Help diagnose planing woes


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I'm trying to flatten 3 boards (about 6" x 18") to make up a table top for a small Shaker table.  There was a degree of cup or bow in all the boards.  I did just fine working across the grain with both the jack (LV 5 1/4) and the jointer (LV BU).  I got some deep tear out when I started to try to go diagonal with jointer.  Not what I wanted but at least I knew that I had to be careful in that direction.

 

My real trouble is getting the jointer going with the grain.  On the board with the bow, I got what I expected with shavings at the beginning and end of the board.  On all the boards, however, when I took the jointer along the grain I either got nothing or gouges.  I just couldn't get it narrowed in to where I could get something in between.  Thinking I might have misread the grain direction I tried to other way - big mistake - got the dig in and lift up showing I had got it right in the first place.

 

Any suggestions?

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Some thoughts in no particular order:  What species are you working?  Do you have another blade for the plane?  Low angle, bevel up planes are renowned for the ability to swap in an iron ground with a steep bevel or a toothing iron to help conquer tear-out.  Do you really need a jointer plane to flatten an 18" long board?  That's about the length of a jack plane, is it not?  Do you need to flatten the boards now?  Can you get the edges jointed, glue them into a panel and then flatten that?  At that point, what work do you really need to do on the top?  The bottom needs to be flat in order for your joinery to work but it doesn't have to be pretty.  The top needs to be pretty but only mostly flat.  Is one side of the board easier to plane than the other?

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Some thoughts in no particular order:  What species are you working?

Walnut

 

 Do you have another blade for the plane?

Yes.

 

Do you really need a jointer plane to flatten an 18" long board?  That's about the length of a jack plane, is it not?

Probably not and yes.

 

Do you need to flatten the boards now?

Nope

 

Can you get the edges jointed, glue them into a panel and then flatten that?

Yes

 

Is one side of the board easier to plane than the other?

Not really

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OK, I'm no neanderthal, but I'd start by edging things and gluing up the panel.  You've already spent enough time with these boards to know that they have a happy direction and a sad direction.  (Or, a sad direction and an even sadder direction)  Be certain their happy directions are all pointing the same direction.  Then plane the whole thing.  Use the underside as practice:  You don't care about tearout and you'll learn what makes the boards happy (or, at least, less sad).  Experiment with that other blade for your bevel up plane, perhaps regrind it with a steep angle.  Once you've warmed up, put a fresh edge on your steel and have at the top.  Take light cuts and remember that the plane isn't the only weapon in your arsenal.  Don't try to plane everything; leave something for your card scraper and sandpaper.

 

Lastly, don't be afraid to consider the nuclear option:  Burn the boards and pick new ones.  It sounds drastic but even the Schwarz recommends as much.

http://books.google.com/books?id=QR7gAhT4WmoC&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=christopher+schwarz+board+wind+%22broad+axe%22&source=bl&ots=hgQTTA1BuB&sig=jj8FTXNr7tLFUhRE6iNmEEoz4eU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zF91U7z_CouZqAb9ioGwBg&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=christopher%20schwarz%20board%20wind%20%22broad%20axe%22&f=false

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I’m with Rob – not really a Neander. I use hand tools, but not to mill stock… I know how to; sometimes do it for the practice, but I'm a power-tool guy... You may want to PM Shannon for some help on this…
 
If I understand what you did, you worked the faces first --- working across the grain to flatten the face with your #5 set to hog-out stock (say a 30 thou shaving)…
 
Then you addressed wind by working the diagonals and cutting the highs – you got some tearout. OK, I could expect that.  Assume the plane was set for a medium shaving (say 7 thou)… 
 
I’m assuming you did all heavy stock removal (crowns/bows/etc) working across the grain and addressed any wind working the highs diagonally… Both faces should be worked across the grain and diagonally to remove all highs/crowns/wind/etc prior to working with the grain. This is a key point to milling with hand tools and something that many folks don't get*. The reason: working with the grain needs a different (and much finer) plane setup because cleaving wood fibers across and with the grain involve different cohesive forces -- I forget the technical term -- ohhh, Shannon?...
 
Now that the board is flat and wind-free, you're only concentrating on removing traces of prior milling steps working with the grain. This allows the proper shaving depth and throat opening for working with the grain. From you description, it sounds like you shifted to working with the grain prior to completing the heavy work… 
 
*Note: The one exception to working with the grain --  During the rough milling stage, you sometimes work the center of the stick with the grain to create a low in the center to allow cross-grain stock removal to flatten the face...
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Perhaps a few photos will help our diagnostics a little, because we're making a lot of assumptions. I would have used the #5 1/4 as TripleH describes, with a well cambered blade. Cross grain, diagonals and finally long grain. As you get closer to flat you can reduce the depth of cut. You would be left with some fairly deep scallops, say around 1/16". The board should be flat enough that it doesn't rock when placed on the bench. Check that any bowing has gone with a straight edge (the edge of the hand plane will do).

