The best way I know to learn a new skill is through repetition, lots of repetition. My ultimate goal is to transition over to using the Japanese plane (kanna) exclusively in my woodworking. However there are several challenges that must be met in order for this to happen.
The first challenge is to gain understanding and skill in setting up the kanna to reliably take a shaving. Part of this process is to learn how to properly condition the sole. Of course I took the hard road and went the extra step of making my own plane body (dai).
The second challenge is to learn to sharpen the blade properly. Japanese plane blades need to have a flat bevel, no rounding, in order to function optimally. I have had these blades for several years and poor sharpening in the past has led to a good bit of corrections that need to be made. So the sharpening at this point is mostly fixing these errors, but I’m getting close.
The third challenge in transitioning to the kanna is to train my eyes and muscles. Setting the blade squarely and for a depth of cut visually with a hammer takes some getting used to. The tricky bit is that the amount of blade protruding through the sole is quite small. Literally the width of a hair or less. Training my eye to “see” the blade and correlate the amount of blade with a depth of cut takes practice, lots of it. My body needs to learn the mechanics of pulling the kanna as well. My hands, feet and muscles all need to be trained.
So over the last several days I have been making an effort to spend at least on hour a day planing, sharpening and conditioning the sole. What is surprising is that very small adjustments can create dramatic changes in how the kanna performs. The bottom line is that the only way that I can comfortably begin using the kanna in my woodworking is that all of the above needs to become second nature. I have begun to see improvement, little by little. In another week or so I may feel comfortable enough to start a project with the kanna as my plane of choice.
The only piece of wood of any length in my shop upon which to practice is a pitiful bowed piece of SYP. At least two faces are flat and it has enough length that I have to move my feet to plane its full length. The pile of shavings represents the last three days of practice. On the table to the right of the photo you will see full-length, full-width shavings. These are representative of when I got it “right”. So more practice is required.