Bigger picture

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    As far as stock preparation is concened I understand how to flatten a board and chute a straights edge. Can anyone discuss a techniques to prepare several boards to be the same. At the moment I use a mechanical planner, how do I do this in the hand tool world. I have a large pile of rough cut oak, seasoned and ready to work. It ranges from 5/4 to 7/4- 8-13 inches wide. How do I make 3 boards 3/4 thick?

    Greg Merritt

    First, if you have a planer, use it. That being said. Plane and true one face. Then set a marking gauge to the thickness that you want, 3/4″. Gauge from the face that you just trued on all four edges. Remove material from the remaining face down to your gauge line. You can saw the bulk off and then plane the remaining or just plane away. The video Ken posted yesterday covers this operation.
    Again, if I had a planer I would use it. I assume you going for the purist experience though. Traditionally the apprentice did this chore. Its time consuming and a whole lot of work. I do it this way because its the only option I have. I try to buy my wood as close to the thickness that I need to reduce the labor involved.
    Hope this helps.


    Since the title was “Bigger picture,” here’s a different answer. If you are using hand tools instead of machining wood, then keep in mind that many of the techniques will make the exact thickness of the wood not matter. So, if you can get the thickness uniform enough to be visually acceptable, the rest often will not matter. For example, suppose you are making a drawer and the sides are not thicknessed exactly the same. Since you layout dovetails from the actually thickness of the material being worked, and since you label the corners as you cut the dovetails, you will get perfect corners even though the thicknesses are not the same. You just have to keep track of things (label the joints) and not make assumptions (like setting a gauge once and assuming it will work for every joint). Another example would be laminating a top. You have to plane it flat when it is glued up anyway, so this thickness is not important. How about the legs of a chair, if they are close enough to be visually acceptable? Again, it will not matter if you fit your mortise and tenons to what is actually in hand piece by piece. Is that a waste of time? I don’t think so- It is just being precise. You’d do it with machined wood too.

    I think what you are asking is a good skill to have, and we do have to get things to the same thickness to a reasonable degree, but at some point if you are not using machines, leave the machines behind and take advantage of the hand joinery techniques. This also means if someone gives you plans for a piece made from 1″ material and you have 7/8 material, you’ll know exactly what to do- Key lengths will matter, and the setbacks from thicknesses (that come from gauges or transfers by knife) will just take care of themselves.

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