Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Going against the grain

Tag: milling lumber

A Quick Roubo Build Update

Here’s where all of that hard work on the Roubo bench top really starts to pay off.

After milling up two of the top sections, I took a couple of passes with my No. 7 to clean up any snipe. Then I broke out the saw benches for a test fit. Everything looked pretty good. With the boards oriented for optimal appearance, there was a slight bow in one of the boards that was preventing the ends from meeting. I brought out the No. 7 and planed down the hump until I was satisfied. A second test fit revealed that one of the boards had an edge that was slightly out of square. This resulted in some cupping that would be more difficult to remove later. Back to the jointer. I was fully satisfied after the third test fit.

Roubo Slab Glue-up

Roubo Slab Glue-up

I proceeded to rehearse my glue up. I lightly tightened parallel clamp at each end of the slab and one in the middle. Then, I placed an F-clamp on the seam at each end to ensure that the boards would stay aligned. I tightened down the parallel clamps and checked for any defects. No gaps, no cupping. Everything looked great, so I proceeded with my glue-up.

Roubo Benchtop Looking Good

Roubo Benchtop Looking Good

The assembly is now out of the clamps and looking good. I suspect it weights just shy of 100 lbs. I ended up with 10 5/8th inches of width and 4 5/8th of thickness. I hope to have the other half completed by the weekend. Stay tuned!

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Roubo Build: Jointing Wide Edges Dead Square

Jointing Wide Edges by Hand

Jointing Wide Edges by Hand

Jointing wide edges can be tricky. Fortunately, I did my research. It was time consuming, but not difficult.  If I can do it, so can you.

Before you joint an edge it’s important that you establish a reference face that is flat, straight, and free of twist. I covered how I accomplished this here: Milling the large beams for the Roubo bench top

Once you’ve established a reference face, it’s important to assess the board.

  • What are the major defects?
  • Is there any significant bow along the length?
  • How out-of-square is the edge?

I don’t worry too much about minor cupping. This will be remedied, by running both sides through the planer.

Checking for Bow Along the Length

Checking for Bow Along the Length

In my case, there was some significant bowing. I measured about 1/16th of an inch in the middle of the board using a 48 inch straight edge. The edge was also significantly out of square. I chose to tackle the bow first. I removed the high-ends of the board by taking overlapping diagonal passes with my No. 7. When I was close, I started taking overlapping passes along the length of the board. Start from the outside and work your way towards the center of the board. I continued until there was less than 1/64th of error.

Take Overlapping Passes from the Outside to the Center

Take Overlapping Passes from the Outside to the Center

With the bow removed, I started working on getting the edge square to my reference face. I reassessed the board and mark the low spots with a pencil. Take a shaving from each edge, being careful to avoid your pencil marks. Then work your way inwards taking full-length shavings. Reassess the board every couple of passes. If you’re lucky, one side will be high for the entire length of the board.

Check the Edge for Square Using a Jointed Face as Reference

Check the Edge for Square Using a Jointed Face as Reference

Avoid Your Low Marks

Avoid Your Low Marks

In my case, the board was square for the first 6 inches on one end, high on the right side throughout the middle, and high on the right side for the last 6 inches. Here is how my routine went.

  1. Take a stopped shaving on the left side until I reach my low spot.
  2. Take another shaving on the left starting just after my low spot on the far end
  3. Take a stopped shaving on the right until I reach my low spot on the far end.
  4. Work my way towards the middle with full length shavings.
  5. Reassess the board and repeat
Don't Forget to Mark Your Jointed Edge

Don’t Forget to Mark Your Jointed Edge

Jointing wide edges sounds complicated, but I can assure you it’s not.  Just go slow and check your work frequently.  Don’t hesitate to ask any questions.  Feedback is welcome!

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Roubo Build: How to Joint Wide Edges Dead Square

Jointing the wide edges of the beams that will be used for the Roubo benchtop

Jointing the wide edges of the beams that will be used for the Roubo benchtop

Jointing wide edges can be tricky. Fortunately, I did my research. It was time consuming, but not difficult.  If I can do it, so can you.

Before you joint an edge it’s important that you establish a reference face that is flat, straight, and free of twist. I covered how I accomplished this here: Milling the large beams for the Roubo bench top

Once you’ve established a reference face, it’s important to assess the board.

  • What are the major defects?
  • Is there any significant bow along the length?
  • How out-of-square is the edge?

I don’t worry too much about minor cupping. This will be remedied, by running both sides through the planer.

Checking for straightness along the length of the beam

Checking for straightness along the length of the beam

In my case, there was some significant bowing. I measured about 1/16th of an inch in the middle of the board using a 48 inch straight edge. The edge was also significantly out of square. I chose to tackle the bow first. I removed the high-ends of the board by taking overlapping diagonal passes with my No. 7. When I was close, I started taking overlapping passes along the length of the board. Start from the outside and work your way towards the center of the board. I continued until there was less than 1/64th of error.

