Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

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Greg McKnight
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Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Greg McKnight »

My dad has an old Craftsman power jointer in his shop and over the years it has done nothing but scalp my wood, waste my time, and frustrate me to no end. I know some people use planes to do this operation but I don't have one and it seems like one of those artisan operations that is beyond me anyway. Is there another way? This is such a headache in the build process for me.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Peter Wilcox »

Do you meant jointing the edges to glue together, or thicknessing the flat surfaces?
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Barry Daniels »

Sandpaper attached to a 24" long level worked until I got a good plane.
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David Falkner
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by David Falkner »

If you have a table saw you can also put some sandpaper down on the top and use your fence for a guide to get a good fit on the joint. I've used the strip off a belt sander many times. Once you cut it at the splice it's long enough to do a good job.

Patrick Hanna
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Patrick Hanna »

As David said, a sanding strip on a long, flat surface will work fine. Use the fence to keep your half-plates perpendicular to the surface being sanded. If you don't have a table saw, level the infeed and outfeed tables of your dad's jointer (above the cutter head, of course) and use it!

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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Michael Lewis »

It sounds like the jointer needs a good set up session. Just like a hand plane, it needs to be carefully adjusted to cut properly.

If you have the patience there is always the chalk fitting procedure.

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Greg McKnight
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Greg McKnight »

I have tried the sandpaper on a flat surface technique with blah results. It's hard to keep a board 1" wide by 9" tall from rocking a little isn't it? (sure was for me)

I bought new blades for the jointer and spent 3 hours installing and adjusting them Friday. Then yesterday, I spent another two hours attempting to adjust the infeed table (outfeed doesn't move on this one) to a satisfactory end. The jointer was taking off a uniform layer of wood, as I marked the edge with pencil to be able to see how it was working. But when I put the two halves together, there was light visible at spots along the edge.

And let me tell you, this machine was made by real sadists back in the late 70s. The adjustment for the fence is under the machine. Four locking nuts that are very hard to reach (and even see), followed by four adjusting nuts. I thought I had it right but still got unsatisfactory results. I may end up trying once again to adjust this thing. After all, I just bought new blades for it so it would be a drag to abandon it now. Yesterday just frustrated and depressed me. I go to the shop all pumped up to start to build a guitar and end up laying on concrete for hours adjusting a persnickety old machine instead. I had a list of things to do and got to NONE of them :x .

Sorry, I guess this was more venting than anything else. I'll figure something out eventually.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Bob Gramann »

I've not spent a lot of time with a powered jointer, but I wouldn't expect it to make a perfect glue joint for a guitar plate. When I've jointed 1" thick tops and backs, all it took was a few passes with a #6 plane. It might be worth your time to acquire one and tune it up. Once you get it down, they're pretty reliable.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Peter Wilcox »

If you joint the two halves together with the faces in contact, when you open them up the two edge angles will complement each other and will make complete contact, even if the fence is not dead on at 90 degrees. Of course this assumes that longitudinally the edges are completely straight and flat.
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Paul E Buerk
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Paul E Buerk »

Any alternative that I can think of besides a sanding setup would be more expensive than a sharp plane. My favorite is a #6, although you could definitely get by with a #4 or #5, and some prefer a #7. These are available all the time on eBay and sometimes on Craigslist for between $20 and $50 for a user. The biggest problem I have with my #6 is finding the glue line afterwards.

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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Stephen Neal Saqui »

I also use a #6 plane. Well worth the effort to flatten the plane and keep it extremely sharp! And only use it for that purpose.
There's a good description of how to join tops and backs in the Cumpiano book. It describes pulling the plane blade in to zero then bringing it out until you get powder from each stroke. Read that and get the plane working properly will bring you ecstasy and joy when you finally get the hang of it!

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Barry Daniels »

My sandpaper technique using a level does not suffer from the problem of non-square joint. The setup is similar to using a plane. Lay one half of the plate on your workbench and place the second half on top to lift it a bit. Let the top piece overhang the bottom. Lay the level on the workbench and sand away. Easy peasy.
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Alan Carruth
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Alan Carruth »

Generally speaking a planed joint will be superior to a sanded one, although I know that plenty of folks do use sanded joints. I use rub joints with hide glue, and the biggest problem I have is not getting a tight joint; it's getting carried away with rubbing it and starving the joint. I've got an old #4 with a Hock iron tuned up to the point where I can do all of my joining with it, as well as general smoothing. Yeah, it's a 'crafty' thing, but isn't that part of what we're in this for?

