Hand planing thin wood

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Hand planing thin wood

Postby Dick Hutchings » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:39 am

How do you hold these thin pieces in place while planing?
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Alan Carruth » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:41 pm

Clamp the wood firmly to a bench, using a softer caul, such as Masonite if needed to keep from denting it. Plane away from the clamp. Pushing the wood toward the clamp will cause it to buckle and break: DAMHIKT. Once you've got one end smooth turn it around.

I plane very small pieces wood quite thin in plane jigs.The wood simply butts into a stop. The trick there is that you can't plane a piece longer than the nose of the plane, which presses it down and keeps it from buckling. You hope.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby David King » Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:34 pm

Thicknessing small, thin pieces of wood is always challenging. I've often resorted to making custom vacuum plates equipped with PSA sandpaper for additional traction. A boundary strip is great but when it fails the results can be disheartening. A very light duty double-sided tape can also work but can also wreck your workpiece as you try to pry it off.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:51 pm

Something to experiment with. Instead of using some kind of block to hold the stock, place dabs of hot glue (like tack-welds) around the edges. That way the entire piece can be secured, not just one end so you are less likely to run into the buckling problem. Also, if you hit the glue with your plane you won't put a nick in the blade.

I haven't actually tried this, but have used this technique on an MDF "sled" to run small pieces through my power planer. If the piece is too short, I'll put a couple of thin strips that run the length of the sled to give the rollers something to grab onto, also secured with little tack-welds of hot melt glue.

If I was going to try hand-planing something this thin, this is how I'd try to do it.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Randolph Rhett » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:52 pm

I make my own double stick tape by running two strips of masking tape on my work bench and two on the work piece that mate when the piece is placed on the board. Run a line of CA on one set of tape strips and hit the other with accelerant. You can place the piece down and it will hold against planning. When done, peel the tape off. I've done mostly fingerboards this way, but also sides and soundboards. Best part is no clamps to work around.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Matthew Lau » Wed Aug 22, 2018 12:52 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maJCqbtN-6I
fancy version

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItMUjHdWiI4
simpler version by Kiyond.

FWIW, Kiyond is the better luthier.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Dick Hutchings » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:38 pm

@Matthew Lau , I think you have the labels backwards:-)

I posted this on a few different forums. It's amazing how many different way folk choose to do this. I'll have to make a list and try them all!
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Dick Hutchings » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:42 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:Something to experiment with. Instead of using some kind of block to hold the stock, place dabs of hot glue (like tack-welds) around the edges. That way the entire piece can be secured, not just one end so you are less likely to run into the buckling problem. Also, if you hit the glue with your plane you won't put a nick in the blade.

I haven't actually tried this, but have used this technique on an MDF "sled" to run small pieces through my power planer. If the piece is too short, I'll put a couple of thin strips that run the length of the sled to give the rollers something to grab onto, also secured with little tack-welds of hot melt glue.

If I was going to try hand-planing something this thin, this is how I'd try to do it.


I like the hot glue idea, thanks. I have tried the sled in the power planer and it works well with straight grained/quartersawn wood. Not so much with flamed maple mandolin sides. AMHIK
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Dick Hutchings » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:44 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:Clamp the wood firmly to a bench, using a softer caul, such as Masonite if needed to keep from denting it. Plane away from the clamp. Pushing the wood toward the clamp will cause it to buckle and break: DAMHIKT. Once you've got one end smooth turn it around.

I plane very small pieces wood quite thin in plane jigs.The wood simply butts into a stop. The trick there is that you can't plane a piece longer than the nose of the plane, which presses it down and keeps it from buckling. You hope.


I should have made it clear, I'm talking about tops, backs and sides.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Dick Hutchings » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:45 pm

Randolph Rhett wrote:I make my own double stick tape by running two strips of masking tape on my work bench and two on the work piece that mate when the piece is placed on the board. Run a line of CA on one set of tape strips and hit the other with accelerant. You can place the piece down and it will hold against planning. When done, peel the tape off. I've done mostly fingerboards this way, but also sides and soundboards. Best part is no clamps to work around.


