Get a Groat in Your Throat


With regards to pushing our handplanes, I feel we’re
candy-bottomed wussies in comparison with the joiners of the 17th

We’re obsessive about how skinny a shaving we will make. Early
joiners, nonetheless, wished to take the thickest, gnarliest
shaving attainable for the device, the bench and his or her arms.
For proof, check out the primary English-language
woodworking e-book, “The Artwork of Joinery” (1678) by Joseph Moxon.

Moxon says:

However in the event you ask me how rank your Iron should be ſet? I
anſwer, In case your Wooden be ſoft, and your Stuff free, and frowy,
that’s, evenly mood’d all the best way, chances are you’ll ſet the Iron to
take a ſhaving off the thickneſs of an outdated coined Shilling, however
ſcarce thicker; whereas, in case your Stuff be arduous, or curling, or
knotty, you ſcorridor ſcarce be capable of take a ſhaving off the
thickneſs of an outdated Groat.  Subsequently you muſt look at the
Mood of your Stuff, by eaſy Trials, how the Aircraft will work
upon it, and ſet your Iron accordingly.  And obſerve this
as a Normal Rule, that the Iron of the Fore-Aircraft is, for the
firſt working with it, to be ſet as rank as you can also make good
work with; and that for ſpeed pretend.

Permit me to translate. Take a shaving the thickness of an “outdated
coined shilling” when the wooden is simple to airplane. Take a shaving
the thickness of an “outdated groat” when the wooden is hard.

Sounds nice, however how thick a shaving is he speaking about?
About 5 years in the past I began pestering collectors of outdated
English cash till I bought my reply. An “outdated coined shilling,”
was possible a Commonwealth shilling, which was about .040”
thick. An outdated groat was possible a Charles II groat, which was
about .024” thick.

I revealed these numbers in my reprint of “The Artwork of Joinery”
and didn’t give it rather more thought till at present, when I discovered
a replica of an outdated groat in my desk. Some woodworker
someplace handed it to me; I actually can not say when or the place.
However one thing made me take the groat all the way down to my store to see if
I may make a shaving as thick as this coin.


I measured the replica groat with calipers, which was
about .040” thick.

I started my experiment with some dry American white oak, which I
planed with a closely cambered jack airplane. After traversing the
grain, I couldn’t get something thicker than .020” with out
jamming the device within the wooden or pushing the workbench throughout
the ground.

That’s not practically as thick as a (replica) groat, and I
felt like a wus.

So I grabbed some tulip poplar from my wooden rack and tried to
see how thick a shaving I may handle with the identical airplane and
with traversing. I bought as much as a .035”-thick shaving when the
workbench started to again away quickly from me. (This, by the
manner, is why I favor my bench towards the wall.)

However nonetheless, I used to be wanting the .040” thickness, which is a fats
1/32”. That’s a whole lot of wooden to take away in a single stroke. And this
made me marvel if I ought to maybe begin lifting weights, or
maybe the wooden Moxon was speaking about wasn’t absolutely seasoned,
like mine is.

Time to begin poking across the woodpile and to handplane some

— Christopher Schwarz

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