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Methods for squaring timber by hand

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MistaJW

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With no room for a power jointer/planer my only option is hand planes for dimensioning timber.
What are the stages of this and the best techniques for doing it. The planes i currently have is a no.7, no.4 and a block plane.
 

marcros

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MistaJW":30f2ciom said:
With no room for a power jointer/planer my only option is hand planes for dimensioning timber.
What are the stages of this and the best techniques for doing it. The planes i currently have is a no.7, no.4 and a block plane.
typically, what sizes of timber are you wanting to prepare, and how much dimensioning are you doing? Are you cutting to rough dimensions with a saw?
 

Paul Chapman

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It's very straight forward but, if you've never done it before it's probably better to see how it's done rather than have someone try to explain it. There are loads of DVDs available but this is the best one I've seen - explains it all very clearly http://www.finefurnituremaker.com/planepublic.htm

The planes you have should be ideal.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 

adrian

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I personally found there to be a great deal of subtlety in this task. The first time I attempted it I started with a board an inch thick that I wanted to finish at 1/2" thickness. But by the time I got the first face flat, parts of the workpiece were less than 1/2" thick.

I have not watched the DVD Paul suggests, so I have no idea what it's like, but many sources seem to essentially indicate that you should just put the timber on your workbench and plane it until it's flat. And when I attempted this strategy I would often obtain a convex surface when I would then struggle to correct. Or it would shift from flat in length, curved in width to curved in length flat in width. It wasn't until I encountered Charlesworth's method, which relies on the cambered blade and stopped shavings, that I felt like I really had a method for approaching this task. So I recommend Charlesworth's DVDs.
 

Jacob

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adrian":3dcmhnws said:
.... but many sources seem to essentially indicate that you should just put the timber on your workbench and plane it until it's flat. ......
Spot on! But do cut it to length and width first, and thickness if possible, with allowances for planing etc. i.e. don't do anything at all until you have a design and a cutting list all sorted and you know where you are going with it.
 

Paul Chapman

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adrian":1b3mf0vn said:
I have not watched the DVD Paul suggests, so I have no idea what it's like, but many sources seem to essentially indicate that you should just put the timber on your workbench and plane it until it's flat. And when I attempted this strategy I would often obtain a convex surface when I would then struggle to correct. Or it would shift from flat in length, curved in width to curved in length flat in width. It wasn't until I encountered Charlesworth's method, which relies on the cambered blade and stopped shavings, that I felt like I really had a method for approaching this task. So I recommend Charlesworth's DVDs.
Yes, the one I linked to covers these points as well. As you say, it can be quite baffling when you plane a piece of wood and it comes out curved :? You need a method, which is quite straight forward when you see it done, and a good DVD can save hours of frustration trying to work out what you are doing wrong.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 

Cheshirechappie

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I'm in the same situation MistaJW - lack of space, and don't want to inflict the noise on the neighbours.

There are a couple of planes you may care to add to the arsenal - a jack and a scrub. The jack can have it's iron ground and honed to a shallow curve, and the frog set fairly well back to allow a thickish shaving. The scrub can be a new one (from experience the Lie-Nielsen is first class, but pricey), or it can be made from an old wooden smoother by grinding the iron to a curve, and set to take a shaving of about 1/16" or a bit thicker - you may have to chisel the mouth open a bit to pass shavings this thick.

Procedure is as follows:

1) Set out the rough boards, brush them clean (wire brush if they're really gritty), and lay out components, taking note of grain pattern. It may help to just take off the surface roughness with a smoother set coarse to see the grain better. Allow plenty on width - 1/4" or so. Saw out, and label each piece with same number as cutting list.

2) Place board on bench, and with the scrub plane, knock off the worst high spots on both sides so that the board sits fairly flat on the bench. A box of thinnish wedges can be useful in the early stages to prop up the lifting bits.

3) Decide which is the face side. Bring the remaining high spots down with the scrub, working across the board. (This may cause splintering off on the back edge, which was the reason for the generous allowance on width.) Start checking for flatness with a straightedge along and across the board.

4) When the surface is about getting clean all over and pretty flat (but scalloped because of the curve in the scrub iron) Bring the jack to work. Take off the high spots by checking where they are with straightedge and winding sticks, and marking them with chalk or pencil. Don't touch the low spots. Work diagonally to the grain to start with, then along the grain as the high spots disappear. The key thing is to keep checking, checking.

5) When the board is straight along and across, and free of wind, do the same again with the try plane, with an iron sharpened straight across and with the corners taken off, set very fine with a tight mouth. Keep checking along and across with the straightedge and winding sticks.

6) When it's flat to your satisfaction, set it edge-up in the vice, and with the jack, get the first edge cleaned up. Then, check with straightedge and try-square where the high spots are, and take them off. Follow with the try-plane, until the edge is straight and square to the face side.

7) Mark the required thickness, and remove the waste with the scrub, then the jack, then the try plane, checking as before with straightedge and winding sticks. Having the gauge-line as a guide as to where to stop obviously helps a lot.

8) The final edge may well be rather ragged with scrub-plane breakout, but if sufficient was allowed in width, that will now be nicely lost when width is gauged, and the edge brought to the line with jack and try. Check frequently well before you reach the gauge line with straightedge and try-square.

9) Trim one end on the shooting board, mark to length, saw off the worst of the waste and trim to line on the shooting board.

The first few will take ages, but like most things, it gets quicker with practice. The key to it is frequent checking of progess with straightedge, winding sticks and square, and only attacking high spots.
 

matthewwh

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It may help to just take off the surface roughness with a smoother set coarse to see the grain better.
A spot on synopsis of the process.

