Jointing 8 foot long boards with handplanes

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Forum topic by Dave11 posted 05-02-2013 09:18 PM 7665 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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33 posts in 3050 days

05-02-2013 09:18 PM

So I’m continuing to learn to true and joint lumber using only handplanes. Have been practicing on the 8 foot long 2×4s of SYP I’m planning to use for my new benchtop.

Some of these have a slight crook in them, which I’m knocking down now, to be sure the indidual pieces will have the thickness I need for the benchtop. Since the pieces will be glued face to face, a crook will potentially interfere with the thickness down the road once glued up.

But it seems to be quite a challenge to joint the edge of a board 8 feet long with handplanes, the biggest problem being having to check it with a straight edge nearly that long, as I learned early that the 4 foot long straightedge could mislead me if I just moved it along the edge in sections.

So I made a good straight edge out of 3/8 inch plywood, 8 feet long, that could stand on its own, letting me step back and see the entire length at once. This made it much easier, though then the problem seems to be finding a light source that will show through the fairly thick joint made by the plywood edge, over such a long distance all at once.

Am curious how the experienced hand tools people would approach this process. I’ve been considering abandoning the straightedge altogether, and just setting my jointer plane for increasing thicknesses of cut, and planing until I get a continuous shaving, though I tried a few times and seemed to be taking off too much wood, without necessarily getting it flatter.

Thanks for any suggestions.

10 replies so far

View KnotRight's profile


2 posts in 2335 days

#1 posted 05-02-2013 10:08 PM

YouTube has a few demonstrations.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3433 days

#2 posted 05-02-2013 10:20 PM

Mark a straight line on the edge of the board and plane to that line. Also, there’s no need to get them perfect because after the glue-up stage you’ll probably have to re-plane them all a bit.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

335 posts in 2530 days

#3 posted 05-02-2013 10:22 PM

An edge that long I can site along without a straightedge. And I wear glasses!

That said, for short straightness I do find it helpful to lay a framing square on it then see how I can bend or pivot the square, not bothering with the light band. The longer straightness still is visible by siting.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View Dave11's profile


33 posts in 3050 days

#4 posted 05-02-2013 11:26 PM

Are there peole who can get an 8-foot board edge perfectly flat by sight alone? Flat as in perfectly matching an 8-foot straightedge? I’m not saying there aren’t, but I’d be really impressed to see that in person. At this point, I still need the straightedge.

I probably am trying to get them straighter than they need to be, but it’s a learning exercise as well.

Drawing the line makes sense, should have thought of that.

But for my own education—if using a jointer plane with a thick cut, shouldn’t it be possible (in theory) to remove a slight crook with a single cut, with no need for lines or straightedges, if you could muscle it through? Assuming your jointer is flat of course….

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4129 days

#5 posted 05-02-2013 11:42 PM

Generally I would spring such a joint using planes.

You can put a tack in one end of the board, put a loop
in a piece of string and pull it tight to the other end.
If you put the board on its side and pull the string
hard you’ll get a pretty good idea of straightness.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19314 posts in 3049 days

#6 posted 05-03-2013 12:10 AM

I agree with Dave. I can sight it. If you need help, snap a chalk line about 3/4” down to give a straight reference.

I also agree with Brandon though, don’t worry about getting perfect, you’ll have more work to do after.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16186 posts in 3100 days

#7 posted 05-03-2013 02:30 AM

Dave, jointing the edge of an 8’ board is important to the piece it’s matching up to.

Board 2 is jointed and fixed in the bench. Joint it by sight, then check this way: Board 1 is set on top of Board 2 with the ‘matched’ edges together; look for light. Remove high spots, plane, repeat until it’s all gone.

Sorry if you know this, just trying to offer methods.

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

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

335 posts in 2530 days

#8 posted 05-09-2013 10:35 PM

It also helps to “book” the pieces I want to join so squareness is automatically taken care of. Hold them like Smitty says then open them like a book face to face. Clamp them face to face and site down length. Sometimes I’ll try to bend a framing square like a scraper to see if it’s bowed concave or convex. This picks up very small out of straight. When I do those things its “good enough” and I get perfect glue lines as far as I can tell.

I heard story about a person who was asked why she keeps the old housekeeper around although she is half blind and she replies, “She leaves dirt behind because she cannot see it anymore. And I cannot see anymore either.”

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View Buckethead's profile


3195 posts in 2350 days

#9 posted 05-10-2013 12:59 AM

Having never undertaken such a project, I probably shouldn’t chime in, but in the spirit of offering what i have, here goes.

If I had two dimensionally identical boards, with a similar crown (both bowed one half inch, for instance) and the intention joining them face to face, I would do so by joining them with the similar crowns in opposite orientations (one board smiling, the other board frowning) which would then bring them closer to being straight by joining them (nailing, screwing, gluing and clamping) and flushing up the edges, starting at one end.. This is a method used in framing when constructing a build up post. Now having twenty 2x’s glued together and needing to be planed to a flat surface might pose it’s own problem, but it seems that would be the final step anyway.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Rxmpo's profile


269 posts in 4227 days

#10 posted 05-10-2013 02:36 AM

I agree that you shouldn’t drive yourself crazy trying to get the boards perfectly true for a face gluing application that you are only going to have to relatten after glue up. Not worth that effeort. The more imortant joint is the face joints are tight. Once you have gone a few boards in, the whole operation is going to need some reworking to get back to flat. Save your energy! I made my bench out of 2×4’s and glued in 3 sections before finally gluing all together. Then reflattened the top once again. Lots of work and have already reflattened the top again since was completed. They are 2×4’s…so not exactly beech but works for me and I hope works for you. Good luck!

PS- Let me know if you need anything. I will be happy to provide pics or thoughts based on my experiences…Not an expert, but once you have done this once, you always learn what you would do different in the future. Hence why first bench was made with 2×4’s!

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