Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 61

Thread: Squaring Boards by Hand

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Davidson, NC
    Posts
    15

    Squaring Boards by Hand

    I am new to the hand tool world. After finally figuring out how to get my hand planes sharp (due in large part to some advice I received here), I am trying to learn how to square and dimension boards by hand. I have watched a ton of videos on the process on YouTube, and I have also done a lot of reading on the subject. My attempts so far have generally followed the approach advocated by Mike Siemsen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEdgF8NDsB0).

    My results so far have been very mixed, and I really struggle with getting the face flat. I also seem to waste a large amount of wood during the milling process. My primary issue is that after I get a board reasonably flat, when I reference the board to my table saw top, I can never completely eliminate all rocking. Is this to be expected? Will there always be some deviations that can be detected by tapping the board corners when the board is referenced against something that has been machined flat like a granite slab or a table saw?

    Also, regarding the "tap test" for board flatness, are there any good references for how to use the tapping to identify the next steps in the milling process? In every video I watch, the instructor seems to be able to magically know how to interpret certain types of rocking to identify what to do with the board next. My interpretation of the rocking patterns seems to frequently make things worse rather than better, and I feel like I am really missing something here.

    Lastly, any suggestions for how to improve hand milling by hand? Right now I am just practicing by working through a scrap pile. The shavings-to-final-board ratio is not favorable.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    23,158
    Blog Entries
    1
    Hi Tom, It is often a difficult procedure to find the high and low spots on a piece of wood. A straight edge can help.

    A recent post of mine > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?290331 < is about making straight edges and winding sticks.

    There are many Youtube videos on making and using winding sticks.

    There are many ways people use to find the high spots on a work piece. Metal workers often coat a reference surface with dykem blue and rub a metal piece over this. The dykem blue will transfer to the high spots. Then the removal work is only done to the high spots.

    Woodworkers tend to do this by eye. Find if one side is flatter than the other and use it for the starting reference. Find any high spots and plane them down to make this face as flat as possible. This face should the be marked for reference. Then square the edges and finally the other side of the board can be worked using the square edges for reference.

    It also depends on the wood. Some pieces are bowed beyond redemption. Some pieces have internal stresses that are going to change as wood is removed.

    It can take some time getting this phase of woodworking to click, be patient.

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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
    Posts
    5,518
    Sounds like you're talking about flattening, rather than squaring. Don't hold the plane down all the way across the board. Only take the high parts off.

    Here's the way I do it. These panels were going to be raised panels, on both sides, for exterior shutters, so there was no need to worry about the outside parts that were going to be taken for the raised panel edges anyway.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SED7B65cppM
    Last edited by Tom M King; 04-01-2021 at 12:27 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mayock View Post
    . My attempts so far have generally followed the approach advocated by Mike Siemsen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEdgF8NDsB0).

    My results so far have been very mixed, and I really struggle with getting the face flat. I also seem to waste a large amount of wood during the milling process. My primary issue is that after I get a board reasonably flat, when I reference the board to my table saw top, I can never completely eliminate all rocking. Is this to be expected? Will there always be some deviations that can be detected by tapping the board corners when the board is referenced against something that has been machined flat like a granite slab or a table saw?

    Lastly, any suggestions for how to improve hand milling by hand? Right now I am just practicing by working through a scrap pile. The shavings-to-final-board ratio is not favorable.
    Mike Siemsen’s approach is great but it takes some time and practice to develop a feel for identifying high spots.

    It doesn’t require much for a board to rock on a perfectly flat surface. In practice, a 1/64" won’t be an issue over the length of a board.

    Hand stock preparation is not more wasteful than machine prep. The high spots, the twists, cups and crowns have to go anyway.
    It can be physically demanding though. So I would recommend using light scrub and jack planes to remove the bulk and approach a flat surface, then a heavy jointer set lightly to flatten and approach a smooth surface. A smoother is useless there, at the stock prep stage.

    oh, and of course, doing stock prep by hand means you need to develop a keen eye for the good pieces at the lumber yard

  5. #5
    I share your pain; there are plenty of days when I would surely love to have access to a nice wide planer and jointer with nice long infeed and outfeed tables.

    Tom mentioned it earlier - remove the high spots. It takes some discipline to leave the low spots alone but you will be happy you did. Check your progress frequently and remember it is very easy to get carried away and just make your board thinner instead of flatter.

    A plane with a cambered blade and a fairly open mouth is your friend. I won't get into the jack or scrub debate. Just know that you have to remove a lot of stock, you don't want to be doing it with a smoother that makes gossamer thin shavings.

    Pay attention to the orientation of your defects. Working on the cupped face of your stock lets your plane rest on two high spots which is a good thing. Working on the bowed face of your board will have your plane following a convex surface which gets you back to that thinner not flatter situation.

    It doesn't really matter when you are just practicing on your scrap pile (a very good idea in my opinion) but help yourself with stock selection when you are actually making something other than practice shavings. Judicious cutting of bowed stock can potentially save you a lot of effort spent planing.

    Don't let perfect get in the way of good enough. This is supposed to be fun not frustrating.

  6. #6
    Mike Siemsen's approach is extremely wasteful of both time and material. He starts with a board that is nearly flat and removes at least 1/8 inch of material. It is hard to find someone on UTube who looks like they have flattened a hundred boards.

