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Planing *really* thin parts

The other night, I was working on a wall desk I’m making for my parents. After a long day at work and a Christmas concert at school, I finally got out into the shop and starting making the two drawers using lock-rabbet joints. Call it a miscalculation, inattention at the hour, or just plain stupidity, but the drawers ended up about 3/16” narrower than the opening. Not a big deal on dresser drawers, but these drawers are about 11” wide and 4” long, so the fit was really sloppy. Dang.

Because I was going to put false fronts on them anyway, I decided to add some shims to run along the bottom edges of the drawer sides. My first thought was to use strips of plastic laminate, but that was too thin, and I still had a sloppy fit. So I decided to go with some really thin hardwood strips.

Cutting them on the tablesaw was no problem, just making sure I cut them on the outside of the blade, not trapped between the fence and blade. But when I test-fit the shims and they were too thick, I couldn’t just nudge the fence a bit and cut news ones: I had to take into account the thickness of the kerf, the thickness of the shim, and hope I could accurately subtract that from the fence reading. It made my brain hurt and after a couple of tries decided on a new tact.

I already had made some shims too thick, so I just needed to make those shims thinner. Too small to sand easily, so I broke out my block plane. Too thin for a bench dog, or any other kind of a stop, so I double-face taped one of the shims to a shooting board and made a few passes with the plane. That worked great. Too great, actually, because when it came time to test fit, I was worried that the shim might break as I removed it from the super-sticky tape, especially as I planed even thinner. It took several test-fittings to get it right, and by the time I had one shim to the right thickness, the tape had lost its “sticky” on both sides and was as shot as my nerves at that late hour.

PSA sandings discs grip a thin workpiece well enough to hand-plane itScanning the shop for a solution, I noticed a box of old 220-grit PSA sanding discs up on a shelf. I haven’t had a sander that takes sticky-back sandpaper in ages, but I still had this whole box of discs. I peeled the back off one disc and stuck it to my shooting board.

The grit provided just enough grip to keep the shim flat and in one place while I planed it, and yet didn’t stick it down. Within a few minutes, I had all four shims planed to perfect thickness and ready to glue on.


PSA sandings discs grip a thin workpiece well enough to hand-plane it

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