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How do you make a table flat?

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  • How do you make a table flat?

    I guess what I am really asking is, when you glue together long peices of stock to make something as large as a table top, or as small as a 14x10 cutting board, how do you make the surface completely flat?? When glueing there alsways seems to be some movement, even if the peices are of the same thickness and even if using clamps to hold all of the peices flat and level. A smal cutting board could go thought a planer, but what about larger peices?

    Is a plane the answer? Any brand or type suggestions? Once planed, then a scraper??

    I guess a belt sander might work, but I'd rather not go the sanding route until I have to finish the surface.

    Thanks Dennis

  • #2
    Re: How do you make a table flat?

    I would use a hand plane but the learning curve is steep. A belt sander can do the job but can cause it's own valleys and divots. If there is a small cabinet shop around you many will help out the home wood worker. They would have a stroke sander for the task.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: How do you make a table flat?

      Dw one way to minimize sanding or planing ridges after glue up is to use some way of indexing the boards before hand. This can be as simple as a few dowels inserted along the edges of the boards... measure to center of an edge every foot or so (closer on smaller projects) then take dowel centers, place in holes just drilled and get the board that goes next. On a flat surface butt the two edges together which will make marks for the dowel holes on that board etc. The trick is accurate drilling and a flat surface to butt the edges together on.

      Of course an easier way is to use biscuits if you have a biscuit joiner.

      You could also rip slots for splines either with a tablesaw or a router with a slot cutting bit. The slots can be made "blind" that is stopped before the end of the board so they don't show.

      Any of these methods will help you achieve an almost perfectly flat glue up that will need only minimal cleanup afterwards.

      If none of these methods appeal to you remember you can always clamp a couple of cauls across the surface of the boards in addition to the clamps sqeezing the edges together.

      A cabinet scraper helps remove glue squeeze out (though careful attention with a damp cloth goes a long ways while gluing up) followed by a finely tuned smoothing plane worked diagonally across the surface and the glue joints. A #3, #4 or #4.5 plane is good depending on the size of the project. These are about 8", 9" and 10" long respectively starting with the #3.

      Hope this helps.
      Cheers! - Jim
      -------------
      All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. - Schopenhauer

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: How do you make a table flat?

        A sanding frame for your belt sander can go a long way in preventing the problems usually associated with belt sanders.

        Take a look at this DeWalt sander.
        http://www.dewalt.com/us/products/to...productID=6362

        The stand is also a sanding frame that attaches to the sander and is used to control the depth of cut of the sander so you can't gouge the wood. The sander snaps in and out of the frame easily.

        http://www.dewalt.com/us/products/at...productID=5945

        Go to the link above and click on the See More Photos button. I think the last one shows the DW433 Sander mounted in the frame and being used to surface sand a floor.

        I've had my DW433KT sander w/frame for about 2 years now and it is a good tool. Plenty of power, decent dust collection, and versatile stand and frame.
        Last edited by Bob D.; 06-06-2007, 08:33 PM.
        ---------------
        Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
        ---------------
        “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
        ---------
        "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
        ---------
        sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: How do you make a table flat?

          I've used a belt sander with great results - there is a learning curve however.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: How do you make a table flat?

            A belt sander makes short work of leveling out the surface. It needs some practice as it can easily sand down a lot further than you intended to leaving dips and valleys. The best solution is to make sure you need to level as little as possible.

            I use a biscuit joiner to keep them in line and greatly reduces the cleanup needed. Just a few biscuits will do the trick. I find that usually one towards each corner and one in the center is all thats needed to keep things aligned. If its a long enough piece sometimes adding one or two more in between help. You don't even need to bother gluing the buscuits, they are just there for alignment. Just make sure you set the biscuits far in enough from the corners not to cut through them if you trim the edges. A biscuit sliced at the corners is not very sightly. Same goes for any inernal cuts or pockets of you necessary.

