surface preparation-what's the order???

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Forum topic by GoPhillies posted 03-17-2011 03:15 AM 1355 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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45 posts in 2906 days

03-17-2011 03:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question surface preparation

I want to start incorparating more hand tools into my woodworking. Currently I dimension my lumber using power tools (jointer, planer, table saw). I don’t think I will change this aspect…just easier and faster I feel. The next step, SURFACE PREPARATION, is where I want to change the way I work. Now, I use my ROS and just work my way through the grits. My question is to planers out there. Do you just start with a smooth plane and work the wood until you are satified with the feel and look of the wood? Where does a card scaper fit in? After the planing if needed? Do you still need to sand a little after planing or no? Any basic suggestions and how to bring a surface to finish ready after a power planer is want I am looking for. Thanks in advance for the input.

6 replies so far

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3235 days

#1 posted 03-17-2011 05:39 AM

The sequence is much like with sandpaper. You go from coarse cuts to fine cuts. As you start looking at the grain direction and what tearout you are clearing up or how much stock you are removing you make some choices that you can decide from experience or a bit of experimentation in scrap or areas that don’t show.

If you are starting from rough stock or have a lot of material to remove, you have the coarsest cut which is the scrub plane. It is curved like a gouge and takes out big chunks.

After that, you go to a plane with less camber (curvature of the blade) which is like a medium grit. These will usually be on a jack plane size but it really depends on what you are trying to achieve. It can be a long plane like a jointer or a short plane like a smoothing plane. If you are more interested in the surface being flat, you go with the longer plane. More interested in smooth? You go with the shorter plane. You have to pay special attention to the grain direction at this stage or you will tear out a lot if wood grain. The tightness of the mouth depends on how much camber you have on the blade and how much wood you are taking off at a time

Next comes the planes with a small amount of camber (we are talking tiny amount of camber or flat with just a little curve at the ends to keep from digging the corners into the wood and leaving tracks. This makes a more even surface. When you are at this stage, you are looking for a tight mouth and are taking off shavings that are a couple thousandths of an inch thick. This could possibly be the final finish depending on the behavior of the wood. The fine mouth allows you some freedom to go in directions other than exactly with the grain.

The final stage is touch up stuff or just getting the surface as clean as possible. Like the finest grits of paper. This is the work for scrapers. A scraper doesn’t have a flat cutting surface like a plane iron. You raise a burr on the scraper and it is a cutting tool with a really delicate edge. It takes off wisps of wood that really are not measurable. They can either be hand held or in a body as a scraper plane.

The way people end up with a herd of planes is to have coarse cutting and fine cutting planes in different sizes.There are a few extra planes for tough areas such as a toothing planes to take care of really nasty stuff and low and high angle variations to deal with different woods and grain directions.

The first thing you will notice using planes and scrapers rather than sandpaper is that they cut more cleanly and the grain will stand out much more prominently. The finish will be absorbed into the grain differently than sanded wood.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View brianP's profile


20 posts in 3010 days

#2 posted 03-17-2011 05:47 AM

If you’re doing the dimensioning with machines you should be able to skip right to a smoother plane to take off whatever mill marks there may be and this can take you to a finish-ready surface. But you may find, at least at first, that you will still need to do some light sanding to get you to the surface you are used to, at least until your technique with the hand plane develops. The card scraper only needs to be used if you have any small areas of tear out that you can’t clean up with the plane. If you haven’t bought a plane yet, consider getting one of the “premium” ones like Veritas or Lie Neilsen as these can be just about used straight out of the box, and will allow you to focus on planing rather than tuning up a plane.

-- --Brian, Brooklyn, New York

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3118 days

#3 posted 03-17-2011 06:48 PM

To clean machine marks and get the wood finish ready you probably only need a good smoothing plane. As the last poster said buying a new premium plane will require very little work before use but if I was you I would get some old planes, take them apart and learn all the parts and how they work together. Then I would learn how to tune them up and sharpen the blades right.

Tuning old planes really helped me understand how they work and how they should be set. It is a great learning experience and very rewarding.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6349 posts in 3432 days

#4 posted 03-17-2011 07:59 PM

+1 for all of the above answers to prepping the wood…..I use the table saw, jointer, planer, sander, and a hand scraper some…..back to ROS and then the finish sander…..that’s about it for me…..

Go St Louis Cardinals….!!!!

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3074 days

#5 posted 03-18-2011 05:33 AM

One thing about this forum is that you always get different responses to your questions. The beauty of this is that all responses are from the heart. There really are lots of different ways to do things and all are correct. It’s like taking a road trip from Maine to California… what do want to see on the way? David way is traditional… strictly hand tools (they do work). Brian and Dan are right and Rick is more like me. I use my power tools (jointer, planer and table saw). Then I always use my scrapers… every time. The scrapers get rid of the machine marks. If you’re not familiar with this tool, google it and learn. Warning… learning to use them are a lot easier then learning to sharpen them. Ask us how to do this if you run up against a brick wall. As for sanding… there are lots of methods. Her is mine! After using the scrapers, I mark my work with pencil zig-zags all over and sand these out with 100 grit paper. I do this twice. I then repeat this process two more times using 120 and 150 grit. I then dampen my work with water (damp – not wet) and let it dry. Dents and whiskers pop out. Hand sand these 180 git paper once.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

556 posts in 3294 days

#6 posted 03-18-2011 11:55 PM

I haven’t read all the replies, so sorry if this is redundant, but after machining, to remove tool marks, on the faces I use a smooth plane, a cabinet scraper, and 320 grit sandpaper. I don’t sand very aggressively, I use t more to identify the problem areas while I’m scraping, because that’s where the sanding dust is left. For the edges of boards, assuming they’re straight, I use a block plane followed by scraper and sanding. I then knock off the corners slightly with my block plane, 3-5 light passes, just to ensure the corners aren’t sharp.

-- Glen

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