From your comments it seems that you're fairly well up on what to do.
You've made quite a rod for your back by limiting yourself to a No 4, when
you really want a No 7, and the best "shortcut" I could advise is to bite
the bullet and buy a No 7. It'll last a lifetime, and you'll never regret
it. Having said that, what you're trying to do is not impossible but it
certainly makes it more difficult. Make sure your plane is correctly
fettled and set-up, and lube its sole often during your work with the stump
of a candle or a bar of soap. In case you have any gaps, here's the
1. Plane the face side flat and true. Make sure you're working on a flat
surface, and keep your plane razor-sharp. Use straight-edges for
straightness both along and across the width and winding sticks to ensure
that there is no twist. A quick and dirty time-saver is to use the corner
of the plane (between the sole and the side) as a straightedge across the
width of the board. If you work facing the light, this will instantly show
the high spots. As you approach flatness, crank back the cutter so that you
take progressively finer shavings - this will help in flattening the
hilltops while leaving the valleys, as well as leaving a better finish.
When you can walk all the way along the board taking a tissue-thin shaving,
the full width of the cutter and the full length of the board, it's about as
flat as you're going to get it with that particular plane. Mark this as the
2. Put your stock in the vice and plane with the grain to form the face
edge. Allow the fingers of your left hand to curl under the sole of the
plane and slide along the side of the stock to act as a fence, concentrating
on keeping the plane level. Check for high spots by checking frequently
with your long straight-edge and squareness by checking with your square,
using the face side as the reference. You asked about shortcuts - you may
find this step easier if you make up a shooting board instead of using the
vice. This will take care of the squareness at least, leaving you only the
straightness to worry about. As you approach straight, set your plane
*very* finely, and work only on the middle 2/3rds of the board. When the
plane ceases to cut (due to the edge now being very slightly hollow) , take
a couple of shavings right through and leave it at that. Mark this up as
the face edge.
3. Use your marking gauge from the face edge, gauge the width of the
board. onto both faces and ends. This gives you a line on all sides of the
stock to saw/plane down to, so it should be a bit easier than making the
reference edge. You can use the shooting board again here.
4. From the face side, mark up the thickness of the board onto the edges
and ends of the board and plane down to these marks. I wouldn't be too
particular about extreme flatness here, since you'll inevitably have some
truing up to do after you've glued up.
5. Crack a stubby and sharpen and lube your plane. Rub some methylated
spirit into your hands to try to counteract blisters, and repeat another 5
It may seem like a difficult task to achieve perfectly straight and square
edges, but you'll quickly improve with practice. You can also be comforted
by the fact that wood is fairly tolerant, and a few strong sash clamps when
you glue up will do a lot to take up minor discrepancies in your
straightness. The blisters don't last long either....
Best of luck,
PS - re-read the bits about tuning, sharpening and lubing your plane, if
nothing else. Nothing will discourage you more than trying to do a big job
with a less-than-perfect plane
PPS - it may be easier to do your wide boards if you rip them in half and
treat them the same as the others, particularly if they have any cupping.
process easier, keeping in mind that I am only using hand tools and only
have a 10 inch plane.
all over 66 inches long (I will cut the sides straight and to measure after
gluing), 3 inches high and of the following widths, 3.5, 3.5, 8, 8, 3.5,
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Thanks for your advice. From your post it seems like you wouldn't
expect me to have to sharpen my plane more than once per board. In
reality I find that I have to do it at least twice per surface.
At the start I thought this was quite normal because of all the grit
embedded in the wood. Now that I am down to clean wood I wonder if it
could be because of the wood itself. In certain parts it has brown
'crystal' veins through it.
Is that the silica I keep on hearing about, the great blade unsharpener?
Yes, that silica is a fantastic blade unsharpener. I was doing som
mahogany legs on my lathe. Each leg took 40 minutes, plus the time to
resharpen the tools. Even carbide tools have a tough time against silica.
Quartz is somewhat harder than wood.
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