Plane Short Pieces

Wednesday 11 July 2018

1 Good-quality timber is becoming more and more expensive these days so it is really handy to be able to use up all those leftover offcuts. Unfortunately they are often very short and while you can plane them by hand this is both difficult and hard work. Surfacing on a planing machine is far too dangerous with anything this short and thicknessers are safer but most have a feed roller spread of about 200mm (8in) so again you cannot use anything shorter than this. The answer is to superglue the offcuts into one long piece and thickness it as a conventional board

2 This technique relies on really sound glue joints and these will only happen if you cut the ends of each piece totally true and square. I use a chopsaw with a fine-toothed blade, making successive cuts from either side of each piece to cancel out any errors in blade squareness

3 Using medium-consistency superglue, stick them end to end, giving each joint a squirt of accelerator when you have it properly aligned. Do all this on a flat, non-stick surface as the finished 'board' must be dead straight or it will break up as it goes through the thicknesser

4 Leave to set for half an hour and ensure that as you glue up each piece the grain orientation is the same on them all or you will have terrible tearout problems when it's machined. Keep making very light passes through the thicknesser, turning the 'board' over and end for end for each successive pass

5 Once you have reduced to the finished thickness you should be able to snap the joints apart, though some timbers make an incredibly strong bond and you will have to saw them through. The finished pieces allow you to make good use of decorative, but otherwise 'scrap', pieces of timber

6 This technique is all very well, but sometimes you will have just a single short piece that needs planing safely. The answer here is to superglue it between two longer pieces of scrapwood which act as runners…

7 …then feed the whole assembly through the thicknesser, taking light cuts from either side as before, then saw it apart

8 Redundant no more: these planed-up scraps are ready for another use