GETTING A GRIP
Taller tools give better angular feedback.
SHOP OWNER: Larry Williams
LOCATION: Eureka Springs, AR
As infants, we have to develop a pretty good sense of plumb & level just to learn to walk. This is a natural sense that is further developed and transferred to our hands as we learn to hold a glass of water or any number of normal daily tasks.
This can be further developed to be a big advantage in the shop but requires that we use our bodies in familiar ways. Unnatural twisting or stances can confuse your sense of plumb and level or at least its translation to your hands and their relationship to it.
A good example is what's become the normal way to hold a plane. Perhaps due to the minimalist nature of mass production the profile of the normal plane is shorter. Placement of totes and knobs require a skewed stance in relationship to the work and twisting of one arm and wrist to use them. The result is the inability to really take advantage of your body's natural abilities.
Traditional Western style wooden planes have a higher profile which provides a bigger reference surface to plumb or level. Gripping these planes as shown in the photo will bring your body back into more natural position where you can take advantage of natural abilities.
Try ripping a narrow piece of stock at a one degree bevel. Clamp it in your bench with the bevel up. Set your normal Stanley plane on the wood in your normal grip. You will, most likely, become aware that the surface of the wood is beveled. Now take a block of wood about 2 3/4" by 2 3/4" by 7" and set it on the beveled stock with a grip like that in the photo. I believe you'll find that the one degree bevel becomes quite dramatic and you'll have a natural desire to hold that block plumb rather than let it rest at even a slight angle.
You can take advantage of your natural ability to sense plumb and level with most traditional hand tools. For example, always bore plumb with a brace and bit. If you require an angled hole, angle your work rather than the brace....Larry Williams
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