 

After that you could use the #5 1/4 as a short jointer, changing the blade for one with much less camber, or using your jointer, but you'd only plane long grain, or possibly diagonally to check that the board is still flat. Walnut is usually a hand tool friendly wood. The first few shavings are very whispy because you're only touching the high points of the scallops, after a few passes though you should start to get wider and wider shavings. The first few passes I would have a fairly deep cut set, then back off as the shavings get wider.

 

I'd flatten the three boards first, since that is easier than flattening an 18" wide board. But that choice much depends on the severity of the cupping/wind.

 

HTH

 

John

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My real trouble is getting the jointer going with the grain.  On the board with the bow, I got what I expected with shavings at the beginning and end of the board.  On all the boards, however, when I took the jointer along the grain I either got nothing or gouges.  I just couldn't get it narrowed in to where I could get something in between.

 

I’m going to mention this only because it hasn’t been mentioned before. If your blade is dull, this is exactly how your plane will behave. It won’t take a thin shaving, and when you advance the blade, nothing will happen until you get to a certain thickness.

 

The wood turners say that most problems at the lathe can be solved with resharpening and lighter cuts. I think the same is true for hand planes.

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Mentioned this in another thread but forgot to here.  First thing I'm going to do is get the to sharpening.  I've got all the blades out now ready to do.  I had sharpened them before I moved but being wrapped up and thrown in a box must have had a deleterious effect on the blades.  I'll report back what I find from all the suggestions.  I'll try and get some pictures also.

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I dimension stock completely by hand.  I have no power jointer or planer.  Sharpness of cutter is the first thing to check.  That said, if you work wood you will come across some material that's just damned hard to plane.  I know, I know, sound much different than the hard and soft internet marketing you hear from people who can plane any stock, any time, any place and never experience tearout or other difficulties.  Of course, it's total bull sheet as you've discovered.

 

Sharpen up afresh, try to read the grain, avoid going against it if you can, report back.

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Well, still have to try and level a bit and no smoothing done but here is the craptacular conclusion to the exercise...

 

1st side:

DSCF1672_zps6e0d5cf4.jpg

 

Part of the joint on that side:

DSCF1673_zps51695fda.jpg

 

2nd side:

DSCF1674_zps20ffd70f.jpg

 

Part of the joint of the second side:

DSCF1675_zps6ff815d8.jpg

 

Wife says it looks good but looks horrible to me.  I'm so disappointed - maybe I should have picked a different hobby.

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My thoughts, a jointer is great but is really a lot easier on edges than faces for someone of my skill level. That project is small enough that I would tackle it with whatever leaves the best end result. Sometimes that is a smoother. It will flatten, it just takes longer when set to a fine cut. That said, a fine cut will allow some diagonal movement over switching grain patterns. Also, there is no sin in sanding. If your faces are relatively flat, hit them with some sanding media or a card scraper. Taking some of the roughness down that way can help you further diagnose high spots. If that is a gap in your joint, try this: take some fine plane shavings and try to get a slip fit that you can glue in. Know this, Rome was not built in a day, and I am certain some people died figuring out how to cast concrete into arches. If your process takes a few weeks or months to learn, or years to master, this does not make you a failure. Consider how worried parents get when one child walks near seven months but another not until two years. My thoughts, take them with salt...

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Yeah, I know - thanks C Shaffer.  I'm a recovering perfectionist.  I've just spent a bit going at it with my LAJ in smoother mode and it came up a bit better.  I'll try that with the gap.  However, the tear out side has just about perfect seems so if I can tame out the tear out then it will become the top probably.

 

Worst case scenario, I redo the top in a few years when I'm more accomplished.  That or sell tickets to the most higgedly piggedly table in the land.

 

One niggling problem: There is a small lip where the middle is still proud of the board next to it.  All of my bench planes bridge over it and I haven't figured out an angle to attack it with my block plane.  Thoughts? 

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If your planes bridge the offset, it would seem the offset is in a low spot. Turn your long plane onto one corner of the sole and sight along it with some backlight present. You may need to work down the outer edges.

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A cabinet scraper can help with tough areas.  Curved card scrapers can help if you have a torn out patch you want to make smooth inside but don't need to make perfectly flat.  I've got some knarly cherry on a piece I'm making where I'm thinking I'm just going to have to give up and get the random orbital sander out, though.  All in all I try to make things look nice but don't worry about them being perfect.  If I wanted it to look like it came off a machine I'd use a machine to make it.

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 All in all I try to make things look nice but don't worry about them being perfect.  If I wanted it to look like it came off a machine I'd use a machine to make it.

 

Hadn't thought of this aspect with this project.  It really is reassuring - thanks.

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The second side is not bad (we'll skip the first side, it's going underneath anyway, right?). Could be a bit better. If you've got the blade sharpened now (as in your arm hairs shiver at the sight of the blade) then I think you're possibily taking too deep a cut. It's quite normal to regulate the depth of cut during a planing session. You'd want a deep cut to begin, since as you wrote, you were catching only at the beginning and end of the board. As you get flatter you can back off the blade till you're getting those 'lighter than air' full width shavings at the end.

 

You shouldn't have to muscle the plane. It's not really grunt work, like cycling uphill. It should cut if you just push it with little or no downward pressure. Putting candle wax on the sole makes life much easier too. Have another go, you've got plenty of thickness there.

 

Once you're flat and there are no deep gouge marks (or panting exhausted on the floor very close) finish that walnut with that funny looking plane in the photo - it will certainly give you a near glass like result.

 

John

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These started from rough sawn? How much traversing did you do? It does indeed look like a.) you were being too aggressive when cutting with the grain and b.) your blades needed to be sharper.

That, and the boards just didn't like your planes. It happens. Belt sander and move on.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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==>Belt sander and move on

+1.. There's always that option... And maybe the best course forward...

For the OP; watch the thickness. While patiently obvious, you trade thickness for flatness... The show face doesn't have to be flat -- it just has to look flat... There's a huge difference... The interior face is the datum surface, so that has to be flat... If you keep slagging away with planes, you could end-up with sticks too thin to glue-up into a workable panel... Always remember, the panel will also have to be planed after glue-up, and you trade thickness for flatness there as well*...

Side Note: I can't tell you how many times I've become target fixated... Just keep slagging along with my intended workflow no matter how deep a hole I dig for myself -- until I just scream, "F*uk it!" and toss the offending stick in the scrap pile, and start over... Part of gaining experience, is knowing when to punt (in this case, turning to the belt sander)...

*Note: Several years ago, there was an interesting discussion on the hand plane DVD by Chris Schwarz, "Course, Medium and Fine". It was observed, quite correctly, that the method demoed in that DVD is not the method Chris uses today... In the DVD, the workflow started by hogging-away the high spots cross-grain on the cupped face with a high-camber iron, then flip the panel, plow a trough with the grain to create a new cup, then hog-away the newly-created high-spots cross-grain until that face is also flat... Then take wind-out diagonally on both faces, then medium-plane with the grain to remove the high-camber tracks. While efficient, it was pointed-out that unless you start with 5/4-heavy stock, you won't be left with a 3/4 panel... The moral of the story: you need to plan for final thickness before steel ever hits wood.... You can't always trade thickness for flatness... Your workflow must take final thickness into account...

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I'll go back to the sharpening stones.  Thinking about the effort involved I think I was probably being too aggressive with the depth of cut.  Back off and had another go and it worked much better.  Going to go at it with my LAJ as a jointer/try, see what I have, and the even up the ends and bring it to finished length.  Going to get my 4 1/2 nice and sharp and see what I can do (I've been fighting with it to get it set just right).

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We tend to omit what we think obvious until late in the conversation... Make sure your sole is lubed. I prefer wax, but that non-lubed resistance can interfere with your feel for how sharp or dull the iron is.

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I've kind of skimmed the last thousand or so posts in this thread so I'm not sure if these points were brought up, aside from Wilbur's sharpness comment...

 

Sharpen.  Sharpen well.  Sharpen very well.  Then plane.

 

Are you planing with the grain and not against it?  Pretty much only a cabinet scraper can go against the grain without tearout.  Must go with the grain.  In a few of those pics it appears that fibers were torn out against the grain.  It may be a Mr. Obvious comment but sometimes the obvious is overlooked.

 

You said "yes" when someone asked if you had an extra blade for your #62 but you didn't say what angle that blade's bevel is ground or whether you're using it.  The blade that comes with the #62 is appropriate for end grain only.  It's gonna tear out most long grain no matter how sharp you get it. Grind your extra blade to a high angle and you'll have much better results on long grain.

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Today was an unable to get out of bed day so not much progress I'm afraid.  However, the little I did yesterday I'm on the right track I believe.  The re-realization of the cutting angle 'out of the box' of the LAJ #62 helped explain a lot.  The traversing and not being too aggressive with the cuts - especially when not going across the board - were great keys.

 

I may end up with a bit of sanding when it's all said and done but for now I'm putting it aside to move on with other parts of the table.  I need to get my bandsaw up to get the legs ripped down.

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