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Thread: Change my mind

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Change my mind

    Dimensioning lumber by hand (accurately) is one of the hardest operations in the hand tool shop.

    change my mind....

    This is probably more my level of experience and impatience but no matter how much I plane a board, it's seems like when it comes to dimensioning, it's more like a art than a science. In theory it's very very easy. Remove twist, remove high spots, don't touch low spots, etc. But in a reality, it's like "remove twist this corner, oops made a low spot, plane rest to low spot, now theres a dip on that side, etc etc. Tail wagging the dog.

    I've only really been able to do it successfully on very small boards.

    Not looking for advice. Just a discussion. Always reading about how hard dovetails are to cut or X joint. I think the really skilled are the people who can dimension boards well by hand.

    My problem is I lose my patience and start going at it per se, while not constantly checking.

    Anyways what are your thoughts? Dimensioning vs joinery...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
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    Western North Carolina, USA
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    Hi Michael,

    On occasion I've run in to the same thing with both manual and hand flattening.
    If a piece of wood has a different moisture content at the surface from below the surface,
    once that lower level of wood is exposed to air, the piece might move, getting more or less twisted, cupped, whatever.
    ) Quarter- or radial-sawn wood is more stable than plain-sawn.
    ) Reaction wood, from a tree grown on a steep slope, can move significantly with humidity changes.
    ) Some species are known for their movement.
    Plain-sawn wood from a reaction tree of a high-movement species can be used, if
    it's of thin section and the ends are well anchored in a slot, etc.

    What(usually) works for me:
    Cut board a little long and wide of finished dimensions.
    A few days before flattening, set the board out leaning against a wall or
    stored in some way that air can get to both sides. Don't stack and sticker.
    Partially plane down the high spots, on both the top and bottom, and
    then let the board sit a day or two, leaning against a wall.
    The board may not change at all, or it may find a new balance.
    Do final planing.
    NOTE: Get a face roughly flat before edge joining.

    Scrounge or buy some cheap construction lumber that is badly warped, twisted and cupped.
    Practice on this and my guess is you will be on the fast track to successful face planing.

    Thanks and good health, Weogo

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weogo Reed View Post
    Hi Michael,

    Scrounge or buy some cheap construction lumber that is badly warped, twisted and cupped.
    Practice on this and my guess is you will be on the fast track to successful face planing.

    Thanks and good health, Weogo
    Hi weogo
    I'm working on turning 2x6 construction material into a table top.
    Doing large boards is definitely a challenge. Especially edge jointing.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Before purchasing a decent JP, I jointed all edges by hand. For thicknessing, I would knock down any twisty boards by hand and finish on the thickness planer. I've taken down small boards by hand but at my age, that's permanently in the past.
    ďTravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  5. #5
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    Apr 2015
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    Part of the art in it is knowing which boards not to bother with - the ones that should be cut up for the inevitable smaller parts most any furniture project will need. They have to come from somewhere. This and having an actual lumber inventory to work out of. Don't buy a 100 bd. ft. of lumber for a project that needs 95 bd. ft. You'll have a knife at your throat before you even pick up the first woodworking tool. These two very things may be part of the cause of the anxiety you're feeling. Give yourself a break. You can't polish a turd into a diamond. It's wood. It grows on trees. I'm not proposing wastefulness but using the wood wisely and for its best position in the project.

    I will give you one tip: don't stay on "Highspot A" until you think it's completely gone. You need to plane high spots A, B, C, D, E, and so on alternatively until it starts to become apparent how much material, overall, you're going to have to remove to arrive at a flat face. If you go from point to point planing hell out of each point you're making a mistake. You will never end up with a flat face. One more tip -- look at the amount the board is cupped, draw a rectangle on each end representing the width and thickness you need out of the board. You may not be able to get the thickness you need once you've planed out the convexity on one side, and the concavity on the other. This is a board than needs to be ripped to yield narrower work pieces.
    Last edited by Charles Guest; 02-26-2021 at 4:29 PM.

  6. #6
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    One has to start by being a bit picky about the lumber they are going to work.

    Also size has something to do with it. It is difficult at best to make a panel out of two 1"X12"X8' boards to be perfectly flat. My solution was to put them inside a frame to hold them flat. Crude but it worked.

    Other than that most furniture or cabinets don't need a flat side longer than 4'.

    For my quick utility builds lumber yard fir works pretty well:

    100_7659.jpg

    It is not perfect. It is good enough for its use.

    For better work, better wood makes the difference. Frame and panel construction can do a lot to make the hand work easier.

    Here is a hand planing workout:

    https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?272588

    Some help was needed to run it through the bandsaw.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  7. #7
    Stock preparation takes a lot of skill. Some have claimed that the master left the apprentices to do stock preparation. However if you have four matching pieces of figured mahogany that you have selected for drawer fronts, there is no way you want a 15 year old fooling with that stuff.

    For efficient work you need to make a mental map of the board using straightedge and winding sticks. It is very helpful to have an idea how much material needs to be removed and how many strokes it will take to do that so you are not constantly checking. You don't just blindly start planing or following some ritual; you only remove stuff from the high spots. A good workman will bring a board to flat with a minimum of loss of thickness, and have it nice enough from the trying plane so that a once over with a smoothing plane will clean up scuffs and dirt etc.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    A couple of years ago I decided to sell my jointer, miter saw, and table saw. Two of those were good decisions. Getting a board flat enough to stay put while going through the planer is not too hard. I prefer a hand planed edge joint anyway. Initial straight line ripping is done with my track saw and the other side will be done with the table saw. Crosscutting and then shooting the ends is a pleasant task for me. As you have surmised, I have become averse to excess physical effort in my dotage.

