Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Breadboard: Hand Planing Sequence Part 2

     In the last blog I talked about how to go about jointing the edges to prepare for gluing up a wide board.  Now that's done it's time to surface it and bring it to our thickness.  Here's your goal:

Super Thin Shaving

     If you're like me and prefer the look and feel of a hand planed surface this is what you're after.  In the first part of this blog I talked about jointing the edges and showed a rather thick, even thickness, shaving.  When you hand plane a surface it's best to use a slightly cambered blade which will give you a shaving that's thicker in the middle and tapers to nothing at the sides.  Your surface will be ever so slightly and barely scalloped but it's hardly noticed by the human eye.  So saying that, it is a difference some folks look for!  But hey, this is going to be a cutting board so why bother.  Just me I guess!
     There is a well known, hand tool woodworker by the name of Christopher Schwartz.  He advocates many traditional woodworking processes and has his distinct matter of working and exactly what tools you need to accomplish them.  Him and I differ in that I strive to do the most I can with a minimum of tools; i.e. ca$h outlay, I am Dutch after all!
     I'd like to point out a few things.  First off, hardwoods classified as 4/4 are usually 25/32" to 13/16" thick so you'll need to make them a uniform thickness.  The slot for the breadboard is 3/4" so I needed to bring this down to 11/16" or so.  Since the piece was laminated and is now 16" wide, my 15" planer won't handle it.  I could have surfaced each piece down before I laminated them but no matter what, they'll still need to be smoothed and surfaced.
     Here's my sequence, first of all I used a jointer plane (# 7) for the initial smoothing:

Jointer Plane, note Arrows Showing Grain Direction

     This should be checked with a straight edge.  You can also lay the board on a smooth, square machine surface and see if it rocks.  The goal now is to make the show face for lack of a better word.  Thickness will come later.
     Once the show face is relatively smooth the next step is to use a Jack Plane with a cambered blade to smooth the entire surface:

Initial Work with Jack Plane
     The blade is cambered so the edges don't dig in and create grooves.  Do you see  the different appearance of the wood as it is cut and planed smooth?  A good technique is to cover the wood with pencil marks too, theory being that once all of those are gone you've completely planed the surface.  Now it's time to refine it:

Bronze Smoother Plane

     Hopefully you can see the different sheen on the wood as you take the thin shavings like the one shown at the beginning of this post.  Your goal at this time is to make this surface almost perfect.  I say almost because you still have some work to do on the opposite side and may make some dings on this surface.  So, what do we need to do?

     If you had that big planer you'd just slip it in there, however; most of us don't have the luxury of one of those.  Before power planers came about there was a hand plane referred to as a Scrub Plane.  You can search my blogs because I went through the construction of this tool at the beginning of the year.  It's been quite well received and I've had many web contacts asking for details on how to build one.  Quite flattering really and one man has already made his version of this plane in a class I taught and there are several others out there in the internet world I've communicated with to help them build their own versions.  In any case, this blade has a radiused blade and is designed to remove wood in a hurry!  It works best when skewed across the surface of the board.  That gets you these curlicue shavings, for some reason on this Maple, scrubbing with the grain actually clogged the throat and it's huge!

Nice, Curlicue Shavings 

     It doesn't take long ( and cancels your trip to the gym) to work that board down to your required thickness.  I would recommend doing this only on the bottom of your board because you may go a bit deep with the scrub plane, deeper than your desired thickness.  This means there will be a depression, slight but still noticeable if it were to show like a table top.

Nice Pile of Shavings, Note the Texture of the Cut

     Now you do the same process, Jointer plane to smooth things initially, Jack plane (cambered blade) to refine even more, and then a Smooth plane to complete the job. Here's my collection of planes I use to accomplish this task.  You can do without the specialized Smooth plane by getting a spare blade for your Jack plane and putting a camber on it.  I did that for years and it works just fine.  I still use the Jack with a straight blade for general purpose work and then swap it for the cambered one to pre-finish the surface before switching over to the Smooth plane.

     It's like I stated earlier, my goal is to do the most work possible with the fewest number of tools.  I will admit though that when I get paid for a commission and there is a special tool I've had my eye on I may justify buying it but -- I'm Dutch and that wallet can be pretty hard to open at times!

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