Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Flattening Frustrations

Last night’s ninety-minute session in the workshop led to little else but frustration and disappointment. I marched out to the ‘shop, ready to begin the process of flattening the two leg frames -which, as I admitted in the previous post; didn’t go together quite as tight, square and neatly as I had intended.

This process began with a couple of bench planes; resulting in a mountain of shavings on the bench top and a wooden frame featuring torn-out grain in places where I’d cut across the corners to try and save time flattening.

I pushed and I swipe and the blade was sharp but still, it was tiring work getting these soft pine frames in to a flat and stable condition. The photo above was actually taken after the initial flattening – I couldn’t bare to photograph a before-shot for you!!

Not only where the faces of the two stiles running out of parallel to the ends in both frames but, upon closer inspection, I noticed that I’d already lost a good 2mm or so in thickness.

Looking at the leaves on the piano hinge I intend to use though, I may be able to get away with this, provided I don’t lose much more than the 16-17mm currently left on at least one of the stiles – the half of the leaf that would be fixed to the leg-frames (acting like a door) is only 13mm wide as it is. πŸ˜‰

So, I next decided to reach for my belt sander, to try and speed up the process. At worst, I figured that a few cross-grain scratches would be all I was left to deal with… Through laziness (not being bothered to set up the dog holes), I decided to use my rubber router mat, slung over the bench top. So, although they do grip well for most sanding jobs, using a belt sander meant that the frame was sliding all over the place. I never expected the mat to get snatched by the belt and to jam its way inside the tool!!

That’s how it’s remained since. Sometimes, you just need to walk away when things aren’t going your way (plus, I’ve had other things to attend to tonight).

I won’t have much time tomorrow evening either so, I’m currently contemplating what to do next…

Do I continue to flatten these down to, say, 16mm, or even 15mm?

Or, just bin the lot, buy some new wood and start again?!

Thanks for reading.


10 responses to “Flattening Frustrations

  1. Warped Boards 23/08/2012 at 07:11

    I say salvage as best you can- no one but you will even notice these details later on. This can be your prototype.

    • Olly Parry-Jones 23/08/2012 at 17:52

      I’ve been thinking this over and I agree with you, Sam. The reason I made this piece from pine (and also, why I’m using cheap, brass-plated piano hinges! Not to mention the biscuit joints.) is because it is a prototype; something I want to try out for a few years (I should do this more often with my ideas).

      This isn’t entirely my own creation so, I’m hoping that this first one will provide me with something to develop later.

      I should be back in the workshop tomorrow afternoon. πŸ™‚

  2. ChrisHasFlair 23/08/2012 at 08:01


    Who says doors must be flat?


    • Olly Parry-Jones 23/08/2012 at 17:54

      Good point, Chris!

      I was having a discussion yesterday about achieving ‘perfection’, when it’s actually impossible and, instead, we should be look to reach our own ‘excellence’… Quite philosophical stuff that could make you think about the way you work with wood (at least in my case, anyway – I plan far too much, sometimes!).

      Actually, this might make for an interesting blog post on its own, perhaps over the weekend… πŸ™‚

  3. Alex 23/08/2012 at 09:44

    PINE is a NIGHTMARE. It’s official, but in my experience I personally would not use the belt sander on prepared timber if this thickness (too aggressive) irrespective of grade used. I normally use reclaimed stock and at times I feel as though it is a form of self-harm that I can do without; however, it is more stable. Pine purchased from merchants (prepared or otherwise) is often too green and has to be left for some time before using otherwise all sorts of problems arise.
    Sanding is probably one of the most hated jobs we do and in all likelihood, sanding both units to equal dimensions using a belt will be; difficult to achieve, time consuming and may send you to despair.
    Me, I would try to separate the units, run them through the thicknesser and finish them off with a random orbital sander. If that fails then start again because you know the problem exits and you may never be happy with the end result/s. It won’t be a total loss because the discarded units can be used for something in the future.

    • Olly Parry-Jones 23/08/2012 at 17:58

      Thinking back over it, I’m inclined to agree with you, Alex. Belt sanders (especially when fitted with 80g belts!) are too aggressive for soft woods. But they’re so efficient at removing machining marks from hardwoods. I guess it’s been a while since I worked with pine.

      I’m not concerned about making the two frames equal in thickness; I just wanted to share the significant and alarming difference. I am looking at this as being a kind of ‘prototype’ which could be developed later.

      Now, I think my Jack plane blade needs sharpening… πŸ™‚

      • Sean Troy 04/09/2012 at 14:25

        I used a Belt Sander for years finishing thickness on Chess Boards. It can be done but takes so much practice. I was finally able to purchase a Drum Sander and that helped out a lot. A thickness planer is in my future I hope. I just haven’t had the time to devote to hand planes like I wish I could. I’ve seen really nice work done with those.

      • Olly Parry-Jones 05/09/2012 at 20:39

        Hi Sean,

        Thanks for visiting, reading and for commenting. I’ve seen a couple of nice looking boards on your site and I hope to see more when you find time. πŸ™‚

      • Sean Troy 05/09/2012 at 22:14

        Finding time is the key. I wish I had more time to spend in the shop.

  4. joeabbott 25/08/2012 at 23:27

    In your subsequent post I see you aimed to keep working the pieces … and I say that’s a good thing. From my modest amount of woodworking and talking to many other woodworkers, learning from your mistakes is a central tenet to practicing the craft. I’ve yet to meet the person who actually LIKES making mistakes, but everyone I know learns from them.

    And, in the end, we’re better at what we do for it. So, sorry for your misfortunes but I’m positive you’re better off for the work you put into correcting the mistakes. And extra points for having already learned that walking away is sometimes the best thing you can do.

I welcome your thoughts.

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