Getting a perfectly flat edge without a jointer

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Forum topic by Ivoryavatar posted 08-03-2017 09:04 PM 991 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 903 days

08-03-2017 09:04 PM

Topic tags/keywords: edge table saw straight

I just started my woodworking journey. I apologize that I am a complete beginner and for asking dumb questions. However, I am stuck on my first project and I need help.

I am simply trying to build a box with mitered corners. When I first went to rip my board to the proper width, I noticed that when I held the straight edge against the board edge, it wasn’t perfectly flat, there were small gaps (between 1/16” and 1/32”) between the straight edge and the board edge.

My question is, should a board edge be perfectly flat and smooth after just the table saw? If not, what do I need to do in order to get it perfectly flat? I’ve looked at various hand planes, but I’m not sure which one would be best. I don’t have the room for a jointer in my “shop” yet. Is it simply a matter of the type of saw blade you use? Or do all boards need to be smoothed after being ripped? Any help would be much appreciated.

9 replies so far

View buckbuster31's profile


256 posts in 1122 days

#1 posted 08-03-2017 09:11 PM

if you are talking about the edge you can build a straight edge jig with toggle clamps. you can also use a straight edge or a board you know is straight and screw it on (if you can hide holes) or hot glue it on. just an option though.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16339 posts in 3225 days

#2 posted 08-03-2017 10:05 PM

The board you ripped needs to have a straight edge to register against the fence to get a clean result. And not pushing the piece through properly (straight, with even pace) can result in a bad cut edge. Oh, and the fence may not be perfectly parallel to the saw blade.

How long is the piece you’re trying to rip? That will have an impact on the plane that might be used to flatten it’s cut edge. But moving to hand tools to solve this problem may not be the best thing to do ‘first’.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4254 days

#3 posted 08-03-2017 10:07 PM

While it’s possible to rip relatively straight
parallel edges if you start with a straight
edge from the lumberyard, wood moves
subsequent to lumberyard straight-lining
and also can move due to released internal
tension when ripped to width. The jointer
really is the go-to machine for straightening
edges reliably, but lacking one you can
try using a jack plane (a common 14” long
size), a router guided by a reliable straight-edge,
or coarse sandpaper taped to a flat surface.

A router table with a long fence can also be
easily built and set up for “jointing” boards
up to about 2” wide.

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2602 days

#4 posted 08-03-2017 10:55 PM

There can be a lot of reasons for what you are seeing. Is your straight edge actually straight? It may have 1/32” of wave in it, even if it is straight on average.

If your cut is bowed in or out (concave or convex) over the length of the board, then that has to do with either your technique (holding it to the fence), or the straightness of the other edge of the board (if it is not straight, and you hold the board consistently against the fence, a table saw will match the curve).

If your board is generally straight over the length, but wavy (meaning you could see light through it against the straight edge), then it could be that your straight edge has little waves in it, or your board has them. If they are in the board it could be from the blade itself wobbling, or you could be pulling it away from the fence a tiny little bit as you push it through the saw.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Woodknack's profile


13017 posts in 2987 days

#5 posted 08-03-2017 11:50 PM

Is the face flat?

-- Rick M,

View Vindex's profile


93 posts in 1429 days

#6 posted 08-04-2017 02:51 AM

View Dustin's profile


706 posts in 1347 days

#7 posted 08-04-2017 11:42 AM

+1 to Loren’s suggestions, particularly the router table one. I went years without a jointer, so when I had to joint an edge for glue-ups, I used my router table. Mine is just the top from a Kreg bench top model, but the fence allows you to optionally offset the outfeed side by either 1/32” or 1/16”. I wouldn’t recommend it for large pieces, but it worked just fine for me for anything under around 30”.

Of course, now that I have a jointer, I like to set it to take off just a hair, and clean up most of my rip cuts on it just because…probably too many years of wathcing Norm!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View hotbyte's profile


1001 posts in 3582 days

#8 posted 08-04-2017 11:56 AM

I have been using a #5-1/2 after ripping boards and it was amazing to see the high spots coming off until I got one long, continuous shaving. I recently picked up a #7 from DonW’s TimeTestedTools site (highly recommend BTW) and it takes off even more high spots. I’m still working on techniques to not end up with hump in middle or slopes on ends but am getting better :)

View Vindex's profile


93 posts in 1429 days

#9 posted 08-04-2017 01:17 PM

Stupid autocorrect on my phone made me look illiterate…. It should say, “Take a look at this method:”

In all seriousness, the linked method works. My technique on the table saw is far from perfect, however, so I hand plane the edges whenever I need a super-straight edge.

Take a look at the method:

- Vindex

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