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