Quantcast

Rob Cosman's Planing DVD's - Reviews

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Status
Not open for further replies.

Garrett in Victoria BC CA

Established Member
Joined
4 Dec 2005
Messages
19
Reaction score
0
Location
Canada
I noticed that Alf had posted his review of David Charlesworth's hand planing DVD review here, so thought you might like to read one on Hand Planing and Sharpening and Rough to Ready, a pair of DVD's from Rob Cosman in Canada (who includes a Charlesworth sharpening tip on one of them.)

Rob Cosman is known to most North American woodworkers, especially those who like hand tools. Many of us have seen him demonstrating planes, saws, and technique at woodshows, and we’ve gone home convinced by his words and actions that we, too, can do what he does. His demonstrations of how to plane difficult woods are not only inspiring, but unlike a magician, he freely reveals his secrets to success. Not only does he say that his methods are easy, he shows by example that they are simple and straightforward.

Unfortunately, when we try them in our own shops a few days later, they no longer seem quite so simple nor so easy, and the results are not – in my case, anyway – always quite up to Rob’s standard. So what went wrong? Aside from the fact that I've been using mostly power tools for many years and am coming late to hand tools, the devil is truly in the detail.

A month ago, when I saw Rob at it again, still insisting and proving by action that planing is easy, I soon saw a few small things I’d missed a year earlier. That let me know that I’d probably miss or forget a few more things the next time I tried to emulate his technique. And even though I’d read and kept as references a few articles by other master craftsmen, watching Rob in action and listening to his comments was far more illuminating than reading similar comments and looking at still photographs. So, I bought his DVD’s..

The result was an incremental improvement in my ability to both tune and sharpen the litle-used Stanleys I had purchased more than 40 years ago



and to put them to use.




Both titles were shot in Rob’s shop in – I think - eastern Canada. And, the distractingly beautiful view through his windows indicates it either snows all year round, or they were all shot during winter months. He is joined in each video by a sidekick who acts as a conversational partner and helps the dialogue along with quiet questions and comments. While there are some necessary overlaps in content such as the sharpening techniques required by the particular lesson, I found them very much in the nature of helpful reviews that reinforce the key messages in the earlier DVD’s and each adds some new information or tips.

Hand Planing and Sharpening opens with Rob planing gossamer shavings off the face of a piece of highly figured birds-eye maple. Bruce Dennis almost immediately asks, “It looks like a lot of work, wouldn’t you be tempted to take a belt sander to it?” And Rob’s answer is “Yes. But you’ll get the best surface with a hand plane, especially on a piece of wood like this.” He then asks Bruce to compare his planed finish to the results left by a surface planer on the other face of the board. Obviously, no contest. Responding to Bruce’s next question, Rob then presents the four planes he considers are required to do the majority of work in a cabinet shop, and the several options for individual choices within the group. He goes on to examine the various components of the plane, effectively demonstrates why being able to adjust the size of the mouth is important and how various designs make that adjustment difficult or easy, explains why thicker blades are better than thinner ones, the benefits of using higher grade materials in the bodies, and why he prefers planes with mass.

His approach to sharpening will resonate with many woodworkers for its simplicity, speed and effectiveness. After showing how to maintain and use waterstones – no tool guides - he moves to a high speed grinder with a coarse carborundum wheel – not aluminum oxide – with nothing more than a simple solid wood flat tool rest, and explains why he prefers this approach. One of the better tips in this section is how to get the blade parallel to the base of the plane, and he then finishes by showing how body weight shifts make the plane more efficient and effective, and by demonstrating the four different plane types in action.

In Rough to Ready his sidekick is Mark Eaton whom he introduces as a “recognized expert in power tool woodworking”. Mark admires a table Rob made, but asks why anyone would want to make it with hand tools only. Rob explains his rationale for hand versus power, and then launches into the dimensioning and surfacing of a length of rough 4/4 mahogany. He introduces the unique scrub plane which wasn’t covered in the previous video. With its very thick convex blade, it poses a different sharpening challenge, so once again Rob takes us through grinder and waterstone routines, this time showing the different method required by its blade. After cutting a length of mahogany, his first step is to flatten one its faces to lie absolutely flat on his bench.

This process is a good example of one the qualities that make his work perfect: patience, patience, and more patience. It would have been easy for the DVD to drop a few of the test fits and cuts and skip to the end – not to mention making it seem easier and faster - but he persists in getting it right all the while stressing the point about the importance of getting that face absolutely, perfectly flat. Another interesting and useful tip for locating high spots on the surface of the board makes it easier. With that done, the board is flipped so the dead flat face is lying on the bench, and the camera then switches to an overhead view for one of the more dramatic sequences in the series. Rob swiftly and accurately swipes the scrub plane across the grain of the exposed rough face taking deep cuts at an angle while moving from right to left until a completely new surface is exposed. Wow! (This sequence shows why he is built like a mini-linebacker!) The plane tracks are perfect.

