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Fir Workbench! #2: Having fun with jointer...

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Blog entry by LucasinBC posted 1552 days ago 1233 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Need to start lamination! Part 2 of Fir Workbench! series no next part

A bad flu and a business trip later, and I still haven’t laminated this darn thing! Not for lack of trying, but being the rookie, I definitely underestimated the time and effort requried in milling 6ft long lumber. My jointer is up for the task; the total table length is 46” so there should be no major lack of capacity…but I never realized that jointing long lumber was a challenge…getting rid of even the smallest high spots is tough…especially with a softwood like fir which has a tendency to cup quite a bit even at the best of times!

So I have the majority of my lumber milled to size, but as I take a day or two to sit back and re-think my strategy, I am considering purchasing a few more boards to supplement the ones which I think are no longer usable. I think I am suffering from a common rookie mistake of not being discriminating enough when I chose my lumber initially. Some of these boards may wind up being scrap unless I can find a way of getting their cups and warps to behave.

I am definitely seeing how Lumberjocks makes for a great outlet for woodworkers…just taking the time to write my thoughts is calming…where a few hours ago I was ready to take a saws-all to my wood with rage! If anyone has any tips on straightening particularly long boards I would love to heard it. My two ideas right now are:

1) Pre-plane the boards using my Delta lunch-box planer prior to final jointing on my jointer.
2) Trying the old school jointer hand-planing method to get rid of the high spots.

If anyone has any other ideas I would love to hear them. I have a photo of my boards which I will attach to this momentarily.

Until next time,

Updated:
Photos

This is what all of my boards looked like together...looking ok so far.

This is the wood close up...the fir looks ok!

Not bad right?

GRRRR!!!  Look at all the high spots!!

-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.



10 comments so far

View jcontract's profile

jcontract

83 posts in 1589 days


#1 posted 1552 days ago

Hey Lucas. I’m following your experiences with the bench. I’m about a month away from starting the Holtzapffel workbench out of Ash. Pictures would be good. And definately let us know the good and the bad. That’s what it’s all about.

View Dave Pearce's profile

Dave Pearce

108 posts in 2174 days


#2 posted 1551 days ago

Well, when I built my bench it was an easy decision for me. I have no power planer or jointer. So I ended up doing it by hand with a Stanley No. 6. Believe it or not, it wasn’t as much work as I thought it’d be, but it was a workout. Since then, I’ve jointed and planed more than a few boards, and it gets easier every time.

One thing to note: after you glue up that many boards side to side, you’re going to see a little bit of wood movement regardless. Movement during and after glue up. I know most people don’t have a 24 inch planer or sander to run a fully glued up benchtop through, so you might want to give the hand plane route a little bit of extra thought.

Here’s a write I did for WK Fine Tools about the process:

http://www.wkfinetools.com/tMaking/art/dPearce/holtzBench/Holtzapffel1.asp

-- http://www.pearcewoodworking.com

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8473 posts in 2150 days


#3 posted 1551 days ago

I’ll second the hand plane method. with it – you can take those high spots down without having to run the entire board through the jointer, taking more and more material throughout each time.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Dave Pearce's profile

Dave Pearce

108 posts in 2174 days


#4 posted 1551 days ago

Oh yeah, forgot to add something:

Another point for the hand plane method of flattening: My bench sits in a unheated (for the most part) garage, and after about a year and a half, the top does need some flattening done. Nothing major, but something that should be taken care of at some point. Since the top is now permanently part of the base, using a hand plane to true it up is about the only way to go, especially since it’s not a very large area that needs adjusted.

I’ve seen jigs that help you use a router to flatten a benchtop, read about using a belt sander, and probably a couple of other methods I’ve forgotten about at this point, but I know that just using my No. 6, I’ll get very good results without alot of fuss.

-- http://www.pearcewoodworking.com

View LucasinBC's profile

LucasinBC

62 posts in 1573 days


#5 posted 1551 days ago

Hi Dave,

Thanks a ton for the comments – I read your article regarding your workbench build. I definitely identifiy with everything you wrote in that story. I am in just about every way in the exact same position as you were when you decided to build your bench. Like you I am not bulging with tools, on a relatively limited budget, and have pretty much no clue/zero experience in woodworking!

My only question is this: you write that you ripped your boards and immediately clamped them together and jointed them after the gluing. How did you manage to have consistent thickness/straightness throughout your boards along the faces (the gluing surfaces?) I suppose that planing the edges (top or bottom, as you did to practice hand planing) to thickness can be done afterwards, but did you not have issues in having the boards quare up firmly without any gaps without surface planing or jointing the boards?

If you could let me know that would be great. I think I’ll be picking up a no 6 plane and trying my hand at it regardless, seems very much worthwhile.

Luc

-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8473 posts in 2150 days


#6 posted 1551 days ago

Mind you Luc – hand planing, and most hand tool woodworking that involves blade also requires understanding and good skills of sharpening those blades, and in the case of hand planes – also tuning those planes. unless you go with a lee valley or lie neilsen hand planes, most other hand planes DO NOT come ready for work out of the box.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View 8iowa's profile

8iowa

1489 posts in 2263 days


#7 posted 1551 days ago

Nick engler, in his book “Woodworking Wisdom”, recommends letting newly purchased wood “climatize” in your shop for two weeks or longer if possible. It seems that every time I violate this proceedure, I end up with finished boards that are bowed or twisted. Construction type lumber from the “big boxes” frequently has a high moisture content.

