Stock Preparation 1

Table Stock Prep

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Making wood square and straight may be something we take for granted when we can buy machined stock. However, it is really useful to know how you can do it by hand. In this video Paul shows you how to plane ‘four-square’.


  1. Luis Moreno on 5 January 2013 at 12:02 am

    Hello Mr. Sellers,
    What kind of oil do you use to lubricate the plane’s sole? I’ve read before about using paraffin or beeswax, do you find oil better?.


  2. Jeff Winship on 5 January 2013 at 1:07 am

    Hey Luisa. I believe Paul is out of pocket for a few days but think I can help. He uses 3-in-1 oil on the plane soles and his saw blades. Here’s the link on his blog:


  3. Matt Hess on 5 January 2013 at 2:16 am

    Another wonderful lesson Paul! Thank you so much for sharing and giving such good explanations.

  4. Ken Haygarth on 5 January 2013 at 3:10 am

    Thanks Paul,
    This one is much needed, nice job buddy.


  5. Luis Moreno on 5 January 2013 at 3:15 am

    Thanks Jeff.

  6. Ken Haygarth on 5 January 2013 at 3:23 am

    The video is not playing for me, for some reason. all other videos are fine

  7. ejpotter on 5 January 2013 at 3:42 am

    Echo Ken. I just get a black screen when attempting to play the stock prep video.

    • ejpotter on 5 January 2013 at 3:44 am

      Just an update: when I turn off HD, the video plays just fine, but obviously lower quality.

      • Ken Haygarth on 5 January 2013 at 3:59 am

        Thanks Eric,
        That fixed it buddy many thanks

  8. Phillip on 5 January 2013 at 4:44 am

    Somehow you guys knew I needed help with this very subject. Thanks very much for the new video!

  9. Ed Steltz on 5 January 2013 at 5:13 am

    Very well done, excellent instruction. Many thanks!

  10. Frank Salinas on 5 January 2013 at 5:22 am

    I have not posted any comments here before, but I have to say this entire site is operating in a very slow, disjointed manner. I can’t watch the video and every click takes 30 seconds or more before some action occurs. I checked other sites and everything seems to be functioning as normal, so there much be something wrong with the way this site is functioning.
    As it is it’s too frustrating to try to deal with so I’ll just leave and come back later to see if it has resolved the problems.
    Regards all,

  11. Frank Salinas on 5 January 2013 at 6:18 am

    Update: Well I was finally able to watch the video, but it took about 30 minutes of futzing around till things finally worked. Is this normal? Could it be because I’m in California and the distance from the source is so far?
    Whatever it is makes it difficult to stay focused on the points being made.
    Otherwise I think Paul is a great teacher and well worth watching and listening to. His first hand knowledge is amazing and he explains not only about the HOW, but the WHY in a way that one can truly “get it”.
    Cheers all and best regards,

  12. JerryH on 5 January 2013 at 8:51 am

    Just watched the video with no problems, streaming direct from the website. Thanks Paul for yet another very useful and for me very timely videa as
    I have just got some small boards for the dovetail boxes that will need a fair bit of prep work to make them useable.

  13. Florian on 5 January 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks Paul!

    I am already looking forward to the next part of stock preparation. I like the idea of splitting out and squaring up instead of buying the square boards. It makes me feel closer to the tree 😉


  14. Alex Jeffries on 5 January 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Since I have no room for a bandsaw or tablesaw, I have to do this all the time. Nice to see I’m doing it right. Thanks. Of course the biggest challenge is ripping down a board in it’s width (e.g., if I have a 1″ thick plank and want to turn it into 1/4″ thick, that’s quite a challenge with a hand saw. Any advice there?

    Also, I notice you don’t check for twist after the first face. Is this because the square will detect that and so it’s not necessary or was it just a shorthand?

    BTW, you look a bit tired in that video. Perhaps you need to eat more porridge! 🙂

  15. dmarshall83 on 5 January 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Do you always use a straight iron. I have a cambered or radiused iron which is what others suggest but it appears that you are using a flat iron with success


    • Ken Haygarth on 5 January 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Hey Dan,
      This Is how Paul sharpens his plane Irons

      • dmarshall83 on 6 January 2013 at 10:04 pm

        Ken, Thanks for the reply I have seen that video before and I assumed that was the iron for his #4 smoother. A lot of information on the web suggests that you give the jack plane iron between an 8-10 inch radius so the plane can take a more aggressive bite. I’m wondering if a straight iron works just as well? Maybe video 2 will explain it a little more. Incidentally I have been working some 2×6 stock for my workbench build and I have been using my #7 with a very small amount of camber and it seems to be working really well.

