Fair Woodworking

April 15, 2013

Shooting the long grain

EDITORS NOTE *** This post is experiencing 3rd party photo hosting “issues”, that will be addressed as time allows. ***

I get a lot of traffic from the search engines on this topic, so I thought I might as well show how I do it.


Prepare to be amazed…


Or not…

Ya, I know. It doesn’t look like much.

That board makes a better door than a window, so let’s get it out of the way.

Ya, I know. It doesn’t look like much, but that’s the point!

All we have here is a couple of scraps of MDF up against a plane stop. The plane stop just needs to be a little taller than the MDF so it catches the board.

I don’t need to stress about the fence being square or any of that crap. I’ve got a knife line to plane down to, so when I get to the knife line I stop.  If I’m a little heavy on one end, I just plane that end, and pull the plane off the cut before I get to the other end. Once I’ve made a full length shaving, I’ll stop to check that the plane is cutting square to the board, and then I can simply plane to my little hearts desire.

Sometimes I’ll also slap a little paraffin wax on the side wall of the plane so it slides easier.


February 27, 2012

A simple box with only hand tools. Part 2

EDITORS NOTE *** This post is experiencing 3rd party photo hosting “issues”, that will be addressed as time allows. ***


Click HERE to read the whole story.

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.

February 15, 2012

Humility is a dish best served in front of others

To most people, yesterday was Valentines day. I celebrated it a day early so I could attend this months woodworking association meeting. Attendance was not optional for me since I had agreed to present on the use of hand tools.

I was pretty nervous about it but managed to keep from completely freezing up. I knew that doing any skill based demonstrations would be a risky proposition but I knew I’d have to do something. I decided on demonstrating how to use the reflection of a saw blade to give feedback on how stable the saw blade is when sawing. It’s what I use to see how good my form is when sawing.
Did a test cut, and they all confirmed it was pretty steady. With that bit of confidence I moved on to using the reflection to find square and then make the cut free hand.

I do this all the time in the shop. It’s how I always cut my tails, so if I could be comfortable doing anything, this would be it.

But on a foreign bench in front of the group? Well, let’s just say that it gave me an opportunity to show how to use my shooting board.

All in all, I missed some important points that I wish I remembered to cover, but I think it was fairly well received by most of the group. There was also some talk of a small workshop get together to learn to free hand sharpen.

Who knows, a convert could be in the bunch.

I just hope I don’t lose the ability to sharpen when in front of a group!

January 13, 2012

Ladders for Santa?

Normally you would see topics like this before Christmas, but I just wasn’t able to write about it in time. So now, with the off chance the Mayans are right, I’ll share it now.

As I mentioned before, I took part in a Christmas Toy drive put on by the local Woodworking Association. The toys I made were Jacob’s Ladders.

I wrote about them a while ago along with the troubles I was having.

It’s a toy that I haven’t used since I was a little kid, and I don’t remember if they worked flawlessly or not.

I can say that not all of these do.

The first thing that hit me about this project was that it was not on of my usual one off projects. This was going to require a bit of an assembly line mentality, and no power tool snobbery.


I’m in the home reno business and one of the perks is that we salvage a lot of old well dried wood. Especially Birch and Maple stair treads. Usually they are laminated but for smaller work it’s great free hardwood.

My goal was to make as many ladders as one 36″ tread would provide for.

Since this was a toy I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, I had no idea how to lace the ribbon. After a quick search on the web I had some general instructions, but they were not clear enough that I felt I knew what to do.

My first prototype was made out of plywood and strips of newspaper taped on for ribbon. It was crude, but it worked well enough to confirm that I’d strung the ribbon in the correct pattern.

My second prototype was with the birch tread material and the ribbon I’d planned to use. It looked nice enough, but was laced so tight it wouldn’t work. I pulled it all apart and re laced it looser. Now the motions worked fine, but it would get hung up half way through.

As I studied the motion it appeared that the three ribbons not only needed a little bit of slack, they all needed precisely the same amount of slack.


I’d like to say I solved this problem, but I didn’t. I did get to the point that they worked fairly well, buy not flawlessly. For that reason, I’m not going to show how I laced them.

In the end, I made 16 acceptable ladders. 15 were for the toy drive and one I kept for R&D.

The one that I kept was toured around to any friends I have with children during the holidays. I was interested to see what the Nintendo generation would think of the traditional toy. What I found out was that most people of any age could hardly figure out how to work it.

Its not a toy for kids that are hard on their toys, and is best for kids with a mechanical, imaginative approach.

I’m a total geek, so I can kill hours playing with them.


After sawing the stair tread into strips,


I used the LAJ to remove the mill marks. It’s way, way too long for this process, and absolutely the WRONG plane for the job,

but at the time I didn’t have any shorter planes set up for that kind of cut. (I do now, but now is too late). I finished up with my smoothing plane, a much more appropriate plane, but it when set up for a fine shaving, it would have taken forever to finish. Now I have a second smoother that is set for a slightly more aggressive cut so I don’t have to settle for using the jack. The jack is a great plane, but less than ideal in this application.

After smoothing, I chamfered the edges with a block plane.

Does this block plane make my hands look fat?


With the strips chopped into little blocks, I decided to put a fairly heavy bevel on the ends. I think it helped them work just a little better. A scrap piece of lumber cut to a 45 helped get the angle right. Again, I can’t say enough about my Hotdog attachment. Each bevel required 15 passes to complete. Each block has 8 beveled edges. Each ladder uses 6 blocks. I made 16 ladders. That’s 11,520 passes with the shooting plane. I could hardly move my left thumb it was so sore from holding the blocks in place, but my right hand was completely at home on the hotdog attachment. In this configuration it is the most comfortable plane I own!

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