I once dealt with a fine carpenter from Scotland -- '86 or '87. One of
the things he told me was that to pass his apprenticeship he was
required to sharpen and tune a wooden smoothing plane to the point where
he could lift a single shaving from a 20 foot long board that was so
thin you could see through it.
On the other hand, from April of 1985 to April of '86, I worked with
about 30 carpenters, cabinet makers, and shipwrights from Viet-Nam.
Some of them were near magical. Carpenters and cabinet makers preferred
iron-bark wood for their planes (all of them made their own). The
shipwrights used oak exclusively; it didn't last as long, but wasn't
resinous. The intensity of their way of working would bring the resins
out of the iron-bark. When too worn, the shipwrights threw them out and
made new ones. All three preferred water stones, and since they
sharpened every tool they had used that day, some before leaving, some
first thing the next morning, the stones quickly dished. When too
dished, they turned the stones over and worked them until they broke in
This is how working carpenters did the deed. No attention to
transparent shavings or making microscopic edges. I'm pretty sure that
Duncan Phyfe worked much the same way. Not here to make shavings, here
to make things to make their living.
Mike in Woodland