Dimensioning wood is ruining woodworking for me

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    Topic
  • #550124
    Austin H
    Participant

    I was introduced to woodworking through Paul Sellers and having to build some small items for my house. I have accumulated a couple basic hand tools, but I don’t have a large discretionary budget to spend either on tools or projects. I have the wood and tools for a few projects I would like to complete right now, but have lost the energy to finish them because of how time consuming dimensioning wood is.

    I usually buy wood at around 1-1 1/8″ thick, and need to dimension it down to 3/4″. On small thin boards, this is easy to do. Either rip the length, or use a scrub to take a deeper cut. But on wider boards, it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to get it down to close to 3/4″. The scrub plane doesn’t seem to be that effective and hand sawing could take me about 2 hours on a single board about 12″ wide and 32″ long. I would like to get back to doing joinery and making things, but the arduous process of getting boards to thickness has deterred me.

    Is my technique bad? Is there something I am missing to dimensioning boards by hand? Do I need to start saving for a power planer or bandsaw? I have no desire to visit my “shop” (basement), knowing that a bulk of my time will be spend exhausting myself on trying to dimension a single board.

    Any advice on this problem would be appreciated. Thanks.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 19 total)
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  • #550125
    David B
    Member

    @dbockel2

    If your wood is 5/4 and you want it to be 3/4, you are losing(wasting) some 40% of your wood, let alone the amount of time, energy and sharpening that you mention it requires. I can imagine how exhausted that must leave you. I’d strongly consider a reasonably priced bandsaw if this is going to be an ongoing issue for you. Just remember that many bandsaws may not be able to handle resawing a board much wider than 4-6” if that is an issue for you, and you probably don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a large one. Also, fwiw, even with a bandsaw that is properly set-up and tuned, you may still have issues like blade drift and will still need to clean up your wood once it’s been sawed. Still, if you’ve got that many projects to do, the investment may be worth it for you. Especially if you’ve been throwing away 40% of the wood you ourchase in the form of shavings.

    #550126
    steiner
    Participant

    @steiner

    I strongly second David’s idea about the bandsaw. I was where you are now, and getting frustrated trying to resaw. The bandsaw is so efficient and can be very accurate.

    This video with Alex Snodgrass changed everything for me regarding how to set up the bandsaw.

    Lots of opinions on how to set it up. But this method just works.

    #550127
    Anthony H
    Participant

    @amishelectricco

    Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Menards all sell lumber, even some hardwoods, in 3/4″ thickness. Most have boards from 1″ to 12″ width and you can get at least 6 ft – 8 ft lengths. Not sure what kind of projects you’re working on, but that range will cover about 90% of it.

    On the other hand, if you’re looking for better wood, visit a hardwood dealer. They typically have everything under the sun and can plane everything for you if you don’t have the tools.

    #550130
    btyreman
    Participant

    @btyreman

    in the UK it’s hard to find stock thicker than 3/4″ which we get at 20mm thickness, at least in PAR redwood pine which is mostly what I buy, planing from 1 1/8″ to 3/4″ is a lot of work, don’t be tempted to start using machines, just try and find somewhere where they’ll thickness it to the right thickness, I’m sure you will be able to find it if you look around and ask people.

    #550152
    Andrew Sinclair
    Participant

    @stochasticfish

    Just a note of solidarity to let you know you’re not alone in this regard.

    I’m getting towards the end of a 9 month build of the workbench and at times the dimensioning has really taken the wind out my sails. I used reclaimed joists, and the dimensions and straightness varied wildly across my timber. It sometimes took days to get a single face flat.

    I did learn a lot about plane setup and sharpening, and also the value of choosing timber without knots. I bought a number 6 against Paul’s advice and though very heavy it did make the jointing of top and aprons easier, plus was a great upper body workout. I think that’s mainly useful if you’re trying to flatten stuff 2m long or longer and aren’t as adept with a #4 as PS.

    My takeaway has been that I’ll be using pre-dressed timber from now on unless the projects are very small. Which means the projects had better be 19mm thick 🙂 Eventually I’ll have to find a timber yard that will do some machining I think.

    Have contemplated a bandsaw for the future, but not sure how to learn to use them or how large/expensive I need to go for it to be truly useful for thicknessing planks (Paul’s 16″ Laguna looks good …). Plus I’m not that committed … yet!

    #550161
    Ecky H
    Participant

    @eckyh

    Second that what you wrote, Andrew.
    I’m on a similar path, but with rough sawn lumber.
    Roughly calculated my workbench (~ 24″ x 50″) will take around 200-220 hours of work and more than the half of the time (120 – 140 hours) is for ripping, flattening and straightening.
    And again I can confirm that the No.6 is a great help for that kind of work, even for stock much shorter than the 2m you mentioned.
    As far as I know, Mr. Sellers doesn’t flatten and straighten the stock of his projects with hand tools. Maybe that’s the reason why he doesn’t need a No. 6.

    For resawing stock a roubo type frame saw could be worth a thought. Shannon Rogers and others have some videos on Youtube, eg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBNt3PSxcTE
    In my workshop there’s no space for band saw and dust collection, so probably I’ll build such a frame saw next year…

    E.

    Veni, vidi, serravi.

    Münster, Germany

    #550163
    David M
    Participant

    @darnmcdo

    You say that you “need to dimension it down to 3/4″ “, but do you really? For example I have built some small end or side tables. At first, I planned to thickness all to 3/4. But as I proceeded I asked my self why? In the end each apron was processed until the outside looked good, each was a bit different in thickness and none was taken all the way to 3/4. On the outside of each leg I made the reveal the same. The thickness is not visible. When I did the top I again stopped as soon as the pieces were flat and square. Didn’t matter if that was at 1″ or 3/4. In cases where the edge looks to thick then bevel it to lighten the appearance. With another project I built called for a door panel to be 1/2”. The wood I was working with was flat and nice after planning at nearly a full inch. I felt like you and hated the idea of all the work to go to 1/2 inch. After a bit of thought I realized I could go to 7/8, despite what the plan called for and have everything work out nicely.

    I know in some case you may have little choice and really need !/2 or 3/4 inch. But for me many times, for at least parts of a project if not all, I can stop planning when the pieces are flat and work with whatever thickness that is.

    David M

    #550164
    Ed
    Participant

    @ed

    I build the same way as @darnmcdo . When the thickness doesn’t matter, I don’t care what it is. Learn to work from a reference edge and reference face and learn to do layout in a way that thickness doesn’t matter and in a way that variations in thickness are accommodated in the layout. It will save a lot of work. Sometimes, you have no choice. A drawer with 1″ thick sides is going to look bad almost always. If you have a good lumber supplier that provides 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, etc., try hard to work to those thicknesses (minus whatever it takes to get flat). Let the sawyer do the work.

    Some people will say, don’t even smooth faces that aren’t seen, like the insides of aprons or the insides of chests. I left the insides of aprons on my last table somewhat rough. It saved time during lumber prep, but it caught my rags during finishing, held dust, and otherwise made me cuss during finishing work. So, I’ll at least get to smooth from now on, although I won’t really care about thickness or flatness on those faces.

    That all being said, I increasingly depend upon my band saw. I wouldn’t want one in my basement, but I think I can accept one in the garage.

    #550171
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    @sojansson

    If these boards are already planed-all-around then, depending on the type of wood, it might be worth to find a cabinet maker with a bandsaw capable of accepting the 300+ mm height. ≈8 mm could be saved; useeful for a lot like bottoms for boxes and drawers, and veneering (which hopefully will be tought soon). A quick search on Google resulted in a lot of hits for both urban (London, Boston, and Berllin), as well as more rural areas (Agde in France and Väröbacka in Sweden).

    Perhaps an alternative would be to buy cut but not planed stuff, which is less expensive. When flatsawn, removing 10 mm may very well be required before the board is flat, square, and with parallel opposing aspects. A semi-portable thicknesser reduces the pain as only one side has to be flattened. It’s noisy and spits out chips, but can be had at half the price of a bandsaw of required size.

