Fair Woodworking

February 27, 2012

A simple box with only hand tools. Part 2

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At this point many would bring out the winding sticks to find if there is twist in the board. I don’t if I can avoid it. Mostly because getting down low enough to use them is really hard on my tired old knees. I’m not that old, but my knees sure are! Instead I repeat the same process I just did before, but on the other side. Flip the board over so the good side is facing up and tap board with your fingers. Bla, bla, bla.

Here you can barely see the squiggle on the top side of the board. On the left side there is still some space between the board and the bench. I had fought with this piece for a long while before the problem dawned on me.

I flipped the board over, and here you can see that there is a small gap in the center. The tap with my finger trick had gotten the four corners consistent, but I neglected to check the middle. The result was every time I went to plane, the board would flex and the plane would cut unevenly.  Like I said above, it needs to sit flat and fully supported.

I won’t boar you with the rest of the details, but after finally getting the second surface flattened, I work it to the point that I move to my smoother. What I’m left with is pretty much one side showing a finished product. This time I mark it with a squiggle in a circle so I don’t confuse it with the uncircled squiggle on the other side.

I’m not going to get into it the full process, but now that I have one good side, I need to come up with a final thickness. I’ll use my marking gauge to mark the opposite side and plane down to it. If you look real close you will see I’ve set my marking gauge to 19/32”. Ya that’s right 19/32”, just under 5/8”. Why you ask? Well my minimum thickness is ½” but I’m a little leery about this Brazilian Pine, especially since it is made of laminated flat sawn boards. Just in case it starts twisting as I remove more wood, I’ll get a second kick at the cat if I only go to 19/32”.

Once I got everything to final thickness, the next step for me is getting the other sides square. I made a very quick, but somewhat substandard shooting board a while ago. My scrap pile didn’t have much for useful materials at the time so I used what was at hand. I built it in the middle of a project a while back in an “I want one NOW” moment.  5 min later, I had a barely functional shooting board.

The first problem is that the fence is not perfectly square to the base. I was able to pretty much fix it with a piece of painters tape, but I could have done better. The second was that the fence is too short and not stiff enough. It can flex under pressure, and the lack of height means that the fibers at the highest part of the board I am shooting are not supported by the fence. The result is tear out. Not good. The third issue is not such a big deal. I prefer that there be a second layer of MDF for the plane to run on. This also makes the whole thing a little stiffer, and minimizes wear to my bench top.

I like to use the shooting board for planning the long grain as well when I can. In this case the wood was almost as long as the shooting board was. If I tried to do it across the bench the plane was not supported on the bench at the start of the cut. My solution was to turn it and use a stop in my vise to hold it in place. Worked pretty well.

Once I’ve gotten one of the long grain sides and an end grain side flat and square to each other and the face of the board, I need to get the opposing sides worked down to final dimension. This is where a panel gauge is super important.

Pine is super fragile across the end grain. As added insurance, I like to trim the corner off what will be the fence side of the end grain down to the panel gauge line. In the picture above, I skewed the board like that so the plane can only cut on the one corner.

Then I flip the board around and plane away the excess material. I suppose I could have also sawn off the excess, but with a saw that is aggressive enough to be worth using here, I find there is an unacceptable amount of splintering that if too close to the line, might extend past it.



  1. Very nice write-up, and I like the shooting grip… I need to make one of those!

    Comment by rob campbell — February 27, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    • Hey Rob,

      Thanks for the kind words. In the next couple of segments I think I wrote more on what not to do than what to do. Who knew that I could make as many mistakes on one simple box.

      By the way, I can’t say enough about the Shooting grip. The Lie-Nielson website has them listed as a Hotdog attachment. For their price of $60? I’ll happily make my own. Just stick with a softwood, I think the softness works better when it’s only friction fit.

      Comment by fairwoodworking — February 27, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

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