Bench flatness

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  • #134743
    dhart
    Participant

    Hi i am currently in the process of flattening my twisted workbench top and i was wondering how flat does it need to be? Paul seem to plane in the vise a lot of time so do i suppose if one doesn’t use the top as a reference surface it doesn’t really need to be that flat?
    Thanks

    #135119
    Misha
    Participant

    It is worth having the benchtop flat and out of twist. Mine is twisted and hollowed a little, and this makes troubles.
    When I glue a frame or laminate a several boards I have to put two straight bars along my benchtop and level them before putting clamps on them. And though it is approximately 2 mm it bothers me as I want my laminations to be as flat as possible. It is the first reason.
    The second also makes me perform additional motions.
    When I plane a board (even 2 inch thick) on my hollowed benchtop I have to put some wood shavings somewhere under the board. Otherwise it is almost impossible for me to plane my material straight. The hollow is not big at all but it shows in my work. I can’t level my benchtop now as it is rather thin. When I was making a workbench for my friend I tried to make it perfect. I can work on mine but if I make another for me I will do my best to have it straight and out of twist, hollows or belly. Not sure I will use it as a reference, but it is just more convenient for work.

    Misha

    #135123
    dhart
    Participant

    Thanks! I hadn’t thought about it the need for a reference surface for gluing.

    #135125
    raze599
    Participant

    A longer plane will definitely help with the flattening. The metal ones are very expensive, but wooden ones on eBay go for nearly nothing at all. That could be an option.

    #135127
    ehisey
    Participant

    Check out Paul’s blog on building a work bench. He goes over the process of flattening the top and removing twist a #4 plane.

    Tuscloosa, Alabama
    Lung T'an Hu Huesh Kung-fu Woodshop

    #135173
    Misha
    Participant

    I think it takes time to learn to manage #4 on long pieces. I find it more comfortable to make final leveling with #7. Though it also took me some time to understand how to hold and move it.
    They say “You will be able to plane quite well after the first five kilometres”.

    Misha

    #135356
    lowpolyjoe
    Participant

    I did a terrible job laminating my 2x’s to make my benchtop and the result was a ton of planing needed to correct irregularities and twist. After hours of hand planing I resorted to a router with a flattening jig. I was so happy it was done…

    Then recently I discovered that the router jig must have sagged in the middle because the benchtop is higher at the edges than down the center (on the long axis). Very frustrating. When I try to secure stock across the short axis of the bench with holdfasts it’s very obvious that the benchtop is not flat since the middle of the board won’t touch the center of the benchtop. I’m very surprised I didn’t notice this until months after I did the flattening. At first I thought the glue joint at the center was failing and the bench was caving in, but I didn’t see any evidence of that – I’m really thinking it was my jig sagging.

    In any case, a benchtop that isn’t flat is very frustrating and can definitely influence the projects you build on it. I’m not sure it has to be perfect, but I think it’s worth spending some time on.

    #136671
    Joshua Nelson
    Participant

    They say “You will be able to plane quite well after the first five kilometres”.

    They say it and boy they didn’t exaggerate.

    #136830
    M W
    Participant

    If you can’t get hold of a number 7, you could try a Buck Brothers number 9. It is 14″ on the sole and you can get it at Home Depot for about $30. It is cast iron, and the iron is a little thin.

    Out of the box it is utter crap. Take a straight edge and look at a few and grab the best. Then follow Paul’s recommendations for refurbishing an old Stanley. After about an hour of work I was able to get the plane to cut .001 thick shavings on Red Oak, it doesn’t tear curly maple, and goes through birch like a hit knife through butter. The bottom is less than .001 out of flat now. The edge has held up with just minor honing. You will need to flatten the bottom, adjust the frog, flatten the chip breaker and polish the bevel, and hone the iron (they must have used 150 grit to machine it).

    I am also using it to build a bench top, but am not as far along as you.

    #137076
    dhart
    Participant

    I am still trying to get it flat. I have a small twist left and some low spot to get rid of. It used to be a lot thicker 😛

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 6 months ago by dhart.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 6 months ago by dhart.
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    #137095
    Matt McGrane
    Participant

    Looks like you’ve still got plenty of thickness. Keep at it until it’s flat. You’ll thank yourself later.

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016: http://tinyshopww.blogspot.com/

    #137487
    Paul Dallender
    Participant

    I’m just at the stage of my bench where I’ve flattened the underside of the top and am ready for the final stretch of putting it on the frame and flattening the top.

    I really didn’t realise just how hard this would be. Of course watching a 50 year experienced, hardened woodworker stroking a Stanly No 4 plane over a bench top and flattening it with ease, leads one into a false sense of ‘Well that looks easy’. However, I soon discovered that it is not the same as a few months experienced woodworking soft desk jockey of 21 years, trying the same thing.

    OK, using a No4 plane on a single piece of 4×4 or 4×2 inch I could get to grips with, but on a 5×1 foot piece; well that’s the equivalent of trying to bail out a sinking dinghy with a soup spoon. Just the physical effort alone was enough. I had to resort to my No 6 plane (another great find in Ebay), which I actually found easier having a much larger sole plate. Yes it was a lot heavier but I found easier to level a larger area.

    Admittedly I had to rest the day after, as my 57 year old body complained so much but as they say ‘small steps’ and ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. I must admit though, the sense of achievement is worth every ache and pain, but I will be glad when it’s done and I can start on the small finer projects which require less muscle and more finesse.

    Paul - A southern lad living up north - Nr York England

    #137549
    STEVE MASSIE
    Participant

    Mine is pretty flat after almost 3 years, I built Paul’s bench using nothing more than a # 4 Bedrock. I have all the bench planes from #3 – #7 but stuck with the #4 to see if I could do it. It was a lot of work but I was totally impressed with the outcome. And yes it would have been faster to probably start with my #7 and work down but have no regrets, Great Exercise.

    Steve

    Steve Massie, I live in the great State of Florida, US

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