Hand planes are amazing tools that can teach you a lot if you're attentive to how they behave when you use them in a certain way. As many hand tools, they have been optimized through a sort of evolutionary process over centuries and the knowledge of previous craftsmen is embedded in their design. When you start understanding how to properly use them and you've got a good quality one with a sharp blade, the planing experience can become tremendously satisfying.
I am not a woodworking master by any means, and will not dare going into sharpening, blade alignment and micro bevel tuning.
So here are just a few tips I learned or figured out while planing a lot by hand this past month that I thought I should share!
Step 1: Effortless Gliding
Anyone who has planed a large surface by hand will now that it can get sweaty and tiring really fast.
A great way of reducing friction when using the plane is to simply rub the sole with the cheapest paraffin candle you can find.
Trust me, it makes a WORLD(did I emphasize that enough?) of difference.
Less effort required to obtain the same results
More precise strokes
No staining of the work surface as oily compounds would
Try it and never go back :)
Step 2: Using the Plane As a Straightedge
Everything is in the title. This is the easiest way to ensure that you're working straight and flat and that your iron has no high or low spot, provided that your workpiece is not too big or you'll miss out on the big picture stuff.
In order to check for larger errors, a pair of winding sticks (google image link) can be very useful. They will tell you at a glance if you've been working out of square.
Disclaimer: the picture is not mine! I found it online.
Step 3: Prevent Rust and Protect the Blade
After a day of work, I spray a rag with WD40 and wipe the steel parts clean of fingerprints.
This will prevent rusting on those surfaces, which are crucial to the plane's precision!
Similarly, avoid touching the blade with your bare fingers.
I then fully retract the blade before storing the plane in VCI containing paper in a dry environment. I still have to build a proper plane cabinet..