When jointing along the length, take overlapping passes starting from the outside

When jointing along the length, take overlapping passes starting from the outside

With the bow removed, I started working on getting the edge square to my reference face. I reassessed the board and mark the low spots with a pencil. Take a shaving from each edge, being careful to avoid your pencil marks. Then work your way inwards taking full-length shavings. Reassess the board every couple of passes. If you’re lucky, one side will be high for the entire length of the board.

Checking for squareness of the edge using the face as a reference

Checking for squareness of the edge using the face as a reference

Stop planing just before you reach your low marks

Stop planing just before you reach your low marks

In my case, the board was square for the first 6 inches on one end, high on the right side throughout the middle, and high on the right side for the last 6 inches. Here is how my routine went.

  1. Take a stopped shaving on the left side until I reach my low spot.
  2. Take another shaving on the left starting just after my low spot on the far end
  3. Take a stopped shaving on the right until I reach my low spot on the far end.
  4. Work my way towards the middle with full length shavings.
  5. Reassess the board and repeat
Mark out your edge with an arrow that points to your reference face once you achieve a square edge

Mark out your edge with an arrow that points to your reference face once you achieve a square edge

It sounds complicated, but I can assure you it’s not.  Just go slow and check your work frequently.  Don’t hesitate to ask any questions.  Feedback is welcome!

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Roubo Build: Rough Milling the Beams for the Bench Top

Rough milling always starts with my trusty Jack plane

Rough milling always starts with my trusty Jack plane

Rough milling large beams by hand, can be very intimidating. I had a few boards slip during glue-up and was afraid it would take forever to correct. Fortunately, a sharp jack plane with a cambered iron made quick work of the rough milling for the Roubo bench top.

Glue up slippage

Glue up slippage

I started by planing with the grain until I leveled out any misaligned boards.  I would usually start planing across the grain, but in this case I could remove the same amount of material in one long pass with the grain as I could several short strokes across the grain.  In the picture above, you can how some of the boards slipped during glue up.  I should have taken more effort to keep the boards properly aligned during the glue up.

Mark out your board

Mark out your board

Once I had leveled out the high boards, I marked out the entire beam with pencil.  This will allow me to track my progress.  Be sure to mark from edge to edge.  Now it was time to get to work.  I hope you ate your Wheaties!

Planing cross grain is particularly good at removing cupping

Planing cross grain is particularly good at removing cupping

Next, I start flattening the beam by planing across the grain.  This is particularly good at removing cupping.  These beams are just over 5 inches wide, so it would be easy to round over the edges planing 90 degrees to the grain.  Instead, I planed down the length at 45 degrees one way, and back down the other way.  My iron is heavily cambered and leaves a visibly scalloped surface.  That’s okay.  All I am shooting for is a face that’s flat and straight enough to run through the planer.  It does not need to be super smooth.  I continue until all of my pencil marks have been removed.

Ultimately, I just want to make sure that the surface is straight and free of any bumps.  You can check for any bumps along the length of your plank by using a straightedge or the blade of a square.

The winding sticks are showing a fair amount of twist

The winding sticks are showing a fair amount of twist

The next task is to check the beam for twist using a pair of winding sticks.  The winding sticks will exaggerate the twist and tell you where your high spots are.  I like to keep one stick stationary at one end of the board, and run the other down the length, checking in 3 or 4 places.  In this case, I noted that the rear stick read high on the right for the entire length of the board.  Instead of removing material from the entire length, it was easier to remove a small amount of material from the front left, to match the rest of the board.

The twist has been removed.

The twist has been removed.

Checking for Bow Along the Length

Checking for Bow Along the Length

Once you have your plank flat and free of twist, you need to ensure that it’s reasonably straight.  I do this, by using the longest straight edge I have.  In this case, it was a 4 foot level I know to by reasonably straight.  Be sure to check in several places.  I was lucky.  This board was nearly dead straight.  However, if you have a bump or concavity, it’s just a matter of marking and removing the high spots.

I didn’t feel the need to break out the No. 7 for this task.  Running the beams through the planer will produce an parallel surface that is straight, free-of-twist, and smooth.  It’s just a matter of flipping the board over and getting the other side smooth.  The No. 7 will come in handy when flattening the bench top after the final glue up.

Please, let me know if you have any questions.  I will cover the rest of the milling process and the final glue up of the top in a future article.  Don’t miss it.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Roubo Build: Milling the Beams for the Top

Trusty Jack

My trusty Type 11 Stanley No. 5, made quick work of milling these beams by hand.

Milling large beams by hand, can be very intimidating. I had a few boards slip during glue-up and was afraid it would take forever to correct. Fortunately, a sharp jack plane with a cambered iron made quick work of the rough milling for the Roubo bench top.

Glueup Slippage

These boards slipped during glue-up

I started by planing with the grain until I leveled out any misaligned boards.  I would usually start planing across the grain, but in this case I could remove the same amount of material in one long pass with the grain as I could several short strokes across the grain.  In the picture above, you can how some of the boards slipped during glue up.  I should have taken more effort to keep the boards properly aligned during the glue up.

