How to Square Lumber with a Surface Planer & Table Saw

Learn how to square lumber in this Howcast woodworking video featuring Makeville Studio, part 2 of a 2-part series.

All right. We’re fresh from the jointure, and now we’re over at the surface planter. I’ve marked the faces that I jointed just to keep track of them. We can now pass these through the surface planter with the jointed face down and it’ll flatten the top surface where it’s ready to go through. Get my ear protection on. We’re just going to be flattening this top surface, and then we’ll bring it back over to the jointure to do the edges.

Now, I’ve run one board through at a given height. I need to run my other board through to match it. So the process of planting, you always do things in batches. Once the boards are flat, though, then you can take them back over to the jointure to do the edge. So we’re going to move the fence in. We don’t need the whole bed anymore. You’re going to want to then look at the grain again and figure out how orient this board.

Once again, with the jointure, you always want the grain running back towards you, that downhill, so that it just gets pushed back down into the wood rather than getting torn out. So we’ve got it oriented correctly. The idea here is you keep the board pressed up against this back fence. This is very important because that’s what we’re indexing off of to make the bottom edge square to the face.

With the short board, this is relatively easy. When you get into longer boards, you might need rollers or even a helper to do this kind of work. But the result is a nice, flat edge that is now perpendicular to both sides. You can check it on the table and check it with a square. Okay, we’ve got one edge flat. We’ll run our other board through and get its edge flat, and then we’re ready for the final edge to come off and that we do on the table saw.

You might be wondering why we don’t do that on the jointure. This is a great tool at making the edge perpendicular to the faces. But it does nothing to make the edges parallel with each other. That’s the rest of the [??]. That’s exactly what the table saw does, though. It makes this edge, using a rip fence perfectly parallel with the cut edge we’re getting.

At this point in milling, generally what you’re doing is you’re cutting your board a little bit wider than you need it because you’re going to set it aside and let it acclimate in your shop. Use your rip fence to set whatever width you need. One thing I’ve added to the saw here is a splitter.

When you’re cutting through large pieces of lumber like this, and even small pieces sometimes do this, the inside of the lumber has dried in a different way than the outside. Usually the outside is more dry. You’ll hit these pockets of moisture sometimes when you’re ripping through wood that make it do very unpredictable things.

So sometimes if you’re ripping through a piece of wood one piece will bow. Sometimes they’ll open up and sometimes they’ll close up on you as you’re cutting them. That’s why we put the splitter on. We don’t want to have the wood close up in our cut line, bind on the blade and stop the saw. Or kick back at us in the worst case. So that’s what the splitter does. It sits behind the blade and prevents the wood from closing up on itself.

So let’s get the blade height set correctly. Get it right above the surface of the wood. I’m setting my rip fence to four inches. That’s a little bit more than what I’m going to need in this project. The last thing I’m adding to the saw that we didn’t see before is a set of feather boards. When you’re ripping thick wood like this to final dimension, you’ll want to use a feather board to help you hold it against the fence.

This is magnetized, and it just pushes against the fence so your other hand is now free to just hold down the wood. This is particularly useful when you’re working with very long boards where you’re not even able to hold it up against the fence because you’re back here pushing it through the slot. So a feather board is really handy for accurate ripping operations like this. Okay. The result is our nice squared-up piece of lumber.