This video is the second half of a two part series on the quick, easy, repeatable way to prep rough lumber. In Part One, (view Part One here) instructor and furniture maker Eric Matson demonstrates how he breaks down rough boards , step-by-step, into smaller rough parts. Now, in this final segment, Eric takes us through the last steps of squaring edges and cutting to precise lengths & widths. Along the way we learn tips, tricks, and secrets that help eliminate errors.
If you take away anything from this series, I hope you’ll agree that guaranteeing consistent results only comes with a proven system. Eric shows us his system, the same proven method that Eric says quickly elevates his students’ work to the next level. See if it works for you. (10 Minute Woodworking Video – Part 2 of 2)
Eric Matson is the Director of the Fine Woodworking Program at Rio Grand University. Rio Grande offers a one year certificate program, as well as two year associates and four year college degree programs. Graduates have the skills and knowledge to be productive in custom furniture shops and architectural/cabinet shops. Rio Grande (pronounced rye-oh) is in Southern Ohio.
These videos cover some things I had already learned about rough lumber, but in somewhat more detail. I especially liked the emphasis on using the right surface for reference and the tapping to test the cutoff for checks. Is there a particular sound to listen for, or just whether it falls apart? Although it’s time-consuming, I like working with rough lumber because it is less expensive and I get a greater sense of accomplishment at project completion.
Keith’s Note: Tom – It’s interesting that you made this comment, because this is exactly how I felt when I met with Eric. This whole process seems obvious, especially to intermediate and even more advanced woodworkers, but there are many subtle techniques and ideas that Eric shares that really help woodworkers improve their results. More accuracy, faster, more refined results.
The tapping sound (Eric’s cross-cut test) should be “solid” and I get the sense that your ear will learn to detect a weakness. The main reason to tap is to make sure the wood holds together. That will detect most flaws.
And finally, to pick up on your comment about liking to use rough lumber – One of the key reasons to use rough lumber is that you can mill it to very exacting tolerances. You can’t do that if it’s already been thicknessed by a lumber yard. With pre-processed lumber there is no way to mill out the inevitable twists, warps, and other flaws that develop while wood is stored.
It is suggested that a hand plane should be used to remove any machine marks. However, after viewing your videos on hand plane usage and Eric Matson’s videos on dimensioning, as well as other sources, the final dimension size is always mentioned when doing the machine work. Won’t final hand planing actually change the final size? I’ve never seen any mention of “final” sizing on a machine when using a hand plane. What dimension considerations should be made when combining machine and hand plane? What considerations should be made when cleaning up edges on joinery such as a mortise and tenon or on a shooting board?
Keith’s Note: I couple of thoughts. The first issue to consider is what are the characteristics of the surface you are working. If it’s a table top, or exterior surface of a cabinet or leg, the final thickness of that surface may not matter too much. I few thousands of an inch here or there won’t cause you any trouble when no joinery is involved. So you might run the top through a surfacer at your design specification or slightly thicker and then hand plane out the mill marks or sanding marks. In this case, it doesn’t matter that the final thickness is not perfect and the “eye” won’t pick up small variances. So that is pretty straight forward.
However, in the case of mortises and tenons or other joinery, the tolerance are much tighter. If for example, you intend to hand plane a tenon for final fitting after machine milling, then you will need to oversize it a bit and work down slowly until the fit is correct. Some woodworkers like to avoid all handwork and so in this case, you need to set your machines up extremely accurately since no handwork is planned. In the end, there are no right or wrong ways of doing this and I’ve learned over the years that in woodworking as in most things in life there are many ways to skin a cat. I hope that helps.
I just wanted to say thanks for these very nice and clear instructions. I am just getting started with woodworking and try to get a lot of input. This video like the others on the site is really inspiring and well made. Thanks to Eric and to you Keith.
Keith’s Note: Welcome aboard and good luck as you explore the hobby!
I noticed Eric’s methodical approach at the thickness planer.
Although he did not mention it (that I recall) he did two important things:
One-Flipped all boards over and end-for-end so that grain orientation was correct (uphill) toward the cutter-heads on the second pass.
Two- Kept a constant feed of boards through the planer, so that the machine was never “empty.”
I assume most viewers know this helps prevent snipe since the feed-rollers always have a bearing-surface and so, do not pinch or jump at the ends of boards.
I also note the methodical placement of boards on top of the planer. Boards “not-yet-planed” were away from him in the “far” pile, while freshly-planed boards were sequentially-stacked closer in the “near” pile. These details are often overlooked, even by experienced craftsmen. A consistent, repeatable method like this becomes a habit that prevents problems.
Again, I must commend Keith on the clear, well-lit videography. Having good-strong lighting on the subject with less lighting on unnecessary background details helps us focus on details without annoying glare or excessive bright screens. Cast-shadows make the key-elements clearer, more natural-looking and “quietly-dramatic.” The overall effect is calming, and therefore, conducive to concentration and learning. I appreciate the grey background of the web-page design too. It makes colors in the videos more vibrant and attention-focusing by contrast. This is a welcome relief from most web-pages where insensitive designers create harsh, distracting, “visually-noisy” backgrounds. All these esthetic details enhance viewing pleasure and gently inculcate understanding.
This is an excellent presentation, both in content and in form.
I prefer to cut to length then rip to width as as tear out tends to be worse on cross cut. This way you can rip off the edge with(out) tear out.
Exploring for a mill in my area of Kentucky is becoming a chore, but, it was great finding y’all’s site. Lots of headsup. Thanks. I bookmarked for later.
How do you combat the first and last board on the planer from not having snipe. Even if I carefully make sure and put one after another the first and last piece have BAD snipe about 3″.
Keith’s Note: Short of trying the technique you are already attempting, the only other step would be to tune-up your planer. And for that you’ll have to consult with the manufacturer of your planer. You can also do some final smoothing using a handplane. With a well tuned handplane the process is quick and easy. This is what I do. Good luck.
Great videos, wouldn’t you normally use a top guard on the table saws? Eric’s hands seemed very close to the top of the blades particularly when ripping.
Keith’s Note: I would always encourage you to consider a guard whenever it’s possible.
I’m still learning about working with rough lumber, but it seems that it might make sence to do an edge joining pass initially on your board so that you have a straight reference edge for your tablesaw fence.
Running your rough boards through the tablesaw first can cause an opportunity for the board to either shift and pinch or catch on the fence as you’re feeding, either of which risks an un-safe kick-back happening.
Some great tips presented here overall, but I’m wondering why you don’t seem to have your tablesaw properly adjusted so that you can simply trust your fence cursor for measurement?
You have a high quality saw with a solid fence, no reason to use a rule everytime you make a cut.
Further, your saw is in immediate need of some very basic maintenance. Screeching sounds when adjusting blade height indicate a mechanism begging for lubrication of some kind.
Keith’s Note: 1. I’m not sure what video you have watched, but Eric DOES indeed joint one edge square before ripping to final width (Step #5 at 1 minute 25 seconds into this video). 2. In a school setting, I think it’s prudent to not rely on the fence adjustment ruler when running expensive stock. Even in a home shop, it’s possible that the measurement ruler could be knocked out of tolerance. I simple verification of measurement assures Eric that the cut is exact. 3. The university of Rio Grand has machines that are very well maintained.