Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) #17: Stock Prep Continued: Planing Parts For the Base.

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 11-15-2011 05:28 AM 11202 reads 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: Stock Prep Part One: Starting On The Base. Part 17 of Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) series Part 18: One step back to take two steps forward. »

Hand planing the parts for the base is a great intro into getting components ready for handwork. Here are a few hints:

Use the outside of the rails as your true faces since they will show and will be partially (or fully) smoothed from the prep process. The top of the rail should be the true edge. You will need to plane to width as well but this dimension can have an error or two in it and no one will know but you. I often leave a scrubbed surface on the interior rails…flattish is good enough, and it leaves and interesting texture to find when someone explores the piece in more detail in the future. The rails don’t have to all be the same thickness either, as long as the are close to 3/4 inch you can make your joinery come out just fine.

The true face and edge on the legs should be the inside edges since they will be accepting the joinery. Try to pick the uglier parts of board for these faces putting the pretty parts of the board on the outside. Don’t forget to leave the legs longer than your finished dimension. Make the cuts on the bottom and top as square as possible though since this will help with layout. You will need to surface all the legs. Take your time to make them as straight and square and even with as can be. True the face and edges of your legs first then go over the pieces to see if you can find the narrowest dimension of your square legs. This will allow you to keep your marking gauge on one setting and serve to simplify this chore.

Depending on how much work you need to do you may want to smooth your work after joinery or before. The heavier the material removal is going to be the more I lean towards before. As stated before select good stock and your smoothing stage should be pretty minimal and can be left till near the end of the project (which is nice since you are bound to dent or ding your project at least once between stock prep and assembly).

Planes don’t always do all the work for you when removing warp. Think about the material you need to remove and selectively focus on it. This is especially true on the convex side of the warp since the plane tends to just follow the crest. Planes really excel at correcting concave surfaces though so that’s the good news, just plane until you start getting full length shavings and you are home free. On the convex side take aim at the highest spots and expand them until your board becomes flat.

EDIT: I forgot to mention in the text that when you plane across the grain you are very likely to cause tearout on the exit edge of your cut. I deal with this in three ways, I chamfer that edge to give better support to the cut and to finish the cut before the edge. I then usually joint that exit edge as the true face to remove that chamfer and any light tearout. I use the opposite edge as my exit side when planing to thickness and tend to remove the section for my width last in those cases, this removes your last chamfer and any odd tearout that may have occurred.

Twist is it’s own beast to remove. Plane across the high points and then finish with full length shavings. Fortunately I have a really good example for the class. I remove it at the end of this video.

Keep your tools sharp and start making some serious shavings.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

10 comments so far

View mafe's profile


12592 posts in 3865 days

#1 posted 11-15-2011 12:21 PM

Twist and shout, looking good.
Do you move your sticks don the board as you get closer to flat?
When you have a board with this much twist, there is a good chance it will twist with the change of temperature and season so keep a eye on that one after, it might be that the frost sets in and you then have less moisture in the air.
Always a pleasure to see you work.
Best thoughts buddy,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3431 days

#2 posted 11-15-2011 03:39 PM

Hey Mads. Yes I take a few different readings.

It is risky to use a board with this much twist in it, but I think that the twist has more to do with the way the board was dried than the way the tree grew. I have see some really twisty boards stay flat over time from this particular tree so I should be ok (though there is always that fear in the back of your mind…it’s best to work with good stock).

Thanks and I hope that all is well on your side of the globe.


-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Brit's profile


8079 posts in 3619 days

#3 posted 11-15-2011 09:41 PM

Ryan – I bet that warmed you up. :-) Thank you for sharing.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3431 days

#4 posted 11-15-2011 09:50 PM

Weird… the videos got de-linked. I will have to look at that.

You are right Andy a few minutes of stock prep and I forget about the cold.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View tomfidgen's profile


38 posts in 4515 days

#5 posted 11-17-2011 04:56 AM

great project and posts Ryan, thanks for sharing.

-- tom fidgen,

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3431 days

#6 posted 11-17-2011 05:08 AM

Glad you enjoyed it. I am having a blast with this particular opportunity.



-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View AnthonyReed's profile


10152 posts in 3217 days

#7 posted 11-18-2011 01:22 AM


ALL of the planing tutorial footage I have come across goes something a bit like this …

“First you need to prepare the stock. To begin you flatten a reference face then joint the reference edge square to that face. Use winding sticks to identify where the stock needs to planed and a straightedge to check for flatness once complete. Once the reference face and edge are square use your marking gauge to mark the desired thickness and plane to the line.”

This is then demonstrated by them placing a 8/4 piece of clear basswood, with grain straight as a string, on their bench. Now they may detour a moment and give an explanation on how to use the winding sticks to identify a twist in the board but not much more on how to remedy the twist (not even something as simple as “plane under the high side of the far stick until it is in line with the close stick” … nada). Then they proceed with a couple passes with a jackplane across grain and then smooth it in four passes with their #4. The stock is then flopped on edge so that it can be jointed. They effortlessly pass the jointer along the edge. And as they are pulling the four foot long, gossamer thin, unbroken shavings from their plane they say something to the effect of “Simple as that. Now that that the stock is ready we can start cutting the joint.”

Alright I have to admit that for a knucklehead like me, who on most days still cannot produce a square/straight crosscut with a miter box let alone on a bench hook , it was inspiring at first to see these graceful efforts as the unruly stock is flattened and brought to dimension by these seasoned craftsmen. But when I grabbed some scrap and tried to get a few uniform pieces made so that I could practice saw cuts or constructing joints it did not play out like I had read or seen… imagine that. And that would be completely fine if I had more resources to look to in order to give some guidance on how to deal with imperfect stock, or what it can sometimes take to get an edge properly jointed, etc..

And that is the point I am trying to convey with this long-winded diatribe. You are providing a resource for me to use to better my skills and direct my efforts. You point out many things that veteran woodworkers probably take for granted but are not so obvious for a beginner like me. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to put this all together. I am learning lots.

Thank you Ryan.


-- ~Tony

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3431 days

#8 posted 11-18-2011 03:53 PM

I get what you mean Tony. It seems like everything I read about hand planes early one was oversimplified, mechanical or just plain inaccurate. If you start diving into old woodwrking texts (pre 1900 at least) you start finding some very good advice about handwork. There are some modern authors how are putting good info out their again, but I think it’s kind of a process of re-discovery. We don’t have the community of knowledge that we do for power tools because let’s face it…less people use them. I think we are building a good community though with a lot to offer. I just wanted to cover some of the pitfalls you may run into so you don’t have to cuss like I did.

I am glad you are enjoying the class and I hope to keep the lessons coming at this same sort of level. One craftsman to another. Chatting at the bench about the ways of working wood.



-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View lysdexic's profile


5348 posts in 3399 days

#9 posted 11-18-2011 07:26 PM

Not much to say but just to llet you know that I am enjoying the class and following along.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3431 days

#10 posted 11-18-2011 09:13 PM

Thanks Scott. Hope it’s helpful.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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