Bench Planes. Planing a box top : A Makers Year



The top and the bottom of Tony’s box were created by four pieces of wood joining together on the corners with a dovetail joint. That left a surface which was not entirely even and flat. If you put the box on the bench top it wobbled very slightly. So how do you get it flat?


I see occasionally, in the workshops, students flattening small boxes on small sheets of MDF with sheets of abrasive paper stuck down. I blame Andrew Crawford, a well known box maker, for this heresy. I may also point a finger at Ed Wild who also makes a lot of boxes and may well have brought this disgraceful technique in to Rowden. The proper way of doing it is with a bench plane. No nasty sand paper, no aching arms, no dust. Just nice clean shavings and a flat square job.


I find myself using two planes for this job. The first is my Norris plane which is a tad under fourteen inches long. So when the toe of the plane is not engaged on one of the surface the sole of the plane is, helps keep the blade square to the edge.


What I do first is to put the box on the bench which itself is flat and have a quick look at it. Find out which two corners are the high points. Mark these with a pencil, the box goes in the vice and they are the first to be planed off. I kind of wind the plane around the surface, trying to use a slicing cut. The danger on the corner is that you can break out very easily but if you’re always slicing across the corner you avoid that. I hope I can shoot a little video of this to show you.


Next I’ll check all of the surfaces for straight, find where all the bumps and hollows are and sight across to make sure that all of the surfaces are not in wind. Again, checking by popping it upon the bench top every now and again to see how we’re going.


As I approach a finish flat surface I switch over to my Japanese finishing plane. I find this plane gives me a better surface than even my Norris can. My objective is to take this box entirely off the cutting tool, that will be the surface that I’ll leave. Tony would like that.


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