Tricks for truing lumber without a jointer
No jointer? No problem! You can still mill flat boards with square edges. Your grandad may have reached for a hand plane (see More Resources for a video on flattening boards by hand, on last slide), but today there's an easier way. With a few common power tools, you can use any of these five easy methods for flat boards in no time.
Quick Tip! Before starting, identify any wood distortion with winding sticks: a pair of short, straight lengths of wood or metal, as shown below.
For a cupped board
Cut a pair of straight runners the length of the workpiece and glue them to both edges, as shown at right. After the glue dries, remove the clamps and run the assembly through the planer -- crowned face up. Continue planing until the planer flattens the entire top face of the board. Then, flip the workpiece over and run it through the planer again to flatten that face. Use your tablesaw to rip away the runners and square the edges.
To flatten a twisted board
Make a sled from a scrap of flat plywood or MDF slightly longer and wider than your workpiece. Glue a cleat on the trailing end of the sled to capture the workpiece as it goes through the planer. Using scrapwood wedges held in place with double-faced tape, shim the gaps between the sled and the twisted board to keep it from rocking. Now, run the sled and board through the planer to flatten the top. Remove the workpiece from the sled, place the flattened face down and plane the opposite face.
To rip a straight edge on boards
Build this sled and use it as a secure platform. To make a T-slot, use a Forstner bit to drill 3/8"-deep starting holes where shown; then run your router against a straightedge clamped to the sled base and plow the channel between the two holes with a 3/8" straight router bit. Without moving the straightedge, install a T-slot cutter bit and rout the channel.
To use the sled, let the rough edge of the workpiece overhang the sled and secure the workpiece with hold-down clamps (#35283, 800-279-4441, rockler.com). Butt the opposite edge of the sled against your fence and rip the crooked edge away, as shown previous slide, top.
To thick for the tablesaw
use a router, bearing-guided flush-trim bit, and a plywood straightedge instead. As with jointing on the tablesaw, one edge of the workpiece must overhang the straightedge. A 1/16" overhang should be adequate for most boards. Set the cutting depth so that the bearing runs against the straightedge, as shown, then trim the rough edge.
For small, short, or highly figured boards
Prone to tear-out, set up your router table as an edge jointer. This technique also saves time when edge-jointing several pieces because you won't have to clamp a straightedge to each workpiece. To start, install a straight bit in your router table, and then use thin spacers to offset the outfeed side of the table 1/16", as shown right.
- FREE for a limited time: View a video on truing up a board with a hand plane at woodmagazine.com/handplaneflat.
- For a free trick to help you see your winding sticks, go to woodmagazine.com/windingsticktip.