Surfacing a workbench

Hi folks-
I am a new woodworker, who is building a maple workbench. Since I still stink at surfacing wood using a hand plane, I was wondering if its possible to smooth/surface it with a router, or if there is some other means for doing it.
Or maybe I should get off my butt and learn to use the planes. I am worried about ruining the block surface since I am a still a hack.
Thanks very much-
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WPD wrote:

Have you tried google yet? One of the first results of a search for "surfacing router" was this:
http://www.taunton.com/finewoodworking/Workshop/WorkshopPDF.aspx?id !98
Chris
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If you don't want to pay for membership, there's an article on something similar here: http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&IDX (and browse their "library" for a variety of other helpful articles) Andy
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WPD wrote:
> I am a new woodworker, who is building a maple workbench. Since I still > stink at surfacing wood using a hand plane, I was wondering if its possible > to smooth/surface it with a router, or if there is some other means for > doing it.
Yes, if you build the proper jigs, you could surface it with a router.
You could also use a belt sander.
This job begs for a fairing batten using a 3/4"x3/4"x1/16"x96" aluminum angle.
You rub the back of the angle across the surface.
Aluminum oxide from the angle will mark the high spots that then get sanded down.
Repeat process a couple of hundred times and you will be ready for a fairing board.
When your arms feel like they are going to fall off, your top is flat and fair.
Using the above hand methods, you can easily get within 0.010" of being flat.
Having done the above once on a boat, never again.
I'd take the top to a contract drum sander.
An hour of your time, $25-$40 of your money, and you are done.
Lew
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Thanks very much for the replies. Ironically I tried Google and got nothing. I think a simpler approach with Google would have been better!
I may try the router sled, but a big bench will probably take a LONG time. I like the idea of taking to an industrial woodworker.

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It's not that time consuming. Certainly quicker than finding a shop, loading it, traveling, waiting for it and taking it home again. I've used a long, flat baseplate on the router that just rides a simple pair of rails tacked to the side of the butcher block or bench a bunch and it works really well, really quickly. The sled is fancy, but sometimes KISS works too. JP
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wrote:

Tell you what-
I was pretty poor with a handplane until I built my bench, too. It took some sweat and a bit of determination, but by the time I was done, I had sore elbows, but a nice flat bench and a good appreciation for what a plane could do and some knowledge about how to use one. No better way to learn it- you don't want to mess up project wood, right?
Now if you don't care to use a hand plane for anything, that's another story. But if you intend to learn, the bench top is a good place to start. If you've gotta take the workbench out for special help elsewhere, how are you going to make anything else?
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Have you already constructed the bench, if so how wide is it?
My maple bowling alley bench is about 3' x 7' and I glued it up in 3 sections. I hauled the sections to a shop that had a 24" belt sander, and had them sand the tops flush and the bottom so everything was relatively flat, meaning there were pieces shallower than the surface, but nothing protruding. I think it cost me maybe $35 or so.
Once I got it home, assembled into the bench, and belt sanded the heck out of it to remove the course grit marks from the surface. Would do it again if I did it again.
Just tossing out a suggestion...
DAC

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wrote:

People do use a router. But I don't think it is the fastest way.
My guess is your hand plane is not yet sharp sharp sharp. If you do use a hand plane, learn how to set it up and sharpen it properly. Google for "tune hand plane" and I think you will get some info.
If you haven't learned to sharpen your plane blades and chisels, you will need to do that anyway. You can get started with "scary sharp" and sandpaper (Google scary sharp). Or, invest in some waterstones. Once you have the plane set up and the blade sharp it will surprise you how well it will work.
You could also read up on winding sticks and how to use them. There are writeups online for how to flatten with a surface.
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WPD wrote:

Belt sander?
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Bell sander is a good idea. However, it takes some skill to do a good surface finish on a large area. As you know you have to continuously be on the move at a steady speed to remove the same amount of material. At about $2.00 to $4.00 per sanding belt or more the total material cost could well be over $10.00. With maple the table top has to be well cured before and after it has been glued. If you can get the table top surface planed by a local commercial wood shop for about $30.00 the difference in total cost would be just a little more. You can always practice with the hand plane (without pressure) after your bench is completed. A good way to practice is to spit and square oak with traditional toll for a starter.

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