The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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MWW Seeks BS for LTR.


Decision time is here again. I still have a bit of guilt free tool money burning holes in my pockets, and because my 40th birthday is fast approaching I figure it would be a good time to spend it. I have enough set aside for the Hand Tool School, with a little left over for a purchase or two. I’m strongly considering purchasing a new Hock iron and chipbreaker for my old Stanley #7. The other day I honed the iron and got it razor sharp. It was able to take some nice shavings in oak and pine. There is one issue, though. The Stanley is a type 11 and has a thin iron and chip breaker. I’ve used Lie Nielsen’s #7 before; it has an iron and chipbreaker as thick as battleship armor, and coincidentally the plane worked great. It seems to be generally agreed upon that upgrading your Type 11 iron is a good idea, and Hock’s high carbon irons are thick and a joy to sharpen. So it seems to be a no brainer purchase…But…

Back during the winter I purchased a nice block of straight grained Ash that has been sitting in my garage growing accustomed to its new neighborhood ever since. My plan is to turn it into a try plane. I have plans for making a wood try plane that require an iron/chipbreaker that is also sold by Hock Tools. I’ve made wood planes from kits before, but never from scratch, so there is a possibility that I may mess up and make a plane that doesn’t work properly. I would still have the iron, of course, but it would be useless until I made a new plane body. So my choice is between upgrading an existing plane that I know works great, or taking a chance on what could be a really fun project and purchasing the wood plane iron/chipbreaker set. The easy answer would be to purchase both, but I also have my eye set on a Lie Nielsen tongue and groove plane, and purchasing it along with one of the Hock Irons will not only break the bank, it will put me in the red a little bit.

In other news, I picked up the material for the case of my tool chest, and also ordered the hardware from Lee Valley. I ordered two hinges, two handles, and a couple of pulls. I realize that because I didn’t order the hardware from a blacksmith that I’ve already doomed the tool chest to failure. Having a special relationship with a blacksmith is held in very high regard among woodworking snobs. Those few lucky souls who are fortunate enough to have an intimate relationship with a blacksmith also love to mention it in passing during any general woodworking discussion. I suppose it’s for bragging rights. Not only that, but they’ve always “known the guy for years”, and he also has to have a shop in some extreme, remote location, such as north of the arctic circle, or at the base of Mt Everest. Another point to mention is that the blacksmith should never actually be taking any work orders, but forging for you that certain, special piece of hardware as a personal favor. If you, too, can find a blacksmith who meets this criteria you will indeed be in rarified air and more than welcome into the woodworking snob community.

On a personal note, I’m not sure how a woodworker goes about developing such an intimate relationship with a blacksmith. Should you put an advertisement in the Personal section of your local newspaper: MWW seeks BS for possible long term relationship? Should you just walk into his shop one day, or is that too forward? From what I’ve read on the woodworking sites and blogs, it seems that blacksmiths are very shy, elusive creatures that need to be approached the same way one would approach a wild animal, carefully and delicately. So if anybody has any tips please feel free to drop me a line.

Hock wood plane iron/chipbreaker

Hock wood plane iron/chipbreaker

LN tongue and groove plane

LN tongue and groove plane



  1. Meeting blacksmiths is not that hard. You can introduce yourself on a blacksmith forum at Also join ABA and find a local chapter and attend a meeting. They will be glad to meet you. I was fortunate enough to take a blacksmith class from Don Weber in Paint Lick, KY. Worth every penny. I bought an anvil last year and it sits patiently in my garage waiting for me to build a forge.

  2. Pottsvillain says:

    I have been very close to buying a hock iron and breaker for my #7. Its my great grandfathers and works like a champ despite the thin blade. I can’t vote. Either one works and has its own merits. On the other hand, buy the new blade and use the old blade for the first run at making a plane. You can always make another with a new blade.
    And I too have an anvil, tongs and hammers, awaiting me to build a forge. I’ll get there one day. Too many other things on my project list. Though I have been making my own little blades and tools as the needs arise by just shaping and hardening tool steel.
    Best of luck….Dave

  3. billlattpa says:

    I’m a little torn on this one. Lee Valley also makes replacement irons/chipbreakers for the old Stanley planes in O1, A1, and their new steel. The cost is less than the comparable Hock set but I really love the Hock plane irons. I could get the wood plane iron set from Hock and the Stanley replacement set from Lee Valley. That would save me around $30. I know that $30 doesn’t really sound like a much but I’m trying to purchase everything without spending money out of pocket. I had sold a few guitars months ago and I’ve been using the money for new tool purchases and stuff like that.
    I have no experience as a blacksmith. I think it would be something great to learn but as of now it’s hard enough for me to find time to woodwork, let alone another hobby. Hopefully you get a chance to get started. Let me know how it goes. Thanks!

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June 2013
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