Anytime a woodworker starts tossing gossamer handplane shavings into the air that float around like some visible fairy flatulence, we both know what will happen next.
Some grumpy wag will say something like: “Bah, who cares about the shavings? All I care about is the board. You are playing with your garbage!”
I am always quick to correct these killjoys. Shavings of all sizes are extremely useful to the handplane user – and not just as compost.
When I handplane a case side sitting on my workbench, one of the most common difficulties is being unable to plane the very center area of a panel. Even with a short plane, I sometimes cannot get the last little bit of wood planed in the center.
So instead of planing the entire panel for another hour, I lift up the panel and toss a couple gossamer shavings on the bench right where the problem area is. I press the panel against the bench, secure it between dogs and resume planing. Eighty-six times out of 100, this fixes the problem instantly. Sure, it temporarily bows the panel out a bit, but that’s no big deal – the dovetails, back and shelves will help pull it flat.
Second example: I use a lot of wide boards, so I end up processing a lot of stock by hand in my shop. When I begin jacking one face of the board, I usually have to shim under the board so it doesn’t flex under pressure from the plane. This shimming is either in the middle of the board or at the edges, depending on whether I am working on the bark or heart side of the board.
Shavings to the rescue. I first learned to shim my boards using pine construction shims. But after a few near-vasectomies, I switched to using shavings – usually the shavings from a jack plane. These are thick and fill up gaps quickly.
These two suggestions are old tricks that I’ve picked up from books. They work great – saving you time and injury to your privates.
— Christopher Schwarz