Just one word of caution regarding the above, I recently grabbed my smoother to fix something - can't even remember what the job was now, but there was a bit of rock hard debris in the timber which gouged the sole and took a big nick out of the iron.

I have always believed in keeping smoothing planes very finely tuned and reserving them for the final passes that create the seen surface of the timber. This momentary lapse will now take quite a bit of unnecessary penance to rectify whereas if I had done it to a jack or a block plane I wouldn't have been nearly so bothered.

For me at least, from now on smoothers are strictly for smoothing and nothing else.
 

lanemaux

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Really enjoying this thread guys, some good advice here.
Matthew , one of my jacks was bought for just the eventuality you described amigo. When wading into unknown waters (or timbers) my weapon of choice is a near to rubbish jack that I picked up BECAUSE it was so rusty and forlorn a wad of c@#p. Not a one of the members here would care if it were to be used as an odd shaped hammer. Just the ticket for finding out about debris and the finest remover of construction adhesives you could ask for. And all it cost me was some loose change and the effort of cleaning it and sharpening it (definitely an IT and not a she).
All planes do get to have a purpose, well, at least in my little corner of Canuckia.
 

Richard T

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I draw a line across the back edge and take a shallow mitre cut right down to it. This avoids tearing out at the back when planing across the face.
Once I have one flat side I can then reference from it, scribing all the way round for the opposite face, cutting the same, shallow mitre at the back. Not only does it reduce tear out but you can see your working line at the back from above and how far your planing is getting towards it, encroaching across the slope of the mitre.
All this is with a 8 - 10" arc of camber on a #5 or woodie equivalent - though previous scrubbing may have been needed depending on the state of the piece to start with.( Although there's those hardy types as would do the whole thing with a #7.)

Matthew - my condolences on your smoother ding; maybe worth saying that a cambered blade has an added advantage of scooping underneath such hidden nasties ... sometimes, ... if you're lucky. Certainly more likely to anyway.

Mike - "Dirk Gently" is shaping up quite well while we're waiting for the next "Sherlocks".
 

Argus

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The very first thing is to get one side straight and flat - all the dvice, videos, text books etc tell you that.

Regardless of what array of planes you use for this, depending on the wood type, original flatness and all the other factors, I'd say that unless your board is very short or very narrow, a pair of good winding stcks will be very useful, if not essential, for gauging the flatness of the first side, from which all the others are measured.

So I reckion that the first thing to make is a set of winding sticks.


.
 

Jacob

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Argus":1ri5fqdb said:
....
So I reckion that the first thing to make is a set of winding sticks.


.
Or just find a couple of suitable items for winding sticks. 2 pencils will do as long as they are the same diameter
 

Paul Chapman

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Jacob":iih0awn6 said:
Argus":iih0awn6 said:
....
So I reckion that the first thing to make is a set of winding sticks.


.
Or just find a couple of suitable items for winding sticks. 2 pencils will do as long as they are the same diameter
You must have some very long pencils, Jacob :lol:

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 

Jacob

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DarrenW":731jdttu said:
As a companion to the Charlesworth DVD I would recommend "Rough to Ready" by Rob Cosman. I feel this gives better information on taking a rough sawn board down to size. See this link for further information.

https://www.ukworkshop.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6784

Best Regards

Darren
Expensive! £20? ridiculous! Squaring timber by hand is the absolute starting point and is well covered in many books. Spend £20 on books and you will get much better value and a lot of other info.
The main thing is to do it. Get your plane sharp and start wasting wood. Scrap if necessary. Bits of old pallets good for practice. Practice practice!
 

Jacob

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Paul Chapman":281oc6lh said:
Jacob":281oc6lh said:
Argus":281oc6lh said:
....
So I reckion that the first thing to make is a set of winding sticks.


.
Or just find a couple of suitable items for winding sticks. 2 pencils will do as long as they are the same diameter
You must have some very long pencils, Jacob :lol:

Cheers :wink:

Paul
Perhaps mine's longer than yours? I've got one here and it's about 8". Long enough.
 

adrian

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I felt like "Rough to Ready" was in the category of references that basically just tell you to put the work on your bench and plane it until it's flat. He goes on for a bit, but you can certainly figure out that from books, or posts in this thread. Practice is valuable, but only in the context of having a technique that you are trying to refine. When you don't know what you're doing wrong, limitless practice may lead only to stagnation. I felt like Charlesworth gave me insight that lead to a real improvement in my approach, but it's true that he doesn't talk about the whole process of starting with rough sawn lumber.

I use winding sticks for assessing the face for twist. For this job, 8" winding sticks would be of little use, since the timber is typically about 8" wide. Isn't this the only point at which you need winding sticks? When working on the edge you test it for square with the face, and if the face is flat the edge can't be twisted.
 

Paul Chapman

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adrian":2tbm5fia said:
For this job, 8" winding sticks would be of little use, since the timber is typically about 8" wide.
Agreed - winding sticks should be at least as long as the width of the board but preferably longer. The longer they are, the more they magnify any discrepancies.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 

Jacob

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Paul Chapman":1xrpwb21 said:
adrian":1xrpwb21 said:
For this job, 8" winding sticks would be of little use, since the timber is typically about 8" wide.
Agreed - winding sticks should be at least as long as the width of the board but preferably longer. The longer they are, the more they magnify any discrepancies.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
Yes all right longer is better, but short will do - the idea is to have two clean edges to sight over, even if there are bumps or hollows in between.
 
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