinity in the same way that the fore plane, try plane, and jointer planes will allow you to flatten any surface, regardless of length, width or (we have not yet addressed this) grain reversal.

The ability to create flat surfaces with hand tools offers you the ability to make any surface flat in the same way that a hand saw allows you to make dovetails of any depth, width, angle or spacing. Hollows and rounds similarly offer you infinite edges and moulded decoration.

The choices that hand tools offer may seemingly be neither apparent, necessary nor desirable in every shop. A varying degree of hand tools have their place, however, in every shop. Consider the options.

How do hand tools fit into your shop?

Do you like this presented idea of ‘infinity’. Of course, maybe you just like listening to baseball or music more than the screeching whine of a router along with your dust collector which does not collect all of the dust. Or maybe you like not having the physical threat that your machines create while spinning at 15,000 rpm. Heck, maybe you just want moulded surfaces that remain clean and sharp because they do not need to be sanded with 3 different grits of sandpaper.

(Dedicated plane for a harpsichord's bridge. The routed profile above will not be the same after machine marks are removed.)


  1. From someone with a verbosity problem, I say write on, Matt, write on. ;)

    So glad I cut the jointer circle before it got past 8". I'm much happier listening to a ballgame or some music or a pod cast as I work through a project. I can even listen to it all when I run my dust collector - a broom and dust pan - to clean up my mess. And I can work in the basement of my condo at 11:00 at night (or, let's be honest, 1:00 in the morning) and not worry about irritating a neighbor.

    But also I love my bandsaw and my drill press. They certainly have a place in my shop.

  2. You hit the nail on the head here. "Infinity" is the perfect description. I doubt I will ever get rid of my power tools, but they would most certainly disappear before my handtools, just because of the limitations that would be imposed to work solely via electrons as you enumerate.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.