DIY - Machines and Tools

Wooden or metal frames, which would you choose?

I've been wanting to write about rhinestones for a while. When I went to my friends with junk attic told me about the set of all sizes of window frames inherited from the girls' grandfather who was a carpenter. We got carried away with the loft and I forgot to photograph them. But I'll definitely do that at the first opportunity. But until then I thought I'd talk a bit about the rindele because they are a symbol of carpentry.

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A planer is a tool that can be used to remove a layer of wood from a flat surface, straighten surfaces, smooth (finish) surfaces, chamfer edges or make door jambs. Not all of these operations are done with the same planer, but they are basically constructed the same. The main element is a sharp metal blade and a body. The blade passes through the body through a slot called the mouth of the planer and reaches the wood. By passing the blade over the wood, layers of wood are removed, thicker or thinner depending on the position of the blade, the angle at which it is placed and the pressure exerted on the blade.

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The reindeer were invented hundreds of years ago, and there are documents and even pieces of evidence of their existence since Roman times. They were originally made of wood, with a rectangular hole in the body and a slot in the sole, and the blade was fixed with a wooden wedge attached to the slot. This is the pattern that has been found in archaeological sites in Europe and Asia or in written documents made by ancient architects and builders and held in libraries.

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In the late 19th century a Massachusetts inventor, Leonard Bailey, first made the cast-iron body kidney. The patent for this invention was bought a few years later by Stanley, Rule&Lever, a tool manufacturer in Connecticut, USA. The firm continually developed and improved the design to the ones sold today. Compared to the simple features of the past, the new models have screws to adjust the depth of chipping, for lateral adjustment and other such adjustments. The body is now made of steel or bronze.

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Regardless of the material from which it is made, the rhinestone can be of different sizes, from very small to more than 1 m long rhinestones (gelee). To scrape the wood it is pushed along the grain (but it can also be worked perpendicular to the grain). The exception to this is Japanese planing, which is drawn along the surface of the wood.

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Searching for recommendations on headrests I have seen that many go for the Stanley metal ones saying they are the best headrests that can be purchased. However, I was surprised to find opinions from traditional carpenters, both at home and abroad, who consider wood frames much better than metal ones.

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It's those carpenters who make traditional joints without nails, those who handcraft fine art or rustic furniture or other finer things. Their arguments in favour of wooden frames are as follows:

  • are lighter than metal ones. When you work a lot by hand, when all surfaces are machined by planing, a heavy tool tires you out faster and thus becomes inefficient;
  • glides better on wood. Wood on wood glides differently than metal on wood. To glide as well as possible, the metal sole needs to be waxed intensively, which could disturb further processing and finishing. The wood reinforcement does not need waxing and the surface of the wood will not be altered;
  • the complexity of the new metal rhinestones. With so many screws adjusting the angle, thickness, and positioning of the blade, it becomes difficult to find the best position of the blade so that the scraping is perfect. The wooden rake is simple, just sharpening the blade and positioning it correctly. For each type of planing you use a specific type of rasp, not one for all operations, which you adjust continuously;
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  • is easily repaired. Like any tool, the rhinestone can break down. The fact that it is made of wood and the person using it is a carpenter means it can be repaired immediately. A broken metal plank means stopping work until it can be repaired by a specialist;
  • tradition. The last argument was quite unexpected. By using wooden planks you enter a select community of people who have been working with wood in this way since the time of ancient Rome until the end of the 19th century. People who made their own houses and furniture, who worked the wood themselves. Metal reindeer is synonymous with the industrial age, with the introduction of machines into woodworking, with the removal of the soul of wood. So if the craftsman used machines in woodworking, using a metal planer meant nothing. On the other hand, if it's all done by hand, there's nothing like a well-tuned wooden planer.

I must admit that the arguments with which classical, traditionalist carpenters defend their choice impressed me. I didn't expect such arguments from people who seem rather harsh. And by the way, what choice would you make?

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About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.


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  • I only used an electric planer, einhell (5 years ago - when I made my fence panels - from green fencing). I sanded one with the flex (drum and discs with 40 grit) 🙂 after 20 seconds of use the disc was charging and I didn't know what the problem was. The upper parts I cut half round with an einhell pendulum. Besides these two extraordinarily retarded machines, I also bought a vibration grinder which never did me any good.

    I don't have a lot of experience using a ruler. But for the last three months or so I've been studying intensively to assimilate the theoretical side of woodworking - because I want to set up my own workshop. I want a professional workshop, not an industrial one. But I want my work to be efficient. I want a well-equipped workshop, not a poor one. A workshop where I can run away from people, not my wife (just kidding). I want a workshop for creation not one for flattery.
    So: a workshop equipped with (high-performance) power tools is a workshop that eases the rough part of your work. For finishing/precision where power tools are powerless, I don't think the work is so heavy/strenuous if the bevels are metal because... I don't think anyone is going to start planing logs. To work with large wheels you use inertia/force/body weight to keep your hands from getting tired. With the small ones, let's be serious: the weight between wooden and metal ones doesn't matter. The precision and strength of metal gears must be superior to wooden ones. This is my uninformed opinion!

  • Nice article, but I'd like to fill in the advantages of metal frames, if I may.
    A very important thing is that the sole of the rim is perfectly flat. Wooden planks lose their flatness over time from wear and tear, and must be planed. Japanese reindeer need to be trimmed and this requires experience (I can elaborate if necessary). Storing wooden planks is expensive, the wood works, and there are twists, cracks etc.
    In my opinion, metal frames produced by Lee Valley Tools or Lie Nielsen are far superior to wooden frames. Arguments:
    1. The sole is perfectly flat, really, it's perfectly flat. They are planed on flat grinding machines under water jet to remove stress from the alloy.
    2. With bevel up headers, you can play with the angle of attack by simply changing the knife. Wood veneers have a fixed angle of attack. The angle of attack is very important when you are planing wood with difficult grain (which frequently changes grain direction - bird's eye maple).
    3. You can adjust the "mouth" opening, important for planing wood with difficult grain, or at the end of the grain.
    4. Adjusting a metal bevel gear is really quite simple and I disagree with the argument that they are "complex". On the contrary, the classic Stanley Bailey, Record etc., bevel gears allow for depth adjustment while planing. With wooden headers, you have to stop, and adjust from the hammer.
    5. Very durable, nothing wrong with them, Paul Sellers has been using Stanley wheels for 20-30 years and still does 🙂
    6. Weight is an advantage if you want to take a lot of material. The possibility to quickly change the knife with a cambered mouth is also a big advantage.

    • It is possible and thank you very much for the complements. 🙂
      That was the goal, to gather as many opinions as possible, both amateur and professional. I also wanted to gather those on FB and come back with conclusions.
      All the best!

    • There is only one scenario where, in my (limited) experience, a lighter wooden rim has an advantage over a metal one. You can't work all the time in the workshop. When you have to plane "on the move", in a position where the planer needs to be supported, where it is not supported by the wood you are planing, a lighter planer is useful. But in my experience, such cases are extremely rare.

  • I've been working with wood for 2 years and I choose the wood planer, if the blade is sharp you can work with it very easily. The joiner has a direct connection with the wood when working by hand (I say this from my own experience).

    • The joiner should have a direct connection to the wood even when working electrically. Otherwise it doesn't come out as well. My opinion.

  • Plane grinding of a metal surface is done in the presence of a liquid (emulsion) for a minimum roughness and to cool the material being ground.
    In another order, the wooden-bodied stove is "warmer".The market is full of electric tools. What's the point of buying an expensive metal planer if you don't know how to use a cheap wooden one first?


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