Hand planing before thickness planing

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Forum topic by KevinBlair posted 10-01-2012 01:22 AM 1544 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 2469 days

10-01-2012 01:22 AM

I think I am mostly double checking that I am doing things right and I would appreciate thoughts and feedback:

I need to take some rough cut birch to finished quality for face frames and door rails & stiles (some may remember an earlier post about making kitchen cabinets where I asked about using plywood for these parts and all of the advice was to use “real” wood; so here I am).

I have a small 4” jointer (older Craftsman from estate sale), but several good hand planes (e.g., 9”, 14” and a big, wide 22” one—all flat, sharp and working great). I also bought a Porter-Cable Planer from CPO a few weeks ago.

To start the boards are 4/4 rough cut birch. I used the EZ-Pro “Tru-Edger” clamp system on my table saw to cut my first board from just over 8” wide into 2 4” wide pieces. I then ran the newly table saw cut “good” edge of these 4” pieces through the jointer a few times.

I then tried using the 4” jointer to flatten one side of one of the 4” boards, but it seemed to take forever and I couldn’t seem to a get the cupping out.

I then tried with the hand planes.

It seemed much faster with the hand planes. I was able to get the board face smooth pretty quickly. I then ran the board through the planer until I had it down to 3/4” and virtually all of the cupping was gone.

I then used the hand planes to flatten/straighten the other edge. Lastly I ran that edge through the jointer for a few passes.

In the end, I have 2 4” wide boards that are 3/4” thick and roughly 3 & 7/8” wide.

So, have I missed any steps here? Do I have my four sides square and parallel?

I like using the hand planes. It feels like I am more of a woodworker, saves me from buying a better jointer, and I get some exercise. But still, I need to be sure the final outcome is right and that I can make the doors without fear of problems later.



5 replies so far

View jmos's profile


866 posts in 2513 days

#1 posted 10-01-2012 01:45 AM

I would say your method could work, but may not. It is not guaranteed to work, since your doing portions by hand, which require more skill, but they most certainly can work.

You’re starting with one jointed edge. By hand planing the first face, you have to make sure it is square to the jointed edge. The power planer will make sure the second face is parallel to the reference face, and the jointer will make sure the last edge is square to the faces, but it will not ensure it is parallel to the first edge. So your method does not guarantee the hand planed edge is square to the faces, or that the two edges are parallel.

If you want to be more positive, you can do a rough rip of the board nearly to width. Hand plane one face flat, then power plane the other face, then joint one edge, then go back to the table saw to do a final rip to the other edge. This uses the machines to ensure all are square and parallel.

That said, people have been making boards four square for centuries with hand tools, and it most certainly can be done with appropriate skill and care.

-- John

View shampeon's profile


1818 posts in 2327 days

#2 posted 10-01-2012 03:38 AM

Check you thicknesses at each corner with some calipers, and check for square along each side with a combination square. If it’s all even and square, you’re good.

As jmos said, people used hand planes to true up lumber for a long time before powered jointers and planers. There’s something satisfying about doing it by hand, I find, but power tools have their place too.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Don W's profile

Don W

18959 posts in 2711 days

#3 posted 10-01-2012 11:16 AM

Why are you power planing after hand planing? Hand planes should give you a finish ready surface. just make sure you’re square and parallel and your good to go.

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

View KevinBlair's profile


56 posts in 2469 days

#4 posted 10-01-2012 05:31 PM

Thanks for the responses!

Don, I brought out the hand planes basically because my 4” jointer didn’t seem to be doing much to flatten one side. Once I started with the hand planes, they did a great job and I found I would rather use them than the 4”jointer, but I wasn’t positive about the process of hand planes only or about combining hand planes with power jointer/planer.

I think the other issue was with the amount of cupping in this particular board. I think I would have done better if I had started with a board that was less cupped. I plan to use wood from this board for face frame parts as I think there is still a bit to much bend in them for door frames.

I am back and forth between using biscuits or pockets screws for attaching the face frames to the cabinet carcass.

From the responses it looks like I am fine as long as the boards come out flat and square in the end. For the next board I am going to:

1. Flatten one side with the hand planes;

2. Run the board through the planer ( as much as I like the hand planes, the power planer is faster and I think I can get the consistent thickness I want);

3. Once I have the two sides flattened and the correct thickness it appears I have two choices: hand plane the edges or use the jointer; I could also use the table saw as suggested by jmos.

It feels like I am probably over thinking the process. As long as I end up with a consistent thickness and edges that are square to sides that are flat, I am good regardless of which tools I use?

Thanks again for the help! When you are on your own trying to learn something new it is great to be able to get feedback from others with experience!

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


17671 posts in 3150 days

#5 posted 10-01-2012 05:41 PM

Kevin – Im with ya on using the hand planes instead of the jointer for flattening the face. For me i use the planes to get most of the cup out, the jointer takes too long. Once i get it close ill use the jointer to give me one flat face and one square edge. If the piece is small ill hand tool the whole thing but for larger projects i use the power tools. Then off to the planer for thicknessing and cleaning up the other face. Then to the tablesaw for final dimensioning. I think its all a matter of how you like to work. If your piece came out flat and square stick with it.

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

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