Building my Workbench #4: Breaking Wind

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by HokieKen posted 10-31-2016 12:45 PM 1864 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: I'm getting to the beginning... Part 4 of Building my Workbench series Part 5: It's Knot So Bad »

You guys thought I’d forgotten about the blog didn’t you? Well never fear, here is yet another exciting and timely entry! ;-)

Due to some family issues the last month, I’ve had very limited shop time. I finally got a chance to get started this weekend. So, I cut the first beam to rough length and went to work flattening it. I scrubbed one face until it looked flat enough and ran it through the planer taking light passes to flatten the opposite face. I was feeling good about my progress, until I put a straight edge on the freshly-planed surface :-( Even with a 48” straight edge on the 82” timber, I could detect a bow. Well, the back side was obviously not completely flat, I didn’t think it would need to be! I mean these timbers are 4” thick, I thought light passes would prevent the planer from bending them too much. Think again!

Now, I have a jig I made to joint wide faces in the planer. It works a trick but, it’s only 60” long. I could make a longer one but, that means buying a full sheet of ply and I don’t really want to. So it was time to learn to flatten, REALLY flatten long timbers using hand planes. I have spent a fair amount of time learning to use my planes and think I’ve gotten pretty proficient, on small stuff. Turns out, these big, long, well-seasoned, hard-assed white oak beams are a whole different animal.

I flipped the timber back to the other side and stretched a chalk line over the length to identify the high spots and scrubbed them down cross-grain. Then, using a 24” straight edge, I went down the beam a section at a time and worked diagonal to the grain with a jack plane. I had to sharpen my iron twice. Time for a Hock iron to go on my Christmas list to fit the #5. Finally I had it pretty close to flat (if a bit rough) down the full length. So then, I used the straight edge across the width and worked the jack with the grain to flatten the cup. Okay, it took me 2 hours so far but, I’m feeling pretty good again that I’ve got this tiger by the tail. I ran the jointer plane down the beam until I got full width shavings for the most part across the whole timber. Whew!

I pulled my chalk line again. Thumbs up! Laid the straight edge across the width and went down the length. Check! Woo-hoo, back to the planer. Let’s slay some electrons! 2-1/2 hours of hand planing oak wore my butt out. So I laid the timber across my tablesaw while I checked my planer setting and turned on the DC. I went to pick it up and when I laid hands on it, it wobbled :-( Must just be a chip under it… Nope. But it’s flat damnit! It’s flat along the length and across the width! It CAN NOT BE ROCKING!!! So, I did the only rational, level-headed thing any grown man would do. I threw something, cursed, curled up in a fetal position in the floor and cried.

Well after an hour or so of that, it turned out that no matter how many tears I shed or how vulgar my language, the beam still rocked on the table saw. Well, stretching my chalk line across the diagonals showed a twist that I hadn’t detected previously. Normally, my jointer or my jointing jig for the planer will take care of a little twist so I’ve never really dealt with it intimately.

I wrapped up for the day. I had plans that evening and I was tired and frustrated. So, yesterday I went back bright-eyed and bushy tailed and decided that given the # of these timbers I have, I need to be methodical. First order of business being to flatten one face with hand planes. And not just sorta flatten but really flatten. Chalk line and straight edges take care of most of the work but what about the twist? Well, recently there was a forum post about making winding sticks and I’ve seen several online over the years but never saw the need for them with power tools. I was up for a side-project and a little gratification anyway so yesterday was spent making a pair.

I read Paul Seller’s blog post on making winding sticks and a couple of the Schwarz’s blogs about them. After getting a feel for how to go about it, I decided to just start working and “wing” the design as I went.

I started by looking for a straight-grained, stable piece of wood that was long enough. I thought I had some QSWO but I was mistaken. I did have a 22” piece of Jatoba left over from some other projects that appeared to be my best bet. It was straight-grained and clear but it had a knot near one end. I figure the knot will be stable enough for this project and if it goes to acting-up in the future, I’ll just cut the sticks down to a shorter set.

I started by four-squaring the 5/4 stock and then laid out a rip line on one end that looked right to rip the stock into 2 pieces. The profile of the pieces ended up being roughly as shown:

I ripped the angle on the bandsaw and planed the angled faces smooth. I then re-checked and flattened and squared any distortion from the rip and made sure the two pieces were the same height and that the tops and bottoms were parallel. I also took great pains to be certain that the tops and bottoms were truly flat so I can use them as straight edges as well. After that was done, I did some inlays.

Now there are several different types of inlays and some advocate no inlays at all. I felt that contrasting inlays would be helpful in use and decided on the type Chris Shwarz suggested. Sellers’ are basically the same but the two short ones he uses are dovetail-shaped. I could see absolutely no good reason for that so I didn’t do it. I laid in a strip of Walnut along the full length of one stick and two short pieces of Ash on the other. I also noticed that everyone puts their inlays on the angled faces. No one said why and it didn’t make sense to me. Seems to me that it was better to use the flat vertical faces since I knew they were parallel to one another so that’s what I did.

I liked Paul Seller’s idea of adding a small dowel dead center of each stick to help position them so they’re balanced on a board. So, I marked the center line of one of the sticks and marked up 3/4” from the bottom. I used some carpet tape on the angled faces and stuck the sticks together to drill them to be sure I got the holes precisely lined up and drilled a 1/4” hole through both. DUH… now I had a hole 3/4” from the bottom of one and from the top of the other. So, they got 2 dowels on the centerline, 3/4” down from top and up from bottom. While they were stuck together, I also drilled 3/8” holes for dowels to “nest” the sticks together when stored and 1/4” hanging holes on each end.

I inserted Walnut dowels on the stick with the Walnut inlay and maple dowels on the one with Ash inlays. I wicked super glue from both sides to keep the dowels in place and flushed them up with a block plane.

I laid out an angle on each end and cut it just ‘cause I thought it looked good in the examples I looked at online. Finally, I put a slight back bevel on the tops with a block plane to be sure that the edges with the inlays were the high-points. I scraped the faces and sanded everything with 220 paper lightly and put a couple coats of BLO/Poly/MS mix on them. I checked this morning and everything is still square and flat. So yay, a little bit of success for the weekend! I’ll put a coat of paste wax on next time I’m in the shop and start trying to work the twist out of the timber I’ve started on. Below are the sticks nested together.

I must say, I’ve never thought I needed any winding sticks. But I put these guys on my timber just to see how effective they were and they showed me the obvious twist that I completely missed with my chalk-line and straight edges. The extra length really exaggerates any errors and the contrasting inlays really make it easy to see even when lighting isn’t ideal. I hate to be putting off workbench work to do little side projects but, I really think this was a day well-spent.

Probably no shop time this week but I’m planning to be in the shop all next weekend breaking wind!

Now, for you guys’ input… I gave you a rough run-down of my procedure for flattening these faces with my handplanes. But it’s a fairly new process to me, at least at this scale. How do you Galloots tackle it? I’d love to do this more efficiently so will greedily consume any suggestions your have.

Thanks for reading!

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

1 comment so far

View madts's profile


1951 posts in 3316 days

#1 posted 12-16-2016 09:37 PM

Marvelous. I also need to make a set.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics