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Problem planing timbers?

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Alf

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Folks,

I was re-reading Lyn Mangiamli's High Angle Smoothing Plane Review and looking at the list of woods he used to test them. Bloodwood, Bubinga, Cocobolo, Ebony, Ipè, Lacewood, Lignum Vitae, Fiddleback Maple, White Oak (straight grain & curly grain), Padauk & Purpleheart. Now I've lived a sheltered life as regards wood species I've used, but even so many of them strike me as rather extreme examples. Good for testing, but a little distant from real world wood encounters for most of us.

So I know this isn't an original question, but I was wondering what you all consider to be the difficult woods to plane? The real world woods, that is, that you've actually found yourself using. Not impossible ones that get you reaching for tailed sanders, but ones that can be planed, but really test your plane and planing skills. Obviously it'll vary depending on your location, and Derek is likely to have the worst :wink: , but even so... Reasons why it's a challenge and latin names, to avoid common name confusion between nationalities, if you have them would be good too. Just curious.

Cheers, Alf
 

Philly

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Alf
Good one! He certainly used some extreme ones-Lignum Vitae? Now who has pieces of that big enough to plane??? Personally, the most awkward timbers that i've used are Purpleheart, Paduak, Rosewood and Zebrano. These are all readily available from Yandles (kinda my nearest timber place). Sorry, no Latin I'm afraid........ :oops:
I've noticed that air-dried timbers, even ones that are "difficult", plane easier than kiln dried. That is across the board (no pun intended :roll: ). I've had kiln dried white oak (US) that was a git to plane, and relatively straight grained. Then air dried rippled sycamore that was a peach. Go figure.....
The African timbers all seem to have interlocked (or rowed) grain. This means that which ever way you plane along the grain half of it wants to tear out. A very fine mouth and a higher pitch is the only way to plane these or its scraper time. (Or the ROS is you want an easy life :lol: ) Unfortunately this rowed grain is the same feature that makes it so appealing to look at........
Hope this helps start the ball rolling,
Philly :D
 

ydb1md

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I work with red oak and hard maple a lot. The section of each species with a reversing grain are the toughest on my plane techniques. I'll second what Philly said about interlocking grain. I got a piece of mahagony with some nasty grain that I couldn't get a nice finish on. I never liked the results I got when hand planing either of these until I got my bevel up planes and could put a steep secondary bevel on my blades.

I never had great luck with any of my old bevel down stanleys. No matter what I did, I got tear-out or a fuzzy surface. My results now, with my new planes, are night and day. I imagine it's because the mouth on my bevel ups are so easy to adjust and I have finer control over the amount of cut I'm taking. I could go into a review right here about bevel up planes, but that road's been well-trod. :lol:
 

Gill

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I don't know its latin name but the figuring can be a great challenge.

Gill
 

aldel

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Alf,

Try Iroko. (Clorophora excelsa)
alias, kambala, mvule, odum, intule, and tule.

The grain is all over the place and it can be a bit "gritty" like teak.
It is also a "greasy" or should that be "oily" wood that I find sometimes very difficult to plane without some degree of tearout. If you purchase straight and even grained stock then it is not so bad, but my supplies are normally (freeby )cast off ends and difficult bits.

Often used for garden funiture.

aldel
 

Chris Knight

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Alf,

I reckon soft wood with grain reversals are the worst. I am using some crotch mahogany veneer at present and that has a grain reversal problem in spades. I can only use an edge tool across the grain - even a scraper. The trouble is that tearout goes so deep that you can't afford it even beginning to start - especially in veneer, even though this is 1.5mm thick stuff.
 

bugbear

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Now I've lived a sheltered life as regards wood species I've used, but even so many of them strike me as rather extreme examples. Good for testing
In defence of Lyn, by anology, you don't test sports cars on shopping runs, or 4x4's on motorways.

He was testing "elite" smoothers. No point working on English walnut (a lovely, easy to plane timber IMHO)

BugBear
 

Alf

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bugbear":1khi0uof said:
In defence of Lyn, by anology, you don't test sports cars on shopping runs, or 4x4's on motorways.
Earlier Alf":1khi0uof said:
...rather extreme examples. Good for testing, but a little distant from real world wood encounters for most of us.
Defence unnecessary I feel.

Cheers, Alf
 

MikeW

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Sorry Alf, Lyn's is a partial list of the woods I generally use. But I do finish off with a plane on those.

Add to that list Verawood (Bulnesia sarmienti.

Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia) a local wood--btw, English Yew is Taxus baccata. Mostly it is difficult due to the grain being very twisted as the tree grows (grows mostly on our coastline)

I find Wenge (Millettia laurentii) often difficult.

But, I can always use a scraper plane to get good results on the above.

Like Chris, I find certain softwoods (with and without grain reversal) often hardest to plane, and on those that hard difficult, a scraper is usually no good either as it compresses too much of the wood's surface to be effective.

My avatar is a piece of Bubinga (Guibourtia tessmannii) that illustrates the class of woods that I find nearly impossible for anything but a scraper or sanding: Burls or something like this piece of Bubinga that is so swirly.
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Alf wrote:
Derek is likely to have the worst
I have not used much non-indigenous timbers, tending to work almost exclusively with Australian woods.

Here is a selection of Australian timbers:
http://www.naturallyaust.com.au/11931.html

Mostly I vent my frustrations on Jarrah and Karri (very similar in looks to Jarrah), timbers with wonderful dark red-brown hues and a immediate sense that they are as old as the ages. These have short- and interlocked grains in addition to being rock hard (indeed they are often used as the soles of planes). High cutting angle blades are mandatory. It helps to be slightly mad or masochistic :)

Here is a Jarrah bed I made:
http://www.woodworkforums.ubeaut.com.au/attachment.php?attachmentid=1433

But some of the softwoods also test the limits of your planes. I am so taken with some of the Camphor I have come across (it is considered a weed in NSW), but has some of the worst interlinked grains I have ever come across. This, in combination with the soft wood fibres, makes it seem as if you are planing the worst endgrain all the time. I confess that I often end up using my Festo ROS.

