getting a straight edge

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Forum topic by Kathy posted 07-20-2010 11:20 PM 5624 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2946 days

07-20-2010 11:20 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Here I go with another rookie question. This issue has come up a lot when I am trying to make something.

Assume you have a piece of wood with no straight edges and you have no access to a jointer or TS to get a straight edge to start with. And even with a TS, if you don’t have a straight edge to put against the fence, then what?

I have skill saws and jig saws that I can use because I have made jigs for them, but if I don’t have a straight edge to measure from, then what? I tried using the t square but again no straight place to start? I thought maybe the answer was a hand plane, but again, how to make sure it ends up perfectly straight?

Today I was trying to get a particular grain pattern out of a piece of cherry. Nothing but frustration.

Now I am sure there is a very simple answer here, but I am not seeing it, and I don’t want to ruin this piece of wood with my little here, little there method.

Anyway, welcome to my world of today!! :(

-- curious woodworker

19 replies so far

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3698 days

#1 posted 07-20-2010 11:23 PM

Do you have a jack plane or jointer plane? those will do the ticket.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3316 days

#2 posted 07-20-2010 11:28 PM

There’s a project or a blog here on LJs about making a straightedge with a handplane. It’s actually 2 straightedges, held together and planed at the same time. Each edge is a mirror image of the other, and you check them by putting them together. If they don’t come together perfectly, you plane down the high spots. If you don’t want to get that involved, you can just get a piece of MDF and make a straightedge jig for your circular saw. Like this:

Click for details

or this:

Click for details

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4110 days

#3 posted 07-20-2010 11:38 PM

Hi Kathy- don’t despair. If you have four raw edges with Nothing straight, it sounds like a hand plane won’t do you much good either. Try this: if you have (or go buy) a 1×6” board, simply nail/glue another small piece on top of it at the left edge (anything low: 1/2×1/2” or a little wider) as a fence for the circular saw to ride against at the left edge of the baseplate. Nail or clamp the 1×6 down to the workpiece edge you want to cut, and let the circular saw ride on top of of the 1×6 board, cutting right through it and on an approximate line you want to cut the workpiece. You could size the whole piece that way, or use that one cut straight edge to run along a table saw fence. After using this cutting jig, you have it sized for that circular saw and blade, to re-use on other pieces that need a straight edge.


View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3489 days

#4 posted 07-20-2010 11:43 PM

The homemade ripping guide noted above is very useful. There is also a commercial version for about 20 or 25 dollars. It’s two, four foot aluminum extrusions that slip together to make an eight foot edge. Clamp it or screw it to the wood and run a TS or router down the edge.
Another option is a straight edge clamp. They come in a variety of lengths up to about 60in maybe longer. They are pricey but really convenient.
Hope this helps, BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3140 days

#5 posted 07-21-2010 12:01 AM

use a chalkline make a svirp and saw the line with a handsaw
and then you plane the edge with a plane called a jointer
that´s it, cheap ,fast and easy


View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3673 days

#6 posted 07-21-2010 12:08 AM

a Straight edge is one of those non cutting yet essential woodworking tool that we all so frequently forget about.

first things first – get a straight edge at one point.

as a substitution – the edge of a plywood sheet is a good reference, but only goes so far – not accurate enough to dial in your machines to (TS/Jointer/etc), but since this is not your goal, you shouldn’t worry about it.

a handplane can get a surface/edge flat and jointed- but you’d still need a straight edge to validate it and check that edge against.

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

View Gary's profile


9333 posts in 3458 days

#7 posted 07-21-2010 12:10 AM

There may be an LJ somewhere close to you in WI that can help.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3093 days

#8 posted 07-21-2010 01:19 AM

Can you freehand a skilsaw on a chalk line and stay on the chalk? If you can, snap a line and cut it close as possible to the chalk. It won’t be TS straight, but it will be good enough to pass along your TS fence and make the other edge TS straight.

Once you have that edge, you should be good to go.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2946 days

#9 posted 07-21-2010 04:57 AM

I never thought of a &^%%& chalk line!!! I have a chalk line!.

I don’t have a table saw bye the way, or a jointer. I do have straight edges, but where to put it if there is no straight reference point.

I have made a jig for my skill saw but again am I just starting anywhere on the board? What about the grain of the wood?

I know, now I am confusing even me, but I am going to try the chalk line, because then I can line that up on my jig.

Thank you everyone, I’ll be so glad when school starts in the fall again.

-- curious woodworker

View swirt's profile


2780 posts in 2997 days

#10 posted 07-21-2010 05:15 AM

This would give you a good start. It’s on clearance too. It basically allows you to clamp a known straight board to your crooked board, so you can run the known board against your table saw fence. Which is what Barb described above.

-- Galootish log blog,

View swirt's profile


2780 posts in 2997 days

#11 posted 07-21-2010 05:16 AM

Oops, sorry I just read where you said you had no table saw.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3140 days

#12 posted 07-21-2010 11:45 AM

Okay Kathy
you said you have the jiig and the skillsaw
you pretty much just slab the jiig down where you deside
the cut shuold bee and follow up wih a plane
and about the grain direction, still for you to deside all depending
what you want to make and how the end result shuold looks like
and what expression you try to give it

ofcourse it also have something to do with strength
there is enoff to learn and as a new woodworker
we alsoo think this is something I never learn too many things to consider :-)
don´t worry the more you learn , the worse it is …........LOL
na kidden you just a little :-)none the less it´s true

luckely some of it you just have to learn once and remember it

T-Cheisel and woodwhispere + Charles Neil and others have made some vidio clip where
they show and talk about grain direction and the importens of it

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2946 days

#13 posted 07-21-2010 12:19 PM

Thanks everyone. I am going to tackle it today.

-- curious woodworker

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3185 days

#14 posted 07-21-2010 02:48 PM

You could always use a pocket knife and a laser, but it might take you a little while longer.

IF you had access to a TS, AND the board was not twisted(read: in need of a jointer for flattening the face…), you can put a longer board between your work and the TS fence. Be sure to put the concave edge of your workpiece up against the ‘longer board’. This method compensates for the fact that your workpiece can’t ride along the fence by itself through the whole cut without wobbling.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View tbone's profile


276 posts in 3709 days

#15 posted 07-21-2010 07:00 PM

Here’s another solution. You can have it more primitive than this one, but you do need a router.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

showing 1 through 15 of 19 replies

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