My laminations suck, am I cheating or just new?

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Forum topic by Michael Wilson posted 10-27-2013 03:07 PM 2266 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3552 days

10-27-2013 03:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question maple planer

I promised myself 5 maple cuttingboards by the end of October. I have the time to finish them even if I have to toss out (into the bin for other projects) all the awful laminations I have so far, which may be the case.

This is almost certainly going to evoke facepalms and groans of “you doofus.”

I’ve been buying those 1×2” lengths of maple from any of the 4 Big Box stores around me. I spend a fair amount of time checking the stock for irregularities and bends and trying to pick judiciously.

Once home I cut them down to a bit over 24” (with my spiffy new 80 tooth blade, w00t! :) and do some edge prep with my planer.

I’ve built myself a little (well, 3’ square; not so little) glue-up table with fixed fences on 3 sides which I use both for clamping lamination glue-ups and for router-planing. It’s nothing fancy, just 3/4” birch ply.

But no machination I can apply can get these damn things straight.

1) They’re always bent JUST enough that I end up with a lamination that has one or two boards (at least) that are sufficiently bent that to plane them down would reduce the piece thickness unacceptably (like…by half.)

and/or (usually and)

2) Attempting to clamp things straight (a phrase which, as I type it, seems to light the lightbulb in my head) has resulted in so much torque that the whole piece has a bend in it, which results in the same thickness problem.

Backing up, it seems to me that the stock I’m starting with is already too thin for me to have much latitude from a material prep perspective, so I try to sneak around the issue.

Most board making videos and descriptions seem to start with “Given that your stock is already straight, square and smooth…” leaving me a little lost.

Do I just need to buy a jointer and find a place to get 2” thick maple? ‘cause if so, I’m basically screwed.

21 replies so far

View CharlesA's profile


3462 posts in 2859 days

#1 posted 10-27-2013 03:24 PM

Do you use cauls? A Freud Glue Line Rip blade may not be up to your thickness, so a similar blade can render glue-able, straight edges pretty well.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3548 days

#2 posted 10-27-2013 03:27 PM

Bent? I’m not sure I understand…. pictures would help.
Are these end grain boards or edge grain boards?... Again pictures would help.

If you are putting so much clamp pressure to get the gaps to close up, STOP. Make sure your boards are straight, true and square before even trying to glue them up. The more pressure you use, the more chance of buckle and warp, besides, if you are using too much pressure that lamination won’t hold together over time.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Loren's profile


11161 posts in 4709 days

#3 posted 10-27-2013 04:03 PM

I think what you’re getting is a form of glue-up distortion
I sometimes call “potato chipping”.

Your limited stock selection is the beginning of the issue.

It seems to me that what you’re up to is taking dressed
pieces of 1×2 maple (about 13/16” x 1.5”) from the store
and gluing them together hoping for a 3/4” thick cutting

You may be able to rip the distorted cutting boards and
reeassemble them in a flatter orientation.

I don’t know if you have time and money to start over,
but if you do, consider getting 1×3 maple, ripping it
in half to 1 3/16” or so and gluing the cutting board
to that thickness.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

490 posts in 2742 days

#4 posted 10-27-2013 04:18 PM

You mention planer but not jointer. I assume you don’t have a jointer to flatten and square two edges before using the planer?

One thing you might want to try which I saw on Woodworks years ago was to take and glue up longer pieces into panels (think table top) first than to rio those panels into shorter pieces which you turn on end to glue together into the top. You might have better luck than to try to rip the pieces to length first and than try and glue them together.

I couldn’t find the actual video of the show on the Internet but I found this one that uses the same process.

Hope this helps.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3068 days

#5 posted 10-27-2013 06:51 PM

I had the same issue when I did my first few boards. Realized I was trying to glue up 9 or 12 pieces at a time and was getting mis-alignment problems like mad! Using cauls wasn’t helping me at all. I simply couldn’t get good alignment with that many boards to juggle at once.

