I’ve been doing a lot of hand planing lately, with a good portion of that in the “flattening” mode, as opposed to a more general “smoothing” mode. While I was working today, I was checking my progress with a pair of Winding Sticks, and as I used them I wondered if others do the same thing.
So, I’ll start with a basic description of using the winding sticks, for anyone not familiar, and then share my trick of the trade, but I also made a short video earlier, that I’ll post down below.
When I’m preparing to use a hand plane in order to flatten a board, if the board is fairly large, I can usually feel whether there is a crowning in the center or not. If the board is fairly narrow, the only really good option is to use my pair of winding sticks, as they amplify the differences making it much easier to see even small discrepancies.
As I progress on the larger boards, it is less and less easy to feel the shape of the board, and the winding sticks again are required. On larger, and wider boards, it can be difficult to know for sure just where you need to remove wood, even if you’ve determine there is a crowning on your board. After I set the winding sticks on the board I wish to test, with the winding sticks’ center dots close to the centerline of the board, I sight over the stick closest to me, and lower my sight until the first portion of the far stick’s top edge is obscured. This will either be the right corner, the left corner, or the whole stick. The first two results indicate there is still twist/wind in the length of the board, which requires further work. The last results indicates the two sections where the winding sticks are sitting, are in the same plane. This doesn’t automatically mean the board is flat, so you need to test in multiple locations down the board. I usually leave the winding stick alone, the farthest from me, and move the closer one towards the other stick, in about 6″ increments. If you get the same “in plane” reading all along the board, just make sure to check for flat along the length of the board, with the longest straight edge that you have.
Now, back to the tip portion of the article. After I check the winding sticks, and find there is still twist/wind as well as a slight crowning, I lightly tap the end of one of the sticks, and watch to see where it’s center of rotation is located (the highest part will be very close to the center of rotation). I made my winding sticks out of cocobolo, and they will spin quite easily on any raised section, but metal winding sticks may not spin as freely. In either case, you can also lightly hold the winding stick towards it’s center, and while applying extremely light downward pressure, try to rotate the stick. If the stick still rotates fairly easy, the center of rotation will again be very close to the highest point. If you feel some friction, even if it still spins, you are likely getting pretty close to flat.
Click on the link below, to watch the included video:
I hope this helps anyone that is having some trouble working wood flat, with hand tools. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. You can also find me on Twitter as @LeeLairdWW and on Instagram as LeeLairdWoodworking.
I was planning to plane the larger 6’+ sections of the Soft Maple, that I bought for my workbench upgrade, on my saw horses. This morning I had some time scheduled to start on these bigger slabs, and when I looked at my saw horses, I just wasn’t sure I would get the results I was after. When I saw how solid the stack of wood looked, where I had it stickered, I decided I’d just work it as it lay.
The first board had a bit of twist going on, so I found a big Ash wedge from my Drawknife horse, and slid it in nice and tight. I noticed there was a substantial hump running the length of the slab, which I wanted to remove in the course of removing the rough sawmill surface. I grabbed my Stanley No. 6, as usual, and set the cambered blade to take a thick cross-grain shaving. I clamped a couple of boards onto the stickering boards beneath this slab, to help minimize the wood from moving around. I started working from the right end of the board, and keeping my passes with the plane so they overlapped the previous stroke. I knew this large of a slab was going to take some time, which likely led me to set my iron a little deeper than normal, and before I put a chamfer on the out-flow side of the slab, bam! I knew I should have taken the time to make the chamfer, but the nice splintering really drove the point home. To rectify my mistake, I first trimmed the thick spelching with a large paring chisel, and then used my plane to create a decent chamfer.
As I was working the wood so close to the floor, most of the time I knelt on the floor, while using my arms to handle a bit more of the work than normally. I was still able to get into a decent work flow, and the work progressed fairly quickly.
It took just over an hour to get the first face-side 95% complete, which wasn’t nearly as long as I initially thought. And, if I already had a workbench large enough to support the size slab, I may not have used quite as many breaks, since my body did seem to wear out quicker working in the alternate kneeling position.
After getting the slab fairly far along, I decided to work directly down the length of the hump. with another cambered-iron plane with the iron set to a more reasonable depth. The first few strokes felt somewhat awkward, so I shifted to using a side “throw”, where I had the plane about 90-degrees to my body. I faced the side of the board, and moved the plane so it was going the length of the slab, which actually felt much less awkward. I saw @Paul Sellers use this planing technique in a video he posted some while ago, so figured I might give it a try. Everyone reading this, should give this planing motion/position a try, as it can help to spread the load around to other muscles, since the load can be significant on bench top constructions.
I’m going to head back out to the shop, but thought an update on progress could both give me a little break, and keep all of my readership informed.
Thanks as always for stopping by. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Yesterday I wrote about purchasing some wood for a new workbench top, and I just may also have enough to make a new base, too. This morning I started getting ready for the impending delivery. I pulled out three nondescript pieces of some wood, that wouldn’t upset me if they were damaged, to use to […]