Running a Leaner Workshop

One of the subtle gems featured in Jim Tolpin’s The Toolbox Book is the tool chest of Tony Konovaloff. In one of the tills is shown maybe a dozen spare plane irons standing on their side.

For well over a decade, I’ve looked on that thick stash of spare plane irons as some ideal situation: sharpen en masse and swap out when you need a fresh edge. So I headed down that path, and all seemed right with the world.

And then, during my sabbatical table build, it happened. I realized just how quick it is to pause from planing, turn around to sharpen a plane iron, and get back to planing. I also found that the stop-to-sharpen approach offers a natural break during high-endurance planing tasks.

But it was my jointer plane itself that began to press the issue. I bought my Stanley No. 8c (a type 13) five years ago from a fellow hand tool enthusiast. The plane came to me with a Clifton Stay-Set cap iron and a Hock plane iron. Somewhere along the way, I acquired a spare Hock iron.

a conundrum

As quick as it is for me to hone an iron and get back to work, the Stay-Set cap iron makes it that much quicker, allowing me to get back to work without fuss. I was really feeling conflicted. I had to do something: either get rid of the cap iron in favor of Ron Hock’s version, or ditch my spare plane iron.

Finally, despite keeping that spare plane iron oiled and in a cloth tool roll, I noticed a spot of rust developing, and it was clear what direction I needed to go. I scrubbed off the rust and sold it to a fellow woodworker.

I also sold a few other tools while my back was healing, tools that duplicated my trustiest users. With the proceeds, I ordered a Lie-Nielsen large shoulder plane. Once it arrives, I’ll offer my Stanley No. 93 for sale. My No. 93 has served me well, certainly for 95% of the tasks I set it to, but when working the shoulders of long tenons, I noticed I’d like it to be taller so I didn’t scrape my knuckles.

They get scraped up enough just dragging on the ground.

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