Marked Faces

A continuous whole-body motion sweeps the plane down the board's edge. The fingers of the left hand help to keep the plane square with the face of the board.

panel or finish the edges with a hand plane, like I do.

Hand planing—I use my 22-in. jointer plane for working edges because it contacts more of the edge than a shorter plane. No matter which size plane you use (the longer the better), a razor-sharp plane iron is essential. (See "Getting the Edge." Sept./Oct. 1990 AW.) Having already established (I hope) a flat, true edge on the jointer. I want the hand plane to remove only a thin shaving down the length of the edge. 1 set the chip breaker less than '/32-in. from the cutting edge and position the blade so it's parallel to the sole and barely protruding from the throat. I lower the blade as I make the first few strokes until I can remove a wispy, but intact, shaving.

If you're jointing edges entirely by hand, first set the plane to take a heavy shaving and clean off the rough saw marks on all the edges. Straighten the convex and concave edges by removing the high spots as described above in the machine jointing section. Then reset the plane iron and finish plane the edges as described here.

I hold boards in the face vise on mv bench. Some kind of adjustable support is handy for holding up the ternating the faces in this manner will produce a flat surface, even if the fence isn't set at exactly 90°. In general, slow feed rates and shallow cuts produce smoother edges. If you can't avoid working against the grain, a slow feed will minimize tearout.

When the edges are jointed, stack the boards edge-to-edge vertically, as shown in the photo, to see if the joint is tight. If an edge is concave, you'll need to take several passes on each end. then joint the full length of the edge, as shown in Fig. 5. If an edge is convex, the easiest solution is first to straighten the opposite, concave edge of the board, then rip the convex edge straight on the tablesaw and joint it. If you must correct a convex edge on the jointer, use the technique shown in Fig. 5. Be sure to keep the board from rocking during the first pass or two. until you've established a straight portion long enough to bear on the jointer tables.

Wrhen the joints are tight, you can either glue up the

A continuous whole-body motion sweeps the plane down the board's edge. The fingers of the left hand help to keep the plane square with the face of the board.

Cut the ends down with multiple passes, then Keep the board from rocking for the first pass or two, then joint the full length. extend the flat with successive passes.



end of long boards. Held in a vise, very narrow boards might be distorted by the force of planing. If possible, plane them on the benchtop against a stop or between bench dogs.

The key to hand planing an edge is to keep the sole of the plane perpendicular to the faces of the board. I rest the sole of the plane squarely on the edge and lock my hands and wrists in position. (This locking is a mental as much as a physical action.) 1 find that keeping the fingers of my left hand in touch with the face of the board, as shown in the photos, helps me to keep the plane square.

The force for the stroke comes from my upper arms, shoulders, torso and legs. You can plane a short board in one motion, shifting your weight from back leg to front leg and extending your arms to finish the stroke, as shown in the photos, p. 28. Longer boards require a kind of choreographed shuffle down their lengths: arms, torso and legs shifting along as smoothly as possible while you keep the plane moving and square to the board's face. You may want to check your planing with a straightedge or square when you're starting out; but with practice, you'll learn to trust your skill and your eye and save yourself a lot of time.

When you've jointed a pair of edges, stack them in a vise as shown to check the joint. Ideally, the top board will rest firmly on the bottom, the edges will meet along their entire length, and there should be no visible gaps when viewed from either the front or back faces. A straightedge resting on the faces of the two boards will show them to be in a single plane.

Sometimes this actually happens. On those happy occasions, all that remains is to spring the joint slightly, as shown in Fig. 3, so the ends of the glued joint are less likely to open up when the humidity changes. Starting about three inches from one end. take a very thin shaving that finishes about 3 in. from the other end. I apply very little pressure on the plane at the beginning and end of the stroke, but a little more in the middle. After a stroke on each edge, I stack the boards and check the joint again before moving on to the next pair.

All too frequently, however, you'll find that you have more work to do before you can spring the edges — the stacked boards don't mate perfectly. Slightly concave edges are okay—the joint is already sprung. But if the edges are too concave or are convex you'll need to correct them with a hand plane. Establish Hat surfaces on the ends (concave) or in the center (convex) and extend these along the entire edge.

A twisted edge, in which one pair of diagonal corners is higher than the other, is harder to see and to fix. With the boards stacked on edge, push down on one end of the top board and look closely at the joint from the other end. If the surfaces touch only at one corner, at least one of the two edges is twisted. (If the joint gaps all the way across the end, one of the edges is bowed.) You can also use a try square to check the angle of the edge to the face at each end. If the face is flat and the square reveals diagonally opposed high corners, the edge is twisted.

Correct a twisted edge by planing the high corners off. This isn't easv on a surface that's 3/-»-in. wide and w

5 ft. long, but it can be done. Again, the key is to keep the sole of the plane square to the board's face. The shaving starts from just the high corner at one end, widens to full width toward the center of the board, then tapers to the high corner at the other end. It may take several passes before you're taking a full-width shaving the entire length of the edge. Stack the boards and check the joint again. If it still rocks, check the other edge. If it still rocks ... well, keep at it.

Finally, check with a straightedge to see if the faces of the two boards form a single plane, as shown in the photo. If not, you need to adjust the angle of one of the edges. With the sole of the plane square to the face of the board, take one or more shavings off the high side of the edge and a final shaving across the full width. Then stack and check the boards again.