  16. STEVE MASSIE on 6 January 2013 at 12:42 am

    Paul Thanks for another very enjoyable video. I have prepped wood with my power tools but have never done it with hand tools which is what I am using now.

    Looking forward to the next installment.


  17. Redtail on 6 January 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks Paul! Been playing with this aspect of woodworking and I have made improvement in the process. One question though. Why not cut off the unused length at the beginning?


    PS: It was good to meet you in Baltimore, at the show, yesterday and I really learned a lot about your technique by watching. Thanks for the sacrifices, being away from your family etc. , you make to bring this knowledge to us. It is really appreciated.

    • dmarshall83 on 6 January 2013 at 10:05 pm

      I was wondering the same thing as it seems it would be easier to work the shorter stock.


      • doyouseewhathappenslarry on 31 December 2013 at 4:50 am

        Almost a year later, but just in case anyone’s still wondering about this (and I would never presume to speak for Mr. Sellers, but this is my take), if he had crosscut the piece to length earlier, it would have been much more difficult to hold it in the vise for ripping.

  18. Gary Hodgin on 6 January 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks for the video. Rough sawn lumber is much cheaper and in much great variety than dimensional lumber around here. I got my 12″ planer and 6″ jointer after buying enough red oak from Home Depot to build a decent size bookshelf when I took up woodworking as a hobby. I was taken back by the expense. Haven’t used my jointer in a while, opting for hand planing instead. Really don’t like the safety of face jointing. I still use my planer to get close to thickness. The video was helpful.

    I’ve used beeswax and camellia oil to keep my planes running smoothly. I got something called an Aburatsubo Tool Oiler from Highland Hardware in Atlanta, GA for the oil. Works great.

  19. Leslie Clement on 7 January 2013 at 4:59 am

    Thanks so much for posting this video. Though I understand the premise of creating 4-square stock, I’ve had a hell of a time with the execution. I think I’ve been taking too few steps, so I’m going to slow down, and be patient. Your videos are fantastic, and all the information you provide makes what you’re doing even more clear.

  20. Florian on 9 January 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Yesterday I bought a board of rough sawn german pine. It measured 1 inch thick by about 16 inches wide (with bark) and 17’5″ long. Cut in half it just fit in my old Golf. 😉
    There was quite a lot of dried resin on the surface which I got rid of pretty well with the Stanley No. 80.
    Well, than I thought it was time for the planes. I had a hard time! The grain was running around some big knots mainly in the center of the tree. I tried to tackle them from all directions but the result was very mixed and I had some break-outs although I sharpened up just before.
    This was a long intro, probably because it was the first time for me to start with such a wide rough board.
    My question: Do you sand such difficult boards to thickness or do you plane as much as possible and sand the rest? Before I felt pretty comfortable with my planing like for the workbench-top etc but now I feel like back to ground level.


    • Florian on 10 January 2013 at 10:45 am

      I just read in the blog and will try a back bevel today…


      • Florian on 10 January 2013 at 4:00 pm

        Greetings from the garage! The Stanley 80 is unbelievable. I just trued one of those rough pine boards and can’t believe how much I can take off with it without tear-out. Very good workout as well 🙂 Yesterday’s black cloud is gone.


        • Florian on 10 January 2013 at 9:27 pm

          Part 3 of my self-reply 😉
          Well, it was too tempting to plane after scraping although the board was already good for the joinery… Not too good of an idea. Some very shiny parts aside some unnecessary break-outs. I should have continued with just the scraped surface. Nobody said the learning was always fun 🙂 I’m looking forward to cutting the dovetails tomorrow.

  21. Gary Germano on 23 January 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Hello Paul, I’m new to your website and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your instructions. So much so, you’ve inspired me to build your workbench. I’ve watched your YT vids up to lesson 8 how do I get the remaining 7 videos?