            One trick I used before I had a biscuit joiner was to cut several pieces of scrap wood such as 2X4's or even 3/4" ply. Jointed/straightened one of the thin faces (2X) perfectly straight on each piece. I would then put one on top and one below across the glued pieced and clamp them together to form a vise that holds the boards straight against each other. Repeat at several intervals as required. You'll need a buch of clamps. The one thing to watch out for is glue squeeze out. It can bond the supporting boards to the workpiece and they can end up tearing chunks out of the workpiece when you try to pull them off.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: How do you make a table flat?

              Depending on how un flat it is,

              if you need to remove a lot here is a way that one can use, and almost on any surface, it is slow and time consuming but it will nearly give one a perfectly flat surface,

              take two 1 by boards that are straight and about 1" taller than the edges of the top to be surfaced, and about 12" longer than the length of the table top, set your top on a level surface, or level it attaching on board to one long edge of the top make sure it is level, now attach the other board to the other side, level across and the length ways,

              now make a base for your router out of a board that is flat and straight and twice the width plus about 10" make the mount for the router in the center of the board, with the router mounted on your new base, put a flat bottom bit in the router, and locate the deepest location on the table set the bit on the router to that depth,

              now take the router and work it back and forth or in areas that need to be removed until you have a flat top, and it can then be touched up with a sander

              I was given a part of bowling alley where the pins sat, out of a old bowling alley once, one day I said i was going to make it in to a work bench, here is a laminated maple 3" thick wood about 3' wide and about 5' long, I got the legs made and set the top on and it had been sanded so many times that the section was over 3/8" out of flat, I used this method to level it and it is very close to flat now, as flat as if I would have had a wide bed planer or huge belt sander to run it through. but if you have glued up some thing and need to plane it this method will work,

              the only caution I have is to make sure your router base is solid, does not not bow, and check you bit and depth often by going back over to your start point to make sure nothing slipped, and that your guide boards are level and straight,
              Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
              attributed to Samuel Johnson
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: How do you make a table flat?

                this is a little different Idea but similar to what I was describing but you can see what I was getting at,

                http://www.google.com/patents?id=VCg...068036#PPA2,M1

                actually using there slotted base idea instead of a long router sub base may be easier,

                either way the system will work and level the top
                Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
                attributed to Samuel Johnson
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: How do you make a table flat?

                  found another site with the same basic ideas,
                  http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/l...ingitplane.pdf
                  non pdf
                  http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/i...n=Custom&ID=58
                  Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
                  attributed to Samuel Johnson
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: How do you make a table flat?

                    Bob D., thanks for the info on the sanding frame. I had never heard or seen such a thing before. Looks like an interesting product, but I perhaps I am not seeing how it could be used for the purpose of making a table flat? Does the frame remove from the stand and therefore can be slid around the surface of the table or whatever with the belt sander in it? And if so does it have the ability to adjust the depth very well? The pics in the the links your provided appear that the sander is fixed?

                    I like the idea of it if what I am thinking is correct.
                    Still enjoying all 10 fingers!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: How do you make a table flat?

                      This pic may help.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: How do you make a table flat?

                        Thanks wbrooks. Sometimes I need a few pics to be worth a 1000 words! Perhaps I will keep something like that in mind the next time I am working on a large project. Although I do hope to improve my hand planer skills as well...
                        Still enjoying all 10 fingers!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: How do you make a table flat?

                          The photo that Wayne put in this post is the one I referred to in my previous post. If you did not find it on DeWalts site then you didn't look through all the photos there. The frame greatly reduces the chance of gouging or uneven sanding which is a big part of the 'learning curve' that others have mentioned.

                          As you can see the stand/frame gives you some other options on using your belt sander as a bench top horizontal or verticle belt sander.
                          ---------------
                          Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
                          ---------------
                          “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
                          ---------
                          "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
                          ---------
                          sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: How do you make a table flat?

                            does anyone know if there is a belt sander frame that is compatible with the ridgid belt sander?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: How do you make a table flat?

                              I've always had luck with a flat assembly table. I often use my tablesaw as it as close to flat as you're going to get. Proper clamps will help. I use bessey clamps, the same one Norm uses. If all the pieces have gone through the joiner and planer, then those 2 things will make assembly easy.
                              Buy cheap, buy twice.

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