Shimming up a board when using a hand plane

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Forum topic by JasonD posted 12-26-2010 05:32 AM 1531 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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180 posts in 2886 days

12-26-2010 05:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: plane shim flattening

I apologize in advance if this is a stupid questions; especially since I think I already know the answer. But as a novice woodworker who’s learned what little he knows from trial and error + books and the Internet, I’d like to pick the brains of more experienced and knowledgeable woodworkers.

I’ve never used shims under a board when flattening it on my bench top (using a #7 jointer plane). I never really had much of a problem before. I guess I’ve just been lucky to have had lumber with at least one flat face.

Anyway, I was flattening a couple of boards tonight to get them ready to face-joint them together. No matter what I did, it seemed like it was only getting worse every time I checked them together. After spending at least an hour fighting with them, I noticed gaps on a few spots under both boards. When I pushed it with my hands, they rocked a bit.

What I’m thinking happened is that the boards moved slightly up and down as my plane passed over them and this prevented the sole of the plane from making a proper connection the entire time. Something that would be fixed if I would have shimmed it up before planing. At least, that’s what I think happened and what I believe will fix it.

Does that sound right? That it’s not possible to hand plane a wobbly board if it isn’t shimmed underneath?

3 replies so far

View SouthpawCA's profile


270 posts in 3258 days

#1 posted 12-26-2010 05:52 AM

Did you use winding sticks? It’s almost impossible to flatten a board without them.

-- Don

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3084 days

#2 posted 12-26-2010 05:52 AM

Sounds like you have it right. If your board is like most, it is probably cupped just a little. That would mean that the other side is probably slightly concave. Put the concave side down and then take the crown out of the convex side, and flatten it. Then turn it over and flatten the convex side of the board. Also, I find that t helps to work sideways, across the grain at first at about a 45 degree angle, then work with the grain. Keep practicing. You’ll get it.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View JasonD's profile


180 posts in 2886 days

#3 posted 12-27-2010 02:04 AM

This is the part where I admit an idiot mistake. Don, you hit the nail on the head.

Yes, I do have winding sticks. No, I wasn’t using them. I started rushing in my work and didn’t bother to use them. Then, when I started to have problems, I didn’t even think about the winding sticks and started to try to figure out anything else it could be.

What I was planing were matching faces on the two sections of my new workbench top. I glued them up a few boards at a time until I ended up with two 12” wide sections. I built one section up to 12”. Then, put it off out of the way while I worked on the other section for a few days.

Once they were both done, I put them both on top of my old bench about a foot apart. This was the problem because I didn’t put my winding sticks on at this point since the way I had the sections on the bench, the two sections would be in the way of the winding sticks on each other.

What I should have done was:
- put one section on the bench
- sighted with the winding sticks
- worked it flat
- moved it out of the way
- put the second section on the bench
- sighted with winding sticks
- worked it flat

Instead, I started to see the finish line of a long few days of work and got sloppy. I used the last few days of my vacation this week and took a 5-day weekend; almost all of which was spent working to finish the bench top.

I’m not mad actually. I’m kind of glad that I wasted so much work and sweat. It was a needed reminder to slow down and use proper technique.

Thanks for helping me see the error in my ways, guys.

Here’s a picture of the finished top:

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