I am inspired by a couple of recent related blogs to add my two cents on the subject of preparing rough lumber for use in a project. I see several people wishing they had more or different tools, and get the idea that everyone would like to have a 12” jointer. I see some people have figured out that you can do the same with a planer and a little ingenuity. Here is what I did.
You should see in the pictures something I call a sled.
It is 12.5” wide and 8’ long, weighing about 20lbs. How I constructed it is not the subject at hand and to be honest I don’t even remember, but I spent a lot of time making sure it ended up being perfectly flat (OK pretty darn flat). That was controlled by the runners – the three 8’ boards running the length of the sled. After construction I ran it through my planer to make sure the top surface was as parallel to the bottom surfaces of the runners. I do this periodically to clean up the surface as you can see in this picture.
I added a hardwood edge to one side of the surface and straightened it using a carefully selected piece of manufactured lumber.
The result was a light-weight (comparatively) rigid surface and edge that could be used to support a piece of twisted and/or cupped lumber through a planer to get one surface flat. This is accomplished by shimming gaps between the sled and the lumber while planning the initial surface. Once that is done, the shims can be removed and the board can be run through the planer without the sled, relying on the planer base for support. Then with the help of a router, the 8’ long hardwood edge of the sled could be used to put edges (as good as any jointer) on the lumber.
In the accompanying pictures I used my sled to straighten Live Oak in had milled from a local tree. I air dried it in my shop and it was a mess. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again, but look at the previously warped, twisted, and cupped boards stacked up after being straightened with the sled. Then check out rough glue up before cutting the round table out of it.
Also in the pictures, you can see the gaps between the sled surface and rough board. I suppose there are a million ways to do it, but I used popsicle sticks and veneer as shims and hot melt glue to hold the shims in place. A couple nails in the sled surface at the front of the board prevent the board from moving along the sled surface as it is pulled through the planer, thus keeping the board in alignment with the shims.
Here you can see the result of the glue up and the finished product. Check out the gallery for more pictures of the table and then see what you think about the sled. Thanks for looking!