Like many of us, I was trained to smooth wood surfaces with sandpaper. It's messy, time-consuming and I've always hated the process. Getting into Festool's system reduced the pain somewhat, and if I were doing it for a living (where time is money) that would be the only method I'd use; but as a hobbyist, I've discovered that nothing is more satisfying than smoothing a wood surface with a handplane. To turn a board into something glassy-smooth with several judicious passes brings a real feeling of satisfaction, and to my fingers the finish beats a sanded one all day long.
Learning to use a handplane requires you to form pictures in your head, something we as industrial designers are supposed to be able to do. You need to understand how the angle of the blade is attacking the fibers of the wood and how to work with the grain. Some of these images come easily, but the role of the chipbreaker is more difficult to envision. Thankfully, a pair of professors at Japan's Yamagata University created a handplane-simulating rig and shot microscopic video to show us exactly what the chipbreaker does (note that they refer to it here as the cap iron) and how to set it under a variety of circumstances:
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Credit where credit is due:
The video was created by Professor Yasunori Kawai and Honorary Professor Chutaro Kato of the Faculty of Education, Art and Science at Yamagata University, and shot circa 1989.
Several people subsequently made it possible for the video to be viewed and understood by English-speaking audiences. Woodworker Bill Tindall gained permission from professor Kawai to post the video publicly; Mia Iwasaki translated the text and audio; and woodworker Wilbur Pan created the subtitles from Iwasaki's translation.