I’m trying to be more diligent in preparing my lumber. In the beginning I’d plane my edges so they were smooth, but didn’t pay close attention to how square things were, or whether my edges were all parallel to each other.
As I worked more, I saw that this often led to frustrations later in the project, and all that stuff I’d read about how people spent a lot of time preparing rough stock made more sense.
Of course I still don’t know that I’ve got it right. Here’s what I do now:
First, I get one edge prepared square to the surface. With my lumber there’s always one edge that is a lot smoother than the other, so that’s the edge I focus on for this. It is usually pretty quick work. I test how things are going by placing the board on the bench, and look to see if there is a noticeable lean to one side or the other. I also look along the bottom where the edge meets the bench to insure that it is flat along the whole length (and I position the board in different places, flip it around and stuff to account for any unevenness in the bench itself).
Then I go to work on the surface of the board. I start out going across the grain. For this post I made marks along the board to show better what I was doing. I haven’t been doing this, and have just watched how the plane is cutting, but I like this extra visual feedback and may start doing it all the time now.
While doing this I try to set the depth of the cut just shallow enough that the plane skips across the low section, and then plane until it cuts all the way across.
Once both sides have been done, I reorient things and plane the length of the board. I back the blade off quite a bit for this, and make very shallow cuts. I don’t know if this step is necessary, but it seems right to remove the rough peaks created by planing across the board. I’ve added marks to the board so it’s more clear what I’m doing.
Once the broad surfaces of both boards are flat, I shift my attention to the last remaining edge. This is where things usually start to go awry. I work with the board in my face vise.
Testing the board as I did for the first edge, where it is high on one edge I try to over-correct and just take material off of that side.
Once I think I’ve taken off enough material I plane straight and level until I get a full width shaving for the length of the board.
Then I test the board again, scratch my head trying to figure out how it’s still not square, and repeat the process over again.
Rinse & repeat, rinse and repeat, & etc., & etc.
Eventually, it’s taken a lot of work, but I’ve finally got all surfaces square and parallel.
I haven’t begun to worry about twist yet, so haven’t been using winding sticks. This board (OK, the image above was a joke) will get crosscut three times for this project, so to my thinking (someone please chime in and tell me if I’m wrong) whatever twist exists in the full length of this board at this time won’t matter. Since the longest section will be 24″, I don’t *think* there’s going to be enough twist to worry about.