Aaron Helt
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Aaron Helt »

There is a method where you use a router and straight bit, but it isn't much better that a semi-set up jointer (I have an old craftsman also and I'd bet a dollar it is the same model!). I still use the jointer and when done see places where light passes through a little bit. To clean up, I sand on a simple jig.
Picture two pieces of 3/4 MDF, both about 30 inches long. One piece about 2 in. wide, the other about 4 or 5 in. wide. The narrow piece is glued/screwed to the other like an L . Stick some fine grit paper on the small leg of the L and put both sides against the long edge of the L , joint edge down toward the paper . This holds 90 degree. Sand just a few licks both directions, then light bulb test. This works for me.

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Greg McKnight
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Greg McKnight »

I went low tech and have achieved a good tight joint finally.

As Peter Wilcox suggested, I laid them with the faces together and clamped each end with the edges at 90 degrees. Then I marked the edges with pencil lines, put them between my feet while sitting and ran a flat footlong piece of maple with 220 sandpaper slowly and carefully down the length, my fingers guiding it and keeping it perpendicular. When all my pencil marks disappeared, I unclamped and there it was. Now maybe I can get some real work done. I may put up a build thread if there is any interest. I'm sure I'll need more help along the way so that might be the best place to catalog it all.

Thanks for the advice everybody, and I hope this may help someone else with a similar problem in the future.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Barry Daniels »

Greg, make sure that your method didn't round off the joint in the sideways axis. This can happen when working freehand. The joint may look light tight, but can still have open places in the joint that can result in subsequent joint failure.
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Carl Curi
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Carl Curi »

I have done the sanding method on a very flat surface and it comes good at the end but it is a lot of work and it takes time.
I just purchased a brand new router table and a straight bit to do this job and it was just ok because I still had plenty of light coming through in the center of the joint. I was not totally satisfied.
it was not a perfect fit so I'm thinking of going back to the flat surface sanding method and yes it is a lot of work but in the past I ended up with relatively good board joints.
I use the longest sanding belt I can find (opened up the loop) , clap it down on a flat surface with a long 2 by 4 board (that I also use at the same time as the fence) and sand away.
good luck. :)

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Bryan Bear »

One can certainly get adequate results with many methods. I have resorted to sandpaper methods a time or two but would like to offer a suggestion. Get a hand plane (tune it up and learn to sharpen it) and make a simple shooting board. Each time you joint a plate, first try the hand plane. Check your work often and spend a fair amount of time practicing. If it doesn't work out, switch to the sandpaper and try again next time. That is what I did when I started. I found that I eventually found the touch/technique to get it done with the plane. I don't build a lot so sometimes it still takes me a bit to get the feel back. Even then, it is still quicker and cleaner than sandpaper.
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Stephen Neal Saqui
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Stephen Neal Saqui »

As I said above, I use a #6 plane on its side. Cut both pieces at the same time. They are raised with boards under that bring them in line with the center of the blade. I used to carefully clamp them down but don't anymore. I line them up flush with each other and run the plane in one smooth motion holding them down with the other hand. It doesn't take long and they're ready, no light showing.

The "secret" to this is that I spent the time to level the sole many years ago and I keep the blade very sharp. Then when getting ready to shoot I quickly get the matching edges fairly straight with a few strokes. Then I withdraw the blade to zero and begin again by bringing the blade out in minute increments, a fraction of a turn at each stroke until the blade is making powder. Then I resume planing and checking the light with the two pieces together facing the window. It doesn't take long at all before there's no light showing.

Gentlemen, forgive me for saying that sanding is a crude method. Yes you can get there but the results are never as clean, the glue joint is not as strong and there's always a possibility of a glue line.
With the age old method of using a plane you have kept the shop quiet, have a perfect, strong joint, and the satisfaction of working close with the materials.

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Greg McKnight
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Re: Any successful method of jointing backs and tops without power jointer or planes?

Post by Greg McKnight »

A tool collecting friend of mine said he would see if he had a #6 plane for me. I've always felt inadequate as a woodworker by not being more proficient with a plane. Maybe I won't have an excuse now.

The top joint did turn out quite well, but I still have a back to do when weather permits.

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