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Intro to Woodworking @ Makeville -- Class 2

We ended the first class with cross-cut, planed boards.

  • The boards were planed but not to our final 3/4” thickness.
  • The faces were smooth but the edges were not.
  • They were cut roughly to length (within 1” of our final) but not to width.

In the second class we cut our wood to their finished thicknesses (3/4”) and widths (varied).

Final product from class 1 This is what we're working with going into class 2.

The cuts we need

The sidetable we’re building requires pieces cut for the top, its aprons, and legs. Before we picked our lumber in class 1 we discussed the plan and listed out all the cuts we’d need.

Plan for the sidetable The plan for our sidetable. Because of the top's 15" diameter, we'll be gluing together multiple pieces to get the size we want before cutting out a circle using a bandsaw.
Our cut list We based this cut list on the plan above. My lumber is narrower than the 7-8" the cut list here expects, so I planned my cuts a bit differently over the length of my piece. The "TH" column measures thickness. Rough cut sizes are all 1", 1/2", and 1/4" higher than our finished cut sizes for our lengths, widths, and thicknesses, respectively.

This planning process is simple and incredibly helpful. Doing the planning beforehand allows you to focus on the details without worrying if you’re doing the right cuts or even have enough wood.

Planing wood to its final thickness

We continued planing our wood from the previous class to bring it to its final thickness. This involved running the wood through the planer another 4-5 times, bringing the thickness down slightly each iteration until we had wood 3/4” thick. The process is quick for our volume of lumber but I can imagine it getting tedious for a larger project.

When you’re planing, make sure you’re doing two things:

  1. Alternate the side of the wood being planed each time you feed it through.
  2. Make sure the planer blade is cutting with the grain. More on that here.
Planed wood The wood in this photo is either done or just about done.

I’d have loved to take photos of the process but, alas, we moved through it pretty quickly and I needed to pay attention. Our instructor did all the planer adjustments for us which was helpful to keep us moving but I don’t really know how to use the planer beyond feeding wood into it.

While looking for a video explanation of a planer I accidentally came across this one which features Robyn, the owner of Makeville and one of the first people I met there. Weird coincidence.

Edge jointing wood

Edge jointing is the process of flattening the edges of lumber (face jointing is… flattening the faces). We also need to make our edges parallel to one another which we did on the table saw instead of the jointer.

Rough edges Rough edges!

Using the jointer to flatten edges is largely the same as using it to flatten faces. The major difference is now you have a tall, very narrow piece of wood which requires you to use the push tools differently. When edge jointing:

  • Press the face against the fence while pushing the wood through with a push stick.
  • Make sure the jointer blade is cutting with the grain. More on that here.
The first few minutes of this video covers edge jointing and has good tips including how to joint with the grain.

The table saw

We spent the rest of the class making rip cuts on the table saw, first to plane our edges and then to cut our wood to their final widths. Table saws can be used to make cross-cuts as well, which we’ll be doing in our next class.

Rip cuts. vs cross cuts

The distinction between these two is simple: rip cuts are made parallel to your wood grain and cross cuts are made perpendicular to your wood grain.

Different wood cuts Table saws can rip cut and cross cut. Miter saws can cross cut and miter cut. I am not sure how to make a bevel cut yet (maybe with a miter saw at an angle). [credit: Design Sponge]
Cross cut blades vs rip cut blades Saw blades for rip cuts differ from those for cross cuts. [credit: Woodworking Stack Exchange]

Parallel, flat edges!

Making a parallel edge to a jointed edge on the table saw requires a rip cut since we’re shaving off a piece of wood parallel to the grain.

The way we manage true parallel edges is by pushing the flat edge of our wood against the table saw’s rip fence. I’d have loved to take photos of this process but table saws are scary and I needed to pay attention.

Steve Ramsey demonstrates how to set up your table saw for a rip cut at 3:54 in this video. Note the purpose of the rip fence.

The rip fence is a flat plane your wood rests and moves against while you’re ripping wood on the table saw. Without a fence you’d have to run your wood free-hand through the saw, so the fence is what ensures straight cuts.

Flat edges! Flattening edges is incredibly satisfying.

Pieces for the tabletop, legs, and aprons

Finally, we rip cut all our wood to width for our tabletop, legs, and aprons. Here are mine in all their glory.

Tabletop The tabletop. I'll be gluing these three ~5" wide pieces before cutting a circle out of it in a later class.
Legs 2"-wide legs for the sidetable. We'll be tapering and doing joinery cuts on these eventually.
Tabletop 1.75"-wide aprons for the sidetable. We'll be doing joinery cuts on these.

Notes on table saw setup and safety

Ripping with the table saw was nerve wracking at the outset. There’s a lot to think about but I felt comfortable with it by the end of the class.

  • Remember: rip cuts and cross cuts require different blades. Use the correct one.
  • The shop’s machine is a SawStop, a saw with a safety mechanism that brakes the saw and drops it if it detects any moisture (e.g. blood). When you turn on the machine, wait for the red light to stop blinking – it’s checking to make sure the mechanism works.
  • Set the height of the saw for the thickness of the wood you’re cutting. The highest gullet on the saw blade should align with the top of your wood.
  • To start off: place the push block nearby (e.g. on top of the rip fence), start the table saw blade, and then place your wood on the table several inches away from blade while holding it down with your index finger and thumb.
  • I, uh, made up a short phrase that I kept repeating in my head to memorize how to properly and safely push wood while ripping it: index-thumb-push, block-hand-push.
    • index: Press the wood against the rip fence with your index finger.
    • thumb: Press the wood against the table with your thumb.
    • push: Push the wood through the table saw until the end is about an inch away from your index-finger-and-thumb situation.
    • … pause here …
    • block: Take the push block and place it in position on your wood.
    • hand: Move your index-finger-thumb-situation hand away! Put it against the corner or edge of the table saw.
    • push: Push the wood through the table saw with your push block until it hits a marker where you safely know the cut is complete.
  • Once the cut is done you can move scrap away from the blade with your push block.
  • Walk around the table to pick up your cut before moving on.

A note on planing and jointing with wood grain

It’s important to feed wood into the jointer and planer with the grain. If you don’t do this, jointers and planers will “tear out” pieces of wood.

Mark the grain direction on your wood upfront. It makes all this simpler.

Grain direction Mark grain direction on your wood! The V on the end denotes the direction, the pencil marks follow the grain on the right edge to make it clearer.
Jointer cut direction Properly feeding wood through a jointer.
Planer cut direction Properly feeding wood through a planer.

Jointer and planer blades rotate in different directions, but they are always cutting towards you. Note how the grain direction you feed into a jointer differs from a planer. The saw hits the bottom of your wood using the former and the top of your wood using the latter.

What’s next?

We’ll be cross-cutting our pieces to their final lengths, gluing up our table top, and then making joinery cuts on our legs and aprons.

Post on class 3