I spent the last two weeks of 2012 in Israel interviewing woodworkers, touring shops, and visiting places of interest to us furniture makers that I never even knew existed. I am very excited to share all of it, but it will take several entries to do so.
In my first blog entry about this trip I will talk about my visit to Etz Ladaat woodworking school and my reflections on using a well-tuned Krenov-style plane that is made onsite at the school in the Sea of Galilee region. Nathan and Oren (Oren is "Pine", in Hebrew) founded this most wonderful school and teach classes in a variety woodworking subjects. Their beginners class students are given a few simple, yet important projects. One of these projects is making a stool. The stool is constructed primarily using dovetail joints, while a secondary element is a stabilizing rail that is secured using a wedged mortise and tenon joint. Through this project, students learn the basics of planing, joinery, and stable construction techniques. Have a look at a couple of elegant examples:
As the class progresses, the students embark on making their own Krenov-style plane. The plane is built from scratch at the school and the blades are imported from Ron Hock's, California. I have to say: what an amazing trans-continental collaboration!
Those of you who follow this blog will know that I am not a stranger to wooden planes. Over the years I have owned several and made good use of them, mainly in molding work. But, I have to say that I have never fallen in love with them. Tuning them just seems to be too mysterious and unpredictable. Their light weight can feel insubstantial. And, the fact that their body can alter its geometry as result of humidity changes, or loose its flatness simply because of natural sole erosion, makes me too anxious to use on a daily basis.
During my visit to the school I was given the opportunity to use a wooden plane made by one of the students. I assumed that if the student made it and the teachers approved it, I could hop on the horse and shave away. Alas, I was so wrong. The shavings that I produced where short and varied in width. In comparison, the shavings that Oren created were continuous and wide. I felt as if the plane was behaving like a horse, trained to work better with its owner than with a stranger. I tried all kind of tricks to improve my performance, changing the pressure on the plane body as I went, clamping down harder on the blade casing, but with no such luck.
At the end I managed to plane better, but not even close to that of Oren the "wiz". Still, I had a lot of fun trying.
So, in conclusion, wooden planes are still not for me. I prefer the predictability and maximized control I get from a good quality Bailey style. I like all the features associated with it and I think that this makes my planing life simpler. But, wow, were those wooden planes beautiful. And, how lucky the students of Etz Ladaat are to be able to create their own tool. If you're in Israel, this is THE place to study. There may be some "study abroad" opportunities in the future, and I'll keep everyone posted when they are formalized.
From right to left: Nathan, Oren, Yoav