    You want to be constantly consulting your straightedge and winding sticks, so that you don't take off stuff where the board is already low. You don't want to do any cross grain planing unless the board is really bad, and then only in the worst corners, etc, not everywhere on the board.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Northeast WI
    Posts
    309
    If you are using your table saw table as a reference surface, have you verified it is flat? I only have a contractor saw in my shop, and while the table is reasonably flat it isnt perfect. Doesn't hurt to check.

    Im not sure what kind of saw you have. I would expect a permanent cabinetmaker table saw to be more accurate than my little contractor saw.

    I am no master at flattening boards by hand, but winding sticks are your friend here. I have followed Joshua Farnsworth's method from wood and shop too. Might not hurt to check out.

    And as someone mentioned, don't get too caught up in perfection. This is supposed to be fun!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Davidson, NC
    Posts
    15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Buresh View Post
    If you are using your table saw table as a reference surface, have you verified it is flat? I only have a contractor saw in my shop, and while the table is reasonably flat it isnt perfect. Doesn't hurt to check.

    Im not sure what kind of saw you have. I would expect a permanent cabinetmaker table saw to be more accurate than my little contractor saw.

    I am no master at flattening boards by hand, but winding sticks are your friend here. I have followed Joshua Farnsworth's method from wood and shop too. Might not hurt to check out.

    And as someone mentioned, don't get too caught up in perfection. This is supposed to be fun!
    The table saw that I am referencing against is a SawStop PCS. The last time I checked, it was very flat.

    I have been using winding sticks, but I am thinking that I have just been taking too much off when I go to knock off the high spots that I identify with the sticks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Davidson, NC
    Posts
    15
    Thanks for the responses. My takeaway so far is that I should start by just knocking down the high spots. That is definitely different from what I have been doing, which is making the ends of the board coplanar, then trying to make the middle of the board coplanar with the ends.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    2,972
    You may also want to check out David Charlesworth’s method. It has worked very well for me.

  11. #11
    I just get one side to sit flat. I don't care how flat it is, I just want enough points of contact to keep it from rocking and bending when I plane. Put the crown side up.

    Then I concentrate only on getting the opposite surface flat. One boards or panels over 10" wide I use a #6, but a #5 or 5 1/2 is really well suited for this job.

    I start going 90 across the face. Typically there is a convex cup, you have to be careful with that. Pencil lines across the board will help you take the crown down evenly. I tip the plane on edge to check for flatness, shine a light will reveal gaps.

    Once the crown (if any) is gone I check with winding sticks, and with 45 degree strokes on the high points. Constantly checking with winding sticks when it looks good, a few strokes lengthwise to smooth it out.

    Using a marking gauge registered off the flat face, go all around the board, flip it over and repeat the process.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Location
    Lafayette, CA
    Posts
    658
    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Mueller View Post
    You may also want to check out David Charlesworth’s method. It has worked very well for me.
    +1 on Phil's advice.

    Start with a reliable straight edge to find high spots. Scribble over the hills with a pencil and shave them down most of the way.

    Then go after "wind." Your table saw is a great help in locating the direction of wind or twist. As Warren suggests, you want to take off the least wood to get rid of the warp. Winding sticks will show you the two high corners.

    What I do next I learned from David Charlesworth. I invested in some plastic precision shim stock. I place shims under the winding sticks at either one or both of the LOW corners until the sticks are zeroed out. That tells me how many thousands I'm out, which I can translate into some number of 0.001" or 0.002" shavings. Then you use David C.'s "stop-shaving" method to take down the high corners. The shims help you predict how many shavings you'll need (it's remarkably reliable). Keep at it until the sticks are zeroed without shims.

    Finally, flatness. This is where a cambered plane iron comes in. Again, David Charlesworth has demonstrated this method of producing a set of tiny scalloped shavings across the width of the board. Invest in his DVD Precision Planing. Lie-Nielsen should have it in stock. (In my library I have his earlier 2005 version, but I suspect the Precision Planing is much enhanced, based on how he taught me in 2019.)

    Unlike the run-of-the-mill YouTuber, David has placed his considerable wisdom in his DVDs (now also available as streaming video). There is simply no more cost-effective purchase you can make for your craft: no exceptions, in my book.

    So far I can say I have truly mastered two fundamentals of woodworking: sharpening and milling stock by hand. Both are directly due to David's exceptional instruction. I have built competency to varying degrees in other aspects of the craft, but not what I'd call "mastery." But David can show you how to work with precision, confidence, and repeatability –– every time –– on the skill of flattening a face.

    I wish you success.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    7,930
    1. Begin by finding and marking high spots, localise and then remove just these. You cannot accurately determine twist or cupping otherwise.

    2. When using the winding sticks, you may prefer to use a feeler gauge rather than shims to determine the amount it is out. Shavings would be better, but they curve and are not a reliable measure. Use something you can relate to.

    3. If one corner is higher than the other, the opposing corner is also likely to be out. Do not lower these any further - only lower the high corners.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Last edited by Derek Cohen; 04-01-2021 at 11:16 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    South Coastal Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,758
    Unmentioned above, my approach starts with the more cupped side "up".

    Packing shavings under the curved board keeps it from rocking. I use my Jack plane registering across two high points *crossgrain*.

    Each pass should take off a little more.

    Once the board is close - verified with the side of the plane - I gauge a thickness line around the board.

    Plane at a skew to get down to desired thickness.

    When it's close, I leave it alone before smoothing, jointing and squaring.

    https://youtu.be/2Tvxy_UOGMY

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    7,930
    Mike Siemsen ....



    Regards from Perth

    Derek

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •