Tumbling Blocks from a planer

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Project by SteveMI posted 10-01-2009 12:35 AM 5557 views 19 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I went to the lumber mill last week before fully thinking out the tumbling block project. I saw some 1 3/4” square stock in red oak, pine and cherry that somehow thought should work. After getting them home and figuring out the lost material of starting with that square size it was back to the drawing board. It made sense to rip the sticks in half. That then became a problem with the TS cutting that small of wood safely.

I don’t have an TS insert with zero clearance or a band saw.

So I decided to make a fixture to be used in a sled with the planer. I cut 5 forms from 1/4” plywood and used MDF separators to hold them vertical. My concern was that they were aligned down the sled. Total sled was 49” and width 12”. The MDF seperators were just 1/2” by 1/2” strips. Tightbond II and brad nailer were used.

Trimmed the board lengths to match the sled trusses and first passes through the planner brought the one side to 60 degrees. Then flipped the boards and planed until the thickness was the same across the parallel flat surfaces. Went really quick.

Glued up the sections and waited. After rough cleaning of the glue with a file, the log went back then through the planer on a MDF sled again to make the parallel side equal. For the sled I used another piece of MDF to minimize any snipe. I put a piece of hard rubber mat between the block log and MDF in order for the log to move the MDF with it through the planer.

Due to the smaller size of the blocks, I used the miter saw to cut the segments. I made a quick zero clearance fence for the saw and put a stop on one side to keep a consistent size. The stop was at 3/8” and worked well.

After hand sanding a dozen, a belt sander is getting higher on my list of things to get. Ended up with 37 blocks out of a 23” log. I have another log from the original material. Blocks are 1 11/16” across the opposing flat sides.

One key point is that the raw boards have to be no longer than the sled forms or they will tip under pressure from the planer rollers. (I didn’t lose any wood from this before I figured it out or any other excitement.)

Quite a few more pictures, but limited to six. Let me know if you need any more details.


Edit – I am baffled as to why the blocks look purple, they are still the unfinished natural colors.

-- Being sawdust or first surface awe are dependent on the tool kerf

22 comments so far

View Joe Weaver's profile

Joe Weaver

550 posts in 5183 days

#1 posted 10-01-2009 12:42 AM

great job,

-- Joe, Ga

View Greg Wurst's profile

Greg Wurst

798 posts in 5329 days

#2 posted 10-01-2009 01:20 AM

It’s Q-Bert!

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4767 days

#3 posted 10-01-2009 01:24 AM

Cool…very inventive process….weird color – was that from the camera…or is that what they really look like?

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View SteveMI's profile


1175 posts in 4791 days

#4 posted 10-01-2009 01:37 AM

The purple is only on the one picture. Must have been the battery going dead.

I have another picture, but am picture entry challenged.


-- Being sawdust or first surface awe are dependent on the tool kerf

View Karson's profile


35301 posts in 5897 days

#5 posted 10-01-2009 02:02 AM

Great blog. Nice engineering.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14193 posts in 5480 days

#6 posted 10-01-2009 03:00 AM

fun project posting

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 4782 days

#7 posted 10-01-2009 04:06 AM

That’s was interesting. Cool idea with the sled.

-- John @

View Innovator's profile


3589 posts in 4910 days

#8 posted 10-01-2009 04:21 AM

Looks beautiful

Nice work

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View degoose's profile


7287 posts in 4851 days

#9 posted 10-01-2009 07:27 AM

Great Plan.

-- Be safe.

View Terry's profile


211 posts in 5130 days

#10 posted 10-01-2009 04:11 PM

Nice tutorial. What is the end product going to be?

View SteveMI's profile


1175 posts in 4791 days

#11 posted 10-01-2009 06:45 PM

Tracy – Good question. I wanted to first see if I could make them and if they looked respectable. They were cut to 3/8” thickness for use as an inlay. I’m torn between a smaller table top or the famous cutting board.

Cutting board final surface finish would be a food grade compatible oil.

But if used as a table top inlay I need some suggestions on finish for blocks that will bring out the color differences. Woods are cherry, red oak and poplar. I have some cut offs for testing.

(I made a mistake in first post, it wasn’t pine, but poplar for the third wood.)


-- Being sawdust or first surface awe are dependent on the tool kerf

View degoose's profile


7287 posts in 4851 days

#12 posted 10-01-2009 10:10 PM

Danish oil would be a fine finish for a coffee table style project. Hard wearing and it brings out the color and grains beautifully and it is easy to repair if there is any makes made on it.

-- Be safe.

View SteveMI's profile


1175 posts in 4791 days

#13 posted 10-02-2009 06:51 PM

Motottoman – I overlooked making reference to “degoose” who started me on the concept. Check out his blog for a lot more key pointers before you start. My write up really starts after his information and only touches on using a planer for the angles.


-- Being sawdust or first surface awe are dependent on the tool kerf

View DannyBoy's profile


521 posts in 5362 days

#14 posted 10-05-2009 03:33 PM

Great job. I was inspired enough to try it myself to make a really cool looking cutting board. However, my guides didn’t come out the same.

I made them on the table saw with a dado blade tilted, taped and clamped the guides together (5 in all), and guided them through with the miter. Everything was flush, but I think the front board moved just enough to pull it off of the table by about a 16th of an inch. I think I’ll just end up scrapping those and starting the guides from scratch (or doing it the old fashioned way with a bandsaw).

Seriously great idea, Steve.


-- He said wood...

View OregonBurls's profile


585 posts in 4645 days

#15 posted 10-13-2009 06:38 PM

This is so cool I would not be able to do something like that. Wow!

-- Greg, Southern Oregon, What can I say but God Is Good!

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