Why Do People Love Hand Planes?


What is it about the hand plane that draws people into woodworking? What is it about that block of wood with an iron that connects with woodworkers at such a visceral level?

I think about this question a lot when I’m working in the shop because there are days when it seems I just need to shape wood – as if it’s some sort of therapy or something.

The feeling of satisfaction that comes from using such a simple tool to work the lumber must be something rooted in us at the deepest level. Creativity, I think, is something rooted in our humanity. We were all made to work with our hands.

But also, to lose touch with handcraft is to lose touch with an essential part of what ties us to our heritage. Craft is as much about community as it is creative expression.

David Pye defined “craftsmanship” as the workmanship of risk. What he means is that the more our work relies on our skill and dexterity developed through practice, the more we connect with the heart of craft.

So I think the hand plane has come to embody the interaction between the craftsman, the tools, and the material. When people see the magic of a hand plane, I think they’re recognizing – even if subconsciously – that deep-rooted human desire to create with their own hands. So I think that’s the primary reason hand planes evoke so much awe in people. 

I know that’s true for me.


What do you think, readers?


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