Marking out the beams

Marking out your work, allows you to track your progress

Once I had leveled out the high boards, I marked out the entire beam with pencil.  This will allow me to track my progress.  Be sure to mark from edge to edge.  Now it was time to get to work.  I hope you ate your Wheaties!

Planing Cross Grain

Planing cross grain will flatten the board. It’s particularly good at remove cupping.

Next, I start flattening the beam by planing across the grain.  This is particularly good at removing cupping.  These beams are just over 5 inches wide, so it would be easy to round over the edges planing 90 degrees to the grain.  Instead, I planed down the length at 45 degrees one way, and back down the other way.  My iron is heavily cambered and leaves a visibly scalloped surface.  That’s okay.  All I am shooting for is a face that’s flat and straight enough to run through the planer.  It does not need to be super smooth.  I continue until all of my pencil marks have been removed.

Ultimately, I just want to make sure that the surface is straight and free of any bumps.  You can check for any bumps along the length of your plank by using a straightedge or the blade of a square.

The winding sticks are showing a fair amount of twist

The winding sticks are showing a fair amount of twist

The next task is to check the beam for twist using a pair of winding sticks.  The winding sticks will exaggerate the twist and tell you where your high spots are.  I like to keep one stick stationary at one end of the board, and run the other down the length, checking in 3 or 4 places.  In this case, I noted that the rear stick read high on the right for the entire length of the board.  Instead of removing material from the entire length, it was easier to remove a small amount of material from the front left, to match the rest of the board.

No twist

No twist

Checking for bow

Checking for bow

Once you have your plank flat and free of twist, you need to ensure that it’s reasonably straight.  I do this, by using the longest straight edge I have.  In this case, it was a 4 foot level I know to by reasonably straight.  Be sure to check in several places.  I was lucky.  This board was nearly dead straight.  However, if you have a bump or concavity, it’s just a matter of marking and removing the high spots.

I didn’t feel the need to break out the No. 7 for this task.  Running the beams through the planer will produce an parallel surface that is straight, free-of-twist, and smooth.  It’s just a matter of flipping the board over and getting the other side smooth.  The No. 7 will come in handy when flattening the bench top after the final glue up.

Please, let me know if you have any questions.  I will cover the rest of the milling process and the final glue up of the top in a future article.  Don’t miss it.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Milling By Hand: Rough Milling

 

photo 3
Milling lumber with hand tools can be broken down into two distinct processes : rough milling and fine milling.  Today, I want to walk you through the process of rough milling a board by hand.  This is typically accomplished with hand saws and will prepare a board to be finished 4-square with hand planes.  It isn’t until a board is properly 4-square that it is ready for joinery.

photo 1
The process starts by roughly laying out your dimensions on the board using pencil or chalk.  You should allow for margins based on your skill level. I usually allow for about 1/16th – 1/8th depending on the board’s condition.  It’s better to leave too much, than too little.  There’s nothing more frustrating than scrapping an entire piece, because of a small error.  The goal is to make as few cuts as possible, so mark out your lines wisely.  For example, combine parts with similar lengths. 
 

 

Crosscutting Ergonomics

Crosscutting Ergonomics

Ripping Ergonomics

Ripping Ergonomics

Once you have your lines marked out, proceed to milling.  I start by crosscutting any lines that extend the width of the original board.  From there, I rip my boards to width.  Ergonomics are key to doing this efficiently.  If you don’t already have one, I recommend building a traditional saw horse.  This will allow you to use your body to hold your work piece and sets you up to make efficient, accurate cuts.  Before cutting, always make sure that your elbow is free from obstructions.  Don’t overgrip the handle and concentrate on making a straight line from your shoulder, to elbow, to wrist.
Once you’ve sawed your parts, check the straightness and squareness of your cuts.  This can be used as a guide for future operations when planning how much margin to leave.  The best way to improve your performance, is to practice regularly.  I have prepared a list of helpful tips below:
1) Always support your offcuts when crosscutting so the weight of the off cut doesn’t breakout on the backside of the cut.
2) I find that crosscutting roughly 45 degrees and ripping roughly 60 degrees relative to the face of the board is most efficient
3) When ripping long pieces, you can correct your cut by lowering the saw and gently applying lateral pressure to the saw handle in the direction of your line.  Be careful not to over correct.

Always support your offcuts

Always support your offcuts

Time to unwind

Beautiful furniture requires accurate joinery, and that accuracy requires square boards which are free of twist. Even small amounts of twist can wreak havoc with forming solid joints. To detect these minute amounts of warpage, a tool is needed. The tool most often employed is the winding stick. Winding sticks are nothing more than a pair of long straight sticks that are laid across each end of a board to amplify any existing twist to the eye.

I made mine out of hickory, because it is a very hard wood with straight grain. Each one is approximately 18 inches long, with a pair of holes on one board to make sighting any twist a bit easier. I also chamfered the tops of each board to remind me that I only need to maintain one side. I finished them with a couple of coats of tongue oil.

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