Even though I already ordered some double stick tape, I'm going to try this one for sure.
Thank you
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Aug 24, 2018 6:42 pm

Dick Hutchings wrote:I like the hot glue idea, thanks. I have tried the sled in the power planer and it works well with straight grained/quartersawn wood. Not so much with flamed maple mandolin sides. AMHIK


Dick - I got the impression that you were working with fairly short pieces. If you do have a planer, and the stock is long enough (like more than 12" or so) I learned an absolutely WIZARD trick in a class I took with Michael Fortune (a furniture builder, not a luthier) recently. I'm not sure that this would be a problem with highly figured wood, but Michael does a LOT of work with exotic woods, and didn't mention any limitations on it.

Use a sled as is described in many places, such as a length of 3/4" MDF. Glue a block the same thickness as the stock on BOTH ends of the stock you're planing, so it is snugly captured. Now, here is the really ingenious part.

Place a business card or playing card, or a piece of veneer etc. between the REAR block and the stock and trim it flush. This causes the stock to bow upward slightly. When passed through the planer, the upper rollers push the stock flat, and firmly jam it between the front and back blocks. Michael says he'll use this technique to thickness stock as thin as 1/16". This prevents the leading edge of the stock from getting sucked up into the planer head which is why thinning stock too thin will usually result in a large handful of toothpicks! :)

I haven't tried this yet. The last piece that I needed to plane thin was too short (some stock for control-cavity covers) and I ended up gluing the stock to the sled with the tack-weld hot-glue trick, but I will be needing to re-saw and thickness some fretboard material, and will definitely give this a try.

Also, I can't say enough good things about Byrd Shelix heads on jointers and planers. I bought my planer second-hand and it already had a Byrd Shelix installed. I restored an ancient 8" Delta jointer a few years ago, and eventually put a Byrd Shelix head on that too. I had some curly maple that was horrible to work with. Absolutely impossible to hand-work it with any edge tool no matter how sharp. However, this stuff went through both the jointer and planer without ANY tear-out. IMO these heads are an absolute must for anyone power-milling any highly figured woods. They aren't cheap, but Byrd is great to do business with and not only do they work great on figured wood, you will NEVER again have to sharpen or adjust knives, and every carbide insert has four edges, so if they ever begin to dull (and I'm still on the first edges on both machines despite years of use) you only have to rotate the inserts 90* and you're running like-new again.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Murray MacLeod » Sat Aug 25, 2018 1:54 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:
Use a sled as is described in many places, such as a length of 3/4" MDF. Glue a block the same thickness as the stock on BOTH ends of the stock you're planing, so it is snugly captured. Now, here is the really ingenious part.

Place a business card or playing card, or a piece of veneer etc. between the REAR block and the stock and trim it flush. This causes the stock to bow upward slightly. When passed through the planer, the upper rollers push the stock flat, and firmly jam it between the front and back blocks. Michael says he'll use this technique to thickness stock as thin as 1/16". This prevents the leading edge of the stock from getting sucked up into the planer head which is why thinning stock too thin will usually result in a large handful of toothpicks! :)


Steve, I freely admit that (unlike my planer blades) I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I have to say that I do not understand one whit of what it is you are explaining.

I realise that there will be an "Ahh !" moment when the penny finally drops for me, but as it stands at present, it seems to me that what you are describing is just a way to thickness a tapered workpiece which will have a thinner back edge than the leading edge. That is obviously not what you are trying to convey ... but I honestly don't get what it actually is that you are describing ...

Maybe somebody who does get it could explain for the benefit of the slower members at the back of the class ?
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Bryan Bear » Sat Aug 25, 2018 2:32 pm

He’s saying to make a sled with end blocks that fit EXACTLY the length of the workpiece. Then when you put the stock in the sled, you put the veneer between the endgrain and back block (not under the workpiece), The thin stock will have to bow slightly to fit since it is now slightly too long. Then the rollers force that bow down making it all super tight.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sat Aug 25, 2018 3:11 pm

Sorry, Murray - by your description of the process as being a "taper" I've obviously been unclear! :)

The stock sits flat on the sled, so there is no taper. The issue is keeping the thin stock flat as it runs under the feed rollers, and not lift up into the cutter head. The "stop blocks" are placed firmly against the stock at each end of the stock, at the infeed end and again at the outfeed end. Not under the stock. These blocks capture the stock so it can't slide forward or back. They should be no thicker than the stock. If I was planing a fretboard to 3/16", I'd probably use a couple of pieces of 1/4" MDF.

