Straightening Lumber

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by John8059 posted 01-17-2009 06:17 PM 9832 reads 5 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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!

-- Cuz

14 comments so far

View F Dudak's profile

F Dudak

342 posts in 3837 days

#1 posted 01-17-2009 07:14 PM

Necessity is the mother of invention!

-- Fred.... Poconos, PA ---- Chairwright in the making ----

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3912 days

#2 posted 01-17-2009 07:30 PM

Great idea!!!! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3611 days

#3 posted 01-17-2009 08:43 PM

I love this idea well done I sometimes use thumb tacks where you have used lolly sticks a great idea the sled well done Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#4 posted 01-17-2009 09:29 PM

I can imagine that boards like yours would dry with a wiggle and a box.

bought some curley beach at a sawmill and I was there the day he cut it but I didn’t ask him if it was for sale. I assumed he cut for a buyer. About 6 months later I saw the wood on top of a pile and I bought it then. The boards were warped, twisted and bowed. I wish I could have stacked them at my place instead of at his place with just stickers on the ends.

A great solution to getting boards flat. Thanks for posting. And it looks like a great table under construction.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3933 days

#5 posted 01-17-2009 10:04 PM

That’s quite a rig…

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3490 days

#6 posted 01-17-2009 11:10 PM

i like it. looks nice and stable. sort of a torsion box frame. looks like it’s made out of dimensional lumber? how often do you need to re-surface it?

is it critical that it be exactly the same thickness across the whole width/length? have you ever measured (like with calipers) the +/- thickness deviation across those dimensions?

I wonder how a sled like this would fare if it was made simply of two lengths of 3/4” ply laminated together.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3908 days

#7 posted 01-17-2009 11:42 PM

Hey John, Nice job. And welcome to LJs. You seem like you will be a nice addition.

I like the concept of using the same beam for edge jointing with a router too.

Aaron, after having built many sleds and tables for routers and other things, I can vouch for the torsion box concept. Two lengths of ply won’t do it. Such a beam could also be useful for other things if you lay it across two sawhorses etc. Torsion boxes resist warping and bending, they are extremely strong.

Also Aaron, after using the box on the first side, you do the other side without it. So all the deviations will be pretty much taken care of.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View John8059's profile


53 posts in 3443 days

#8 posted 01-18-2009 03:46 PM

Steve – thanks for addressing Aaron’s questions. I am very happy that my friend told me about LumberJocks and that my idea was well-received. I sent the very same thing to WOOD magazine and they rejected it. Yet they awarded the Shop Tip of the Month award to some guy who suggested screwing baby food jar lids to a board so you could store things in the jars. Go figure.

Sorry about the gigantic pictures! I am looking right now to see how others inserted tiny images with links to larger ones. I also saw one blog that had a sort of a slide show at the beginning. So much to do and so little time.

I’ll be back to see what ideas I can borrow from you guys, share what I can, and get my gallery going. For now I’ll add one more picture of the table almost finished. Anyone interested in how the design got there?

-- Cuz

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3490 days

#9 posted 01-18-2009 06:18 PM

Steve: yeah, i would imagine such a long, straight, stable surface could be very useful to have around. about the deviations in the board – i’m not sure I quite understand how the deviations are removed. I mean, you still have to get it really close (the dimensions of the sled) to begin with, right?

John: nice table. how DID you finish it and get the design there? as far as submissions to magazines go, I’m not entirely convinced that those things arent rigged – dont feel bad about it. strange that they’d pick such an age old shop trick for tip of the month though… that’s one from something like “ol’ grampa’s toolbox”. anyway, welcome to LJ, and thanks again for posting this.

View John8059's profile


53 posts in 3443 days

#10 posted 01-19-2009 08:24 PM

Thanks for the interest. You can see above where I actually run the sled through the planer without any lumber. Except for a little snipe on the ends (which is almost impossible to avoid because of the length and weight of the sled), the sled should be within whatever specs you would expect your planed lumber to be. Also notice that I use a miter saw table with extending rollers to support the sled and lumber on both sides – but it is not perfect and some snipe can occur. Finally, I will say that I was very carefull about getting the runners straight when I built it. The top surface got its original flatness from the runner’s edges.

The table was colored with trans-tint dyes from homestead finishing. I have not used stains for years. I mix the dye with laquer thinner and lightly mist the color on. There are at least a dozen other ways to do it, including adding the dye to the topcoat material. For a topcoat I use a catalyzed laquer called MagnaMax.

The design was also made with trans-tint dye. I created the design with CorelDraw – I use that software for all my designing. I made two templates, one for the colors and one for the black outline which partially covers the edges of the colors. You can see the template for the colors above. It took a LOT of masking! The dye can be mixed so intensely that it adds virtually no thickness to show through the black outline. I had to pay a sign shop to cut the templates out. This could be used to make some awesome game boards/tables. I think I will elaborate in another blog. I will also put some pictures on my website –, when I get a chance. I need to get back to my real job, but I’ll be back to check out your ideas.

-- Cuz

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3490 days

#11 posted 01-20-2009 06:17 PM

interesting. dying opens up a whole new can of worms i’m not quite ready to jump into yet!

View John8059's profile


53 posts in 3443 days

#12 posted 05-22-2010 03:16 PM

The pictures have been “repaired” and can now be viewed. Thanks for the interest Kent.

I might add that after almost 5 years of use I had to tune up the edge, but the bed is still in great “shape” and performing well.

-- Cuz

View Dave T's profile

Dave T

196 posts in 3646 days

#13 posted 05-22-2010 03:40 PM

Great idea. Thanks for the explanation

View a1Jim's profile


117120 posts in 3603 days

#14 posted 05-22-2010 05:55 PM

Good blog well done

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics