Planer / Sander Question re: 2" Mahogany bench

I am making a bench top 21" deep by 48" wide from 5" wide x 2" thick African Mahogany. I'm using biscuits and clamps to align edges of the boards, but there is still a very slight uneveness at some places in the glued together boards - about 1/32" or so. I don't own a planer (although I've considered getting a 13" Dewalt), but would that be the recommended way to even out the surface? should I use a hand planer or a hand held power planer( (I have a small one of these.) Or would just sanding be the best route? I'd rather not mess up the wood - it's fairly expensive. I appreciate any insights or advice you can give to this relative novice. Thanks.
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If I had to do this by hand my choice would be a hand held belt sander, followed by an orbital, followed by a palm sander.
It takes a lite touch to do it well, especially with the belt sander.
Lock the piece down on a table top or saw horses at a good working height. Use 150 on a belt sander. (100 will cut faster but can cause gouges easier too. Run the sand at about 30 degrees off of a straight cut so its cutting slightly across the grain rather than exactly in line. Run from one end to the other in line with the grain, lightly, no down pressure, let the sander work. Go up and back moving over about 2-3 inches with each pass from one edge and then work your way back to the other. If you have a few joints that are worse than others, you can give them and extra pass or two or three when you pass over them but then work out to cover the whole table again.
Light hand with an orbital. Maybe start with 100, then 150. Then 150 with a palm sander and the 180 or 220. Light work with the orbital and lots of work with the pam 150 to kill all the orbital swirls.
I've done hundereds of large glue-up panels in my life and probably 20 or 30 with this method.
BW snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote: : I am making a bench top 21" deep by 48" wide from 5" wide x 2" thick : African Mahogany. I'm using biscuits and clamps to align edges of the : boards, but there is still a very slight uneveness at some places in : the glued together boards - about 1/32" or so. I don't own a planer : (although I've considered getting a 13" Dewalt), but would that be the : recommended way to even out the surface? should I use a hand planer or : a hand held power planer( (I have a small one of these.) Or would just : sanding be the best route? I'd rather not mess up the wood - it's : fairly expensive. I appreciate any insights or advice you can give to : this relative novice. : Thanks.
There's a variety of things you could do to make the top flat and/or smooth.
1) Use a sharp hand plane, one with a long sole. A handheld power planer is not going to be able to give you much of a flat reference surface. This will take a while, requires some practice, and so on.
2) Take it to a local cabinet shop or hardwood dealer with a large belt sander. They'll charge you, but they'll be able to sand it evenly (these are stationary tools, often with a 36" wide belt) in a few minutes, and then you can finish sand at home.
3) Buy a planer, and feed the top through in two <12" wide pieces. You'll probably need to joint the edge after this is done, and then glue the two tegether.
4) If you own a router, you can carefully attach a temporary fence to either side of the top. Make very sure the tops of each fence are parallel. Attach the router to a flat base wide enough to straddle the width of the top (you'll likely want to reinforce it to eliminate sag). Put a flat-bottom bit in the router, and run it over every inch of the top, removing as little wood as necessary. Key here is parallel and straight fences, and a very flat, non-flexing router base.
    -- Andy Barss
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