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Saturday, October 11, 2014

So That's What Pitch Is

I haven't done any serious planing in over a year--since I hurt my shoulder at work.  I got the go-ahead last week from the doc to resume normal activity as tolerated.  Somehow I figured that meant I could do some planing today.  Other than some sore muscles in the back, I did OK body-wise.

The boards didn't fair as well.

I'm working with some Northern White Cedar on a project.  The wood is reclaimed from a barn that stood for 90 years before coming my way.  I think the barn was held together with the pitch in the wood.

The plane kept getting bogged down with pitch.  Sometimes I couldn't even finish a full traversing stroke before the plane was all gummed up.

Repeatedly removing and replacing the blade got old real quick.  I stopped after a while to consult the web for advice on planing pitchy wood.  Surprisingly, there was not much to be found.  I found a lot of advice about using solvents to get rid of pitch for finishing.  After a while I gave up and went back to the workbench.

I spent about an hour experimenting with the best plane set up for dealing with the pitch.  I finally settled on taking whisper thin shavings and cleaning after every stroke.  Definitely not the path to high productivity with hand tools.

The real kicker is that this first 4X8 board was practice for the real stock that needs prepped.


  1. Have you tried working the wood when it is very cold? Pitch tends to be brittle and not so sticky when it is cold

    1. No, I have not tried planing in a parka. :)

      Moving into Winter with a lot of those boards to plane, I'll definitely give it a try. Maybe let them freeze outside and bring them into the workbench?

      Thanks for the tip!

  2. Keep a rag and acetone nearby: after one or two passes wipe down the board and plane. It's tedious but it works.