A student asked me about the thickness of shaving. How thick should it be? My reply was that a dollar bill, an American issue bill has a thickness of . 004″. A good shaving should be half that I told her. That’s. 002″ thick. As all new students do, she marveled. How do you make something so thin?
The shaving itself, it turns out, takes little to accomplish. It is a stroke, a quick pass with the hand plane. It is the preparation to make that shaving that takes the hours of practice. It is the practice of sharpening, of honing the edge, of tuning the hand plane, all these things combine to yield a shaving so thin. Without each of them, the hand plane cannot sing. It cannot play the tune that appears so simple, a movement to create a whisper of a shaving.
It is the practice in the end that is the most important part of an activity. So that the act may be accomplished with surety, with confidence, without thought. Thinking about the act itself gets in the way. It is the confidence of the worker that lets the work flow through to the tool, to the paint brush, to the instrument.