Starting With The Timber Prep

by | Jul 21, 2016 | 9 comments

Flattening Boards By Hand

When prepping everything by hand, the start of a project can seem like a bit of a workout.

I usually break up the task by planing up what I need as and when I need it, rather than all at once.

The real key though is to make sure you’re not taking any more shavings than necessary.

Flattening the face of a board should be a swift job.
But if you’re taking shavings from the wrong areas, then you’re going back on yourself and getting further away from flat.

You need to decide exactly where to take those shavings from.

How to plane wood by hand

Checking the board for high spots against the bench top.

Since first contemplating doing our woodworking videos a few years ago, I started to ask myself, ‘how do you do this.. why do you do that?’, whenever I put a tool to wood.

So much of what you do becomes instinctive, that in order to teach it’s felt a bit like stepping back and watching myself.
So I can become aware of the decisions I make.

When it comes to explaining how to flatten a board by hand, the hows and whys are always different, because all boards are different.

It always felt somewhat pointless to me, to watch a bloke sweating his knackers off flattening a board, when if that board’s different to your board, you’ll pretty much learn nowt.

You need instructions that you can follow.

‘The Board Flattening Formula’

An Approach For Learning How To Plane Wood By Hand

After quite a bit of time, I developed a ‘board flattening formula’.

It works regardless of how much bow, cup or twist is in the board to begin with.

Woodworking by hand - the board flattening formula

Basically, we aim to make every board the same, and make it the same in a way that’s setting us up for perfection.

The formula gives a simple, one, two, three approach, and it allows us to target the error spots in isolation, without affecting the rest of the board.
When learning how to hand plane, being able to identify the error spots is key.

Without this it’s easy to end up chasing our tail or creating a bow.

This Flattening Formula is one of the topics covered in detail in the Chapter One of our Side Table Build.

Like the start of most projects, it’s a chapter full of timber prepping.
Starting out with our rough sawn board and getting prepared for the build.

The video goes through the formula step by step, along with a faster paced method where we take some short cuts once we’re familiar with the approach.

I know, I sound very salesy, but we get a lot of requests and suggestions for allowing you to see more of ‘what’s in the box’ with our video projects.

So we’ve created a quick summary video for this Chapter, along with the contents list below.
We hope it gives you a little taste of what you’ll see at the start of our Side Table build.

You can see full details of the Side Table Series Here.

The Side Table – Chapter One (48mins)

Contents Breakdown:

Prepping The Top Panel
– Dealing With The Sap
– Considering Panel Glue Ups By Hand
– The Board Flattening Formula – Understanding how to plane wood by hand
– The Quick Prep Approach
– Jointing The Edges
– Gluing Up
Prepping The Base
– Squaring The Edges
– Hand Thicknessing
– Dividing The Components

See Details For All Chapters

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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. Glen

    I wish this were out yesterday, so that I could watch last night! Thursdays are my “YOU watch the baby tonight!” nights!

  2. Ken Haygarth

    Wow this is going to be one great project. I will catch up when bank account is more healthy.

    Well done guys 😉

  3. Aleksander Stacherski

    “we get a lot of requests and suggestions for allowing you to see more of ‘what’s in the box’ ”

    This exactly what I was hoping for to know before buy. Thanks for that

  4. Edward F. Florence

    Good as any movie trailer I’ve ever seen!

  5. Mike

    Wow! You have such a very useful video here. Short but full of content. Great job! I’ll check out your other videos here.

  6. Yvonne Bonifas

    This topic is my bete noire. Definitely going to get this!

  7. David

    Hmmm, you used a Japanese saw. That surprises me a bit. I own two and are relatively happy with them but never truly mastered their use so I use western saw for any project requiring straight cuts.

  8. Salko Safic

    Very well presented summary video and I must compliment you on your weight loss, your looking much younger now.

  9. Bill Kl

    You’re making me wish my pension was a bit more flush so I could buy the series. Oh well, little by little, bit by bit…


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