    /soj

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    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Cambridge, MA

    Attachments:
    #550176
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    @sojansson

    If these boards are already planed-all-around then, depending on the type of wood, it might be worth to find a cabinet maker with a bandsaw capable of accepting the 300+ mm height. ≈8 mm could be saved; useeful for a lot like bottoms for boxes and drawers, and veneering (which hopefully will be tought soon). A quick search on Google resulted in a lot of hits for both urban (London, Boston, and Berllin), as well as more rural areas (Agde in France and Väröbacka in Sweden).

    Perhaps an alternative would be to buy cut but not planed stuff, which is less expensive. When flatsawn, removing 10 mm may very well be required before the board is flat, square, and with parallel opposing aspects. A semi-portable thicknesser reduces the pain as only one side has to be flattened. It’s noisy and spits out chips, but can be had at half the price of a bandsaw of required size.

    /soj

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Cambridge, MA

    Attachments:
    #550351
    Austin H
    Participant

    @sevenshamrocks

    Thanks for the comments everyone. All of that was very helpful. It confirms that I am not crazy, and that I am trying to do too much.

    I have bought wood from Menards type stores before, but started looking for a bigger selection and wanted some more flexibility with sizing, so I found a local hardwoods store. They sell 4/4, but it usually ends up closer to 1 1/8”. They do offer planing for .25 a board foot, which I think I will start using. I thought I was supposed to be able to dimension all this stuff quickly by hand, but I guess not.

    As some have said, thickness doesn’t matter for some projects, and I will likely keep that in mind for some future projects.

    Thanks everyone. That’s all helpful advice. It sounds like I need to plan another trip to the hardwood store and get the (planed) materials for my next project.

    #550359
    Brian A
    Participant

    @brian8

    I feel your pain. If you are doing this for a workbench, my advice proffered but not yet done by me, is to rip the wood into 2-3″ thick strips and align them as best you can, then plane to flatness.

    My bench is still not flat because I bought two hefty 2.5″ thick slabs of poplar, at moderate to high expense, and even paid extra to have them planed and the edges mated. Unfortunately, as wood will do, it is twisted, about 2″ across the length. I planed away at the top and wedged the bottom, so now the two corners have a lot less wood on them. Currently it is doweled sturdily onto the benchtop, but the twist remains, supported by wedges.

    Plan is to take it apart and rip it into ~2″x2″ with a new saw (resharpened 4.5 points/inch, rip filed -with the PS-style back bevel- 1950’s Disston), which now typically cuts through wood like butter (or very splintery butter, but very fast for a handsaw). Then, Wood Gods Willing, I’ll flip the pieces around until they are nearly flat and plane them out. (Or I might switch to construction-grade 2×4’s, and save the poplar slabs for something special).

    .

    #550365
    deanbecker
    Participant

    @deanbecker

    In my hardwood store they have stair risers that fit behind stair treds. They are in many different species and are milled 3/4 and fnished 4 sides. It might pay to ask about that option at your store. They are 7.5 inches wide and you can get any length as long as you leave four ft. Usually the boards are 10-12 ft long.

    #550594
    John Noble
    Participant

    @maranoblet

    For what it’s worth I have a small workshop and can’t really fit a bandsaw in (as much as I want one) so have no choice but to do it by hand.

    Re-sawing with a 26″ 4.5 PPI rip saw works well if you have a lot to remove but if you can handle the wastage I would strongly recommend trying an old beat up wooden jack plane and cambering the iron. These old planes often have really worn wide open throats which, when combined with a cambered iron hog off loads of wood fast and effortless (way more than a #4 scrub conversion). I can easily remove around a 1/16-1/8 inch in a single pass and it has been a revelation to me. As a bonus you can pick them up for a song too! Bit of a learning curve to set the iron up but it’s not actually all that hard once you’ve done it a few times, just taps with a hammer in the right places and away you go. You would of course still need to smooth the surface with a standard plane to get to the final thickness but that only takes a few passes.

    Just noticed how old this post is! Sorry for resurrecting it!

    #550763
    Andrew Sinclair
    Participant

    @stochasticfish

    Just a not to say I really appreciate the helpful and constructive replies here.

    Good points about how often exact dimensions (thicknesses) are not required. And I’m looking to get a wooden Jackplane soon based on John’s comments.

    I realise another ripsaw with coarser teeth may help … but I’ve got 6 handsaws already so it wouldnt be good for marital harmony 😉

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 19 total)

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