Preparing boards for furniture making

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Forum topic by Joel_B posted 08-27-2014 03:38 PM 2540 views 0 times favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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407 posts in 2293 days

08-27-2014 03:38 PM

I am about to start my first furniture project a bedroom dresser.
I bought the book Furniture & Cabinet Construction by Andy Rae and started reading it last night.
So far it has been very helpful. He goes into great detail about starting with rough lumber and making it flat and smooth using jointers, thickness planers and hand planers. I don’t have a jointer or thickness planer and don’t want one because I don’t have room for it in my garage and all the chips it would create. I do have access to a friends jointer but its not very wide, so probably only good for edge jointing. In the book he mentions that lumber surfaced with jointers / planers is not smooth enough for furniture because it has mill marks and recommends using a hand plane to make it smooth rather than sanding. I will be buying lumber (Cherry) already surfaced and has constant thickness from a hardwood lumber yard. Would this still need to be hand planed? I have an old Baily No 4 plane I bought off Ebay. The blade was in bad shape. I tried to sharpen it with my waterstones but it probably needs replacing. I also don’t have much experience using it so need to learn how to use it better. If I am going to hand plane it, is this the right plane to use or should I be looking a different one?

Thanks – Joel

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

40 replies so far

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3281 days

#1 posted 08-27-2014 05:10 PM

You will need to do some surface work before you finish, but chances are, it won’t be too bad. The #4 will work well with a new blade, I hear the Hock ones are nice, but I’ve never had to replace one. Set it to take the thinnest shaving you can. You will need to make sure that your plane is properly tuned up to do this (flattened sole, flattened/sharpened blade w/ corners slightly rounded, close the throat up). A few swipes should get the surface ready. You could also use card scrapers, or sandpaper, depending on the piece.

Make sure when you buy your prepped cherry that you check it for twist/warp, which could occur after it’s milled. If you’re making a bunch of small pieces out of it, not such a big deal, but if you’re making dresser rails/stiles, you want them straight. Also try to avoid extremely flatsawn boards.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View ADHDan's profile


802 posts in 3020 days

#2 posted 08-27-2014 05:13 PM

If you’re buying S4S lumber (surfaced all sides with edges and faces parallel), and all the boards are the proper thickness for your project, you should be good to go “out of the box” with a little bit of planing or sanding before finishing. S4S lumber should look like the hardwood selections you can buy at Home Depot (at a huge premium) – flat and smooth on both faces, with both edges crisp and straight.

I’d use a random orbital sander to prep S4S wood for finishing, but I hate hand planing and don’t even know where my single block plane is anymore.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4143 days

#3 posted 08-27-2014 05:40 PM

“I don’t have a jointer or thickness planer and don’t want one because I don’t have room for it in my garage and all the chips it would create.”

A planer can be moved outside if you have the lunchbox style like the DeWalt 734 or others of similar design. A hose hooked to a shop vac will do wonders for chip control.

A 6 inch jointer would be really helpful and is a tool that could last you a lifetime. I bought a used Jet 6 inch off Craigslist for $300. I use it almost every day. Rip a board on the table saw, then run it across the jointer to remove the saw marks if any are present.

Without those tools, you might want to skip the furniture making part and build something like a picnic table or other projects that don’t require any milling. I am not trying to be mean, just speaking from experience. You would possibly be disappointed in the end product if it doesn’t come out like you pictured it in your mind. And especially if you used good hardwood.

Good luck. Plan carefully. Measure twice (or three times, cut once).

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Tim Anderson's profile

Tim Anderson

152 posts in 2643 days

#4 posted 08-27-2014 06:06 PM

You might take a trip into the hand-tool world. Before I got a bandsaw I had to cut all wood to rough size and plane it square by hand. It takes a long while, but it gets the job done eventually. Now I have a bandsaw, and my plan for getting my stock square is as follows:

1. Use Stanley #7 Jointer Plane to get one straight, twist-free edge.
2. Run the wood through the bandsaw using the freshly planed edge as a reference face to get a square cut on an adjacent face.
3. Plane out any saw marks on the bandsaw cut face and check for square with the first edge.
4. Use the two square edges as references on the bandsaw to cut the remaining two sides. Make sure to leave them slightly thicker than your desired final thicknesses.
5. Plane off the saw marks from the last two cuts, then plane down to finished dimensions as needed.

It’s been working so far. Before I had the bandsaw, it was a similar process, but depending on how much I had to remove, I’d just plane the whole face to square, or cut off really bad warping with a hand saw then plane by hand. My shop definitely doesn’t have room for a jointer and a planer, so this method works for me in my limited space.

-- -Tim, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

View Pezking7p's profile


3359 posts in 2563 days

#5 posted 08-27-2014 06:18 PM

My experience with s4s lumber has not led me to believe that it is great for furniture making. I think it boils down to the quality of your supplier and how choosy you’re willing to be when buying lumber.

