It dawned on me today that there is something I had not discussed here. For anybody who is new to building guitars (as I was two years ago), there is something important to note – the benefits of using handplanes over sanding.
When I started this blog, I intended it to be a one-stop resource for those new to woodworking and/or lutherie. So it’s important then for me to note for the beginner why handplanes are important.
Handplanes are enjoyable to use – but aside from making nice thin curly shavings, the real reason for handplaning is this: the finish that you can achieve with a handplane is much better than what you can achieve by sanding. This is something that is talked about a lot – however, there are not a lot of images online when you research hand planing that demonstrates what the actual difference is in the wood’s appearance.
I was testing out a smooth plane today (the African Blackwood smoother from the handplane making tutorial actually) and I snapped a photo of the piece I was working on – which happened to be piece of highly figured curly maple. The right side of this piece of wood has been planed with the smooth plane – the left side has been sanded to a reasonably high grit.
Look at how much more prominent the figure is on the side that was planed! This will be reflected in the wood under a finish as well (in fact the difference will probably be multiplied), and using a handplane will make your figured wood considerably more attractive.