Monday, April 2, 2012

Breadboard: Hand Planing Sequence

     If you've been following the Kitchen Redo you've no doubt heard me lament about the breadboard.  It didn't look quite as pathetic when it was in the original cabinets but now that they've gotten their Re-Do the poor thing sticks out like a very sore thumb!  Feels good to get into my preferred woodworking methods, using hand tools and hardwoods.
     To begin any project the wood needs to be prepared properly, either with power tools or hand tools.  You know my preferred way is to use the power tools for the grunt work and the hand tools to refine as needed.  The breadboard will be made of Maple, not Baltic Birch ply as the original one was.  To begin, I laminated three pieces of the Maple together.  Where I purchase wood locally they straight line rip one edge of all their stock.  This edge is fine for guiding against a rip fence but not for gluing.  The first step is to joint/plane the edges to prepare them for laminating together.

Very Precise Way to Check Cut
     In my classes I always stress that setting up your plane is the most important step other than maintaining the sharpest blade you possibly can.  After making your adjustments the term I use as you sneak up on the cut is: "reading the plane".  By that I mean that you should examine the shaving to see if it's even thickness all the way across.  Makes sense that if it is, and if you're planing squarely, the cut is even.  You could check it with a caliper but.......

You can also stretch it out and visually inspect it to see if it is even and has a uniform thickness.  For initial jointing of an edge you can get a pretty decent sized shaving.

     Once the plane is properly set up it's important to determine your grain direction.  Always planing with the grain ensures the smoothest possible surface.  I like to draw arrows on the boards once the grain direction has been figured out.
     The breadboard will be made of three pieces a bit under 6" wide.  My preference is to leave the rough edge on the outside pieces since the clamps will probably chew them up.  The exception would be to rip one down to guide against the tablesaw's rip fence after things are laminated.
     The important thing now is to plane the joining edges square in each direction.  The other thing you should always consider is the grain direction of the face. When the boards are laminated together you want that direction to be the same on each board.  This is done whether the board is smoothed and brought to its' final thickness by a hand plane or a power planer.  If you don't check this, the grain will be alternating and tear out.
     The edge can be checked with a try square against the face.  It's wise to double check that with this method:

Checking Edge to Edge

     The board in the vise has been squared, now the alignment of the two boards is checked by holding a straight edge against both of them, there should be no light showing under it as you check the alignment all the way down.  This will be repeated for however many boards you're going to laminate together.  That's my old Stanley #7 with corrugated sole and it has the original Sweetheart logo.

Boards Marked and Ready

     There are a couple of markings that are commonly used.  The triangular marks will show you the orientation of how the boards go together and the arrows tell you the direction of the face grain for planing later.  Let's laminate these boards!

     Years ago I picked up these 3 clamps from a cabinet shop that was going out of business and I love them. They not only clamp the boards together but they also hold them flat.  When I bought them the guy complained that they were kind of awkward to use because if you didn't get wax paper under them they will stick to whatever it is you're laminating together.  Easy solve, I cut strips of UHWM Polyethylene and attached them to each clamp -- nothing sticks to that!  My preferred glue for laminating is Gorilla Glue, never a visible glue line, easy to scrap off the excess, and no failure that I've ever had when pieces were properly prepared.


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