Flattening wide long boards

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Forum topic by Luke posted 12-15-2010 04:05 PM 3246 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Luke's profile


546 posts in 4300 days

12-15-2010 04:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane flatten large panel panel glue up scraper

So I glued up about 5 boards to make a 48×20” panel out of red oak. 3/4” thick. I did plane down my boards before glue up and made sure to glue them so that there were not step ups going from one board to the next. Once glued up there was a slight bow in the panel from side to side (maybe 1/64” total bow). I am limited on tools for doing this job so I pulled out my Lie Nielsen smoothing plane to smooth out the top and bottom. Man am I having a hard time with it. I’ve got my straight edge out and trying to hit only the high spots and work my way down to the low while trying to keep everything uniform. I also don’t want to make the board uneven as in 3/4” thick in some spots and more or less in others. It took me almost and hour with my smoother and a card scraper to get the one side looking really good. It was making me sweat in 40 degree weather in my shop! I realize I probably should use a large planer or sander or a number 7 or higher jointer plane but hey, I just don’t own anything that large and still want to create these larger pieces.

Anyhow, just thought I’d throw this out there and see what you all would do differently with the same setup. Also just wanted to hear that other people have the same problems and that I am not alone in this aspect and being a complete idiot.


-- LAS,

10 replies so far

View dbray45's profile


3401 posts in 3783 days

#1 posted 12-15-2010 05:32 PM

Jointer plane helps a lot. The idea is that the longer and straighter the plane, the flatter the piece. It is a lot of work but when you are done, it is a job you can be proud of.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3977 days

#2 posted 12-15-2010 07:14 PM

A jack plane with an agressive grind on the iron might have done in one stroke what the smoother would do in three or four strokes. Of course you would still have to come back and smooth after the jack. And, when you take big cuts with a jack or fore plane and make a bad stroke you have a bigger mess to clean up; so maybe a lot of little cuts with a smoother is not all bad. An article in FWW’s most recent issue discusses the advantage of the low angle jack. Got me to thinking I really want one of those. Of course, that’s what those articles are supposed to do, I guess. Mostly makes me think I need a wide drum sander.

View TheDane's profile


5939 posts in 4669 days

#3 posted 12-15-2010 07:46 PM

Crank is right about using a jack plane. You can do more damage than you had to start out with.

Sounds like you need a #7 jointer plane. Mine is a ‘vintage’ Stanley (about 100 years old … eBay special) that I fitted out with a Hock blade and chip breaker. Glides across the work like glass, and takes whispy-thin shavings. I then followup with a #3 or #4 smoother and finish with a card scraper.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4180 days

#4 posted 12-15-2010 07:49 PM

At 3pm, I’ll be at a local cabinet shop, so they can run my workbench top through their wide belt sander, for twenty-five bucks ;-)

I did do a little digging, on the subject. The most common options discussed were:

- the jointer plane
- rip along glue lines, run through drum sander/planer, and glue-up again
- build a router planing jig, and use a straight bit … and a lot of time

I erred, when I did my bench top glue-up. I got glue-line slip despite cauls and lots of clamps. In cases like this, I should use biscuits or dowels, solely for their alignment.

Good luck !

-- -- Neil

View DrDirt's profile


4615 posts in 4748 days

#5 posted 12-15-2010 07:51 PM

I would contact a local cabinet shop and ask about running it through their belt sander…be done in 30 seconds and back to work.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View DrDirt's profile


4615 posts in 4748 days

#6 posted 12-15-2010 07:52 PM

Man Neil and I are sharing vibes or something!

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 4793 days

#7 posted 12-16-2010 04:04 AM


My first thought when I am only out 1/64th and its a wide panel is where it will finally go and how am I attaching it. If when attaching it I can take out the bow, I let it be. Once in place it will normalize to the constraints.

When I do have to work up the sweat (and I definitely know what you are saying there). I use a piece of sidewalk chalk that I cajoled from my neighbor’s kids (they have a bucket of them), These things are 6” long by about 1” diameter and are available at Walmart, etc. I mark the high spots by swiping the chalk on its side to give me a more visual reference (Note: if you use this stuff, stay away from any of the red colors. With a bit of sweat they can dye the wood DAMHIKT!!. I use the blue or yellow). I plane away the chalk and then recheck, rechalk, repeat, etc.

Its not the fastest process, but I am known for being old and slow so my reputation isn’t damaged any by it. It has enable me to flatten large surfaces with shorter planes without getting too far out of whack and causing me a lot more work to true up the results of my going too far.

I do have a #6 and #7 now, but this served me well before, and I still use this method. Also keeps track of where i was when interrupted in the middle of the process.

When done, any chalk residue easily wipes off with a damp rag.


PS: One experience that led to me using this method was when I started with a 1 1/2” thick board that was twisted about 1/8” and bowed about the same. When finally finished I ended up with a flat board, but it was only about 5/8 thick!! Had a 32 gal garbage can almost full of shavings that should have been still on the board. Knew there had to be a better way!

-- Go

View Kevin's profile


508 posts in 4211 days

#8 posted 12-16-2010 05:57 AM

I’d use the belt sander also, very easy. You could even use a small belt sander that you use by hand, just have to be careful with it. Also when you attach it you need to take into consideration of wood movement. I don’t think it really moves much if you seal it on all the edges though, could be wrong on that.

-- Williamsburg, KY

View twiceisnice's profile


95 posts in 3833 days

#9 posted 12-16-2010 07:25 AM

find somebody with a wide belt sander
or stroke sander

View dbray45's profile


3401 posts in 3783 days

#10 posted 12-16-2010 03:28 PM

When I did my kitchen counters, I pinned the boards with piano soundboard pins (bronzed steel pins) after hand jointing the edges. I put every board together dry, put a straight edge across the face, and showed no light through any of the joints. There was still slight slippage and a little bowing.

I used a jointer plane to flatten, using very shallow cuts, its much easier to use the weight of the plane to work for you. Once I got close to flat, I used a cabinet scarper to clean up the light cut marks of the jointer then checked accross, the biases, and the length for flat. I did this three times over each of the countertops. If you get too aggresive you will work as a pendulium and starting with 8/4, you finish with 1/2.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

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