Calling on Experienced Hand Planers and Bench Builders

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by langski93 posted 03-08-2009 07:58 PM 1847 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View langski93's profile


111 posts in 3604 days

03-08-2009 07:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: joining hand plane bench bench top smoothing tear out glue up

I am new at hand planing and finally building a decent bench which will not gyrate when I try to use hand planes. Up to this point, I have been using a power jointer and cleaning up with hand planes. I want to expand my capabilities which is my motivation for building the bench in the first place. My issue is with the bench top.

The top material is soft maple, 2 1/2” wide by 1 3/16” thick, set on edge, so that the width (2 1/2”) will become the thickness of the table top. The top will then be made from approximately 28 laminated pieces all 1 3/16” wide. Each piece has been smoothed with a hand plane and now is ready to be glued. Here is the big question:

Does the Edge grain all have to run in the same direction, so that whether I power join it, hand plane it, and or send it through a thickness planner for final dressing, I avoid or minimize tear out? Even as I take out very thin shavings from the soft maple by hand, if I don’t plane in the right direction it really wants to tear out. Is soft maple known for this? Hand planes are scary sharp, so that is not an issue. I did not mark the direction of the grain on the original smoothing, but even if I did there were many areas where the grain reversed for a substained section (pieces are 80” long).

I saw a method of using a router on a sled for leveling the top, but at the end of the day, I am interested in a highly refined surface with minimal sanding, which I still think will have to be done regardless of using a router to level. Thanks to all readers and responders.

Daylight savings and high 50s here in the Granite State.

Live Free or Die

-- Langski, New Hampshire

6 replies so far

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3845 days

#1 posted 03-08-2009 08:31 PM

Yes, definitly do your best to keep all of the grain going in the same direction. This will make hand planing a much easier task.

There was a video posted/linked to here last summer showing a gentelman planing his bench top. It takes a little time and is a good workout. You will be extremely pleased with the surface produced.

Step 1, go from front to back, 90 degrees to the grain. This makes rough shavings about the width of each board. Once you get cuts consistantly across each board going this way switch to

Step 2, go 45 degrees to the grain, from one corner to the next, going with the grain. Do this from both corners that you can do it while maintaining the with the grain direction. Then

Step 3. Go with the grain, skew the plane a little but push in the same direction as the grain.

Step 4. Smoothing plane with the grain.

This breakdown skips all of the checking for high points and focus work that you will need to perform which the video demonstrates well. Just a basic list of the steps to take. Get the high areas down first then do the full bench in these steps.

have fun, and if you get frustrated or want to hurry, go in side and do something else.

View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3839 days

#2 posted 03-08-2009 09:30 PM

I think you would have trouble getting all your grain lined up the same way because within each board you will find grain asking to be planed in both directions due to the natural curve of grain. Besides, most of your planing to get the bench top flat will be across the grain until you get to the jointing and smoothing. Perhaps by that point you could just take fine shavings with minimal tearout.

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3726 days

#3 posted 03-09-2009 05:03 AM

I’m also new to hand planing and found that adding a very small back bevel to the plane iron helps minimize tearout a lot. You should also take out really thin see-through shavings.
I add the back bevel by taping on a thin 1/8” piece of wood to the plane iron and then sharpening the back side. The back bevel should be really small. Anyone else do this?

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3565 days

#4 posted 03-09-2009 05:45 AM

more important at this point, is to look at the end grain of each board and try to organize them for gluing, every one in the oposite direction to the next one (the rings), so your top will keep straight for the long run. Im a Handplane adict, but for a laminated Top like this, I would take it with a shop with a big Drum sander.

I used the router sled with my bench (here), it leaves a nice surface that can be finished nicely with a shrp scraper.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View langski93's profile


111 posts in 3604 days

#5 posted 03-09-2009 02:46 PM

Thanks for all this great feedback. The bench I am building is similiar in design to the trestle style table at I wish I had a decent bench to build this one and the shop is getting a bit crowded with two benches right now. I’ll post a picture when its done.

Rob I think you are right about the wood movement issues, which is one of the main reasons I wrote my question. Moai, your photos of the router sled technique are very clear. I wonder if I could get a good result by switching grain direction every two boards? Every course of two pieces would present a surface of 2 3/8” being wide enough for my smoother without striking the surface of a piece going in the other direction.

Cmaeda, I have a back bevel of about 1 degree a’la Lie Nielsen suggested method.

-- Langski, New Hampshire

View poopiekat's profile


4384 posts in 3906 days

#6 posted 03-09-2009 04:18 PM

I just made a new bench top out of 2” X 2” beech boards that were used as dunnage in a shipment of metal coils. After jointing them square, , I ran them thru my 12” planer and then edge-glued four or five boards together, making three assemblies 8” to 10” wide. Then I passed these through my 12” thickness planer. Now, with three sections edged and planed, I proceeded to glue them together to make my 28” wide bench top. It saved a lot of work, and it was easy to level off the minute differences in height of the joined sections with a light touch of hand planing. Then I gave the whole top a once-over to remove any chatter marks and snipes from the thickness planing. By skewing the plane relative to the direction of your strokes as others have suggested really does minimize tearout, and I didn’t pay much attention to edge grain orientation because I knew I’d be planing in all four directions.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics