The Plane Truth

July 26, 2011

Crack! My eyes opened with a snap. Tap, Tap, Tap Patter Patter. My mind slowly came to the realization that it must be raining. We don't get many thunderstorms here in Oregon but
early in the morning we had a good one. As I laid there listening to the rain start up, I suddenly remembered that I had left my planer all set up out on the driveway. I dashed out to get it covered with a tarp just in time as the dark night really opened up with a deluge. Before you cry foul that I am using a planer on my hand tool project, let me try and defend myself. The day before was wood prep day. I finalized the dimensions and proportions of the hope chest using common ratios of whole numbers.

I also developed a rough cut list. As I was going through the stack of Madrone lumber, and evaluating which pieces were best for the different parts, I realized just how warped and twisted much of the stock was. I sharpened up a Stanly scrub plane iron and went to work on a piece. This was the first time I had actually used a scrub plane and it was quite fun to tear into the large hump on this particular board. I went diagonally across the grain from both directions and made fairly quick work of it.

I was also thinking I should work out more. Maybe this would be my new exercise plan. I then switched to a Stanley #5 with a rough setting and went after what was left of the hump and to smooth out the gouges left by the scrub plane. I used winding sticks and a straightedge to check my work.

One side done, a lot to go! About this time I was looking at my stack of wood and thinking a few electrons couldn't hurt anyone. The plane truth is, I am not buff enough to tackle this whole hope chest project without a little help from my friends and decided to save myself for all of the "important" hand tool work such as joinery and finish planing. I do not own a jointer and my planer is an older Delta 12 inch. I needed flatten one side of each board before planing to proper thickness. To do this, I made a sled of a melamine coated board with an additional MDF bed screwed to the top. It uses replaceable MDF side rails. It works by placing the warped board to be flattened onto the sled and using shims wherever needed to give it good, solid support. The board is then held from slipping by using drywall screws through the side rails and into the side of the warped board about 1/4". The other side uses drywall screws to push the wood against the opposite rail. It only takes a minute to set up each board and is very secure. The MDF side rails will get planed down along with the warped board.

Once all of the boards were flattened on one side I used the sled to thickness them. The sled adds mass and dampening to help with chatter and eliminates all snipe which was a problem I was having with the old Delta. It still took me the better part of a day to reduce a pile of twisted madrone to nominal thickness boards. I left enough material for finish planing. The triangles help me keep track of how the boards are to be bookmatched.

 Today I hope to tackle the walnut. The slab probably weighs 150 lbs so it will be another work-out day!

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