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Long reference straightedge/planing help

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Forum topic by groland posted 07-27-2010 04:51 PM 2716 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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groland

152 posts in 2872 days


07-27-2010 04:51 PM

I am planing flat (or at least that is the idea!) a 6×2 1/2 foot bench top. I need a reference for flat that I can use to help get this top flat along its length, diagonally, in every way. The only ready-made thing that has occurred to me to fill the bill might be a 7-8 foot level from THD.

I made a couple of 30 inch “winding sticks” that’re decent enough, but I don’t trust myself to make a dead-flat 6-7 foot straightedge on a jointer. It may be my only choice, but I thought I’d check here first for advice.

Also, Im seeking advice on refining my flattening. Right now, I’m going down the top planing a cup out of it across the top. I am not paying much attention now to the long-wise or diagonals…just cutting down the outer edges to get if somewhat flatter from front to back.

What should I do to refine once I’ve completed this operation?

Thanks,

George


15 replies so far

View rance's profile

rance

4245 posts in 2621 days


#1 posted 07-27-2010 05:00 PM

George, From what I’ve heard from other hand-tool guys(of which I am not), you’ll be flattening your bench every 6-12 months if you want a perfectly flat surface. It seems to me(again, not a hand-tool guy) that your winding sticks would be “good enough”. My suggestion is to forego the multimillion dollar straightedge :) and build one yourself using aluminum angle & wood. Then build an accompanying torsion-box assembly table for the times when you need a dead-flat table. Just one person’s opinion. I’m sure you’ll get other better suggestions.

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

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swirt

2117 posts in 2432 days


#2 posted 07-27-2010 05:23 PM

Two pieces of aluminum angle iron make a pretty decent set of large winding sticks. (recommended by Chris Schwarz) Though a level benchtop is also important so a long level can be paired with an angle-aluminum to make a pair as well. Both winding sticks in the pair don’t have to be the same height, ans long as they are both straight.

Here are a couple of tips I have used.

You want to avoid creating a hump because a dish is easier to flatten than a hump (a plane will follow a hump). So if anything you want to remove more wood in the middle and save the edges until last.

I tend to work the diagonals more than straight back and forth. The motion is easier, the cut is easier and it helps work the side to side flat and the back to back flat at the same time.

If you prefer to have a reference to plane down to. You can use a rabbet plane to make level rabbets on each end, then use those as the reference to plane down to. Just make them wide enough for your winding sticks to sit on without falling off. (recommended by Roy Underhill)

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View vicrider's profile

vicrider

179 posts in 2359 days


#3 posted 07-27-2010 05:52 PM

When I needed a long straight edge (to join some stock that was too long for my 6” joiner), I went to my local metal supply co. and bought a 10 foot length of 2” X 4” aluminum tubing. It was very straight and it only cost $11. It is now my favorite edge guide for router and circular saw. lots of clamp room.

I did add a strip of UHMW tape for the router to ride on. I have also used it to level the right hand extension table on my saw. It now resides in my overhead storage.

-- vicrider

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1551 posts in 2656 days


#4 posted 07-27-2010 06:00 PM

I agree with swirt, use winding sticks. Christopher Schwarz has a great free article on Flatenning a Workbench Top: http://popularwoodworking.com/upload/images/PDF/Extras/Flatten_Workbenchs_Top_Feb08.pdf

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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swirt

2117 posts in 2432 days


#5 posted 07-27-2010 08:30 PM

Eric_S, Great find on that article! It is a good read.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17654 posts in 3136 days


#6 posted 07-28-2010 05:33 AM

A tight string will go a long way towards proving a straight edge.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View lwllms's profile

lwllms

555 posts in 2742 days


#7 posted 07-28-2010 05:56 AM

If you don’t want to make one, which isn’t hard, you might look at a straight edge for flooring work. They’re steel and pretty accurate plus they’re designed for more abuse than most machinist straight edges. They’re more accurate than a level or aluminum stock. For the money, I think they’re the best value.

