A textured hand-planed finish
Scrub planes can do more than just rough work
One of the first handplanes I bought when I was starting woodworking was a scrub plane. I had purchased a bunch of red elm lumber from a local sawmill; the boards were all 10 to 12 in. wide but were poorly sawn and lumpy and I needed to make them flat. I had a 12-in. Foley-Belsaw planer (anyone remember those?) that could handle the width but with a 4-in. Rockwell jointer, I was faced with ripping those beautiful boards into narrow strips to joint them. That wasn’t going to happen.
I had read about using winding sticks, a long straightedge, and a scrub plane to get one side flat enough to run through the planer, so I bought an antique scrub plane and with a bit of practice I got pretty good at getting stuff flat. That little wooden-bodied scrub plane and I got to be good friends and I started finding more uses for it than just quick and rustic wood removal. My wonderful wife gifted me with a pair of modern scrub planes and a whole world of texture opened up.
Lots of woodworkers look at the scrub plane as a one-trick pony; it removes wood quickly and most often rather crudely. I look at the scrub plane as a gouge that can remove a lot of wood quickly and cleanly when it’s sharp (really sharp—really important) and attention is paid to grain direction. The radius of the scrub plane blade, which appears to be about 2-1/2 in., could be easily changed for shallower or deeper grooves, an infinite set of rounds in one body, but I like the stock radius just fine.
Here’s an example of one of my favorite textures. I start by scribbling the surface with a No. 2 pencil, using the marks as my guidelines.
I plow coves the length of the board, sometimes overlapping, sometimes with a flat between.
Then I plow coves diagonally, again overlapping or leaving a flat. Varying the path and density of the passes creates complex or simple textures and creates a canvas for color.
Now comes the creative part. I start messing around with stains, dyes, and paints. The texture breaks up large, flat panels and gives them a very organic look, but color can turn them into the bling on the box. Here are a few samples I cranked out quickly, just for fun.
So the next time you find yourself in the shop with some idle time, grab your scrub plane and a few scraps of interesting wood and make some big, fat shavings. It’s way more fun than listening to AM radio.