So I started gluing up 2 or 3 pieces at a time, then gluing the wider sections together, resulting in MUCH BETTER alignment. Took a bit longer to glue up a 12 or 14 section board, but as time went on I got more and more clamps and the process isn’t so bad.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


542 posts in 2925 days

#6 posted 10-28-2013 05:28 AM

I think I understand you’re problem. Here are a few things that may be helpful.

First, I somewhat disagree with the popularized method of cutting board lamination. I’m not saying that it’s not a viable method, it simply takes some some steps that I generally feel are unnecessary and can sometimes complicate things for a beginner.

Primarily, I disagree with the method of joining each board edge to edge. For someone like you, who does not own a jointer and cannot guarantee that each edge is plane, the accepted method will only cause you headaches.

My suggestion to you is to plane your 1×2’s on both faces, then glue the boards face to face. You can make this as long and as wide as you desire. Mix in different thickness of various woods and glue them in face to face as well.

In the end, you will be left with a glue up that is 2 inches thick, instead of 1 inch thick. This will not determine the end thickness of the board, if you are crosscutting to make them end grain. You determine the final thickness of your board, but the crosscut thickness. So if you are cutting 1 inch strips, you’re board will be 1 inch thick.

In the short run, it takes a little more lumber to do the glue up this way, but you have the potential of ending up with more cutting boards in the end.

Also, when gluing, it’s very important to apply just the right amount of clamp pressure. You don’t want to go overboard. Gluing them face to face will help tremendously in ending up with something straight and glued tight.

Run your glue up through the planer before you crosscut and you’ll be golden.

Hope this helps.

-- “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” ― Lenny Bruce

View realcowtown_eric's profile


638 posts in 2998 days

#7 posted 10-28-2013 08:27 AM

buying 1×2 from the borg is an absolutely cost inefficient way to go…I’m surprised no one has pointed that out yet…

You mentioned you had a planer…

So you buy rough maple and rip it to the thickness of yer cuting board, plus a tad for sanding to thickness.

Then you plane it to thickness (not height)just untill you get even surfaces on each side….probably about 7/8”

(that’s abput a 12% savings on materials, but as you bought it rough, yer probably cutting yer material costs by 30-50%)

Even if you don’t have a planer, a jointer will do…almost similar cost savings.

If yer jointer or planer is properly set up, you won’t get any” snipe”, but if you cut yer lengths a tad overlength, you don’t have to worry about that. Mind you. adding a few inches to every piece can add signifigicantly to your (expensive) waste…

For a 1.5” thick chopping block, I’d rip pieces to 1.75 width, as oftentimes with rough lumber, the case hardening causes the cut pieces to bend. so they may have some curve, which you have to deal with.

Cut the pieces to length, then run them through the planer, or jointer, just so you get a flat surface,

Now you got a bunch of pieces you can glue up, but you gotta make best guess as to which way the grain runs out, and try and align the top surfaces so that you can run it through your planer with minimal chip out.

I use pipe clamps to laminate chopping blocks, the quick grip clamps just don’t have the guts to do a good job.

If yer just gonna belt sand it flat, that grain alignment step don’t matter. Just start with a 60 grit and get finer…I wouldn’t go beyond 120.

sand finish both sides, add 4 plumbing washers with #6 screws, finish with mineral oil from the Pharmacy, and bob’s yer uncle.

Just for the record, my wife had me resand a 1.5” maple chopping block that I made iway back in 1980ish.
PVA glue, mineral oil finish. That’s dang close to 25 years of use….all the nalgene cutting boards are warped from the DWer

Eric in Calgary
Happy chopping…

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3552 days

#8 posted 10-29-2013 05:43 PM

You guys rock. Basically confirming what I suspect I knew someplace but didn’t want to admit. Let me see if I can do this all at once:

CharlesA: I do use cauls, but nothing that stout. Looks like that’s definitely one thing to correct.

Dallas: What I mean by bent is that the 4 foot or 6 foot pieces I buy are a nominal inch thick (whomever created the measuring scheme for lumber where measurements aren’t really measurements should be shot in the head) aren’t straight. Plus, I’ve been trying to get away with pushing them into straight using cauls, since there’s not really enough material to take a bunch off to correct the angle.

