My thoughts are that one should start woodworking with the tools you already have, along with some truly essential tools for woodworking. In short, my list includes only the following tools, which I think make a great place to start:
- Some kind of sharpening process (I like waterstones)
- Jack plane
- Ryoba saw
- Pair of decent bench chisels
- Marking tools including a layout knife, marking gauge, square, and a pencil
I had intended to build some real furniture using only these tools. Yes, I did build several projects using only my Beginner's Tool Kit (BTK), but I have yet to get a furniture build completed. Jonas from Mulesaw stole my thunder a bit by building a dovetailed sea chest (with canted sides, secret compartments and self-made hardware) using only the tools that happened to be on the ship he was on at the time. This included only a Stanley #3 smoother, a hacksaw, a powered hand planer and a few junky chisels. Trust me, it is possible to do fantastic things with just a few tools.
|Made with a hacksaw, duct tape and chewing gum by Jonas.|
My overall impression: This plane works like crazy. I haven't really missed the others.
|BU Jack it use.|
The secret is in the BU jack's versatility.
Ninety percent of what you need a bench plane for is one of three things: rough work for removing a lot of material, flattening, and smoothing. Let's go into how the BU jack performs in these three tasks, as well as some others.
BU Jack as a Fore PlaneA fore plane is one of the first planes I use on a board straight from the lumber yard. After sawing a board to rough dimensions, I will use a fore plane to remove all of the fur and get things sort of flat and square, taking the board down to near final thickness.
|Traversing my bench top.|
How to do itFrom a rough board I always start by making a couple swipes along the back edge to create a chamfer to prevent spelching, or blow out. Then, I will traverse along the whole board, planing across the grain. After a few passes across the grain, I will switch to a diagonal pass, followed by another diagonal pass 90 degrees to the first diagonal pass. If at this point, there still are some low spots that haven't been touched by the iron yet, I will start the process over.
Once the whole face is clean, I will check the width and along the length with a straight edge to see if it is flat, and use winding sticks to check for twist. The board does not have to be perfect at this point. If there is a major flaw, it might be quicker to fix it at this stage.
BU Jack as a JointerAfter your board is roughed into shape, you will want to make it perfectly flat on it's faces and edges. The Veritas BU Jack is 15" long, which is a bit short for a traditional jointer, but with a bit of care you can get excellent results.
Adjustments neededRetract the blade and tighten the mouth. The finer the cut, the more accurate the results, but the longer it takes. One benefit of the versatility of this plane is you can start with a medium setting and make it fine once you start getting close to finished. It wouldn't hurt to run your iron over your honing and polishing process before jointing.
How to do itIf your board still looks a bit rough after the fore planing process, you can start on the face with more alternating diagonal cuts. I wouldn't do any traversing at this point. Alternate diagonal and with-the-grain passes until the deep gouges are removed. Once the face looks perfectly flat, check with your straight edge and winding sticks. Your face might start looking like it is ready for finish at this point, but don't pay attention to that. We are looking for dead-nuts perfectly flat reference surfaces.
Once the reference face is done, we mark it and move to a reference edge. I will take my time planing this edge as it is easy to mess up. Once the plane is taking full length and full width shavings, I can check my progress just like before with a straightedge and winding sticks. If I am satisfied, I will next check with a square to ensure this edge is perfectly 90 degrees to the face. It often is not. To correct this, I will move the plane over to the high side of the edge and take a full length shaving with just the edge of the plane taking a shaving only half the width of the edge. I use my fingers as a fence to ensure the width of the shaving is consistent. After this, I will take a full width shaving and check my progress. It should be better. Continue this way until the edge is perfectly 90 degrees. This edge is marked to keep track of the reference edge.
Now that there is a reference face and an edge, I can use a marking gauge to mark the final dimensions of the remaining face and edge. Now it is just a matter of planing down to the line. If there is a lot to take off, the mouth can be opened and the blade advanced for a thick cut like in the first step. When I get close to the line, I change everything to a very fine cut and move to the line. When it disappears, it is done!
BU Jack as a SmootherThis plane makes a pretty big smoothing plane, but if you were careful in the flattening steps, this plane can be made to work nearly as good as any smoother.
