There is More than One Texture


Not everything should be as smooth as a nun’s stomach. While every surface of my work is finished with handplanes, that doesn’t mean it was a smoothing plane.

Cabinet backs and the undersides of everything are best finished with a jack plane, either across, diagonally or parallel to the grain. Not only does this speed you along and allow you to save your effort for the show surfaces, it is pleasant to touch.

The shallow scallops – even the woolly ones that plow across the grain – actually feel like something worth touching. Even a little bark down below is OK with me. On the interiors of cabinets and drawers that will get touched frequently, I finish with a jointer plane. This leaves wider and shallower scallops that almost anyone can feel if they look for them.

On the show surfaces, the even-shallower scallops left by my smoothing plane are almost imperceptible unless you catch the top in the right light or pass your hand lightly across the surface with the intent of finding them. They are mostly invisible to the touch, but they are there.


I’m fully capable of planing all surfaces to nearly dead-flat and then finish them with a sanding block. That’s a great surface for a highly reflective finish. And while a perfect and smooth finish would have been spectacular in 1769, it’s unavoidable, plastic and mundane now.

Today I finished my first 15th-century dining table for the “Furniture of Necessity,” and I figured that by leaving these toolmarks, I saved an entire day of labor. And I like the table better than if it were perfectly extruded from a wide-belt sander.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Design Book. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to There is More than One Texture

  1. beshriver says:

    Even a little bark down below is OK with me…classic

  2. Joe Eberle says:

    If only I could buy arm extensions (and gut reducers)so I could plane the entire width of a table.

  3. Niels Cosman says:

    Where is that stained glass from? It’s excellent!

  4. Chris, What is the origin of the monkeys building this table?

  5. denvergeorge says:

    Recently I’ve been building a lot of boarded furniture. The jack is the only plane I use before painting with milk paint. Great look and great feel.

  6. bloksav says:

    Smooth as a nun’s stomach 🙂
    I’ll tell my dad that you still use that expression.

    I find myself touching the underside of almost every wooden table I sit down at. Just to check if I can feel any tool marks.

    At first I thouhgt the monkeys in the picture were carrying a super large cabinet scraper, but then I realised that it is probably the table top.


  7. Jennie here
    I don’t believe they are making a table.
    They did that some time ago.
    It is finished.
    They are putting it up
    probably for the hundredth time.
    This is all you get.
    So, when they need the space once again
    to do some monkey shines.
    They take it down.
    This is a fabulous image.

  8. Bob Jones says:

    And the purpose of the pile of Borg lumber is revealed.

  9. So, we don’t have to finish the backs of our drawers and cabinets to a dead-flat mirror polish?

  10. toolnut says:

    “Helper Monkey” t-shirt?

  11. waltamb says:

    So what is the story of this pic?

  12. That six-leg design would work great for a desk. I’m definitely going to go this route.

    • It all starts here:
      1400 Coer de L. 102 They sette tresteles, & layde a borde.
      This is the Medieval Great Hall groaning board. The images show one side seating.
      The Monkey image shows that the trestle had but one leg for the comfort of the diners. You cannot get your chair by the two legs, They also trip you. Seating and eating is for comfort, not challenges. We would have to take the entire Family for Chinese on Thanksgiving. OK, use for seating on one, two or three sides. Use it against a wall for many purposes. There are possible freestanding non-seating use. uses. Again the Medieval marketplace images show trestles and board. Does anyone have reference to an image that shows the marketplace trestles had three legs. They probably did so they would sit on uneven surfaces. Also their use of curved flared out legs increase footprint for stability. I suspect they were rived from the tree butt swells. Their images look pretty funky.

  13. waltamb says:

    OK, Why would you place the double legs on the same side?

    Just typing and thinking… would a table be more stable if the double leg sections were on opposite sides.

  14. Waltamb
    I repeat myself. Many period images show that the in the same Medieval Great Hall every one sat on one side of the board, the same side where the three legged trestles underneath had only one post. The monkey’s are setting up the board and trestles. The diners were served from the two legged side . As Chris’ line drawing shows, the two legged side was often decorated. It faced the Hall. The monkeys may have been breaking the board and trestle down. Notice that posts are on one side.

  15. waltamb says:

    Ah, I see said the blind Carpenter as he picked up his Hammer and saw. thx

  16. Baltimore, MD., 1938. The Knife-Sharpener and Monkey come down the alley behind the 1900 block of Park Avenue. The Monkey is natty in his red jacket and cap. Knife-Sharpener wheels an upside down triangular frame. Inside is a large stone sharpening wheel. One of them rings the bell. Don’t remember, I was 8. The frame is turned over and carbon steel kitchen knives are sharpened. I do not know carbon steel, but that is all there is. Finished, Knife-Sharpener returns the glistening knives. Monkey takes off his cap and collects. Knife-Sharpener takes up the money. Monkey replaces his cap and bows. They head down the alley towards North Avenue.

Comments are closed.