-- -Dan

View verdesardog's profile


171 posts in 3523 days

#6 posted 08-27-2014 06:28 PM

Just make sure you check your boards for twist and warp before buying, then a good ROS will work fine. A hand plane would still be useful for cleaning up the edges if you have to make rip cuts though….

It’s not rocket science, just go ahead and do it. You will get better as you go .

-- .. heyoka ..

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5311 posts in 4872 days

#7 posted 08-27-2014 07:39 PM

Nobody seemed to mention the use of a “rake light”. A somewhat high intensity light fixture that, when shown across the surface of the board(s) at a low angle, will highlight any irregular surfaces. Think about it.

-- [email protected]

View Joel_B's profile


407 posts in 2293 days

#8 posted 08-27-2014 09:27 PM

I stopped by my local hardwood lumber store to look at the 1” cherry which was S3S.
There is definitely ripples in it so it would make sense to smooth it with a hand plane.
Some pieces were bowed but were pretty long like 12 ft. When I layed them on the concrete floor they would easily flatten out. There were some pieces that did appear to be straight.
After reading some of the comments here and doing a little research I am at a decision point.
Some things I have read said that even if you buy S4S that is straight, it can warp later and basically can’t be used to build furniture. I am really motivated to do this but can’t past having to have a jointer and planer in my garage mainly because of space. Woodworking for me is a part time hobby and I am not expecting to build the finest ever furniture, but something that looks decent and is way better quality than the overpriced garbage they sell in furniture stores. So I am seeing I three options:

Give up the idea of building furniture.

Try using S3S lumber with the possibility of success, failure and frustration.

Get a jointer and planer and cram it in my garage.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View jmartel's profile


9106 posts in 3062 days

#9 posted 08-27-2014 09:57 PM

Buy the S3S lumber, and use a hand plane to take out imperfections. For the lengths required of most pieces for furniture, any small warps won’t be noticeable. You can always find a way.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View skatefriday's profile


465 posts in 2394 days

#10 posted 08-27-2014 10:11 PM

A thickness planer on a mobile base actually takes up very little

And a lot of people here will say that the best jointer is a few
hand planes. And there’s this Sellers guy on youtube that makes
it look frustratingly easy, but it’s definitely a developed skill.

View Joel_B's profile


407 posts in 2293 days

#11 posted 08-27-2014 10:20 PM

One other question is I was looking at planers and it seems the DeWalt 735 is the most popular and will cost me around $600. Some comments about it indicate the surface comes out very smooth and only needs sanding.
If I don’t have to hand plane it that would help to justify buying it (I have nothing against hand planing it would just save time / effort). I spoke with the lumber yard the rough lumber they carry is partially planed. Would to be possible to run it through the planer on each side without having to use a jointer? 4/4 (15/16) Cherry is $4.26 per bd/ft if I buy more than 50 bd ft.)

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4143 days

#12 posted 08-28-2014 12:07 AM

I like it that you are looking at all of the possibilities. Since you have a table saw, you can use a jig or sled or whatever you want to call it to cut a straight edge on a board that is bowed. Especially if you cut it into manageable pieces like four feet or less. Rough cut your length leaving a couple of extra inches on either end. If you do obtain a planer, there is always the possibility of a little snipe on the ends. Having some extra length helps when you trim it to it’s final length.

Checkout my table saw rip jig/sled. It should work well for you. I buy 4/4 rough material and cut it down, rip one side straight (as possible). Then flatten one side on the joiner. Then run it through the planer on both sides until I get the final thickness I am looking for. Regardless of the milling process, sanding is always part of the process as it gets near time to apply the finish.

Good luck.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 3416 days

#13 posted 08-28-2014 12:19 AM

Joel, you can get a decent planer and 6” jointer off Craigslist for $500. Might have to replace knives. Don’t frustrate yourself by forcing cups, bows, warps and twists to come together at the joints. Flat, straight and parallel is the only way to go.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View MoshupTrail's profile


304 posts in 3393 days

#14 posted 08-28-2014 12:32 AM

Can I make a suggestion? If this is your first project, start with some cheap lumber and get some practice with the simplest projects you can find. Poplar is easy to work with and only slightly more expensive than pine.

Look at the project I just posted. I’m working in a 2-car garage with a small jointer and planer. You can see them in the pictures.

-- Some problems are best solved with an optimistic approach. Optimism shines a light on alternatives that are otherwise not visible.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4143 days

#15 posted 08-28-2014 12:58 AM

I m working in a 2-car garage with a small jointer and planer.

- MoshupTrail

And I have all of my stuff in a one car garage. Obviously there is no room for a car, but we can still walk through it.
3hp cabinet saw.
14 inch band saw
DeWalt DW734 planer
Jet 6 inch joiner
Grizzly 18-36 drum sander
Drill press
2hp dust collector
miter saw station
adjustable height work station/dual router combo.
modified Kreg jig on mobile workstation.
General roiling tool box.

Everything is on mobile bases or casters so it can be moved into position as needed.

You can do it! :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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