How To Edge Joint

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BradNaylor":3nz4madq said:
I'm retiring soon though, and giving up my Norm-style workshop. I will be working out of a shed at home with only hand tools - well okay, maybe a bandsaw and router table!

I'm kinda looking forward to regressing to my college days and picking up a hand plane again!


Welcome back Brad, 'long time no see' hope you enjoy the increased leisure time on the horizon.
Fantastic post Custard. Thanks for the effort you've taken to make such a clear and informative tutorial.

The clamps I use are pretty poor quality so the D-shaped blocks trick is something I've used quite a bit. I usually make these by splitting 1" thick dowel rod in half with the band saw and chopping to 3" lengths. I always seem to need to make more each time I need them though... I think there are wood eating faeries living in my garage :roll:
Custard, can you please comment on a technique I use that you have not mentioned?
What I do is to put 2 boards side by side in the vice, and plane the 2 together. Then if I don't plane at exactly 90 degrees it doesn't matter because the error on one board has an exactly compensating error on the other board. I still try to plane at 90 degrees but don't worry too much about it, so long as I am somewhere near. I find this quicker, partly because I don't spend time getting to exactly 90 degrees and partly because I plane 2 boards at the same time.
The late, great, Charles Hayward recommended this technique for edge jointing. When jointing 3 or more boards, you had to ensure the mating planed surfaces were marked very carefully, or you could end up in a real mess.
This was largely, of course, in the days when most such joints were hand planed, certainly by amateur cabinet makers.
Great thread, Custard.
Putting 2 boards back to back and planing them together can work but if you have a cambered blade you will get a slight misalignment. Generally works Ok for thin boards but not for thicker ones
Ian, I think you’re right, but I have successfully edged jointed boards for cabinet tops, carcass sides etc, up to about 3/4 inch thick using this method, sometimes simply rubbed, sometimes dowelled. I found it easier with the thicker boards than the thin. I have never done it with anything thicker than about 3/4 inch, but I can see that it might be problematic.
I have always been an amateur cabinet maker, using mainly hand tool methods, but I haven’t done any cabinet work for nearly ten years because I no longer have the energy to hand plane large boards etc anymore. I have taken up woodturning instead, where the energy is supplied by the lathe.
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Edge jointing means joining up narrower pieces of wood to make a wider board. It's something you have to do with nearly all furniture projects, because most boards sold today are less than 300mm wide, and the majority are in the range 150-200mm wide. So if you want a table top, or a chair seat, or a panel for frame and panel work, then you'll have to learn to edge joint.

When it goes as planned it looks like this. You start with a board that has at least one true face, and you then cut an edge that's at exactly 90 degrees to the reference face all along its length,
View attachment 70723

You also need this edge to be dead straight, or possibly with a minute hollow in the centre, but on no account must it have any trace of a "bump" when tested with either a wooden or metal straight edge,
View attachment 70724

When you've repeated that process on a second board they should sit together perfectly,
View attachment 70720

Which means when they're cramped for the glue up there's an invisible glue line and you can rest a straight edge across them, and the resulting table top (or panel, or whatever) is perfectly flat with no visible gap,
View attachment 70722
View attachment 70721

So, how do you set about doing this?

There are plenty of different approaches, but I'll take you through the approach I use, which I know is shared by many other cabinet makers.

I guess the first thing to say is that the very best glue lines will come from a sharp bench plane. With the right machinery you can produce a good edge straight from a machine,
View attachment 70723

But if you look carefully at a planed or sawn edge you'll still find traces of machine marks, these for example are the tell-tale ripples from a planer,
View attachment 70724

And that's from a good planer, where the knives are always kept sharp. But most hobbyists aren't in that position, they may have a planer with a fence that has a slight twist along it's length, or the knives are bit blunt, or it's prone to snipe. Or they may not have a planer at all, and be relying on a lunch box/bench top type thicknesser, or even just hand tools.

That shouldn't be a problem. For many years I had a small workshop that could only accommodate a bench top thicknesser and a band saw, yet I managed to produce plenty of edge jointed components to the highest standards. And with a bit of application so can you.

I've reached the photo limit for a single post, so I'll continue in the next post.
Nice details in here for those that don't have super sharp or accurate electrical planers. Nice bit of American Cherry you had in the photos as well always looks nice.
Really great post Custard, thank you for posting. I can only accommodate a small table thicknesser in my 'shop and rely on a fine tooth TCT bladed table saw and sharp hand plane to do any edge jointing I need. I can learn a lot from what you've posted and look forward to putting it into practice.

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