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Hand plane diagonal or straight across grain to flatten a table top?

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Forum topic by Cato posted 1450 days ago 8562 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Cato

641 posts in 1944 days


1450 days ago

I am in glue up stage for a work table top, and I am sure it will need hopefully only a little work to get it flattened. I plan on using winding sticks or 4” level to mark high points.

In the midst of a little spending spree for TS fence, card scapers, digital planer gauge, etc. I also ordered a new Woodriver #6 fore style plane to use to flatten out the finished top.

So looking online at how to use such a plane and such I have seen two recommended directions, straight across the grain and at a diagonal, so which would be the best direction??

The only planes I currently have are a small Stanley block plane and a 10 inch sole Stanley I guess it would be like a #4 size jack plane, so looking forward to trying my hand with this larger plane.

Table top will be Ash and measures 72”L x 36” W.

Any input will be helpful here to one fairly inexperienced with much hand plane work.


20 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2280 days


#1 posted 1450 days ago

you’d want to start cross grain to take off high spots across the width, then plane diagonal to keep it flat both width wise and length wise, but to finish it off you’d want to go with the grain to minimize tear outs and what not.

so you kinda nee to go all over ;)

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

View swirt's profile

swirt

1937 posts in 1603 days


#2 posted 1450 days ago

PurpLev’s answer is right on with only a bit of a disclaimer. If you have put a decent amount of camber (rounding) to the blade, then you can go directly across to remove the high spots. If you only put a little camber to the blade, I would only go diagonal to remove high spots. And if you put no camber to the blade then you are pretty much stuck with planing with the grain only. THe camber keeps the crossgrain tearout to a minimum.

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

View rwyoung's profile

rwyoung

369 posts in 2103 days


#3 posted 1450 days ago

Neither plane size you list is appropriate for FLATTENING a table. Too small and will simply ride along the peaks and valleys. A much longer plane at 16” or greater is appropriate. A three plane “set” would be best. (Edit: noticed you ordered a #6, that is between a jack and jointer and might work OK for either. The #6 is about the size of what used to be called a fore plane and those were good for hogging off lots of rough material. Otherwise it can be setup as a small jointer quite well).

Start with a jack plane, wide mouth and medium to heavy camber on the blade. This is run perpendicular to the grain and can hog off high spots QUICK. Put a small bevel on the exit edge so you don’t blow it apart. Leaving the table wide also helps so you can trim off the damaged edge later. Use some winding sticks that are wider than the table to help find the low & high spots, wind, cup and twist in the board. Work the board down to level (not flat, level). Then switch to a jointer plane (think Stanley #7 or #8 size).

Start with the jointer plane set for a relatively light cut, run corner to corner at least two times. Say lower left to upper right then lower right to upper left, or which ever makes you happy. Just cross your cuts. The jointer plane also has a cambered iron but much less so than a jack. Work down the deep scallops from the jack. Finish off with strokes running end to end, with the grain. Lightest cut that gets the job done but causes minimal tearout. You will know you are done with the jointer when the planing sound is no longer “ticketa-ticketa” and becomes a long “swoosh” sound with full length and full width shavings from the plane.

You can use a smoothing plane next or if you need to also thicknes board and bring the other face parallel to the first, skip the smoothing until the very last. To bring the other face parallel to the first, you need to make the two long edges perpendicular to the flat side. Do the end grain too (block plane is good for this). Scribe a line all the way round the four edges using the flat (but not yet smoothed) side as a reference. Scribe deep. Now repeat the jack and jointer on the opposite side until you are down to your scribe line. You will see the line go fuzzy just as you hit it.

Now finish with a smoothing plane. Something in the 8” to 10” sole length size (#3 or #4 Stanley for reference). By this time the board is quite flat but not smooth. The smoothing plane mouth is set very fine, and take very light cuts to minimize tearout. Work only with the grain. The board will be flat enough the plane won’t track down into valleys.

Lots of other little things like SHARP irons, gluing up panels so the majority of the grain goes one direction (not always possible but do your best), working on a FLAT bench and holding the work steady (plane into batten or dogs on the bench) will make this process easier.

It sounds like a LOT of work but really it isn’t so bad. Ash can plane very sweetly but given the size of top you are talking about, I’m thinking it would take me a couple of hours including stops to resharpen and apply a card scraper to any tearout.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View Walnut_Weasel's profile

Walnut_Weasel

360 posts in 1854 days


#4 posted 1450 days ago

If you are going to plane across the grain you need to either plan for some blow-out on the edge of the table or clamp a waste board on to prevent the blow-outs.

-- James - www.walnutweasel.wordpress.com

View SouthpawCA's profile

SouthpawCA

254 posts in 1865 days


#5 posted 1450 days ago

Check this out before you start … http://lumberjocks.com/davemoorefurniture/blog/15368

-- Don

View Cato's profile

Cato

641 posts in 1944 days


#6 posted 1450 days ago

Purp- Think I am getting the idea. I am guessing that the last phase going with the grain is going to be a very thin shaving??

Swirt- not sure of the camber that will come with the blade from factory on the Woodriver plane, so will have to see later this week on that.

rwyoung- thanks for the input on the process, probably have to refer back to it for pointers as I go, this particular #6 may be larger than some as it is 17 3/4 in length, so it may prove ideal for my use.

