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I was wondering if you plan to finish a piece with walnut or jojoba oil anyway, is there a downside to "pre-finishing" the piece before you finally smooth it?

Since these oils don't go rancid they incidentally are also used to oil hand planes (jojoba is recommended by Lie Nielson).

It seems to me that this might help lubricate the sole of the plane (like candle wax on the sole) for better smoothing and also might have some effects on the wood fibers cutting easier.

After the final smoothing then you could reapply finish everywhere. It's cheap enough that I am not worried about the "wasted" oil.

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It seems to me that this might help lubricate the sole of the plane (like candle wax on the sole) for better smoothing

It would indeed. There's a long tradition of oiling the soles of planes, with a variety of oils (I think the main one historically in the West being raw linseed oil).

I don't see a good reason to use walnut or jojoba in preference for this purpose*, but within reason there shouldn't be a downside to doing so.

if you plan to finish a piece with walnut or jojoba oil anyway

As surprising as it seems you can actually lubricate plane soles with oil even when that oil won't be used in the finishing process. Same with wax which is the other common lubricant applied to planes to reduce friction (and a better choice IMO).

It is natural to assume that the oil or wax would contaminate the wood at least a little and cause a problem with the final finish but in practice this doesn't appear to be an issue.... although I'm sure there's someone who has had a problem with it sometime, but that's likely to have been user error.

might have some effects on the wood fibers cutting easier.

I've hand-planed reclaimed wood that was soaked in oil and it's only at that kind of level that I think you'd notice a difference in the wood.

But between a metal plane that has a completely clean sole and the same plane lubricated there can sometimes be a huge difference in the ease of planing because of the reduced friction. That effect alone may be enough that you won't feel you need to try oiling the wood itself but experiment away if you want, there are no rules about what you can and can't do in your own workshop!


*There are likely cheaper alternatives that'll work just as well. Certainly where I am walnut oil is expensive and jojoba extremely expensive.

  • I have a hard time believing comments like "Where I am, jojoba is EXTREMELY expensive". It's under $10 on amazon for a 4 oz bottle that - for plane maintenance, will last a long, long time. In order for that statement to ring true, the user would have to be in an area where mail and parcel delivery is unavailable, but internet access is readily available? I don't buy it. Even folks living in the remotest regions of Alaska and Canada can order goods via mail into the nearest town. They might take a little longer to get there, but they are available. – Doug Carlson Aug 13 '18 at 18:42
  • Welcome to SE Doug. StackExchange isn't a regular forum, where you've typed here is to be used exclusively for a formal Answer to the Question, not commentary. Relating to what you've said, this is an international venue so Answers need to reflect that, not every future reader is in the good ol' US of A ;-) – Graphus Aug 14 '18 at 11:50
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Personally, I can't imagine oiling the wood before planing it. I think it might dull my feel of the wood. And then I think of oily shavings, and dust balling up in it - and that oil on my forearms when I'm scraping. I use mostly Ulmia and similar - perhaps it might be different with the heft of a Lie Nielsen.

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