Dimensioning Rough Lumber

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Forum topic by paratrooper34 posted 10-12-2011 01:30 AM 3865 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 3152 days

10-12-2011 01:30 AM

Hi All, I am writing this entry to see if any of you are dimensioning rough lumber with only hand tools.

After getting my bench setup to my liking, I decided to give it a workout. The best way I could think of was to dimension some rough lumber as it is quite a workout – for both the bench and me! So I went to my local lumber yard and bought a piece of rough cut pine, 8’x12”1”. When I got home, I cut 2 feet off and went to work. I have a number 5 that I use for all around work, but it is not set up for rough work. So I have this other Stanley number 5 hanging around that I haven’t gotten to since I acquired it with a whole bunch of other planes and saws I found on Craigslist. I took the blade out and sharpened it with a decent camber for hogging out some serious shavings. I used that and got the first face pretty flat. I then used my number 8 to finish off the first face. I used my old wooden jointer (28”) to joint the first edge. Once I had those two edges flat and square, I did the opposite edge. Lastly, I finished off the other face the same way as the first. So a 2’x12”x1” board was finished at 3/4” thick and it took about 30 minutes. And I was sweating. Yes, I could do this on a power planer and jointer and it would be quicker for sure. But, this is why I use handtools: no noise and a broom was all that I needed to clean up. So hopefully this is some inspiration for some of you out there to take the step and dimension the rough stuff, it is not so hard to do. Oh, best thing was that board cost me $6.00!

See the pics to see how it went.

Happy Woodworking!!!

-- Mike

27 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17761 posts in 3207 days

#1 posted 10-12-2011 01:36 AM

Well done, i have trouble planing pine but you seemed to make it look easy. Ive only had to do it by hand once and its a chore, but one that i kind of enjoyed. Every now and then i feel the need to sweat out some poison. Ive got to get all my planes up to snuff and build myself a new bench that doesnt rock around so much. One of these days ill put away that noisy planer.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 3665 days

#2 posted 10-12-2011 06:09 AM

Nice job. Looks like you got some holdfast holes bored in the table top.
Amazing, like chrisstef said, you make it look easy. I really need to invest in a couple good planes and blades to match.
Thanks for the post.

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

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2855 days

#3 posted 10-12-2011 03:20 PM

Very good setup on your bench.

I mill by hand and don’t see the purchase of a power-jointer in my future. Since you have two jointers, try this out for size…do a slight camber on your wooden jointer and keep the steel jointer blade straight. Squaring an edge with a cambered jointer is so much easier than any other method, and if it needs to a glue joint take a fine shaving with your straight blade and you are good to go.

With the jack…are your planing with the grain or across it?

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3152 days

#4 posted 10-12-2011 06:38 PM

RG, thanks for the tip. I actually have three jointers, the two in these pictures and a #7 as well. The wooden and #8 jointers have cambered blades for the reasons you pointed out. My #7 has a straight blade. I agree it so much easier to square an edge with a cambered blade.

For dimensioning on this pine board with the #5, I went at a 45 degree across the board. Pine is pretty soft so it was conducive to that angle which also minimized tearout that the straight across the grain planing would have done. I didn’t try it, but I assume edge jointing would have gotten rid of any tearout, but it was pretty easy to plane that board. Now I have some hard maple to try next, I don’t think that will be as easy.

Thanks again!

-- Mike

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 3853 days

#5 posted 10-12-2011 06:43 PM

Yes, I also do all my dimensioning with hand tools. With sharp tools, it is not that bad and I save money on the wood, get a good workout in the bargain.

-- Yves

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3152 days

#6 posted 10-12-2011 11:44 PM

Hey RG, great work on those blogs! Very impressive and informative. I wish you had done that stuff about 5 years ago. Would have saved a whole bunch of money spent on books! Keep up the good work.