View swirt's profile

swirt

1937 posts in 1603 days


#7 posted 1450 days ago

Yah unless you are buying a scrub plane, the blade will arive with zero camber. You will have to add that yourself.

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

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

721 posts in 2464 days


#8 posted 1450 days ago

Take a long Straight edge and thoroughly know where table is out of flat. You need to approach cups and hollows differently

Everything said is xlnt, but consider starting with a scrub plane. I start with a radiused blade (Hock 10” radius) in a # 6 as a long scrub plane and it really rocks, then a Jack and the a jointer, then a smoother. With one more iron, radiused and some adjusting you can do all but the smoothing with the # 6.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2280 days


#9 posted 1450 days ago

yes Cato – you are correct, last run with the grain is fine shavings, you are not tryingto remove material as it should be flat mostly – you are basically just cleaning off any tearouts and imperfections – very fine shavings.

since you only have a handful of planes – you may want to either get a 2nd blade for your #6 that you can camber, or just round off the corners on your 1 blade , just so that it doesn’t dig into the wood as you flatten the bench.

as mentioned – when going cross grain – chamfer the edges so that as you go past them you don’t blow out the edges of your bench.

Although a #6 is not an official jointer, it can be used as one to good results although the general rule is – the longer the bed, the better (personally the largest I have is also #6)

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

View rwyoung's profile

rwyoung

369 posts in 2103 days


#10 posted 1450 days ago

@Cato -

The Stanley #6 comes in at 18” (give or take a little). The Woodriver planes are based on the Stanley Bedrock (#606) flat-top design.

A #7 (607) is 22” and a #8 is 24”.

I think I under quoted sizes above. I always have to go look up the lengths, I just know that they get longer and wider from #1 to #8.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View aurora's profile

aurora

206 posts in 1884 days


#11 posted 1450 days ago

purp and rw did a great job explaining.

i would add that i usually start on the back side of the table top. gives me a little feel for how the wood plains and test my tools for setup and sharpness. then i flip the top and do the finished side.

cancel the gym membership, you’ll get a great workout hand planing. it also a whole lot more fun too.

View Gofor's profile

Gofor

470 posts in 2419 days


#12 posted 1450 days ago

Great advise above, but would add that unless you have REALLY long arms, you aren’t gonna make it across the middle of that table top, so will have to work to the middle. That will reduce tear-out on the edges some. Use the bottom side to refine your technique, and also help you spot any gnarly grain (usually around a previous knot or where a branch growth caused the grain to go up/down in a short length of the surface). These areas are the most prone to tear out, and depending on the wood species and dryness, may need a card scraper to refine to a smooth surface (even the sharpest plane with the mouth set close and the shaving fine may cause tear-out on some woods). Use this experience when doing the top. Some times dampening a really hard, splintery wood with mineral spirits can help reduce tear-out, but it can also aggravate it on a softer wood.

If you haven’t yet learned how to hone the iron razor sharp, now would be a good time to learn.

If you are having trouble seeing exactly where you have planed and if you have removed the divots from the cambered irons, a piece of kids sidewalk chalk (big thick sticks of it) rubbed on its side will give you a great visual aid when getting down to the smoothing. All it takes is a damp rag to remove it from any grain pores after you are done, but I would stay away from the red colors, as they tend to stain the wood. Blue and yellow work fine.

JMTCW

Go

-- Go http://ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?cat=500&ppuser=730

View Cato's profile

Cato

641 posts in 1944 days


#13 posted 1449 days ago

Thanks for all the tips. I’ve very little hand plane experience, so very good advice from several of you on using the bottom side to refine technique and getting the feel for what I am doing.

This is all good stuff for me and since this work table top is about gaining experience milling, jointing, edge fitting, all finer woodworking skills that I need to learn, a shop piece is the perfect place to learn before starting my next project which this will be practice for.

Now sharpening the plane irons, well another new thing I will have to learn. Knives no problem, plane blades, new learning curve. Am I sure I want to do all this new stuff?? :)

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2280 days


#14 posted 1449 days ago

it’s a daunting road working with hand blades, but the workflow, and the results are WELL worth it my friend!

auroras suggestion on starting on the back side is a fantastic idea!

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

View Gofor's profile

Gofor

470 posts in 2419 days


#15 posted 1449 days ago

For sharpening the plane irons, check out the many, many references on the “scary sharp” method. Easy and inexpensive way to start, (for a flat surface, you can use something as cheap as a melamine board or one that has a Formica veneer to start with, and you can get fine wet-dry abrasive paper at most automotive stores). If you decide you are really serious about hand planing, then you may want to invest in a Veritas Mark II honing guide. I know the real Galoots will probably say you don’t need it, but IMHO, its one of the best developments in the modern age when it comes to quick, repeatable and accurate results.

I will warn you though. Once you have honed an iron down to where the hair jumps off your arm when you slide it down it, and then you stick it in a flat plane with a close set mouth, you will be hooked on hand planes and that can be steep slippery slope! I have not bought a Woodriver plane, but unless it has a Hock Iron, I would doubt it is honed to the point that you want it to be. Almost all irons as bought require a bit of honing to get them sharp enough to work well.

Go

PS. I have no connection with Veritas (except to drool over some of their planes) but am just a satisfied user of one of those products.

-- Go http://ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?cat=500&ppuser=730

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