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Tear-out in highly figured maple

Mike_D's picture

I'm working in curly maple for the 1st time. 

I'm making face frames and end panels out of highly figured curly maple - beautiful stuff - for a cabinet that I'm building.

 

I'm loving it! But, my power jointer and planer, while sharp, are still causing a lot of small, coffee-ground sized tear-out.

 

I've read that hand planes should be used to clean this up, and that they leave a final surface that really brings out the beauty of the figure when you finish it. 

 

But I'm clueless - high angle or low angle?  Lee Valley has a low angle plane that they tout for "difficult grain" of which I certainly have plenty.  Is this the right choice? 

 

What do you hand-plane guru's say?

 

Thanks,

Mike D

 

Ted's picture

(post #104098, reply #1 of 27)

I don't know about the Lee Valley plane but I have the Lie Nielson Low-angle smoother and it is really nice and it performed well last time I worked on some Curly Birdseye Maple.
Just a tip that I found helps to greatly reduce the tearout in figured wood like Curly Maple. Wet it down with a wet rag before sending it through the planer.

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #2 of 27)

I've heard that before, but I've wondered if that doesn't undo all the time that I've left the wood alone in the shop reaching moisture equilibrium with my shop and house.


Wetting it doesn't cause a problem with warping?  I'm certainly willing to try it out.


Mike D

Ted's picture

(post #104098, reply #8 of 27)

It shouldn't affect the MC of the wood. The moisture is pretty much on the surface and not within the cell walls.

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #11 of 27)

O.K.  That makes sense - plus upon reflection, it seems that you are immediately removing the moisture with the tool.


Mike D

Planesaw's picture

(post #104098, reply #15 of 27)

Ted,


Maybe I am misunderstanding what your are saying, but -- if the moisture is on the surface, then why do I have to wait so long for the wood to dry?  If it is on the surface only, then it seems all I would need to do is cut the surface off.


Alan - planesaw


 


 

Ted's picture

(post #104098, reply #18 of 27)

"Maybe I am misunderstanding what your are saying, but -- if the moisture is on the surface, then why do I have to wait so long for the wood to dry? If it is on the surface only, then it seems all I would need to do is cut the surface off."

Not sure what you mean when you say "I have to wait so long for the wood to dry?". Usually when I dampen the surface and run it through the planer most of it gets peeled off. Some of it runs down the side that I simply blot off. But for the most part after planing any residual moisture is quikly evaporated.

Planesaw's picture

(post #104098, reply #21 of 27)

Ted,


Got it.  Sorry.  I didn't realize you were talking about dampening the wood.  I thought you were referring to lumber prior to it being dried.


Sorry for the confusion.


Alan - planesaw

saschafer's picture

(post #104098, reply #3 of 27)

You want a high cutting angle, which you can get with a low-angle bevel-up plane equipped with a high-angle blade (e.g., 50°).


Wetting down the wood before each pass through the planer really does help a lot.


On the "difficult grain" scale, curly maple only merits a "moderately difficult." I have a piece of Texas ebony that is completely unplanable, as far as I can tell.


-Steve


 

mapleman's picture

(post #104098, reply #4 of 27)

Mike,


try sending the boards through the planer at an angle, in addition to moistening them.


Also, not sure of what type of planer you have, but I had my knife sharpening guy grind a slight backbevel on the planer and jointer knives and this absolutely did the trick on the figured maple.


As for hand planing - either the LV or LN low angle plane will work - but I would suggest starting at a 50 degree angle and going up from there, maybe to 55 degrees. I find a high angle is best for curly maple.


Good luck,


Lee

KeithNewton's picture

(post #104098, reply #5 of 27)

Lee, I hope you don't mind questioning your use of back-bevel. I think you probably meant to say face-bevel. I believe you are probably referring to the same thing.

This will indeed eliminate the problem. In both my jointer and planer, the knives are set at 30º cutting angle, which would be fine for most softwoods. But I work mostly with hardwood, so I have for many years ground a 20º face-bevel, which reduces the cutting angle to 10º for the cutting angle. At that angle, there no need to wet the wood. The only downside is that this requires more power.

Here is a link to a site which shows a back-bevel as the relief angle on the heel of the main bevel, which probably would not help the cut that much.

http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Knife_Grinding_and_Woodworking_Manual_5.html

saschafer's picture

(post #104098, reply #6 of 27)

" hope you don't mind questioning your use of back-bevel. I think you probably meant to say face-bevel. I believe you are probably referring to the same thing."


I think so. People tend to say "back bevel" because that's the term used when talking about a conventional bevel-down handplane. But it really should be "bevel that reduces the hook angle, on whichever side of the blade that happens to be." ;-)


-Steve


 

mapleman's picture

(post #104098, reply #9 of 27)

Hi Kieth,


Yes, you are correct, I had the terminology wrong.