The first thing I do with a rough sawn board is to clamp it to my workbench and use winding sticks to identify twist. I use a #5 hand plane to correct the twist and a long straight edge to identify and remove high spots along the length. the board is then ready for the planer.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View LucasinBC's profile

LucasinBC

62 posts in 1573 days


#8 posted 1551 days ago

That is true PurpLev – probably best to become well versed in sharpening first, another skill which I lack. There’s a very nice Lee Valley near where I live but the planes are prohibitively expensive. I believe a jointing plance is closing in on $300 CDN. From what I hear, it’s no doubt worth the money, but for an amateur it’s a bit pricey.

My work colleague who used to be an accomplished cabinet maker suggested a hand power planer…anybody have thoughts on those?

-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.

View Dave Pearce's profile

Dave Pearce

108 posts in 2174 days


#9 posted 1550 days ago

Lucas,

Well I gotta admit, I didn’t really have that consistent of a surface between each of the boards. The ripping was close enough for glue to hold most of the time. I had a few pieces that bowed out and didn’t fit that tightly. The key for me was to have a few extras laying around and test fitting a bit. The southern yellow pine I used was ripped from fairly dry boards made for flooring joists, so the few issues I had with twisting or cupping was generally easy to see and avoid. Heavy bar clamps helped bring a few of the problem boards into line. And what 8iowa mentioned about letting the wood climatize is good advice as well. Couple of days or a week after ripping at stable tempuratures would help seperate the good wood from the not-so-good-wood. You might rip to rough size, then rip again to a closer to final size. I do recommend heavy duty clamps. Puts alot of pressure and squeezes those boards pretty tightly together.

PurpLev has a good point too about sharpening. You’d laugh, but when I first started using handplanes, my sharpening skills were pretty bad. That’s why I started flattening the bottom first. All the tearout, uneven cuts, edges of the plane blade leaving tracks, cursing and anger got directed at the underside which typically won’t show anyway. I put in a few sharpening sessions between the two sides of the benchtop. One thing to remember is, that benchtop is pretty darn thick once glued up, so it’s not like you have to get it right the first 20 times. You sure won’t plane away all that material accidentally. Once you finally (and for me it was FINALLY) get your plane tuned up you’ll correct alot of the earlier planing attempts. Just don’t be in a hurry to mount the base to the top, so you’ll always be able to flip it over to the underside to try again. Also, like Chris Schwarz mentions in his workbench book, you can always go over the surface with a smoothing plane for that showroom-like finish in the end. Another good reason to buy another tool, right? (gotta use those excuses when you can!)

My benchtop still has small gaps between some of the boards where the rips and subsequent glue ups weren’t 100% perfect. And if I had to do it again, I’d probably joint the faces of the boards a little better by hand before glueing, but then again, it’s a bench and it’s meant to be abused a bit. It’s not something that I’m going to put in my living room. The functionality of having the bench was more of a factor than how nice it looked, and I know that’s pretty subjective between people. To me, I needed something to build stuff with and learn how to use hand tools, and I figure one day I’ll probably build another one at some point when my skills are more polished.

And since the bench needs re-flattening after having it for a year and a half, I’m getting a chance to plane it out a little nicer than the first time.

I couldn’t afford a Veritas or Lie-Neilson plane either, which is why I went with an old flea market Stanley. I was fortunate to find a decent user without much trouble. Never used a hand power planer, so I’ll leave that answer to someone else!

Good luck and keep us informed!

-- http://www.pearcewoodworking.com

View LucasinBC's profile

LucasinBC

62 posts in 1573 days


#10 posted 1545 days ago

Hi Dave,

Again, many thanks for both the article link as well as the comments you posted here on the blog. In taking a few days to think, I’ve decided to give the hand-plane method a try. I went ahead and purchased myself an old (1903?) No 6 Stanley and a No 4 jack plane this weekend. I’m going to pick up some “scary sharp” supplies in the next few days and see about flattening out the boards by hand. I already love using card scrapers, so I figure the hands-on accuracy and feel of a hand-plane must be similar anyway.

I think that one of the most important lessons that I have learned in all of this so far is that you really must not rush anything in woodworking- a lesson which I am sure I will have to learn the hard way a few times before I get it straight! The good news is that with all the crappy fir that I had from my bench, I took a few hours to build myself a pair of decent sawhorses. The bad news is that I have to buy myself another two 2X10s to complete my top. No big deal, but I think that taking the time to pick out quality stock and not rushing through the ripping process will help (and let the wood climatize also.)

One thing that I did not mention earlier is that, like many beginners, I ripped my wood on a budget…meaning that I used a circular saw becaues I don’t own a table saw. I think that the circular saw works pretty well for cutting to length, but it’s a pain for ripping long boards. I would even argue that it’s probably the reason why I had such a hard time jointing the edges of my lumber…my saw guide really sucked and my rips were WAVY as a result.

Ive decided that I’m going to invest in a half-decent band saw. I need one anyway for guitar building, and it seems a lot more versatile, and in some ways, safer, than a table saw. Anyway, back to the shop for now…sharpening and cursing awaits!

-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.

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