My Journey #1: Quest for "Flat"

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Blog entry by Trimble posted 09-15-2010 05:10 AM 1065 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of My Journey series Part 2: New Toy! »

So, I’m just starting to learn woodworking. I’ve wanted to learn woodworking since I was much younger… The thought of building my own computer desk someday has secretly lingered in the back of my mind for many years.

Recently, I was given the task of building shelving for a storage building to store most of my stuff (I share a house with my in-laws… ick). For fathers day, my wife bought me a cheap Ryobi router table from Home Depot. I’ve always wanted a router table, so I used this gift as a sort of ‘jumping off point’ to launch myself into learning about woodworking.

I already have a table saw. It’s actually my father-in-law’s, but he’s letting me play with it for whatever I want to do with it… So, I figured with a table saw and a router table, I have everything I need to start building stuff! Then I learned something important. Sigh.

I found the Wood Whisperer’s website and went back and started watching his videos. I very quickly learned that getting boards FLAT is a critical priority at the start of any good project. Crap! I don’t have a jointer. But, I learned that I actually sort of have a mini-jointer in the router table. So, I decided to start trying to see if I can joint at least the side of a board with it. Then, I realized what makes a cheap router table so cheap – Plastic Parts.

As it turns out, the fence on my router table is NOT absolutely flat, because it’s made of injection molded plastic. Sigh… But wait, plastic can be flat too.. I just have to sand it flat. So, I bought some sand paper, and decided to sand the fence flat. I needed a reference flat surface, and as it turns out, the surface of the router table itself is flat enough to sand against.

Many years ago, I had to flatten another surface. I had an AMD CPU for my computer, and I wanted to over-clock it, so I had to lap the surface perfectly flat to mate with a heat-sink. That worked so well that the chip and the heat-sink actually stuck together as if they were glued together – when I lifted one off the table, the other came with it simply due to the vacuum between the two pieces. So, I figured I could do it again for my table fence.

So, tonight, I spent an hour lapping the plastic pieces of my router table fence. Sadly, it will take even longer to get the surfaces perfectly flat. Both sides of the fence were warped enough that lapping flat has taken a very long time. I hope to get both parts flat soon. (I only get about an hour at a time in the shop before I get interupted by family… sigh)

Here I am lapping part of the fence flat.

Here you can see the little bit on the bottom edge that still isn’t flat.

Maybe I’m cheap, but I find that if I clean the dust out of the sandpaper, I can reuse a piece of it for a long time.

Thanks for reading

2 comments so far

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3091 days

#1 posted 09-15-2010 11:16 AM

We all started somewhere. Hang in there. Welcome to lumberjocks..

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View thebigvise's profile


191 posts in 2927 days

#2 posted 09-15-2010 03:58 PM

You have approached this problem in an interesting way. However, You really do need to find a way to purchase a good jointer. As you said, if your pieces are not straight and true, the frustration can only get worse as you fight the problem at every step of your project. When I first got my jointer, the quality of my woodworking moved northward. Just as importantly, I then really started to enjoy my work because I no longer spent the whole project fighting the crooked pieces of wood! Good luck.

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

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