This one is 50” long and sells for $39.75
http://www.tools4flooring.com/gundlach-rigid-steel-straight-edge-50-in-p-682.html

And this one is 76” long and sells for $46.50
http://www.tools4flooring.com/gundlach-rigid-steel-straight-edge-75-in-p-683.html

Aluminum stock will cost more and not be as straight or as durable.

View davidroberts's profile

davidroberts

1025 posts in 2946 days


#8 posted 07-28-2010 06:20 AM

I don’t know if this clearance is nationwide, but I just bought a 72” Swan brand straightedge level for $23 plus tax from Lowes. They list at Lowes for about $54. I don’t know if they are within the 0.005 inch tolerance that so many woodworking tools tout these day, but it looks pretty dang straight to me. I think they are starting to sell more of an I-beam type level.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17654 posts in 3136 days


#9 posted 07-28-2010 08:02 AM

This one : http://www.tools4flooring.com/crain-334s-professional-straight-edge-4-ft-p-792.html is guranteed to be straight within +/- .003 :-) That should be good enuf, eh?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View groland's profile

groland

152 posts in 2872 days


#10 posted 07-28-2010 01:34 PM

Guys,

Thanks for all these tips!

I’m especially appreciative of Eric_S’s alerting me to the Chris Schwarz article on flattening a bench top.

After I saw that, I realized I was being WAY too cautious in my planing and got out the ol’ scrub plane and my No. 7 jointer and really went at it. Shavings everywhere!

I worked long into the afternoon and had to stop when the light was gone. This morning, things’re looking much better on the bench top!

I must say, this was the best practice ever on how to plane. There was a kind of Zen moment when that big jointer was run across the table top, when the soft “swoosh” of the blade was slicing through the high spots, that was spiritually fulfilling. Feeling really attuned to and at one with the tool. Neat experience!

George

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Eric_S

1551 posts in 2656 days


#11 posted 07-28-2010 01:52 PM

You’re welcome George. I guess it was just good timing as I was checking out popular woodworkings website for their new issue articles when I saw Chris Schwarz’s.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Sawkerf's profile

Sawkerf

1730 posts in 2529 days


#12 posted 07-28-2010 04:22 PM

Like some other posters here, I keep a few pieces of aluminum square tubing and angle iron around for this sort of thing (i.e. checking “flatness”).

They’re not good enough for a machinist, but I work in wood. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17654 posts in 3136 days


#13 posted 07-29-2010 07:01 AM

I was digging a narrow ditch for a short run of conduit today, I just used the edge of a canvas tarp. It was straight enuf:-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View markplusone's profile

markplusone

81 posts in 2415 days


#14 posted 07-31-2010 06:47 PM

After goin through this myself you know what I learned, forget about it!! A bench is gonna get moved, worked on, hit, jolted and treated like a work bench. Even if you could get it flat, IT WONT STAY THAT WAY FOR LONG!! Get it close as you can in 3 hours of planing. Then leave it. If you need flat reference, use your table saw table. If you need an absolutely flat reference, buy a granite slab that is ground to spec. Those can be had relatively cheaply and in all sizes. But if all your doing is seeing if all four legs of a chair hit, your tablesaw is all you need. Chasing that flat will drive you nuts. Its a particularly short drive for me! Thats why I gave up. Hope this all helps you.

-- Dont carry that which you dont hold with.

View groland's profile

groland

152 posts in 2872 days


#15 posted 07-31-2010 08:34 PM

Markplusone,

Thanks for the reality check.

I have had to set aside my usual perfectionist bent while learning woodworking. First of all, I cannot get things perfect in ANY part of my life. If I expected perfection in my woodworking, I would never get anything done. I know that workbench top is never going to be perfect. And, I have to install vises, that will result in some more planing being necessary, so I’m getting into “pretty good” as my standard. I’ve got the top close to pretty good enough. Had to stop ‘cause I’m away from my shop on vacation now. Be gone a week. Be interesting to see how warped it gets in the week I am gone! Whew!

I am a devotee of the great old adage:

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

I try to keep this in mind…do the best you can at that time, but don’t drive yourself crazy.

best to all,
George

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