So we have a flat sled, a flat piece of stock on the sled, with these blocks tight against the front and back of the stock. If we now slip something thin between the back edge of the stock and the rear stop, the stock will bow upward slightly. The thicker our little insert - a business card, piece of veneer, etc. - the more the stock will bow upwards, so you want to use something thin enough that the upward bow is maybe an inch or so, depending on how long the stock is.

As this assembly is fed into the planer, the feed rollers - one in front of the cutter head, the other behind - press down on the stock, flattening out that bow against the sled and firmly jamming the stock between the two stop blocks. Hence we have two forces preventing the leading edge of the stock from lifting into the cutter head: The friction of the front edge of the stock jammed against the front stop block, AND the slight bow introduced into the stock.

If you have a number of pieces to thickness, cut them to the same length, and you can use this setup to thickness one piece after another. I have some long and short pieces, so I'll have two of these sets of blocks on the sled so I can run two fretboards at a time side-by-side through the planer.

If only doing a single piece, you can also use double-sided tape or hot glue, but you need to run whatever adhesive you use the entire length of the stock so that the thickness is uniform. Getting the stock off the sled with either adhesive is a real PITA and the sled (if made from MDF or inexpensive plywood) can get pretty torn up in the process, making it single-use.

I hope this makes the process clearer. It's really very simple, and I can draw some pictures if that would help. I have some stock that I'll be re-sawing into fretboards, about 6 or so, and will use this process to thickness all of them, and can take some pictures when I do.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sat Aug 25, 2018 3:14 pm

Bryan Bear wrote:He’s saying to make a sled with end blocks that fit EXACTLY the length of the workpiece. Then when you put the stock in the sled, you put the veneer between the endgrain and back block (not under the workpiece), The thin stock will have to bow slightly to fit since it is now slightly too long. Then the rollers force that bow down making it all super tight.


Uh...yeah - what he said! :D

One of these days I'll learn to be concise! :roll:
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Alan Carruth » Sat Aug 25, 2018 5:45 pm

Dick Hitchings wrote:
"I should have made it clear, I'm talking about tops, backs and sides."

That's how I plane tops, backs, and sides; by clamping them to the bench and planing away from the clamps.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Murray MacLeod » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:21 am

Thanks Bryan and Steve, for the elucidation ...I totally get it now.

Just FTR, what was throwing me was the sentence
Glue a block the same thickness as the stock on BOTH ends of the stock you're planing, so it is snugly captured.


This immediately conjured up a mental image of the blocks being glued to the stock , rather than to the sled, and I was in a daze from then on in.

But now I get it, and many thanks for what will no doubt prove in future to be one of the most useful tips I have come across.

It does occur to me that the process could even be tweaked slightly by making the end blocks with a slight bevel and planing a corresponding bevel on either end of the workpiece ...... like this .... /////////IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sun Aug 26, 2018 12:16 pm

Murray MacLeod wrote:what was throwing me was the sentence
Glue a block the same thickness as the stock on BOTH ends of the stock you're planing, so it is snugly captured.


It does occur to me that the process could even be tweaked slightly by making the end blocks with a slight bevel and planing a corresponding bevel on either end of the workpiece ...... like this .... /////////IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\


Ah - yeah. "On the ends". Terrible wording on my part.

That tweak is a good idea, but might be problematic when using the setup to plane multiple pieces, plus if the planing skims off the tops of the blocks (as often happens), the stock could come loose immediately. Probably better to just rely on the friction.
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Dick Hutchings » Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:24 am

And this has what to do with hand-planing? :lol:

I no longer own a thickness planer and hope I never do again. I'm now finding it so easy to do with hand planes and I derive a lot of pleasure from the dust and noise free environment. Of course I still have and use a tablesaw. :lol:
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Re: Hand planing thin wood

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:48 am

Dick Hutchings wrote:And this has what to do with hand-planing? :lol:


Sorry. Thread drift. GUILTY as charged. I know I'm a repeat offender, but go easy on me, Judge!! :oops: :roll: :)
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