Can you "true" a small piece on a router table if it has no reference faces?

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Forum topic by HarveyDunn posted 05-18-2014 03:45 PM 2160 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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328 posts in 1929 days

05-18-2014 03:45 PM

I’ve got some 3/4” x 3/4” x 5” scraps of exotics I’d like to true up. They were cut on a bandsaw and all have at least some good (i.e. reasonably stable, not tippy or wobbly) sides but no “true” sides. I though I’d be able to true them up with a hand plane but that is not going so well.

I have a benchtop router table with an offsetable fence. I know some people “joint” at the router table. Can I do that on these pieces or do I first need a genuine reference face to run along the top of the table? Or will a merely stable face suffice?

38 replies so far

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1421 posts in 1928 days

#1 posted 05-18-2014 04:05 PM

It sounds like you don’t have a jointer, so I suppose the next best thing would be a router table. If that’s the case, make sure you have as little gap as possible, and where the bit comes up through the table close that up also. Use a push stick, route one side, and then true it up on the table saw if you have one.
If you have a table saw, get some two sided tape, and tape your wood to the edge of a straight board. Run it through the saw. Do that for all pieces. When done, set the fence up for the size you need and put the trued side up against it, make your cut, then rotate it to the next edge and repeat until all sides are straight.
Better yet, make yourself a “Poor Man’s Jointer”. That is a piece of wood that has been cut leaving a dog leg at one end. You would use this dog leg thing as a stop to endex your small piece so you can push the wood through safely. Do one side only with the PMJ, and finish by the instruction from the above paragraph..
If you choose to do it this way, thank me after you’re done if you don’t get hurt….... ......... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1929 days

#2 posted 05-18-2014 04:15 PM

Even if I did have a jointer I wouldn’t run a 5” long piece over it!

Do you think I’m OK on the router table even though the face that will be riding against the table top isn’t true?

If so: can I just use it to “true” the adjacent face after I’ve done the first edge?

View Redoak49's profile


3661 posts in 2187 days

#3 posted 05-18-2014 05:25 PM

No, I do not think you will be OK. There are a couple of bad things that could happen including trimming you fingernails and throwing that 5” piece a long ways.

I would look at making a jig to hold the pieces on the router table and then use a fence with a very small opening for the bit and then take extremely small passes.

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3159 days

#4 posted 05-18-2014 05:46 PM

What are you going to use those blanks for? The dimensions are like pen blanks. If you are going to turn them, I really don’t think the need trued up. Just get a center on each end and turn away.

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1929 days

#5 posted 05-18-2014 05:48 PM

I’m NOT going to turn them. They are going into a box making project.

View Jorg Zimmermann's profile

Jorg Zimmermann

24 posts in 1804 days

#6 posted 05-18-2014 07:00 PM

I don’t think it should be impossible to true them up with a handplane. However what about a table saw?

-- Jorg

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1929 days

#7 posted 05-18-2014 07:02 PM

It doesn’t seem to be working well with the handplanes I own. As for the table saw, there are two problems: very small size and not one true face to begin working with.

View Texcaster's profile


1287 posts in 1872 days

#8 posted 05-18-2014 08:44 PM

There are countless sad stories about small bits of timber and machinery. Now is the time to find out why your hand plane won’t do the job.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Dan P's profile

Dan P

723 posts in 2090 days

#9 posted 05-19-2014 12:03 AM

You maybe could hot melt glue your pieces to a flat board a couple inches longer and slightly wider than the piece you are truing. Glue equal size runners on each end of the flat board, on the same side as the piece you are truing but slightly thicker.

Set the bit just high enough to touch the piece you want trued and work it back and forth until flat.

Or if your router is portable glue your pieces to a flat surface and mount your router to a board with runners.

-- Daniel P

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1421 posts in 1928 days

#10 posted 05-19-2014 01:35 PM

When lumber is first milled, there isn’t a truely flat surface on it until the first cut. After that, it’s cut and rotated until the tree can no longer produce any more lumber.
Since you have small pieces, set up you saw, put the concave side againt the fence, push it through with a pushstick until you complete the cleanup on one side. Turn it over 90°, with the fresh cut side down and repeat, keeping in mind to keep the concave side up against the fence. After cutting two adjoining sides, move the fence to get a cleanup cut on the other 2 sides. This information comes with over 40 years of wood working experience.
You seem to be afraid of your equipment and are trying to make a simple operation harder by trying to use a tool that shouldn’t be used for what you are trying to do.
As my name implies, I do have some missing parts, but have never been cut cutting small items. Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1929 days

#11 posted 05-19-2014 02:23 PM

One would never attempt to do what you are recommending on the table saw with a large piece – so why is it OK to do with a small piece?

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3775 days

#12 posted 05-19-2014 02:48 PM

Trimming small pieces on a router table or saw is extremely dangerous because it usually involves have your hands close to spinning bits or blades plus the danger of the small piece being thrown back at you at a high rate of speed .
My first suggestion would be don’t do it. It’s better to waste some material than get hurt. If you insist on trying to true this material up there are a a few tricks to make the operation safer but still not my first recommendation.
One method that has been suggested is hot glue but that’s still ify a little safer route is to have a clamp or carrier board like the illustrations below

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View DrDirt's profile


4509 posts in 3940 days

#13 posted 05-19-2014 03:29 PM

I would just true it up on the belt sander

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2775 days

#14 posted 05-19-2014 05:17 PM

”I would just true it up on the belt sander”
Ding! We have a winner!

Seriously, I’ve done this plenty of times with small pieces I didn’t feel too comfortable using power tools on.
In fact, my usual method is using psa sandpaper on a piece of plywood or something flat and just sanding until flat.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1929 days

#15 posted 05-19-2014 05:36 PM

That does sound like a good idea. Unfortunately, a stationary belt sander is another thing I don’t have in my shop; and I have dozens to do, many of them very dense species, so if there was a way to avoid sanding them by hand at this stage I’d like to find it.

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