Not long ago I was shifting from flattening the face side of my massive Soft Maple boards (8 1/2″ W x 3 3/4″ D x 75″ L), to one of the edge faces. On one board both of the edge faces were about equal in perceived work, as each had some twist and similar nasty rough characteristic. Many times I’d grab my old Bailey #6 hand plane set up with a decently cambered iron, and start with the iron way out there, just to expedite the process, as I hate just getting a whisker or two on a pass, at least at this stage. Oh, and I am talking about wood that I purchased that is basically rough, to the point where it has some fuzzy all over.
On this board, I reached for my #6 and I’m really not sure why my hand re-directed to my 9-grain Auriou Rasp, which is my medium grit, as I also have a 5-grain for really heavy stuff and a 15-grain model makers for the super fine work (Auriou rasps 1-grain – 4-grain are intended for working stone, while 5-grain – 15-grain are good for wood).
From my perspective, the far right corner of my board was elevated, as was the near left corner, as you’d expect when you have some wind/twist. I stood the board on it’s opposite side, with a wedge under one corner, to keep it from rocking (or at least too bad). I grabbed the 9-grain Auriou with it’s handle in my right hand and the tip in my left, and held it in an almost 45-degree position with my left hand leading the way. As I touched the wood, I tried to keep both of my hands at a similar level from the floor, and started near the far end of the board. Since I already knew the high area was on the right, it was easy to use that to confirm I was keeping my hands fairly level, as I expected to see wood removed on the right and nothing on the left, and the area removed shouldn’t slope to the right.
Since I’d never tried using my Auriou like this before, I made a couple of passes and then stopped to see if it was worth continuing, or if I was just wasting my energy. Surprisingly, this medium-grit rasp was rapidly bringing the high sections down, and as is somewhat usual for Auriou, it was leaving a very decent texture to the surface. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t chewing it up and/or ripping it to shreds! With the positive results, I really got into it and gradually worked my way to the other end of the board.
After the I had all of the major high areas lowered down, I shifted over to my #6 hand plane, with it set at a much more reasonable bite, and rapidly completed this edge face. When I was done, I wondered if I might should’ve tried bringing in the 5-grain Auriou, but that bad boy was probably overkill, at least for this level of stock removal.
For those who haven’t yet had the chance to use any of the Auriou line of rasps, I’ll share a tip that I found during my time with these tools. I think my first tendency with a rasp (maybe just because I’m a guy, but I can’t say for sure) is to lean into it while applying pressure, to get the wood out of the way. While this tactic will certainly remove wood briskly, the overall surface can seem like a chainsaw hit it. I’ve found that using a light touch on the downward force, and controlled strokes can still rapidly remove wood, but ends up leaving a much better surface. This seems to go for any of the Auriou rasps I’ve used (the three I listed are all the cabinet maker’s shape, with one flat side and one that is curved from side-to-side, but I also have a 13-grain in their handle-maker’s style, that has the same side-to-side curve, but also curves on the long axis, towards the tip), so if you buy or are lucky enough to receive as a gift, try this to get the best results from your rasps. Oh, and Auriou make their rasps as either a right-hand or a left-hand rasp, based on how the teeth of the rasp are created. If you are a right-handed person, and are using a left-handed rasp, you’ll end up roughing the surface rather than the teeth actually cutting like they are intended. Just keep that in mind if you are buying one of their rasps, whether new or used.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the information and may give it a try as well. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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.
Let’s start off with a brief description of Winding Sticks. Ultimately, we want to have straight, flat and square wood to use in our projects. Without this, you’ll either struggle getting the pieces together, or they may not go together at all. So the question becomes, how can I tell if my wood is properly […]