Tools

STL262: The old tool trinity

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Vic, Mike, and Ben discuss old machines, professional woodworking, milling, and accuracy.

Mar 25, 2022

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The power of the hobbyist

Many believe hobbyist woodworkers couldn’t possibly be as good, fast, and talented as pros, but Vic Tesolin argues this is a silly notion.

Question 1:

From Tim: When milling up stock for a project, I follow the standard procedure of first jointing one face which is then used as the reference face when sending it through the planer to bring the opposite face parallel and to final thickness. It’s common for me to work with stock wider than my 6” jointer, and I have become comfortable getting the first face free of significant twist, bow, or cup with handplanes, then using that as my reference surface as I feed it through my 13” planer. With the opposite face now planed true, I continue to follow the usual step of flipping it over and sending it back through the planer to refine the original hand-planed face.

My question: How close to perfect does the initial handplaned reference surface need to be before sending it through the planer?  I’ve read in a couple of places that it only has to be “reasonably close” to flat, but I don’t know what that means and find myself getting pretty obsessive and spending quite a bit of time with the original handplane work.  Am I overdoing it? 

Question 2:

From Aaron: I’m making a few small boxes with dovetail joints, but I’m really struggling with the thin material (about 1/4″) and the small size of everything. Things tend to chip out more than in thicker wood while sawing or paring, my tools are disproportionately large, and any mistake is amplified by the small size of the finished product. Are there any tricks to make this easier, or do I just have to get better? For what it’s worth, I’m following the instructions from Chris Gochnour’s 2018 video workshop on FWW.

Smooth Moves:

Ben: Being off by a degree when drilling mortises for a furniture repair

Vic: Not checking the depth on his tracksaw before plunging

Mike: Not realizing that his really cool clamp can be used on his bench

Question 3:

From Matt: I struggle with milling and cross cutting.  Every time I crosscut something on my table saw I spend 30 minutes trying to get my miter gauge or sled to give me a result that I consider acceptable.  I have a unisaw and use an incra 1000se with a wood worker 2. I have done my best to ensure there is no play in the miter slots.  Using the woodpeckers saw gauge 2.0 I have gotten my slots parallel to the blade within about .001 of an inch.  There is a little run out but, it is within .002″. On an 8″ cut I usually end up giving up once I get to about .001-.003 from square (on a 12″ starrett combo).  I spend more time trying to calibrate my equipment than I do using it.  Would you consider these results acceptable, or should I keep searching for the perfect cut?  Would a dedicated crosscut blade serve me better?  I hate gappy joints…  it would be nice to just cut something.

Milling can also be bothersome but at least it makes sense when I get less than perfect results.  What do you guys consider “flat”? When do you guys decide it is good enough?  .001″ doesn’t sound like a lot but as the inaccuracies pile up and compound over the course of a project, I often find myself unhappy with the end result. There are plenty of conversations that declare you need to be flat and square but there is very little description of what those terms mean to the pros.

Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to  shoptalk@taunton.com  for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our  iTunes page .

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