-- Mike

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2855 days

#7 posted 10-13-2011 03:57 AM

Thanks man. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun. The first board I dimensioned in the class is pretty narrow, which tends to nullify any benefit from cross grain planing, but we will get there…especially on the table top.

One other way to decrease or eliminate the tear-out on cross-grain planing is to plane a camfer (one or two strokes with the jack depending on how brittle the wood is) on the exit side of the cut. Doing that saves some serious time. If you then make the exit side your true edge, you eliminate your chamfer when you edge joint.

Yrob. I so agree with you.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View krisintoronto's profile


8 posts in 2998 days

#8 posted 10-13-2011 07:11 PM

It goes MUCH faster when you get a scrub plane. I got the one made by Veritas and it is a pleasure to use.

Planing pine with it is quite easy and very fast. Then I tried some ash. It goes fast as well, but requires much more sweat:)

The Essential Woodworker is a great resource for anyone who wants to work mostly with hand tools.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2855 days

#9 posted 10-13-2011 08:16 PM

^That’s just a good book in general.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View DS's profile


3033 posts in 2621 days

#10 posted 10-14-2011 06:58 PM

OK, I enjoy working with hand tools as well as the next guy, but, I am having difficulty getting my mind around why this is advantageous to dimension large panels with hand tools.

From what I can tell, dimensional accuracy pretty much goes out the window and unless I am needing to raise money to get my electricity turned back on, I cannot see myself foregoing my thickness planer, jointer and table saw in favor of the process you just outlined.

Lest the casual reader suspects I am just being critical, please accept this as an invitation to “convert” me to the process.

I know, for example, when I am building instruments, I do it in the time-honored methods of the masters. It’s been proven that instruments produced by mechanized means are far inferior to the completely handmade variety.

I suppose I am not seeing why casework and furniture might suffer the same issues.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2977 days

#11 posted 10-14-2011 07:12 PM

Good job on the dimensioning.

I use both power and by hand. I leave the last 1/4 – 1/8” to do by hand. If you are gluing panels, I would recommend that you keep the thickness a little heavy and after a light pass with planes to flatten, finish with a scraper plane or hand scrapers. The surface, especially hardwoods will be really nice. The scrapers and scraper plane remove tearouts with and cross grain and leave the surface smoother than sandpaper can achieve.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2977 days

#12 posted 10-14-2011 07:14 PM

And a lot less dust

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3081 days

#13 posted 10-14-2011 07:49 PM

I will sometimes surface all 4 sides with hand planes but I will admit my power jointer/planer gets used often… If the rough sawed board is rather clean and straight then using hand planes is pretty enjoyable… A big warp or twist and hand planes is not so fun anymore…

Also depends on how much lumber I need to surface… If I only need a board or to then hand planes is ok.. However if I am doing a lot of BF then the power jointer and planer is a true savior.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View stevenmadden's profile


174 posts in 3290 days

#14 posted 10-14-2011 08:01 PM

For what it’s worth, I use both hand tools and power tools to get the job done. Sometimes power tools can’t do what hand tools can do, and visa-versa.


View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2855 days

#15 posted 10-14-2011 08:17 PM


One key advantage is cost. With a simple set of planes you can dimension any size workpeice (whether it is 2 feet wide or .5 inches wide) a top shelf set of bench planes (smoother, jack, jointer) would cost about 1200, but compare that to a top shelf 24” jointer/planer and you still come out way ahead. This cost mathing reallys starts to add up when you compare a fully equiped hand-tool shop vs a fully equiped powershop.

The shavings are a non-waste item in my shop…they just get used in the winter time to start fires to warm my home. I can’t way as much for the sawdust made from a power tool.

Oh, and for my time in the shop…it’s a heck of a lot more fun to take a peice of lumber through it’s paces queitly by hand, than to have to worry about the noise, dust and danger of powertools (not to say you can make a trip to the hospital with a misplaced chisel or hatchet…but the damage is certainly far less).

That’s why I do things the way I do.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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