Adjustments neededIt is not a bad idea to touch up the blade on polishing medium. Hopefully, after this step the wood will be in good enough shape to apply finish, so our best edge is useful. Set the blade back to a very thin cut. I like to close the mouth to as tight as I can get it without it touching the blade. One alteration I did to my blade was to round over the sharp corners on a course stone. It just takes a couple rolling swipes, and instead of a sharp corner, the blade will have rounded edges. This helps avoid plane tracks during smoothing, and I haven't found that it has any negative side effects during roughing or jointing.
If you really want it to be a smoothing monster, hone a 50 secondary bevel on your blade, or drop in a dedicated 50 degree blade. There is not much that this plane (with a total 62 degree angle) will not be able to handle.
How to do itI will take my time and inspect every part of the surface. There likely are some plane tracks or tear out left over from the jointing process. These fine cuts should take care of those. I look for wispy paper thin shavings as a sign that things are working correctly. The final test is if the surface meets your exacting standards.
Other Things in Which a BU Jack Excels
ShootingNothing squares end grain as easy and fast as a plane with a shooting board. This easily made shop appliance needs to be in every shop. With this appliance, perfectly square end grain is a sure thing, every time. The real secret to shooting quickly, is to get better at crosscutting.
|Jack on a shooting board.|
Adjustments neededSharp. As always. If your end grain has a line or two after shooting, it means there is a ding in your cutting edge. A quick couple swipes on a polishing stone might be enough to give you a perfect cut. A medium cut with a medium mouth opening should work fine in most cases. I only ensure that when the plane is laying on it's side that the blade is perfectly 90 degrees to the bed of the shooting board. Contrary to popular belief, the plane's side doesn't need to be square to the sole for this to work.
How to do itThis plane was born to shoot. Indeed, I purchased this plane for the sole purpose of shooting. It was a happy accident that I found out how truly versatile it is.
First, I examine the board to ensure I know which is the reference edge. This edge will always go against the fence of the shooting board. Next, I make a little relief cut or a chamfer on the edge to prevent blowout. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I find it quick and easy to shave it with a chisel.
Proper technique involves holding the piece against the fence with one hand while moving the plane with the other. Don't try to use the handle, a more effective grip is holding the side of the plane with fingers wrapped around the lever cap.
|Before and after|
Adjustments neededI set the plane up the same as I would for roughing. As I get closer to the line, I make adjustments to take a finer cut by retracting the blade and closing the mouth.
How to do itI started the cut just like in CS' DVD: I start with a short stroke off of the end of the leg. The second stroke is started a little farther back. The next a little farther, and so on. When I get near the mark for where the taper starts, I start over. I think it is important to check the taper cut is square to the reference face every once in a while. If the cut goes off, you can easily remedy it using the same technique described in jointing.
ChamfersI normally do chamfers with a block plane. If one doesn't have one (because this is your only plane), the BU jack does an excellent job. This plane, after all, is just a giant low-angle block plane.
Adjustments neededIt depends on how big your chamfer is. For a big one, start course, and set to fine as you get close. For a small one you can start fine.
How to do itI like a grip where my fingers from the hand that is holding the front knob are on the underside of the plane. My thumb goes right behind the front knob. I then use my fingers as a fence, which holds the plane at a specific angle to the piece being chamfered. After a few strokes, I check the end to see if the angle is where I like it. After a few correcting strokes, I plane down to the mark. If there are multiple identical chamfers to cut, I count the number of strokes it takes and do the same on all cuts. They should all look similar. If the chamfer is fat on the ends and skinny in the middle, I take a few strokes out of the middle only until it evens out. Then I continue with full length strokes. This is a sign that I am not planing evenly.
Plowing GroovesOK, the BU jack cannot plow grooves. I was just checking to see if you have read this far or not.
In conclusion, a BU jack plane truly is essential if you do not have dedicated planes that can do all of these other common tasks. I have also found that using this plane exclusively has really allowed me to get to know this plane. I think I can do twice as much with this plane than I could when I originally wrote the BTK series. My guess is I am not even using it to half of it's potential.
Perhaps you have found other uses for a BU jack. What are your experiences?