    Thank you, and I look forward to your response!

  22. Doug Watson on 16 February 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I LOVE these videos. I think this probably the best demonstration on prepping wood with hand planes I have seen. Thank you.

  23. OSCAR MACHO on 1 March 2013 at 5:48 pm

    First of all thank you for your patience on spreading the woodworking love all over the world.
    I´m planning to make my very first pair of winding sticks and I was wondering about the dimensions of the ones you are using on the video.
    Thank you very much.

  24. dpawson on 28 February 2016 at 7:33 am

    Missing Paul? When you’re shaving to bring into a right angle, you don’t say how you use pressure with the plane? You mention holding the back end down for bumps,
    Guessing you’re planing one side more than the other? How to do that on narrower pieces?

    Would have been a nice addition to this video?

    • Matt McGrane on 29 February 2016 at 1:02 am

      Dave, that had been unclear to me for a long time, too. What I’ve seen and from what I’ve gathered through Paul’s videos, is that he presses the front of the plane down with his left thumb on the side that needs to come down to make the edge square. Paul says that the wood will compress slightly with the thumb pressure and so you’ll remove a tiny bit more on the side with thumb pressure. That has never worked for me and I always end up planing with the plane on one side of the board edge – that is, so that the corner of the blade is in the middle of the edge. Then I move over to take a full shaving. I saw Paul do this on a recent video. For me, this method gets tweaked depending on how badly out of square I was. Hope this was clear.

      • dpawson on 1 March 2016 at 9:28 am

        Thanks Matt. Not sure about ‘compressing the wood’ (oak?) but putting the iron closer to the timber on that side? I’ve tried your method and it seems … awkward? See if Paul answers. Guess he’s busy with the house move, new book etc.

        • chemical_cake on 1 March 2016 at 10:01 am

          “Matt’s method” is actually a standard method you will see taught by many teachers and books, so I would suggest practice is what you need, not a new method. Like Matt says, it depends how out of square you are.

          I think you might be thinking on too “macro” a scale in relation to wood compression; when truing up edges with hand pressure that are only fractionally out of square, you don’t really detect the mechanics, only the result.


  25. thomm on 20 December 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Early in the video Paul mentions that the No. 4 plane “isn’t the ideal tool for straight planing but it works fine”.

    Interesting because I’ve never seen Paul use anything besides a No. 4 smoothing and a No. 4 ‘jack’ (bevelled iron & widened throat) in his videos.

    What would the “ideal” tool be? Just a larger plane?

    • thomm on 20 December 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Well, if I’d watched another 2 minutes of the video before commenting, Paul answers my question — a 5 1/2 jack plane. There I go.

  26. Colin Hamilton on 11 June 2017 at 10:51 pm

    As a new woodworker these lessons are great! Temptation is to dive into fancy projects but I’ve found out quickly if it isn’t square to start with you run into issues later on. More practice required for me!!

  27. btyreman on 3 November 2017 at 5:42 pm

    why does paul say ‘cursed letter f’? lol where does that come from?

  28. Robert Ayers on 21 November 2019 at 2:22 am

    Hello Mr. Sellers,

    Thanks for the great videos. Question: When making that first flat reference face, is using one’s eye always sufficient? I’m trying to learn the basics, and some books recommend using a straight edge. Is that necessary, or will one’s eye get the job done, as you seem to suggest in your videos? The problem with the straight edge method is: what happens when you want to make something flat that is longer than one’s straight edge? In addition to your eye, I also imagine that it helps to understand intellectually what you are trying to do, i.e. knock down the high spots (if you can find them), since it would seem that you can only get a board as flat as its initial lowest spot?

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and inspiring people like me to give woodworking a go,

    • Izzy Berger on 26 November 2019 at 8:35 am

      Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your question.

      I passed this on to Paul and his answer is below:
      I have relied on my eyes to check for straightness and even twist with a caveat. I often check myself after I’ve used my eyes, only to prove that the reliance of my eyes has never failed me.

      Kind Regards,

  29. Benoît Van Noten on 28 November 2019 at 2:56 pm

    About straightness.
    I can not trust my eyes because the progressive lenses of my spectacles don’t give the same information when looking through the middle, the top or the base of the lens. I might have to get new ones.

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