Flattening work bench top. What I'm a doing wrong

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Forum topic by trevor7428 posted 02-09-2017 04:47 AM 4122 views 0 times favorited 37 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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266 posts in 1875 days

02-09-2017 04:47 AM

Ill try to add as much info as possible.

I’m trying to flatten a workbench top I made out of 2×6 from H.D. (Douglas fir). I first used my jointer and planner to get lumber flat/ square and all the same dimensions. I glued the end grain together, to make a top Approx 24” x 6’ using 5, 2×6’s. I glued all pieces together at one time.

Since I don’t have a planner that big, I wanted to use my stanly sweetheart low angle jack plane. I used my work sharp 3000 to put a mirror finish on the 25 degree bevel and lapped the back the mirror finish as well. Then honed a micro bevel at 30 degrees. (There is no camber). I believe the frog is at 12 degrees.

I have the mouth open as far as it will go and only taking a little cut. (Blade barely visable when sighting down the sole)

When I start to flatten I started 90 +/- 10 degrees to the grain. All is well, but when I start to cut diagnally is when the problems start. (Don’t even get me started about planning with the grain)

Anyways when trying to flatten this bench, one second ill get nice thin shaving. Then it gouges into the wood and I’m getting huge chip out. Not tear out but chip out. Unfortunately the grain is going all over the place and knots every which way. Nothing I seem to do can resolve this chipout issue. I’ve tried closing the mouth for finner shaving, rehoning the blade.

New to hand tools/ trying to learn and fresh out of ideas.

-- Thank You Trevor OBrion

37 replies so far

View Woodknack's profile


13520 posts in 3294 days

#1 posted 02-09-2017 04:53 AM

You just learned an important lesson about wood selection and aligning grain direction. Not being a smart ass, we all go through it. I know that different blade angles can help but someone more familiar with that will fill you in. I just always did my best with the planes I have, taking small shavings and working from different directions.

-- Rick M,

View bigblockyeti's profile


6837 posts in 2635 days

#2 posted 02-09-2017 04:59 AM

A higher angle (probably higher than you can achieve with a LA jack) and a tight mouth will help but the grain is going to fight you pretty good it sounds like. Is there anyone with a wide planer or belt/drum sander that you could get to run it through for you?

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Johnny7's profile


506 posts in 2005 days

#3 posted 02-09-2017 05:14 AM

To change the effective cutting angle of a bevel up, low-angle plane, you must change the angle at which the blade is ground/honed.

To combat tearout or reversing grain, a higher bedding angle is used. This is precisely why York pitch frogs exist.

changing the frog is not an option on a LA jack, and so to change the blade pitch, you simply change the grind angle.

moving the chipbreaker closer to the edge of the iron is a time-tested method of defeating tear-out, but again, there is no chipbreaker on a bevel up plane.

Lastly, be sure you’re not skewing the plane—this serves only to further reduce the effective cutting angle.

To sum up: your plane, as currently configured, is best suited to end grain work. To conquer the problem you currently have, you need a higher angle

EDIT TO ADD: I see bigblockyeti posted while I was composing my wordy response

View TheFridge's profile


10861 posts in 2400 days

#4 posted 02-09-2017 05:19 AM

Camber the iron. All the irons on my bench planes have some camber and the edges of the iron relieved so it doesn’t make tracks.

I’d vote for higher angle. Especially since LA planes don’t have a chip breaker. A well tuned chipbreaker can eliminate most tearout.

I’d say maybe get it to where it’s just a bit of tearout here or there which won’t matter anyway because it should come off with jointing and smoothing. After roughing and taking the wind out of the is any.

Edit: there’s probably nothing you couldn’t do with the LAJ but at this stage it may be tedious especially if it’s your only plane and with only one iron. The versatility of a LAJ lies with being able to swap out irons with different angles rather quickly because there is no cap iron to set.

Whether or not, I’d still recommend a #4 regardless and a #7 if your bench is longer than 4’

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1663 days

#5 posted 02-09-2017 02:20 PM

Take a different approach. Put it on the table saw and cut it in half lengthwise. Run the halves through your planer till flat, then glue it back together. Use cauls when gluing, and use biscuits for help with alignment. Pat self on back and quit worrying about frog angles.

View Aj2's profile


3498 posts in 2712 days

#6 posted 02-09-2017 02:40 PM

Douglas fir with knots is impossible to handplane.

-- Aj

View BurlyBob's profile


8014 posts in 3180 days

#7 posted 02-09-2017 02:46 PM

What AJ said!