Learning to handle a plane to do such delicate work

Stack the boards on edge after you've planed them and check with a straightedge to see if they make a flat surface.

can be frustrating. Often you succeed in correcting one defect only to discover you've introduced another. If a hand-planed joint isn't clearly superior, why not glue up straight from the jointer? I can think of two reasons. The first is practical. If your jointer is slightly out of adjustment, it may not produce an acceptable joint; two minutes' work with a hand plane can fix it. The second reason is personal. For me, learning to use a tool with skill and precision is its own reward. My


When I first started woodworking, I followed my father's practice of adding splines or dowels to edge joints. (Splines are loose tongues that fit into grooves cut in a pair of mated edges. "Biscuit" or plate-joinerv is a modern refinement.) He did so, I'm pretty sure, because that's what many woodworking books and magazines in the 1950s recommended. The joints were easier to align, they said, and stronger. I never got the hang of doweling —it seemed far more trouble to align the dowel holes in the edges than to align the edges themselves. But for a lime, I dutifully grooved edges and fit them with plywood splines. I even bought a "glue-joint" cutter for mv shaper, which cut a fancy, interlocking, double tongue-and-groove joint.

A few years later, I learned I'd been wasting my time. Splined or doweled edge joints arc not stronger in any meaningful way; nor, in most circumstances, are they appreciably easier to align. Given two accurately planed (or machine-jointed) edges and a decent modern woodworking glue, a simple edge-to-edge glue joint (long grain to long grain) will be stronger than the wood itself—subjected to enough stress, the wood will break before the joint.

If the boards you're gluing are flat and the edges planed true, alignment is an easy task. Sure, you may have to apply a little persuasion here and there with a block and mallet, but that takes far less time than you'd spend doweling, splining or cutting slots with a plate joiner.

Aligning edge joints with dowels, splines, or biscuits can make sense where tolerances for slippage are very small, such as when edge gluing two veneered panels to form a flat surface, or when assembling a large surface of a great many pieces. And in production set-ups where a lot of gluing is done, the time saved by assembling self-aligning shaper-cut edges can be considerable.

Although there may be edge joint situations where you feel reinforcement is a good hedge against joint failure, it's seldom, if ever, the best solution. If you're concerned about the strength of the joint, perhaps because the wood is resinous or oily, I think vour time would be belter w spent finding the right glue than fiddling with dowels. —R.H.

woodwork may not look any better, but I feel like I'm a better woodworker for it.

Gluing up —When all the edges are jointed and planed, you're ready to glue up. Clear off your workbench and spread a sheet of plastic to protect it from dripping glue.

The best clamps for the job are bar clamps, but for the price, it's hard to beat V^-in. pipe clamps. For panels up to about 4 or 5 ft. long, three clamps is usually enough: one placed about 3 to 6 in. from each end. the third in the center. I alternate the clamps top and bottom to prevent the panel from cupping. I usually clamp the panel dry first, to position the clamps and to make sure the panel will go together as I want it to. If you have to exert lots of pressure to draw this or that part of a joint together, something's wrong. Take the time to rework the edges so the joint closes with minimum pressure.

Elmer's Glue-All. a white glue, is still holding together furniture that my father made 30 years ago, so

I continue to use it todav. Various brands of vellow

glue arc supposed to be stronger, but I find they set up faster in the heat of summer, and I like as much time as possible to get the surfaces of the boards aligned. (For more on glues, see Sept-/Oct. 1989AW.)

I run a bead of glue down both edges of a mating pair. Better to use too much rather than tcxj little glue; you can squeeze out excess glue, but you can't inject glue into a starved joint. I usually spread the glue over the edges with a stick or small brush. Then I lay the boards down on the clamps and rub the mating edges together, aligning the triangular marks (remember them?) on the faces. Begin tightening clamps at the center. If you're clamping thin boards, tilt the clamp heads so the pressure of the screw is centered on the edge, not above it. Make sure the faces of the boards are in continuous contact with the pipes or bars, particularly right at the clamp pad.

Lightly tighten the clamps, aligning the faces of the boards as you go. Then go back to the center and make small adjustments in the alignment as you tighten again. At first, you can slide the edges against each other to align the faces. But the glue gels tacky very quickly and more persuasion is soon needed. I bang a block of hardwood (to protect the boards) with a 16-oz. hammer. The banging can loosen clamps, so keep checking them. Use just enough clamp pressure to pull the joints snugly together, then give another nudge. If you have to crank really hard on a clamp, something's wrong.

Pushing the boards against the bars or pipes should keep the panel flat. But make sure the panel's surface lies in a single plane while the glue cures. I sight along the clamps to detect twist.

When the glue has thoroughly cured, remove the clamps and clean off the faces with a hand plane. It may take you a number of panels to get the hang of the tools and techniques, but it will all seem worth it die first time you have to hunt to locate a joint in a panel you've glued up. A

Roger Holmes works wood in Woodbury, CT.


The Most Fun You'll Em I lave Behind Bars

'm married to a lady who has a degree in music theory and many years of teaching experience, so musical instruments tend to materialize in my shop. The xylophone you see here has eight bars spanning a full octave (without the half-tones). It also has a sound box. which gives it a different tone than an open-platform xylophone might have. It's easy to build and requires no special tools or metalworking ability because the bars are made of wood. You're probably more familiar with metal xylophones. But the prefix "xylo" is derived from the Greek word for wood, so the term "xylophone" should really only be used for instruments with wooden bars.

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