Walnut slab / Hand Plane Flattening?

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Forum topic by rhybeka posted 08-29-2018 07:27 PM 1280 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4753 posts in 3722 days

08-29-2018 07:27 PM

Hi All!

This might not be the right forum so forgive me if I should have put this somewhere else. I was able to score a nice 2-2 1/2 in thick walnut slab that’s about 7 feet long and 20 inches wide. I’m going to use for a desk. It’s pretty darn flat, but you can tell it’s basically straight off the sawmill. I want to make it smooth enough that a mouse can be used and notes can be taken. Doesn’t have to be glass smooth. I was thinking about which hand plane would be best to hit it with first? I’m not sure I should start with a scrub since it’s really not that rough, but maybe a jointer/#7? not sure if that’s a good option with walnut as this is the first time I’ve worked it. any hints?

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

20 replies so far

View JADobson's profile


1448 posts in 2712 days

#1 posted 08-29-2018 07:40 PM

#7 sounds like a good plan. If it is going to slow you could move to a jack and then back to the jointer. If the jack is too slow move to the scrub then back to the jack and then the jointer. Sounds like its going to be quite the desk. Good luck.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View Aj2's profile


2645 posts in 2399 days

#2 posted 08-29-2018 08:31 PM

A #7 jointer plane is really long,
It will definitely do it but your going to drive yourself crazy. My longest plane is a fore plane and it will make a table very flat, just used it on my workbench this weekend and it’s pretty darn flat now.
I would suggest a Jack with bevel down so you can set the chip breaker close.

Jointer plane for making long jointed edges.

-- Aj

View bandit571's profile


24343 posts in 3284 days

#3 posted 08-29-2018 09:30 PM

Beka: I have a 5-1/2, a #6c, a #7c, and a #8 that you are welcome to borrow.

Fore planes go at a diagonal to the length….go all the way in one direction, come back with the diagonal the opposite direction…then with the grain the length of the board. The 5-1/2 or the #6c would do this sort of work…..the final pass with the grain can be the #7 , or the #8….and clean up any trouble spots with a #3 or #4…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View rhybeka's profile


4753 posts in 3722 days

#4 posted 08-30-2018 02:55 PM

Hm. I have a #5 set up as a smoother I could maybe make work… That or I may have to see what else in my arsenal that I can get to that would be worthwhile. most of my sharpening stuff is packed for the move out to the shop. The slab is sitting on my back patio on two saw horses currently covered with a tarp to protect from rain. only other concern is keeping it on the sawhorses once I start traversing it with the plane :D

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View Robert's profile


3598 posts in 2082 days

#5 posted 08-30-2018 04:07 PM

I would start with a 5 or 6 w/ slightly cambered iron.

Start perpendicular and go to 45° strokes until you’ve got it checking frequently with winding stick all along the length – not just on each end. Learned that lesson already :-0

Jointer until you’re ready to clean it up.

Watch the grain direction it can be going every which way on a board that wide. ;-)

Moisture is an issue with slabs. If your shop is not climate controlled, I recommend holding in stickers inside your house. It will probably move some so you’ll have to repeat the flattening once or twice until its stabilized.

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

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3899 days

#6 posted 08-30-2018 04:15 PM

I wouldn’t go nuts trying to get it absolutely flat. I’d aim for “flat enough”, which is a lot less work. Start with a jack plane and work up to a jointer plane. I’d use my #7.

View Woodknack's profile


13002 posts in 2981 days

#7 posted 08-30-2018 04:28 PM

If you have a 4 set up for rougher work that would be fine too. The length is secondary to having an open mouth because going across the grain will remove wood fast. Traverse planing on sawhorses sounds frustrating. Maybe you can chock the legs cement blocks or something.

-- Rick M,

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 3234 days

#8 posted 08-30-2018 04:39 PM

I’d probably throw a belt sander into the mix.

View OSU55's profile


2494 posts in 2590 days

#9 posted 08-30-2018 04:48 PM

Helps to list what you have available. A 5 will work , even a 4, in experienced hands. Just takes longer due to shorter length. The longer planes do better at letting you know where hi surfaces are relative to surfaces further away. A good straightedge will do the same to guide you to the high spots over a larger area of the surface.

I would use a straightedge and 7 to find the hi spots, then a shorter plane to work flat. No hard rules. Grain type and direction can dictate a certain length plane for different areas – you dont want tear out deep enough that you have to lower the whole surface to get rid of it. Start slow, thinner cuts vs hog cuts, adjust your plane as needed to limit tear out and gain confidence in the process. Not the fastest but less likely to create extra work.

View Aj2's profile


2645 posts in 2399 days

#10 posted 08-30-2018 05:22 PM

Isn’t a jointing plane for making long straight edges. I just can imagine trying to flatin a slab with one.
My longest plane is fore plane after I get everything close with it I go straight to my smoother.
It can take a long time 6 to 8 hours much is just sharpening.
The thicker the slab the better since it will not bend under pressure but there still need to be a good support under. esp the outermost corners.
What say the experts?

-- Aj

View bandit571's profile


24343 posts in 3284 days

#11 posted 08-30-2018 08:56 PM

Sounds like the slab IS already flat…just needs either skip-planed marks removed, or the ripple marks from a bandsaw mill or a wide planer removed?

Longest plane you have, with as little camber as you can ( corners of the iron only) and start making trips down the length of the slab….WITH the grain. Short smoothers (#3 and #4) to smooth up any trouble spots, like around any knots, if any. Rub your hand across to locate any rough areas left. When the hand likes an area, leave that area alone.

A clamp at a corner of the slab to hold it to a sawhorse…..switch the clamps when other areas are done…with a scrap of plywood under the clamp’s pad. Then work on the areas there used to be clamped down.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

1234 posts in 2835 days

#12 posted 08-30-2018 09:04 PM

I, somehow, ended up with a Steve Knight 30” razee jointer. I practiced with it for a couple of days before I used it in conjunction with other planes. It did the job on two large table tops. It took whisper shavings and an oh so smooth finish. I used it on another table a couple of years ago and due to getting older and no tables in the future I guess I’ll stick it up on the mantle.

-- Jerry

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1500 days

#13 posted 08-30-2018 09:10 PM

Sounds like a lot of work.
Bring it over and we’ll run it through my wide belt. :)

View rhybeka's profile


4753 posts in 3722 days

#14 posted 08-30-2018 11:18 PM

Thanks for the tips everybody!

Bandit is right it’s not horribly rough, just need to remove the saw marks. It’s a bit like a bowl – I ran around a #3 on it and got some of the dirt off.

As to my arsenal, i’ve got a #7,#5,#4 or 3, router plane,#45, and an #81 scraper. Oh and two block planes.

@JB are you in Cbus??

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View Aj2's profile


2645 posts in 2399 days

#15 posted 08-30-2018 11:33 PM

Good looking slab of walnut you got there. There just one possible problem is see it looks like your slab still has the “girlfriend” or the center of the tree. I would advise you cut out that middle right where the crack is and join it back together.
I did some reading and found many do like to start with a jointer plane to knock down high spots.
I also read that jointer planes are prone to warping since they have so much mass. Some find them unusable for fine edge work if they develop a twist or hollow in the sole.
So good luck with your project and keep us posted.

-- Aj

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