  9. #9
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    One trick is to rethink the sequence that boards are processed and what part(s) actually need to be flat and perfectly dimensioned. For instance, I've done several table tops were I get one side reasonably flat, then edge joint and then glue the panel. I then get the 'reasonably' flat side truly flat and make the bottom side 'usably' flat (i.e., so it sits flat on the aprons-can be a whole lot of ugly in the middle). The top can then be the reference face if a bread board is needed, etc. This is in contrast to the machine 4s or 6s to precise dimensions before assembling parts.

    Hope that helps.

    C
    "You can observe a lot just by watching."
    --Yogi Berra

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
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    Camarillo, CA
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    I forget where I saw it, but Iíve followed this process for the last several things Iíve worked on:

    1. Start with the board cupped-side down (so it is high in the middle).
    2. On each end of the board use traversing strokes to get it fairly flat across the width for about the last inch of the board.
    3. Use winding sticks, then get each end in-plane with the other end. Just the last inch of each end.
    4. Run a pencil line across each end about a quarter-inch in. You donít want to hit this pencil line until you are almost done flattening.
    5. Work each long edge of the face until you have a pretty straight strip on the outer inch or so of the face. Plane down high spots but stop before you hit your pencil lines on each end.
    6. Mark the long edges with a pencil. Now youíve got a box drawn around the edges of your face, and that box is pretty much in plane and un-twisted.
    7. Start traversing to take off the high spots in the middle, but donít hit your pencil lines. Keep traversing until your strokes begin and end just inside your lines.
    8. Finish off with a few diagonal passes that completely traverse.
    9. Switch to your jointer/try plane/fine-set jack to make passes along the length. Again, try to leave your lines on each end until you are almost done, then take them off with your last few passes.
    10. Do a final check for twist/straightness and make any little corrections you need to.

    I found that approach helped keep me from going too far, then having to go back and fix twist. By getting the outside of the face pretty close to flat and out of twist, then working everything in the middle down to that you have a good visual reference to work too. Since the initial flattening is only over narrow strips, it doesnít take that long to get your lines drawn all around the face.

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Sticker the boards for a while then sort out the best stock for the demanding areas. Rough plane the wood and re-sticker. Some tensions will have been relieved. After a few days do the final planing. The thinner the stock the more useful this is.
    Cutting the boards to rough length makes the task easier with less wood wasted. Taking a long board and aiming for flat square there wonít be much wood left.
    Most likely there is only one side needs to be close to perfect, the other less so, use the latitude the piece gives you to match the wood.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Mickley View Post
    Stock preparation takes a lot of skill. Some have claimed that the master left the apprentices to do stock preparation. However if you have four matching pieces of figured mahogany that you have selected for drawer fronts, there is no way you want a 15 year old fooling with that stuff.

    For efficient work you need to make a mental map of the board using straightedge and winding sticks. It is very helpful to have an idea how much material needs to be removed and how many strokes it will take to do that so you are not constantly checking. You don't just blindly start planing or following some ritual; you only remove stuff from the high spots. A good workman will bring a board to flat with a minimum of loss of thickness, and have it nice enough from the trying plane so that a once over with a smoothing plane will clean up scuffs and dirt etc.
    Thanks Warren
    I once had a thread in a similar vain and you had made a comment along the lines of "only take down the high spots"
    Honestly that has stuck with me. Before that I had watched all these videos and never really understood the process. The video guys are like plane across, diagnol then straight and it's good to go.

    In regards to the apprentices. From a business stand point I would tend to agree with you. You generally don't have the most novice guy working with the most expensive stuff. I would assume wood was just as expensive back then (or much more so) then it is now. And from the little I've read wood workers weren't a real rich lot.

  13. #13
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    Dec 2014
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    Everyone thank you for the reply lots of great information.

    My more intended point though was to ask what takes more skill accurate dimensioning or cutting joinery.

    For myself I see dimensioning as taking much longer to become proficient whereas I was able to cut a workable dovetails after my first few attempt (I still suck though).

    I believe I took something like 1/2-3/4" off my bench top when I built it, trying to get it perfect.

  14. #14
    Nothing to it but to do it. It takes a lot of practice to recognize and correct a board.

    The biggest help will be to practice on boards that plane easily. Softer, straight grained (along the edges) make it easier to take single, targeted, and deeper passes. Check your progress often. It gets easier but there is no magic: You know the rules , now you just have to practice.

    Sometimes it may help to work across the grain instead of with it.

  15. #15
    Some people love thicknessing lumber by hand. I hate it. To me it is just miserable drudgery and a complete waste of my limited shop time, and my even more limited time for using hand tools. If you find you don't like it, there is no disgrace in buying a lunchbox planer and either rough face jointing or just buying a 6" or 8" jointer.

    Truth be told, I don't even like thicknessing lumber by machine either. If I have more than 100 bf I need, I just have the yard do it. For me, initial stock preparation (jointing and thicknessing) just makes it take longer to get to the part of woodworking I like. Since I do this as a hobby (well, sort of at least) I don't want to spend any more time than I have to doing things I don't like.

    That said, I have done enough of thicknessing by hand that I can do it when I need to, as well as things like face jointing for boards wider than my jointer, and I used to edge joint by hand before I got good jointer.

    Thicknessing is a handy skill, but maybe not the first one I would recommend tackling when learning to use hand tools. I'd say get smoothing down first, along with edge jointing. Then if you want to, try tackling thicknessing. By then you will have gotten good enough at sharpening, feeling the feedback of the plane, reading the grain, watching for tearout, and built up enough muscle memory to make thicknessing less frustrating.

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