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Curly Maple Thicknessing Problem

3918 Views 11 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  teenagewoodworker
I just bought my first curly maple board for a new box project and was all excited. No matter how small a pass I take it through the planer I get horrible tearout. I have run some walnut and pine through and it is okay. Is this a common issue with the more open grain on the curly? Do I need a drum sander (Which I don't have) to thickness it without getting all the tearout? I could obviously get it close and then go at it with my belt sander and ROS, but I don't have the skills to get it perfectly parallel after that. It is an absolutely gorgeous piece of wood and I don't want to destroy it. Thoughts?
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sometimes if it gets tearout one direction you can rotate it and it should be okay. Curly maple is a pain to plane, so you may consider the drum sander. A local shop may have one you can buy time on. You could also trie running them through at an angle. You could also try using a card scraper to get the checks out.
Hey Gus
Unless you have a spiral head on your planner highly figured woods tend to have tear out. One thing you can do is to wet it down with a sponge before planning that should help a lot .Still take lite cuts. Plus the ideas Keith had.
I have also heard that some people lightly wet the wood before running through the planer. I can't speak from experience though.

edit: Jim beat me to it
I've also had this problem with the figured maple. If it's for a really nice project I put in brand new sharp planer blades and make shallow cuts. This usually works pretty good, work slow, if I still am getting some tear out I stop early and plan on a lot of sanding.
I don't have a thickness sander, i use a belt sander or by hand on small areas.
The water trick sounds cool, I'll have to give that a try…
Also try feeding it at an angle, if the board is not too big.
I use quite a bit of curly koa for my work, which has the same problem. Curly=end grain on the face as well as the ends, which accounts for all the problems. I have the General jointer with a spiral cutter and I have no problems with tear out. I know plenty of guys who have tried to mill curly koa with sickening results on a traditional jointer and in the thickness planer. Jack is right about taking shallow cuts and getting sharp knives on there. If you don't have a drum sander, it might be worth paying a millwork shop to plane that wood for you. Good luck…..
This was the original reason I bought a drum sander.
Get a drum sander….You will be happy you did.
i own a legacy and one thing it does well is plane highly figured wood. basically, build a level rail system for the router, use a bottoming bit and you can smooth the board as smooth as a baby's bottom. you will use it over and over once built.

look at this project to get an idea of what i am talking about.
you can build one out of wood instead

The original Power tools works extremely well for this… Muscle power. I.E. Handplanes then scrapers for the final finish.
figured woods are tough to plane. i've got some waterfall bubinga that i'm planing and its a bear and i'm sure your maple is not nearly as bad as this stuff. and the thing that makes the big difference is that before you run it through wet the surface with water. i've been taking about a 1/4 or a turn on each pass and an 1/8 of a turn on the finishing passes. but its that water that makes the difference.
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