An example of a box I made as a present for my mother (Camphor top, dovetailed Jarrah/Camphor sides):
http://www.woodworkforums.ubeaut.com.au/attachment.php?attachmentid=5428

Many Australian woodworkers consider the average USA timber to be extremely easy to work with. Certainly, my experience of timbers such as Cherry suggests a reason why many USA woodworkers do not need to go further than Stanley bench planes. I recently made a loft bed for my son out of a Scandanavian pine, and it was a dream to work. Still, I would not swap my Jarrah for anything.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

Frank D.

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Very nice bed Derek! The wood is beautiful too.
The hardest woods to plane that I use are tropicals (lignum vitae, bubinga, purpleheart) but I've used some elm that has been almost impossible to plane (I couldn't even drive brads through it with my air nailer, and had to resort to a hammer with pre-drilled holes!). Some knotty white pine around the knots is also very hard to plane with no tearout.
(sorry, no useless picture to post this time... :wink: )
Frank
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Some knotty white pine around the knots is also very hard to plane with no tearout.
Frank

Amen to that!

The absolute best plane I have used to date for this type of work is my little Mujingfang mini smoother (1' wide blade, 60 degree cutting angle). It works equally well with or against the grain. Just amazing! Obviously it is much too small for general smoothing, but for small challenging areas it is preferred to all else.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

MikeW

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...But some of the softwoods also test the limits of your planes. I am so taken with some of the Camphor I have come across
Derek
Derek, great looking bed!

I had forgotten about Camphor--Here's a useless picture:


And a larger version of same here.

Like you Derek, my small smoother (from Knight) is what has to be used on the difficult woods--if anything will work it will.

Have a great weekend everyone,
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Mike that camphor remind me of some (ironwood, perhaps) burls I sliced up with the intention of using them for box tops. They were so hard, nothing would actually plane them! I swear that they lie in my offcut box and look at me with a supercilious expression :wink:

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

MikeW

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Hey Derek,

I've never had any Australian woods--including ironwood, but I've heard the same thing--incredibly hard esp as a burl.

I have used a North American species called Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota) which grows in Mexico. Its specific gravity of .88 doesn't do it justice! Bubinga is about as hard but is a piece of cake using handtools in comparison.

Oh well, so many beautiful woods, so little time...
 

Midnight

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So I know this isn't an original question, but I was wondering what you all consider to be the difficult woods to plane?
I've a hunch that a review based on working material like this would be more meaningful than generating a list of "ya gotta be nutz t try this" species..

I've 3 that might tickle your fancy.. though finding them may prove harder than getting hold of some lignum..

Oak... came across some boards a while back that had a rippled / quilted figure on their edge; real nice to look at, you could see the sine waves in the grain on the face of the board, but trying to plane them sans tear-out... Oi Vey..!!

Sycamore... similar situation to the quilted oak, only this time the figure was on the face of the board... don't laugh at my tech terms buttt... the grain surrounding the core of the board (grows through the centre of the tree; shoots off to form the centre of limbs/branches etc) tends to go nutz.. while it planed easily enough (it's a nice gentle wood to work with) the reverse grain was so delicate that it'd tear-out in a heartbeat...

Elm... I've worked enough square feet of this stuff to know that there's figure and there's figure... came across some boards that had a "feature" of iron hard grain surrounded by conventional course grained heartwood. The structure of the hard stuff resembled a stack of dinner plates; no matter which direction you worked from you were working against the grain till you got half way through it...

By and large I try to stick to working with locally grown stock, and granted, it's hardly what you'd call exotic... but every now and then you find a board that throws a loop at ya... gets the grey matter working trying to figure how to get the most out of it...
 

Alf

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Thanks for all the replies, folks. I'm relieved to find I'm not the only one to find "soft" woods difficult.

Cheers, Alf
 
A

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It's the grain that maters, not so much the timber. Osage is a wood I have a horrendous time planing. Talk about a wood were the best efforts may result in huge missing chunks! Yet Osage is the classic bow wood, and needs to be a handtool cutting star in that service. It comes down to the sample. A bow piece is going to be from less that 1% of the useable stock.

I think these planing contests are interesting, but it's like everything else that degenerates into some form of wanking in the absence of any real underlying purpose. It can be a lot of fun and educational, but who actually planes to a final finish anyway. You can have a plane that handles 99.9% of a panel perfectly, but if there is one tiny area with a difference, you aren't finished. And anyway, almost all the time some finish will be applied. Unless you make shoji for a living who cares.

What I do care about are how easy and fast a plane is to use, how quickly the blade can come out and be returned to battery. How long it holds it's edge, and how thick a shaving I can take. A plane that can't take a super fine shaving may not be set up right, but a plane that gives you the results you need while taking a more positive cut may actually get the nod in the toolroom more often.

I remember when I first taught my daughter to plane, it took quite a lot of convincing that it was actually about the workpiece, and not the shaving!

I find softwood easy to plane at 35-40 degrees. The quality of the cut depends in part on the speed the plane is moving, so faster is better if you can control it.
 

Alf

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PeterPan":exfkey11 said:
It's the grain that maters, not so much the timber.
But some timbers have consistantly "difficult" grain, while others have consistantly "easy" grain - timber variety is a good rule of thumb.

PeterPan":exfkey11 said:
I think these planing contests are interesting
What planing contest? :? I think you might have made an erroneous assumption...

Cheers, Alf
 
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