Benchcrafted Split Top Roubo Workbench #2: Finally, Milled Stock - Part 1

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Blog entry by EarlS posted 06-05-2021 01:02 PM 773 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Where to Start? At the beginning, of course Part 2 of Benchcrafted Split Top Roubo Workbench series Part 3: Milled Stock - Part 2 - Cherry Legs and Walnut Rails »

After most of a month spent using the bandsaw, planing, jointing, cutting, gluing, clamping, then more planing, jointing, gluing, clamping, and just a bit sanding I have the main pieces for the bench.

White Oak
top back section: 4-1/8×12 x 87 – 7 boards on end
top front section: 4-1/8×8 x 85-3/4 – 5 boards on end

upper side rail: 3-1/2×2 x 24
lower side rail: 4-1/2×2 x24
lower front rail: 4-1/4×3 x 43-1/8
lower rear rail: 4-1/ 2×2 x 45-5/8

4 Legs: 3-1/2×5-1/2×34

Sounds easy right? Well, not so fast. If you read Robscastle’s project Rough Sawn Project Prep you have a good idea about what it takes to turn rough boards into something usable. The oak and cherry, and the thick walnut came out of these stacks (The big beams on the bottom are cherry).

Walnut for the drawers came out of similar surroundings, but with the added challenge that they were slab pieces with bark and live edges.

Thickness Planing:
In an attempt to stay organized, and free up the floor space, I started with the walnut. This was a first as I’ve never had to cut slabs into usable boards. The first step was to mark a straight line along one edge. Once all of the boards were marked, the new Harvey bandsaw earned its keep cutting the edges.

There were a few boards that were too wide for the bandsaw which also meant they would be too wide for the planer. The distance from the bandsaw blade to the support frame is 12” which makes an easy way to make sure the boards will fit on the DW735 planer. Those boards were ripped into narrower pieces.

In preparation for planing the boards to thickness, the next step was to look over the boards and cut off ends that were severely cracked, or had other twists, cupping, or major thickness differences. Trying to run twisted boards thru the planer, or boards with significant thickness differences through the planer is asking for problems.

With very rough cut wood, you can expect a lot of waste. I lost about 75% of the walnut because most of it was scraps. For rough cut wood from a decent sawyer or saw mill, waste should be very minimal.

My jointer is only 6” wide, so I have to use the planer to flatten wider boards.

Planing always starts out with boards that have a lot of thickness and high/low variations. I stage the pieces from thicker to thinner boards. The planer is set to the thickness of the thickest board. I use digital calipers to measure the board thickness and a Wixey thickness gauge on the planer to set the planer. I also slid the thickest piece thru the planer when it is turned off to verify the planer depth. You can feel the board hit the front feed roller.

After setting up the infeed and outfeed rollers, turn on the planer (and the dust collector) and feed the board into the planer. I always maintain a slight pressure on the feeder by holding the end of the board and pushing it slightly. As the board exits the planer I switch to the outfeed side and lightly pull on it. This helps if the board bogs down somewhat as it hits a thicker area.

It isn’t uncommon to have to raise the cutter part way thru the first pass on a board because the board is too thick to pass thru the planer and it stops feeding. If that happens, turn the handwheel that raises the cutters until the board starts feeding again. You need to respond quickly as the cutters will gouge the board if it stops feeding thru the planer. Once the piece is run thru at the thicker setting, pass it thru the planer in 1/2 turn increments (1/36”) until the planer gets back to the initial setting.

A couple passes on one side should provide a flat surface. The surface might still have rough cut marks, but there should be a flat, clean cut surface that will slide on the planer base when the board is flipped over. Boards should be flipped over after each pass until the face is completely planed. Sometimes, one side needs more passes to plane off the rough cut marks. Keep track of the thickness with respect to the final thickness you want. Generally, I prefer not to waste wood by making shavings out of it. I try to get 7/8” planed boards out of rough 4/4 lumber. If not, 3/4” should be achievable.

At this point, the lumber is considered S2S meaning that the rough lumber has been surfaced on the top and the bottom.

In my shop, the primary purpose of the jointer is to provide a milled edge that is perpendicular to the milled front and back faces. I also use it to flatten boards that are less than 6” wide.

Continuing with the planed walnut boards, the next step is to use the jointer to mill the edge.

The feed side of the jointer is slightly lower than the outfeed side. The difference is the depth the cutter will mill off the edge. I set mine to 1/16”. With rough edges, like the ones cut by the bandsaw, the edge is not flat. It could be concave or convex from front to back. It will takes several passes to get the final flat, perpendicular, milled edge.

The board need to be held firmly against the vertical fence while slightly pushing on the board to keep it from chattering as it passes through the cutter. As the piece is fed through the cutter the edge rides on the outfeed table. Initially, the edge may not slide on the outfeed table due to the inconsistencies in the rough edge. After more passes through the cutter, more and more of the board edge should slide on the outfeed base. Check the edge to see how it looks. You will be able to see/feel the rough cut areas.

On pieces that are extremely bowed, use the bandsaw to get a decent starting edge first. Alternately, run the board thru the table saw once you get enough of an edge to hold the board against the tablesaw fence.

The boards are on the home stretch. With an edge that is flat, straight, and perpendicular to the front/back faces the next step is to get a flat, straight edge parallel to the one from the jointer.

Using a tape measure, determine how wide the board can be. Check a couple places along the board. Look at the front and back faces. There may be cracks or other imperfections you don’t want in the board. Once you determine the width, set the table saw fence to that width and rip the board.

Using a miter gauge, square up the ends of the board. You should have an S4S lumber ready for your project.

This got a bit more involved and long winded than I originally intended so I’ll break it into 2 parts. Hopefully, I didn’t miss too many important details in the rough wood milling process.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

2 comments so far

View HokieKen's profile


17932 posts in 2259 days

#1 posted 06-05-2021 09:00 PM

Bout time you got back to this ;-)

Yep, working with air dried wood of unknown origins can be aggravating. It doesn’t surprise me at all it took this long to get it all in shape. Looks like you’ve made good progress though with all the rough glue-ups being done.

One word-to-the-wise that I earned the hard way… Figure out how you’re going to cut the top to length and keep it in mind. I got my bench fully assembled THEN went to square the ends up with a circular saw only to find that my circular saw isn’t big enough to cut through. But after assembly, I couldn’t flip it over to finish the cut from the bottom either. So I ended up using a hand saw. I enjoy using hand tools but I HATE making big cuts by hand…

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View robscastle's profile


7950 posts in 3324 days

#2 posted 06-06-2021 08:31 AM

Wow Earl,
That’s an impressive stash of timber, no wonder you were going at it for a month!
I wonder have we woken a sleeping monster and will see a series of posts showing preping of rough sawn timber!

Oh yes hand on the cutter wheel at the ready is a must been there done that!
I also use my arbortec planer on excessive twists get a reasonable surface to run through the planner.
I guess appreciating the results of the “What lies beneath” is what makes woodwork more satisfying, and in particular walnut.

And from what I see you certainly achieved it!

looking forward to Pt2

-- Regards Rob

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