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.