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3211 days

#8 posted 02-09-2017 03:25 PM

“Unfortunately the grain is going all over the place and knots every which way” – you answered your own question. I’d put another sacrificial surface of some kind of plywood on what you already have.

View a1Jim's profile


118144 posts in 4491 days

#9 posted 02-09-2017 03:36 PM

It’s more than just the flattening process if you’re using construction grade material your wood will move all over the place as it drys plus Doug fir is hard to plane and next to impossible if still wet.


View WillliamMSP's profile


1108 posts in 2519 days

#10 posted 02-09-2017 03:37 PM

Cutting with a low angle is great for stuff like end grain, but can be problematic against the grain (or with switching grain) and is the reason that LV and LN have multiple blades for their LAJs.

A no-money solution may be to put a steeper microbevel on your existing blade – it shouldn’t take too much work, but the downside is a lot of grinding should you ever want to take that blade back down to 25° Otherwise, you could look in to buying a higher angle blade and/or a toothed blade.

This HWW video on the LN LAJ may offer some insight (jump to 2:30 or so for the relevant bits) -

View on YouTube

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View RogerM's profile


807 posts in 3313 days

#11 posted 02-09-2017 03:40 PM

What you have described is one of the reasons that you use good, dry, straight grain hardwood (maple, beech, birch) for a nice flat workbench. It sounds like you have a decent workbench for doing a lot of things but it will never be consistently flat and true which is quite acceptable for doing a lot of things in a workshop. Putting forth effort to flatten a work surface made with construction grade lumber and keeping it flat is futile and a waste of time.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View Robert's profile


4148 posts in 2395 days

#12 posted 02-09-2017 03:56 PM

Jim brings up a good point. With some kinds of lumber getting it flat is one thing, keeping it flat is something else. Using construction lumber with 20%MC is not a good formula.

William also. You might try re-bevelling your iron to get it in the 50° range, but if you have gnarly wood grain especially around knots, its going to be a pita.

I’m going to suggest an alternative, kind of radical approach: rip all the boards apart down the glue lines and start over. Rip them down to 2 1/2 inches wide and glue faces together (you may need to buy some more lumber). IOW the edges of the boards will become the top. This will give you a thicker top plus make flattening easier because you’re not planing face grain.

Glue them up in 2 or 3 pieces wide enough to fit your planer. After planing, glue the 3 pieces together.

This time be sure to have all the grain orientations the same and the process may go better.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View trevor7428's profile


266 posts in 1875 days

#13 posted 02-09-2017 04:28 PM

Thanks everyone for the reply. Normally I would glue two pieces at a time or until 12 to 13 inch wide. Run both 13” sections threw planer then glue up the two halves.

The reason I didn’t, is because I want to get more experienced with hand planes. Good to know Douglas fir is hard to plane for everyone and not just me. (Even tho, they have been air dried in my garage for almost 2 months, so not wet)

Like I said, I want to get into hand planes more. So with a bigger tax return then expected I went all out and I purchased Veritas BU #4 smooth plane with 50 degree blade and Veritas low angle jack with 50 degree blade. Then plan on selling my sweetheart after new planes arrive.

I wanted to get a bevel down plane, but from what I can tell. Veritas bevel down planes can’t adjust blade while planing like the Stanley’s can.

My thing is, i want a plane that doesn’t need hours of work. Which is why I choose Veritas.

If anyone refers a different bevel down plane with normal Baileys style adjuster with same quality as Veritas. I’m interested.

Oh, I also bought the Veritas router plane (large) and medium shoulder plane. (All planes purchased where PM-V11 blades.

-- Thank You Trevor OBrion

View WillliamMSP's profile


1108 posts in 2519 days

#14 posted 02-09-2017 04:34 PM

If anyone refers a different bevel down plane with normal Baileys style adjuster with same quality as Veritas. I m interested.

- trevor7428

Lie-Nielsen bench planes are based on Stanley Bedrocks.

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View MikeB_UK's profile


163 posts in 1949 days

#15 posted 02-09-2017 04:43 PM

Right, construction lumber, something I can answer for once :)

Short strokes, plane into the knots, and don’t go past them or, as you find, you get huge chips tearing out.

For the really gnarly bits you really want a toothing plane and card scraper.

However as you are using constuction lumber I’m guessing you are broke like me :-
So get a cheap saw, ideally fairly fine toothed (20 TPI gents saw), clamp it between a couple of bits of wood so just the ends of the teeth are showing and, hey presto, instant toothing plane.

This can now scratch down the surface, doesn’t matter about grain direction or knots, you can then either smooth out the teeth marks with a freshly sharpened plane or a card scraper.

-- If I say I'll fix something around the house I will, there is no use nagging about it every 6 months.

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