My Groovy Secret Weapon

There are 35 grooves in the HB Tansu case construction.  That’s a lot of grooves to plow for one project.  If you’ve used a plow plane then you know that one momentary laps of concentration can have disastrous results.  If your lucky, the damage is on the inside and won’t be visible.  I’m rarely lucky in these situations.  Once the wall of the groove is chewed up, the options for recovery are limited.  Sometimes you can dress up the damage, but more often the piece will need to be remade.  The latter option is no big deal for simple pieces.  However, this can be a lot of work if there is a lot of other joinery in the piece.  It’s best to install the grooves in a piece as soon as possible so that, in the event of tragedy, there is far less wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I have an old Record 043 thats in really good shape.  I’ve accumulated several cutters for it and fitted it with an auxiliary fence.  It works well and is generally my “go-to” plow plane.  This little gem will come into play when I plow the grooves for the sliding doors.  For the other 31 grooves I’ll be pulling out my secret weapon.  A Japanese plow plane.  I bought this plane off of Ebay a few years ago and use it when it makes sense to do so.  It only cuts one width, 6mm, and one depth, 9-10mm.  It has an adjustable fence for positioning the blade from the edge of the work piece.  The real difference is that it has 2 blades that slice the width of the groove before the main blade plows out the waste.  So it will plow a groove with the grain or across the grain if need be.  Of course it’s designed to be used on the pull stroke and that is easy to get used to.  This thing tracks with almost no effort, every time.  The resulting groove has pristine walls that drop straight down to the bottom of the groove.  I can rip out a pretty hefty shaving with each stroke so the work goes quickly.  I love this plane its an absolute joy to use.  It does only one thing, but does it exceedingly well.

Greg Merritt

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11 Responses to My Groovy Secret Weapon

  1. Keith Peters says:

    Oh man… I have an unhealthy addiction to plough planing. And anything Japanese. You really shouldn’t have shown me this.

  2. It looks like it’s a bit tricky to get the 3 irons set. I’ve never gotten such a good looking groove with my record 043 or the 405.

    • gman3555 says:

      Not at all Ralph. The two side cutters are a matched pair and register against each other. They are exactly 6mm outside to outside when placed together. The plane body is made exact as well. I’ve had the irons out several times for honing and have never done anything more than install them back into the plane. Once they are tapped down tight, they are self wedging, all is lined up perfectly. No fuss, no muss.


  3. joemcglynn says:

    I agree with Ralph, short of using a power tool I can’t get grooves that nice. The problem seems to be keeping the plane absolutely square though. Maybe if I got that under control I’d see some other tear out that the scoring blades would help with.

    I need to go practice grooves now. And toll though ebay for another plane.

    • gman3555 says:

      There is almost ZERO learning curve with this plane. Set the fence, hold it tight to the work and pull. A pristine square and plumb groove every time. I have never had an error when using this plane.
      Also, refer to my response to Keith. 😉


      • joemcglynn says:

        Since you’ve used both western and eastern models, what’s your take on what makes the difference? The pull stroke? Larger body and fence? The nickers? Or just a combination of all of the above?

        • gman3555 says:

          The things you listed all contribute to the Japanese plane being easier to use. The biggest difference is what the Japanese plane does not have. It doesn’t have a pistol gripe tote. IMHO the pistol grip tote causes far more issues than it solves. Human ergonomics is such that, the more you tighten your fist, the more your wrist rotates toward the center line of your body. The three finger grip with pointed index finger was developed to help counteract this tendency, but does not entirely solve the problem. Hence the reason for so many complaints of plow plane tracking problems and always planing board edges low on the edge towards your body. When using western planes, and saws for that matter, I try to use the lightest grip I possibly can and only push with the heal of my right hand.

          Quick demo:
          Hold your dominate hand out and make a light five finger fist. Now squeeze the fist tight. I’ll bet your wrist rotates toward your bodies center line. Now do the same, but this time point your index finger. You’ll see and feel the difference. The pointed index finger limits your wrist rotation but the index finger itself tries to push toward the center line of you body. When planing we are dealing with thousandths of an inch. So these small movements in our grip can cause us all sorts of problems that will show up in the wood.

          That’s enough theorizing on my part for now, but should give you something to think about. I might have even answered you actual question.


  4. orepass says:

    Greg, can you take an other couple of pictures of the plane and fence. Not quite sure how it is adjusted. Trying nor to go down this rabbit hole…..

  5. Pingback: HB Tansu Progress-4 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

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