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Dimensioning long boards by hand without a large workbench

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Forum topic by Brett posted 02-13-2012 06:57 PM 2548 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Brett

621 posts in 1338 days


02-13-2012 06:57 PM

I’ve started building a Roubo-style workbench out of SYP. I’m probably going to get help dimensioning the lumber from a friend who works at a cabinet shop. If that doesn’t work out, how can I dimension the 8-ft boards for the workbench top using hand tools since I don’t already have an even longer workbench to work on? I know I could buy a power jointer and planer, but I don’t relish the idea of spending $800 to $1000 on them. Is ti possible to rent a power jointer or planer?

-- More tools, fewer machines.


10 replies so far

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Loren

7556 posts in 2303 days


#1 posted 02-13-2012 07:14 PM

A local shop or lumber yard can do this work for $30-60 per
hour. Flattening and thicknessing boards by hand is certainly
doable, but it is hard work and getting precise results will
be difficult for a beginner. Hand planing glue joints on long
boards is especially challenging, but if you’re committed to
mastery of the old methods, you might as well give it a try
and see if you can stand the work both emotionally and
physically.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

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Brett

621 posts in 1338 days


#2 posted 02-13-2012 07:25 PM

Thanks for the ideas. Like I said, I have a friend who has volunteered to help me at his employer’s/relative’s shop, but I don’t know if he understands how much lumber is involved. I’m going to offer to pay for his time if the job requires too much time (though I’m not sure he’d even take the money), but it’s good to know other places might do the work for a fee, too.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

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Loren

7556 posts in 2303 days


#3 posted 02-13-2012 08:10 PM

Whatever you do, don’t let them put your slabs through
a belt sander.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

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laxbograt

76 posts in 1082 days


#4 posted 02-13-2012 08:48 PM

I can tell you I am currently undertaking the same task, you can see my blog, and I used my surface planner. I can honestly not imagine the amount of time to hand plane that much lumber, using my planner it still took quite a while, you would be lucky to get you bench done this year.

Carlos

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brtech

673 posts in 1578 days


#5 posted 02-13-2012 08:51 PM

Do you have a table saw?
Get a used lunch box planer from CL. Spend $200 or $250.

That and the TS will do. A jointer is really nice and needed for some things, but you can get by with a TS and a planer.

I will say that if you are asking this question, I wonder if you want to do a full Roubo as your very first bench

You might want to consider something simpler to gain some experience. Lots of plans around. A really nice one that can be built with hand tools is:
http://picnicpark.org/keith/woodworking/workbench/BobAndDavesGoodFastAndCheapBench-ne.pdf

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1348 days


#6 posted 02-13-2012 09:18 PM

Brett, it can be done with handplanes. Some would even argue that it SHOULD be done with handplanes (some kind of evil rite of passage, maybe). Having said that, I’d go the mill route first; then police it up later with handplanes and winding sticks. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pass it through any planer that you buy. I ran a 3” slab of cherry through my lunchbox planer and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. If you decide to do it by hand, my hat is totally off to you. That’s like major galoot points:)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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Brett

621 posts in 1338 days


#7 posted 02-13-2012 09:36 PM

brtech, I have a table saw, but some of the boards have small amounts of twist or cupping. I thought I should use a power jointer to flatten one side before running the board through the planer. Also, I do have a shorter workbench, about 5 feet long. It’s just not long enough to allow me to accurately plane an 8-foot board.

Bertha, I probably won’t do it totally by hand. If I had the time and energy I might consider it, but my job, wife, kid, and kid like my attention, too. :) I think my original question was as much a theoretical one as anything.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

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Loren

7556 posts in 2303 days


#8 posted 02-13-2012 10:01 PM

Flatten the boards by hand with planes. You’ll struggle to flatten
long boards on a jointer anyway. Working large boards to flat
on a jointer is not a skill-less activity. It is actually more challenging
than you would expect.

It’s the twists and kinks that will mess you up when you plane
the opposite site. Gentle warping is no problem and you’ll remove
too much stock trying to eliminate all warp from a long board. But
do remove the twists with your hand planes. You’ll find winding
sticks useful but I also recommend using a 72” or 78” level as a
reference for straight. In milling wood, my long level is essential
to my process. I don’t need winding sticks much anymore, but
the level I could not do without.

Once you’ve got the twist and kink tuned out of the first face,
plane the opposite face with a lunchbox planer to perhaps 70%
smooth, 30% rough. Then flip the board and skim 3/64” off the
side you worked with the planes. Lean the board against the
wall at an angle or stack and sticker it for at least a day, then
choose a face and tune out new twist if you see it, then work
your way down to the thickness you want using the planes and
so forth.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

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brtech

673 posts in 1578 days


#9 posted 02-13-2012 10:27 PM

Everyone has their own idea of how to do this.

I think I would probably just glue the SYP together as it comes from the lumberyard, trying to get the bottom reasonably level as long as the boards aren’t too bad. Lots of clamps!

Then I’d run it through the planer, using a sled if I needed to. I think you will get something pretty darn good out of that.

Then you have to assemble the 12” sections. Depending on design, that might be easy or hard. Dowels might be helpful.

Then either hand plane, or router sled to finish it.

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RGtools

3302 posts in 1310 days


#10 posted 02-17-2012 02:14 PM

The first major thing I would consider is the type of material I was working with. Laminating 2xs by hand with or without a bench is a drag…it’s a ton of work and doing things this way denies one of the main advantages in working with hand tools. Handplanes can true any size surface, unlike jointers and planers that are limited to a certain width. Trueing any size piece of stock by hand takes about the same amount of time too.

Keeping this in mind, here is how to build a bench without a bench. When you go to the lumber store find the biggest straightest beams you can. Two 4×12s would do nicely for the top, four 5×5s for the legs and 4×6s for the stretchers. There is a secondary advantage to this beefy stock…it’s not going to bend when you plane it on sawhorses so you will be able to get your faces true for a glue up. Build the top first and then place the top on sawhorses, use this set up to build the rest.

Good luck…it a fun build.

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

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