A question was asked in part 1 of this series on how to flatten the top… I started replying in the comment thread, but decided to just make it part 2.
I’m investigating building a dining table myself. What is involved in “flattening” the table top? Any special tools or large equipment required? I ve seen people use parallel rails and a router sled for rounds and slabs, I suppose that might work?
As with most woodworking tasks, there are multiple ways to accomplish the goal. I’m fortunate that my next door neighbor owns a commercial cabinet shop. He let me use his 54” wide-belt sander (sometimes called a time-saver, which is just a brand name). Timesavers will flatten and sand the top in one step—way faster than you can do it by hand. There is also a public workshop here in MN that has one, but its only 36” wide. This is by far the fastest and easiest method. Check with your local cabinet shops to see if they will let you run your table through.
If you cant find a big enough timesaver, or if you’re a traditionalist, you can always use hand planes. Someday I’d like to flatten a top with hand planes, but I’m a hand plane novice, and in the interest of quality and of time, I didnt want this to be my first attempt. There are lots of videos on youtube demonstrating hand plane technique.
The way I would do it if I didnt have access to the big timesaver would be a router sled on rails like you mentioned. There are videos out there that demonstrate that method as well. I’m a big fan of The Wood Whisperer, and he has a good video on how to make one: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/flattening-workbenches-and-wide-boards-with-a-router/. Also, Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) made a video of his: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIA2Xl8P7Es. There is also a FWW article that shows how to make it, but you have to be a member: http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/level-big-slabs-in-no-time-flat.aspx
Finally, I was able to cross cut the table top to length using the cabinet shop’s Altendorf sliding table saw. They definitely have some cool machinery. Their dust collector alone was the size of my shop.
I’ll post progress as I make it, but its been slow. I’m working on two tables at once, and the other one is taking priority: http://lumberjocks.com/mcomisar/blog/series/7656
-- Marshall - http://mcomisar.tumblr.com