Proper tool and technique for planing small pieces?

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Forum topic by akwhitacre posted 04-28-2015 09:04 PM 1398 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 548 days

04-28-2015 09:04 PM

Topic tags/keywords: purpleheart maple question plane arts and crafts

Okay, my first post to Lumberjocks!

I’m working through a tutorial for a fridge bottle cap catch. I’m doing it in part to use two kinds of wood for the first time. (I work at MIT, which has a logo that lends itself well to such a project.) The purpleheart turned out to be about 1/8” thicker than the maple, but the piece needs to be smooth on all six sides.

It’s a small piece, roughly 7” x 3.5”. One tip I found online was to place a jackplane upsidedown in a vice and run the piece along the plane’s blade. Is that the best, safest way to remove the unwanted 1/8”? Or would you recommend something else?

I’ve considered using my belt sander to do this but found, in past projects, that doing so can result in something uneven and grain that is marred. I plan a slight rout on the edges too, so any uneven work with a belt sander near those edges would be made more obvious. I’ve tried palm sanders too in the past, but even 1/8” has seemed too much for it to handle.

Here’s the work so far for reference. Any recommendations for the proper tool and technique?

-- Andrew

25 replies so far

View DaleM's profile


952 posts in 2807 days

#1 posted 04-28-2015 09:15 PM

Do you have a router? My first choice for flattening this would be a router sled since I already made one. Here is one example of a simple one to make, or just type in router sled in the search for more examples from other lumberjocks.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

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Richard H

483 posts in 1104 days

#2 posted 04-28-2015 09:31 PM

Double sided tape or hot glue is your friend. if you are doing this with hand tools just stick it down to the bench and you are set. If you are using a planning sled with a power planner glue a small stop thiner than the pieces to the sled at the bottom and possibly one edge than stick the pieces down with a little hot glue so the tape doesn’t create a tapered piece.

View lepelerin's profile


471 posts in 1748 days

#3 posted 04-28-2015 09:35 PM

hand plane would be my choice especially for such a small piece to flatten.

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 1851 days

#4 posted 04-29-2015 02:18 AM

The joy of using a small hand plane in this situation is what every woodworker loves to do, go ahead and try it, you will fail at first but then the addiction sets in ,,, and you are hooked.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 998 days

#5 posted 04-29-2015 04:37 AM

a plane or if you have a band saw and the back is flat or you can use double stick tape and tape it to a thin piece of plywood, adjust the fence so just the 1/8” pass the blade,then cut that part off.and sand.Easier done than said.

View bandit571's profile


14085 posts in 2106 days

#6 posted 04-29-2015 11:59 AM

Make a plywood jig you can screw down to a work surface. Just a simple one, maybe an “L” shaped one to fit two edges. 3/4” will do. Place the part into the jig, and add a clamp to hold it in place.

Jack plane to flatten the surface. Go at the diagonal to the grain, first. Then go with the grain when it is also flat. A smooth plane can then finish the job.

Note: on that jig…set it up so the plane will head towards the corner of the jig. It will hold the part a bit better, that way. One could add a 3/4” plywood strip along one open side. To tighten into the jig, add a shim or two. The shims come in a package, and are for installing door frames in a house. You can split them down a bit to get them thin enough. Won’t hurt the plane IF you do happen to run over a shim.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View akwhitacre's profile


8 posts in 548 days

#7 posted 04-29-2015 01:11 PM

You guys are great! I’m glad the hand plane is indeed an option, as it’s a tool I’ve needed to buy. And such a simple jig is a great option, because now I don’t have to get/install a bench vice…for now. :)

@bendit571, the shims would still be necessary even though my piece has nice square corners? (I cleaned it up with my mitre saw.)

And again, for a first post to a woodworkers forum, these replies/support make me really happy.

-- Andrew

View Mykos's profile


102 posts in 1218 days

#8 posted 04-30-2015 05:24 AM

I agree that a handplane is ideal for this. I’d use a does foot notched batten in conjunction with another piece of wood to hold the piece. The planing stop can be as simple as a strip of wood clamped to the bench.

View akwhitacre's profile


8 posts in 548 days

#9 posted 05-05-2015 01:56 PM

Hm, as a first-time planer, I had a lot of trouble last night running it over the wood at all. So just to be sure it’s me needing to learn better technique and planer setup/maintenance: planing should indeed work on a small piece with parts that extend 3/8” above the rest? It seemed like no matter the depth of the iron, it simply jammed itself into the raised pieces.

(Fortunately I did all this on the underside of the piece, for practice.)

-- Andrew

View theoldfart's profile


7943 posts in 1874 days

#10 posted 05-05-2015 02:02 PM

It looks like the grain is running along the short dimension. Make sure your not trying to plane cross grain, this would guarantee tear out. Also make sure your cutter is sharp. What size plane are you using? Givenn the small size of your work I would stick with a block or skew block.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Lumberpunk's profile


323 posts in 1760 days

#11 posted 05-05-2015 03:24 PM

Thickness sander.

-- If someone tells you you have enough tools and don't need any more, stop talking to them, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life.

View levan's profile


472 posts in 2403 days

#12 posted 05-05-2015 03:55 PM

I would agree with Dale M, A router plane set up will be the fastest, most accurate, and easiest.

best wishes Lynn

-- "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right". Henry Ford

View hotbyte's profile


826 posts in 2399 days

#13 posted 05-05-2015 04:41 PM

Were you using a just purchased hand plane? If so, the blade probably didn’t come sharpened, just ground to proper bevel. Look for videos on doing initial hand plane setup – there are a bunch on YouTube.

Also, totally back up the iron until it isn’t even touching the wood. Then increment iron down in very slight adjustments as you test it across the board. Stop when it just barely cuts a shaving off.

As already mentioned, the purpleheart appears to have grain running sideways to length of piece so plane across width instead of with length.

I’m relatively new to the hand plane scene and these are tips that have helped me…

View akwhitacre's profile


8 posts in 548 days

#14 posted 05-05-2015 04:42 PM

With a router plane, would that mean clamping two bits of flat scrap taller than my piece on either side of my piece, setting the depth of the router plane to the lowest point that I need, and start routing away?

-- Andrew

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8 posts in 548 days

#15 posted 05-05-2015 04:45 PM

@hotbyte, yep, that was with a just-purchased plane. So I’ll get/do what’s needed to sharpen!

-- Andrew

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