Sunday, September 11, 2011

Making Do

Scrub plane.
I am not a masochist.

I don't really like pain or discomfort.

But when you need to mill rough cut boards—none of which are flat enough to run through a power planer and are too wide for a power jointer—it's time to break out the handplanes and play some workout music.

Here is one method for flattening boards. Other woodworkers use different approaches.
Scalloped surface left by scrub plane.

First, remove high spots.  You can do this by traversing your board (planing across the grain) with a jack/fore or scrub plane—or any plane that can hog off thick chunks of wood—and checking your progress across the grain with winding sticks and with the grain with a long straightedge.

After that, you can switch to a jointer/try plane—or any plane with a slight camber on the iron and somewhat large mouth opening. This flattens the scalloped channels left by the previous plane.

Finally, a plane with a fine-set mouth and straight iron achieves a finished surface.
Transitional plane with slight camber.

Problem is, I do not have a jointer plane that can be used for step two. The wooden one that I made is set up for fine shavings along the edge of a board. I don't have time to make a new one, nor do I wish to part with more money having spent a chunk of change on lumber for my workbench.

This dilemma sent me to the basement (my former shop) in search of...anything. What I found was an old transitional plane (the love-child of a wooden plane and a metal plane) that was given to me years ago, and is about as attractive as Billy Ray Cyrus' Kentucky waterfall.
Chuck, my beefy short plane. 

We shall call him Ned. 

Ned needed a thorough scrubbing behind the ears to get him in working condition.  And his iron needed to be re-ground with a slight camber and steeper bevel.

Heavy and awkward and difficult to set up as he his, he performed pretty darn well. Well enough to be followed by the much easier to use and lighter weight Chuck.

I did not finish-plane the boards. I got one side flat enough to feed through my power planer.*

Check the flatness along the length
of the board with a straightedge.
Check across the grain with
winding sticks.
*See first sentence.


PickeringMike said...

That's what I do as well. Despite loving my handplanes, I would probably need a firehose to stay hydrated in order to do all 3 steps.

Tom Stephenson said...

Here's a question I've been dying to know the answer to: When you need to flatten a really thick board, and I assume you are working on the 12/4 cherry boards for your bench, will the planer have enough oomph to compress the board and follow the contours of the side not being planed? Or could you just count on the planer acting as a jointer in this case? I've got a sled for my planer to deal with boards wider than my jointer can handle, but I've often wondered about thick planks like the ones in your photos.


Tico Vogt said...

How about an electric power planer for these situations? Even the hand tool master Toshio Odate uses them.

Jim Burton said...

The masochist in me loves to do this. I do end up using a power planer after this first step most of the time, but even my well sharpened power planer just eats curly woods alive, and I love to use those curlies, so I end up doing this a great deal. It's a great lesson in hand planing to get a board flat, square, AND parallel.

I do find that metal planes, with their heft and therefore increased inertia, allow me to plane for longer. I know many people find metal planes...especially be too heavy. I find that I work harder with a light plane because I'm pushing down harder to keep it in the cut, and pushing harder to keep it moving. I have a beautiful Matheison wooden try plane that I bought for dollars at an estate sale that just sits on a shelf and looks pretty!

Kari Hultman said...

PickeringMike, yeah, it's a sweaty operation for sure.

Tom, I think my planer will be able to handle the boards. I'll need to have infeed and outfeed support, but we'll give it a go. I'll keep you posted....

Tico, there's a thought. I do actually have one of those. Granted, I had forgotten all about it until your comment.

Jim, it was very rewarding to have been able to flatten one surface by hand. I had never done that before on big boards. I've heard other people say they prefer metal planes because of the heft. The long ones are definitely too heavy for me, but I love my LN #4.5.

Tico Vogt said...


I've used one for decades. Timberframers, boatbuilders, the furnituremakers at Nakashima..

I heard somewhere that Toshio Odate puts a camber on the knives in his planer.

Tico Vogt said...

Two videos from Rob Millard showing use of a power planer:

Megan Fitzpatrick said...


Every time I flatten by hand, I think, "this would make an awesome workout video!" (Then I think, "No one would buy it.")

Eric said...

I'm tired just from thinking about all that work !
Very nice job !

James Vavra said...

Kari - what is the new gallery plugin you're using. I like this one (particularly because of the thumbnail navigation during image viewing).


Kari Hultman said...

James, it's a feature on blogger where you can add a caption to your photo. It's nothing I do on my own. The gallery groupings I normally show are created in photoshop.

James Vavra said...

In the past, clicking on a photo in one of your blogs entries landed you on a static page that was just the full-sized image file.

Now, it's a flash pop-over that grey's out the background, similar to Facebook's image viewer (or lumberjocks, or Marc Spagnoulo's). However, your new viewer has thumbnails at the bottom of the popover for each image in that post.

Just wondering if it was an add-in that you installed or something that blogger has now defaulted to (I'm on wordpress, so it probably wouldn't translate anyway).


Kari Hultman said...

Oh wow, I didn't know it was doing that. Pretty neat. I did not do anything to make the photos do that; it must have been a new change that blogger implemented without any notification to us.

Bob said...

Took a little trip down memory lane and read your "camping" adventures. My impression is that you think of camping in a similar fashion as does my wife. She tried tent camping many, many years ago (this is the place where I put in "bless her heart" or something like that) but never really got the "bug". And let's not get off on that whole "bug" thing either.
Soooo, our very first "camper" was a Class A motorhome. With a queen sized bed. And a full bathroom, and all the rest of it. Not really "camping" I know, but it's the closest I'll ever get her to the whole experience. This might be an option you may wish to consider one day.
I'm just saying.
There's a lot to be said for compromise.

Kari Hultman said...

Bob, your camper sounds perfect!!