How to square wood easily?
September 12, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Woodworkingfilter! How do I square a piece of wood without a jointer or planer?

This is my second woodworking question, and the hivemind was good to me last time, so here I go again!

I am making some clocks as gifts for family at Christmas and my plywood prototypes look good but I know when I built from hardwood that I can't rely on having square, flat wood. Neither a jointer or planer is really in the budget this year, but I do have a good Ridgid table saw.

Assuming that I need to square up some 4" x 1" or 6" x 1" hardwood boards, can I do this with just my table saw or am I going to have to wing it and sand out any imperfections in my joints?
posted by WinnipegDragon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If by "square" you mean that you need to flatten it to remove cupping or warpage, then no, the tablesaw won't do it. No way, no how. If power tools aren't in the budget, you might consider learning to sharpen and use a hand plane. Very serviceable ones are available on ebay every day.
posted by jon1270 at 11:43 AM on September 12, 2008

You could do it the old fashioned way, with hand planes. A Number 5 Jack plane should be plenty. Just be patient. The biggest problem is getting the faces flat and parallel. Set the blade very shallow and check often with a straightedge. Once you do that you can probably get by with the table saw to square the edges, although running the plane over it a few times to smooth things out will help. You might want to get a low angle block plane to square the ends, and be really careful not to tear chunks out at the end. It helps if you clamp a couple of pieces of scrap to the edges when you're squaring the ends, so there is something supporting the edge.
Lee Valley has an article. Also, here. I consider planing a board by hand a most enjoyable activity, particularly if it's a nice smelling wood like oak or hickory.
posted by leapfrog at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2008

Any cabinet or wood working shop will give your stock a pass through the planner - maybe even for free. Just get all your stuff together, call ahead, and then take it over. It should only take a few minutes.

Otherwise, consider using MDF with a hardwood veneer.
posted by wfrgms at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2008

What is the source of your wood going to be? Sometimes you can buy (for a premium) "S2S" wood - this is "surfaced on 2 sides". This usually means an edge will be straight and a face will be flat, and they'll be at a 90 degree angle. You can rip to get the other edge straight, typically you need a planer to get the other face flat and parallel.

Very rarely you can buy wood that is surfaced on all sides. Unless this was done recently, there is also little reason to expect that it will still be flat and square.

Many woodworking stores offer classes, you might be able to use some class time to do a little surfacing. Check and see if there is a WoodCraft in your area. None of my local woodcrafts will surface wood, although they do sell wood. A wood store might be able to tell you of a local place that WILL surface wood for you when you buy it. Looks like you're in Canada, I have no idea what the retail wood market is like there.

MDF + a veneer is a pretty good idea, actually. Plywood and a veneer might work well also, depending - MDF can be difficult to work with in some ways.

Buying and using a handplane is not a bad idea but it's not a terribly easy/fast skill to learn. The only planes I use regularly are jointing planes (occaisonal) and block planes (for trimming, not flattening...)
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:03 PM on September 12, 2008

Okay, sounds like my saw is not going to help me out then.

One of the places I'm looking for stock carries 3SS (3 sides sanded) wood boards. Is this an improvement over standard stock? It's about twice the price...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:04 PM on September 12, 2008

Looks like Rusty answered my question.

So pre-finished (S2S or the like) wood gives me a starting point that I can work with. I'll have to put a thickness planer on my wish list for the holidays then.

posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:15 PM on September 12, 2008

You might want to check your local park district or municipal government - for example, here in Chicago the city owns and operates several workshops affiliated with the park district that are available to all residents for a nominal fee per quarter and have all the large power tools.
posted by true at 12:42 PM on September 12, 2008

If what ture mentioned isn't available to you and you want to go the power tool route, consider renting. You can usually rent any number of tools from Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. for a pretty reasonable rate.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2008

Grrr... true, not ture. Sorry.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 12:58 PM on September 12, 2008

Just checked my City of Winnipeg Leisure Guide, and they have a drop in wood shop at the East End Leisure Centre, 575 Larsen, for $7.53/visit. You have to attend an orientation session before you can drop in though.
posted by teg at 1:11 PM on September 12, 2008

Awesome, that sounds fantastic, definitely should check that out.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:25 PM on September 12, 2008

Can you rent a planer from your local taylor rental / pro rental place? Lowes rents tools out these days as well.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:46 PM on September 12, 2008

Looking at your question, what, exactly, are you needing to do? When you talk about imperfections in your joints, are you going to be edge gluing long boards, or what?

The official "how the square a board" method is to do a wide face on the joiner, put that against the joiner fence to do the flat edge, then run it, wide finished face down, through the planer, and finally cut the other thin edge straight on the table saw.

If you already have a reasonably flat wide face, you can edge joint the first narrow face on the table saw using this technique, or build build something like this and then set it to cut a 0° taper that is only slightly narrower than your board. Then you can turn it around and cut the other edge square leaving you one wide face that's out of square. That might be good enough for what you're up to.

I'm going to repeat the get yourself a Stanley #5 advice. You're also going to want to learn how to sharpen it. Learning how to use a hand plane will teach you things about how wood behaves that will come in handy when you do finally upgrade.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:03 PM on September 12, 2008

« Older SURPRISE!!!   |   Any recommendations for baby scrapbooking site? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.