Flattening A Big Old Board – The Start Of A Build

by | Oct 4, 2018 | 6 comments


flattening a board with hand planes

Today we’ve made a start on our Coffee Table build – if you’ve joined us already then you can Login Here to watch Chapter One.
Or find more details HERE

I set about this build without a clear direction on what the table would become.

I’d had this rough old waney edged oak board sitting around for a long time, and knew it would make for an interesting top. So I started there.

wide oak board cuppedwaney edge oak with knot

Boards like this tend to get left on the shelf for any project with a fixed plan.
At first sight you think you’ve got a nice big chunk. But then you allocate for ripping off the wane, avoiding the knots and sawing round the splits, and you’re left with a couple of tiny pieces that you could have more easily have dug out of the firewood pile, and saved yourself the hassle.

planing board with Stanley No 5

Used as a top though there’s barely anything that needs to go to waste. And all of those awkward defects become ‘character’.

Now I’ve never been the biggest fan of this type of piece, but I enjoyed the challenge of watching that ugly rejected lump of wood, take on it’s own refined and unique charm.

If you’re building by hand with minimal tools like me, then it’s also a good test for your hand planing skills.
Boards like this tend to be very cupped and twisted.
That means there’s a lot of material to hog down, but you’re balancing speed against control here, as those defects are prone to tear out. If you end up ripping out a deep chunk while you plane, then you’ll be cursing, as you’ll have the whole board to bring down to that level.

So the start of this build is all about flattening that top surface. We’re using our trusty No. 5, our wangy eye, and a mix of cambers to get us there in the minimal of fuss.

You can watch the Series intro and find more details about the build here.

hand planing wide board

Related Posts

About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Jacob Degeling

    Hi Richard,

    That looks like a low tech straight-edge. Don’t we need to spend big bucks on a precision-ground instrument of super accuracy? Can you give us some tips on what makes a good straigh-edge? Perhaps a video on how to make one sufficient for flattening a wide plank? Keep the blog posts and videos coming!



    • Steve

      I’m actually interested in that as well, also making winding sticks. I think the longest surface I have that is flat is my table saw.

    • Andrey

      You can make straight edge using hand plane without any reference. Take two boards, clamp both in the vice and plane both edges. Remove one board from the vice and place planed edge on top of planed edge. Check for gap, if you have a gap in the middle, you made a hollow. Clamp both boards again and remove some wood from ends. If you have gaps at ends, then there is bump, clamp it back in the vice and fix. If there is no gap – both edges are dead straight.

      • Mike S

        Great tip

  2. Meikel Brandmeyer

    Is that the plank from Get Sharp – Chapter 1? o.O)

  3. Elon

    Haha! That Pinocchio in the background 😀 Great woodworking content by the way, enjoy reading your blog.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Updates:

Related Posts:

Bench Top Edge Jointing [with Video]

https://youtu.be/12KkjX6IU20 Stuggling With Larger Edge Joints? Watch the full step-by-step video to learn the edge jointing process for tackling large boards by hand. A perfect reference for gluing up a table top. Find it for FREE in our Member Area: Login here. Or...

My Posh Fillister Plane is Just a Roughing Tool

Every now and then I feel like I see something with new eyes. I’m often blow away at the beauty of say the sea, or the sky with a pretty sunrise. It's as though my brain has had a system reset and deleted its memory so I get to see it again like it's for the first...

Prototyping – Part 1 Now Live!

https://youtu.be/U2wiudDPSig 'The Nest of Tables' series is now complete!Find full details & watch the intro HERE. This nest of tables is based on a design where they'll each come together with a lovely sliding fit, so it was certainly the kind of build that benefited...