A switch to a jointer – not powered - and another brief sharpening review with another new trick added results in a board that’s coming close enough to being surfaced on one face that winding sticks come into play. (Their use is clearly demonstrated with enough information imparted for a viewer to be able to make his own pair.) With the face jointed, a smoother is then used to take whisper thin shavings that give it a lustrous finish. This face now becomes the reference face against which the other 5 edges are finished. Yet another unusual tip is offered as a means of squaring an edge of the board to the reference face.

With one face and one edge now finished, Rob then introduces a shop-made panel gauge. Looking like a marking gauge on steroids, it scores a line along the face adjacent to the remaining rough edge to which one can plane accurately to ensure that both edges are parallel.

The next step is to use a shooting board to square the ends of the board to both the faces and the edges. This stage introduces a specialty plane, the “iron miter”, designed to be operated on its side with the shooting board. For the other end, knowing that few amateurs - or even pros - are likely to own an iron miter, he uses his jointer plane with the shooting board to produce an equally perfect end-grain shaving and square and parallel edge. Clearly, either plane does this job well.

With all 6 sides of the board in parallel and square, Rob then shows the correct method to use a disk marking gauge to score reference lines for thicknessing to a finished dimension. Once again, the scrub plane comes into play to rapidly bring the board close to its finished thickness, again followed by the jointer to level the surface within a hair of the scored lines, and finally the smooth plane to finish the surface off to perfection.

I watched both videos twice before beginning to write this review, and then watched them a third time, stopping and “rewinding” as necessary as I put thoughts into words. The first time through, I found the material was interesting and that it held my attention, was very well structured and delivered, and professionally produced. However, my initial impression of the Hand Planing and Sharpening DVD was that it had seemed rather thin. I was wrong. On second viewing of both DVD’s, despite thinking I had paid very careful attention the first time through, I was surprised to see and hear lots of ‘new’ material that I had missed the first time around, and it seemed to me that both DVD’s ran longer than I remembered. I was sure, by then, that I had exhausted the content and was ready to make judgments. I was astonished, therefore, that on the third run-through, I again picked up on small but important details that hadn’t yet registered, and I’m sure there are a few more waiting for me when I look at them a fourth time. In fact, these videos ultimately surprise with the richness of their content, but they are quite subtle in presentation. The more a viewer knows, the more he will get out of them.

The experience of multiple viewings led me to realize why, after watching a live demonstration, I was unable to come close to emulating what I had seen. While extremely useful and entertaining, it’s simply impossible to note, absorb, and retain even most of the information being presented in a single pass at a live demo. On the other hand, the ability to have that demonstrator in one's own shop as often as one wants, and to be able to focus on specific aspects of the presentation as many times as necessary, does make it possible to improve and possibly even approach the perfection of a demonstrator as able as Rob Cosman.

Cheers, Garrett
 

Garrett in Victoria BC CA

Established Member
Joined
4 Dec 2005
Messages
19
Reaction score
0
Location
Canada
First, of course, the typo in the above post's subject line.

Second, and far more important, my (former) ignorance of who "Alf" in fact is. Even as far west as on an island off the west coast of British Columbia, I have heard of and read about Alice Frampton. Which proves that one ought never to assume. Even more curious, we had an e-mail exchange 2 days ago without my twigging to the fact that ALF is not 'his' name, but her initials. My sincere apologies for the gender switch, Alice.

Cheers, Garrett
 

Chris Knight

Established Member
Joined
14 Jan 2004
Messages
6,641
Reaction score
1
Location
SE London - NW Kent
Garrett,

Thanks for the excellent summary. We do know Rob over here and more than a few forum members have been seduced into buying a certain north american tool company's products as a result (what piano do I need to play like Mozart?).

I am sure Alf will forgive you - she used to say she would answer to "Hey you" but if you try that it might be better to have a piece of rusty old iron in hand :wink:
 

Alf

Established Member
Joined
22 Oct 2003
Messages
12,079
Reaction score
0
Location
Up the proverbial creek
Garrett,

No problem - it's my fault after all! We've had some fun over the years when folks haven't known the horrible truth. :lol: And another excellent review, btw.

Cheers, Alf

Wondering what you heard and denying all of it on principle 8-[ :wink:
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Latest posts

Top