Need best method to square up a large thick top, please

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Forum topic by KenBry posted 06-12-2012 02:42 AM 1755 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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484 posts in 2643 days

06-12-2012 02:42 AM

I am building my work bench and i need to get the top parallel on the front to the back. Here are the dimensions; 3 7/8 inches thick. 72 inches long…. Now the problem dimension… end is 21 inches the other end is 21 1/8 inches. I

I need to get it to 21 inches on both ends.

A large table saw is a possibility but not for sure. I’m considering a router plane set up, but it would be tough considering the narrow width to work with. Using hand planes is also a thought but i am looking for a little more precise methods.

Any other methods you folks can offer are appreciated

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

26 replies so far

View lysdexic's profile


5256 posts in 2819 days

#1 posted 06-12-2012 02:46 AM


My first thoughts are a powerful table saw and some stout help


A panel gauge and hand planes. Scrub > jack > jointer

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 3005 days

#2 posted 06-12-2012 02:48 AM

Table saw would be my first option. Many tablesaws dont have that capability however. You could certainly plane it down by handplane but I dont think that 1/8 would cause me loss of sleep. How did you achieve a 1/8 variance over a 21 inch space anyway ? was this all rough cut stuff you milled ?

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3844 days

#3 posted 06-12-2012 03:02 AM

Make a fence jig for a circular saw, cut one side to 21”,
flip the work and cut from the other. Better make sure
your reference edge is square.

Alternately (this is what I would probably do) is make
the same circular saw jig, cut one side only and pare
off the 1”+ of left over stock with a draw knife then
chisels and planes using the circular saw cut as a guide.

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2889 days

#4 posted 06-12-2012 03:07 AM

I’d use my beam saw and a straight edge.

If no beam saw is available I’d use Loren’s suggestion.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

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484 posts in 2643 days

#5 posted 06-12-2012 03:19 AM

I milled and glued 4/4 hard maple to build this top to this point.not real sure were things went a skew

I have considered the circular saw method but i need a long straight fence which my circular saw motor has to clear.

I forgot to mention this top weighs 100-150 lbs at least

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3194 days

#6 posted 06-12-2012 03:23 AM

Most likely you would be done with a handplane in less time than wrestling it up onto the saw.
A handplane is probably the most accurate way to trim it.

Just mark the line
Set the plane for a bit of a coarse cut
Plane until near the line
Set the plane for a fine cut and go down to the final dimension.

Alternatively, do a rough cut with your saw of choice near the line and then plane down to the line. Bandsaw, handsaw, tablesaw, circular saw. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever cuts.

The real trick is to realize that you don’t have to make the finish dimension in one cut. Just get close and then ease into the final dimension with a fine cut with a plane. You are only taking off a few thousandths each pass.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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2246 posts in 2889 days

#7 posted 06-12-2012 03:27 AM

Ken, I sometimes use the factory edge of a 3/4” sheet of plywood for a straight edge with good results. Careful ripping the plywood too narrow it will bow.

Stay away from OSB. I’ve had rips as wide as 6” bow on me.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View GrandpaLen's profile


1651 posts in 2469 days

#8 posted 06-12-2012 06:48 AM


If the top is flat, “It’s” a workbench, it’s not a Piano. ;-)

Work Safely and have Fun. – Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2482 days

#9 posted 06-12-2012 10:01 AM

I guess I’m not understanding why this particular dimension is that critical. BUT… if it’s important to YOU and it’s your bench, after all, I’d go for a hand plane (or a few of them). You’d probably be done in far less time than it would take to just set things in place to try and run a saw down that edge to chase an eighth of an inch.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15689 posts in 2815 days

#10 posted 06-12-2012 11:15 AM

Yep, plane it.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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Don W

19003 posts in 2764 days

#11 posted 06-12-2012 11:17 AM

for an 1/8” on a 72” workbench I’d stand back and admire my work. A small deviation in the top radius can make up that difference.

If its a must, use the hand plane method. For 1/8” I’d go straight to the jointer, no need for the scrub or jack.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 2643 days

#12 posted 06-12-2012 12:06 PM

In a perfect world I want the bench to be square all the way around. The main reason is I will use it as reference on projects that I build on it.
I am leaning towards the hand plane method. Many thanks to all of you for so many fine examples and advise. Please continue if someone has a better idea. I probably won’t be doing much till the weekend.

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View AUBrian's profile


86 posts in 2868 days

#13 posted 06-12-2012 12:32 PM

I’m a little confused here…You said parallel, but did you mean perpendicular? The top is perpendicular to the front and back. The front and back are parallel to each other. That being said, I would just worry about making sure the edges are flat. If they aren’t perfectly parallel, not such a big deal. What happens the first time the humidity changes, and the left side of the bench swells a little more than the right? My bench is simply a tool….as are my try square and straight edge. They all have a place, and I know which will give me the most accurate measurement.

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5256 posts in 2819 days

#14 posted 06-12-2012 02:18 PM

The router sled is a good idea

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View Sylvain's profile


750 posts in 2696 days

#15 posted 06-12-2012 03:17 PM

IMHO, reference should be taken from one true face of your project itself whatever it is.

But ok if you want to use your bench as a reference try to have one face and and side straigth and perpendicaular to each other.
Working with two reference faces (front and back) would sooner or later be the source of errors.
As you will probably damage the front face while working on your bench, try to keep the back face unharmed.

By the way, look at the first video of Paul Sellers building a bench. He uses a completely warped surface for the glue up of the bench’s top. (an MDF board throwned on two saw horses that are not even level)

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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