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Can you "true" a small piece on a router table if it has no reference faces?

2663 Views 38 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  Nubsnstubs
I've got some 3/4" x 3/4" x 5" scraps of exotics I'd like to true up. They were cut on a bandsaw and all have at least some good (i.e. reasonably stable, not tippy or wobbly) sides but no "true" sides. I though I'd be able to true them up with a hand plane but that is not going so well.

I have a benchtop router table with an offsetable fence. I know some people "joint" at the router table. Can I do that on these pieces or do I first need a genuine reference face to run along the top of the table? Or will a merely stable face suffice?
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It sounds like you don't have a jointer, so I suppose the next best thing would be a router table. If that's the case, make sure you have as little gap as possible, and where the bit comes up through the table close that up also. Use a push stick, route one side, and then true it up on the table saw if you have one.
If you have a table saw, get some two sided tape, and tape your wood to the edge of a straight board. Run it through the saw. Do that for all pieces. When done, set the fence up for the size you need and put the trued side up against it, make your cut, then rotate it to the next edge and repeat until all sides are straight.
Better yet, make yourself a "Poor Man's Jointer". That is a piece of wood that has been cut leaving a dog leg at one end. You would use this dog leg thing as a stop to endex your small piece so you can push the wood through safely. Do one side only with the PMJ, and finish by the instruction from the above paragraph..
If you choose to do it this way, thank me after you're done if you don't get hurt….... ......... Jerry (in Tucson)
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Even if I did have a jointer I wouldn't run a 5" long piece over it!

Do you think I'm OK on the router table even though the face that will be riding against the table top isn't true?

If so: can I just use it to "true" the adjacent face after I've done the first edge?
No, I do not think you will be OK. There are a couple of bad things that could happen including trimming you fingernails and throwing that 5" piece a long ways.

I would look at making a jig to hold the pieces on the router table and then use a fence with a very small opening for the bit and then take extremely small passes.
What are you going to use those blanks for? The dimensions are like pen blanks. If you are going to turn them, I really don't think the need trued up. Just get a center on each end and turn away.
I'm NOT going to turn them. They are going into a box making project.
I don't think it should be impossible to true them up with a handplane. However what about a table saw?
It doesn't seem to be working well with the handplanes I own. As for the table saw, there are two problems: very small size and not one true face to begin working with.
There are countless sad stories about small bits of timber and machinery. Now is the time to find out why your hand plane won't do the job.
You maybe could hot melt glue your pieces to a flat board a couple inches longer and slightly wider than the piece you are truing. Glue equal size runners on each end of the flat board, on the same side as the piece you are truing but slightly thicker.

Set the bit just high enough to touch the piece you want trued and work it back and forth until flat.

Or if your router is portable glue your pieces to a flat surface and mount your router to a board with runners.
When lumber is first milled, there isn't a truely flat surface on it until the first cut. After that, it's cut and rotated until the tree can no longer produce any more lumber.
Since you have small pieces, set up you saw, put the concave side againt the fence, push it through with a pushstick until you complete the cleanup on one side. Turn it over 90°, with the fresh cut side down and repeat, keeping in mind to keep the concave side up against the fence. After cutting two adjoining sides, move the fence to get a cleanup cut on the other 2 sides. This information comes with over 40 years of wood working experience.
You seem to be afraid of your equipment and are trying to make a simple operation harder by trying to use a tool that shouldn't be used for what you are trying to do.
As my name implies, I do have some missing parts, but have never been cut cutting small items. Jerry (in Tucson)
One would never attempt to do what you are recommending on the table saw with a large piece - so why is it OK to do with a small piece?
Trimming small pieces on a router table or saw is extremely dangerous because it usually involves have your hands close to spinning bits or blades plus the danger of the small piece being thrown back at you at a high rate of speed .
My first suggestion would be don't do it. It's better to waste some material than get hurt. If you insist on trying to true this material up there are a a few tricks to make the operation safer but still not my first recommendation.
One method that has been suggested is hot glue but that's still ify a little safer route is to have a clamp or carrier board like the illustrations below

Rectangle Parallel Slope Diagram Plan

Wood Font Lipstick Liquid Cosmetics


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I would just true it up on the belt sander
"I would just true it up on the belt sander"
Ding! We have a winner!

Seriously, I've done this plenty of times with small pieces I didn't feel too comfortable using power tools on.
In fact, my usual method is using psa sandpaper on a piece of plywood or something flat and just sanding until flat.
That does sound like a good idea. Unfortunately, a stationary belt sander is another thing I don't have in my shop; and I have dozens to do, many of them very dense species, so if there was a way to avoid sanding them by hand at this stage I'd like to find it.
You could use the router, but your offsetting fence needs to be able to support the piece very close to your straight blade bit.which has to be able to cut the full face of the side being cut. Offset the fence just a fraction and use it just like a jointer. Most router tables have holes to screw wood for fence extensions onto it so you can get the fence as close as possible.
What would you use for a bit? I was thinking of either a spiral or a double flute straight bit, largest diameter possible.
I agree with 1aJim above! No need to waste pieces like that though! Donate them to someone who turns pens for the Freedom Pen Project and then buy yourself some usable, safer, lumber to use for your project! It will only take a nick from that router or saw blade to make you regret an unsafe act!
HF has a 4×36 belt sander that will work on small pieces PLUS you could convert it to a sharpening system for chisels, plane blades, lathes tools, etc… All for roughly $100. You cannot beat the price.
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