Loren: Potato Chipping is part of the symptom. But I think it’s a symptom of having insufficiently dressed the stock to begin with and trying to compensate with pressure.

Richard: Indeed I am without a jointer (except a hand-held one that I wouldn’t trust to do more than make sawdust in my hands, unless perhaps if I were to mount it upside down and build a fence next to it. I’ll have to give it a look just in case. “getting around not having a jointer” is a part of the problem to be sure. But I’m wary of “I need another tool” thinking.)

joein10asee: That’s exactly the case. Cauls seem to be largely useless, but again that’s material prep multiplied by the number of pieces the poor thing is engaged to try and straighten out. I like the idea of cutting down on the number of components per operation that way. I have a bunch of 2’ long stock left that I may try to glue up that way (after I clean it up ;) ).

UncannyValleyWoods: Nice! Thank you. Yes, taking that approach will certainly allow me to make better use of the planer after the initial glue-up. I’ve built a router sled and have a 2” surfacing bit that sure loves to hog material away, but I’m really unhappy with its resulting finish. I’d be better off with a 2” fly cutter (on order ;).)

realcowtown_eric: I’ve yet to find a place to pick up hardwood other than big boxes near me. They have to exist but my eyes just aren’t seeing them. I definitely feel the pain every time I check out with a bunch of maple. Once I have the rough final piece I’m okay. Are you really talking about case hardening of lumber? That’s… not something I’ve ever heard of.

Thanks a lot for the everyone’s responses on this. I do have a bunch of what I can only call “unfouled” stock to work with and will definitely be backing off of my haste. Clock’s a ticking.

View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


542 posts in 2925 days

#9 posted 10-30-2013 04:51 AM

This place looks close to you…in a relative sense.

-- “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” ― Lenny Bruce

View d_striker's profile


5 posts in 2731 days

#10 posted 10-30-2013 04:55 AM

Good stuff. Glad I found this place.

View Illinoiswoodworker's profile


36 posts in 2951 days

#11 posted 11-01-2013 09:52 PM

+1 to what uncanny told you to do.

-- I love the smell of red oak in the morning..........

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3552 days

#12 posted 11-01-2013 09:56 PM

Illinoiswoodworker: That’s precisely what I’m spending the remainder of this evening and most of the weekend doing. I promised myself 5 by Monday.

Between the initial glue-ups I started with (some of which are indeed usable) and the stock I’ve bought this week, I should be in good shape….

...the second I get off the internet and downstairs to the shop ;)

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3552 days

#13 posted 11-02-2013 03:48 PM

Just wanted to post a “mid project break” follow up.

Thank you guys. This is clearly working.

My planer (a Ryobi benchtop model) is either crappy or is the victim of newbie abuse and is taking really weird random shallow gouges out of my stock (as well as not feeding at all about 75% of the time. I think it needs a bath.) Fortunately I noticed it in time to stop ruining material. Instead I’m using the “planing with a router” technique with a 2” surfacing bit. If I avoid obvious tearout situations it seems to work really well.

I’ve combined the advice from a few people here and am starting by face-gluing a few boards at a time, resulting in laminations that are essentially 24” long 2” square pieces, which I’m then planing to remove some irregularities and glue.

As of right now I’m gluing those together 2 at a time (resulting in 4×2” 24” boards, which I’m going to noodle around with as far as patterning goes.)

But now, a couple cigars and a few glasses of bourbon.


View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


542 posts in 2925 days

#14 posted 11-02-2013 06:18 PM


-- “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” ― Lenny Bruce

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3552 days

#15 posted 11-03-2013 06:30 PM

heh. ayep ;)

On the off chance that people are still looking at this:

How long after you clamp a glue-up can you run it through the table saw and cross-cut it? I’ve generally waited “overnight” but I’m trying to trim some time off that without getting hasty. It seems that I can pull the clamps off after 5 or 6 hours and am pretty safe if I just leave the lamination alone.

showing 1 through 15 of 21 replies

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