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Solid woodblocks for relief printmaking, in various hard & soft woods, hand made using traditional skills using mainly hand planes etc., by David Rodgers in the UK.

Wood Engraving Blocks made on Japanese Planing Beam

> Blog > Japanese Woodworking Adaptations > Japanese Planing Beam > Wood Engraving Blocks made on Japanese Planing Beam
Thu 19th Nov 2020

I have recently made up a trial Japanese Planing Beam so I can work from the floor more, for practical reasons, and I've been experimenting using it, by pulling rather than pushing my tools, by making some simple Wood Engraving Blocks in Maple, and this is how I got on.

Using the Japanese Planing Beam

Actually I found this surprising really easy - despite having used using a European wood working bench for years, pushing the tools.

Although the beam is only a test piece, made from 100mm wide Stud Timber (pine) and isn't as strong as I'd like, and as it is only propped up on a stool etc., and not fixed to anything (a really simple tool compared to my 1/2 tonne bench), it was surprising easy to use - it didn't move - and planing end grain maple is a pretty good test.

Maple Wood Engraving Block on Japanese Planing Beam
Maple Wood Engraving Block on Japanese Planing Beam

Pulling tools vs pushing

To use this beam I am pulling my wood working planes, as the Japanese do, which is completely opposite to the European way of pushing the tool to make it work. However, having never done this until recently, I found it surprising easy and natural to do - even though I'm using European style metal planes that are designed to be pushed.

In fact I'd go further than that - on the small piece I was working on (4.5cm x 7.5cm) I found that I could control the tool more easily, and, with pulling, to get more power into it - and remember I'm working on end grain Maple here - pretty hard stuff that I've always found hard to work on using a traditional European bench. It worked. Only thing is, I need to sharpen those planes again!

Kneeling rather than standing

This is another big difference for me - but somehow it just worked. OK, I'm working on a small piece so I don't need to move about to plane down far - however I like it.

What about using different muscles?

I suffer from a fair amount of pain, and that hasn't been aggravated so far - but I do need to be careful about my knees - I'm using what I think in Japan they call the Seiza sitting position (but I may be wrong about this). Time will tell how this goes.

However I do find using different muscles to pull the plane really works, and pains my back - little and often, and not over doing it, otherwise I could end up with serious back problems.

Tags: japanese planing beam carpentry carpenter wood worker woodworking cabinet maker cabinetmaker furniture maker furniture making

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