Thanks,


Lee

Dave45's picture

(post #104098, reply #7 of 27)

Mike -


Do you get the tear-out with other species of wood, as well as the maple?  Does your planer have dust collection?  Are the rollers in your planer clean?


I was experiencing a similar problem and fixed most of it by cleaning the rollers in my planer and upgrading my DC.


Apparently, insufficient DC flow will allow some of the "chips" to fall back onto the surface of the board and get embedded in the infeed roller.  The embedded chips can then cause "dents" in your board.  Cleaning the roller and ensuring the maximum possible DC air flow can reduce this problem.  Running your pieces at an angle can also help since the knives will be making more of a shear cut.

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #10 of 27)

Hi Dave,


"Do you get the tear-out with other species of wood, as well as the maple? "  -- No, just the maple


"Does your planer have dust collection? "  - -  Yes - I have a 2 bag delta.


"Are the rollers in your planer clean?"  --   Got to look at that - I think so.


" The embedded chips can then cause "dents" in your board."  --  Definitely not dents - it's tearout.


Mike D

frenchy's picture

(post #104098, reply #12 of 27)

Mike. 


 Blades must be razor sharp,  and I take thin slices in each pass but mine works fine..

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #13 of 27)

This is interesting!


I tried my "sharp" hand plane (old American hardware store grade Stanley #4) - which goes through pine and poplar like butter.


Regretably, snort! shudder! curse! chip! DARN! the thing would NOT plane my nice curly maple. Not, not, not.  Splinters, not shavings!! (Can it really be that bad?  Yes.)


So, taking another thread to heart, I re-sharpened it until it would split the atom, and then put a 20 degree microbevel on it, and then danced around it 3 times, and resisted the temptation to hone it on a leather strop.


Set the plane thin, thin, thin.  Put pressure down on the plane so's my toes barely reached the ground (200 lbs of old fart).  Worked like a charm.  Still a tiny bit of tearout in places, but not bad, not bad.


Interestingly, once I got the plane working, I also tried wetting the wood. It doesn't seem to have much effect on hand planing.  Should it?


I'm assuming that the blades in my jointer and planer are dull, since I've been familiarizing myself on them using dimensional lumber from Lowes, and since both now leave a little raised nick mark the full length of the cut.  They are scheduled for changing in the AM (or PM depending on whether or not Amazon actually does deliver overnight).


Should be back in business with them tomorrow.


Thanks guys, for all the advice so far!!!


Having fun in Louisville,


Mike D  

saschafer's picture

(post #104098, reply #14 of 27)

"Interestingly, once I got the plane working, I also tried wetting the wood. It doesn't seem to have much effect on hand planing.  Should it?"


In principle, it should, but I have to agree that it doesn't seem to make that much difference. I'm also leery of getting water near my precious hand planes....


-Steve


 


 

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #16 of 27)

Oddly enough, when you said that about water and your planes, I said "aggh!" and proceeded immediately to the shop where I found my nice hand plane in the 1st blush of rust. 


Having taken care that little oversight, I say "Thanks!"


Mike D

toolworks's picture

(post #104098, reply #17 of 27)

Hi Mike,


I'm also in the process of building a cabinet with curly maple figured panels in the door frames, of which there are two.


I had the best success with the LN plane, either a No. 4 or 4.5.. I have both :)
with the HAF ( High Angle Frog). Afterwards, I use a hand scraper to polish and burnish the surfaces of the curly maple panels. The combination of HAF and scaper did it in my case, no tearout.


I've also heard it is possible to achieve very good results with the LV or LN Bevel UP smoother or Jack, but I have no experience with this.


I'm documenting the build process of this particular cabinet if you're interested, and you can see me discussing and hand planing the curly maple panels


http://refinededge.blogspot.com/


Norman


 


 


 

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #19 of 27)

What a great looking cabinet.


Thanks, Norman


Mike D

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #22 of 27)

I've replaced the blades in the jointer and planer both with mixed results.


I have a Ridgid 13 inch planner.  Using new Ridgid blades, which are sharp, sharp, sharp, the planer now leaves a surface in curly maple that looks like watered silk.  Very nice.


Since I have a very old Delta 4" plane that I've rebuilt, I replaced the once-very-sharp-but-not-after-I-"honed"-them Infinity blades, with Freud blades as they were available overnight from Amazon, vs available in 5-7 days from Infinity.


Darn!  The new Freud blades are not especially sharp, and greatly worsened the tearout.  Thinking that I'd screwed up the installation of the blades, I re-set them up with my magic magnet set up tool.  Nope, cuts like blades made from limestone.  They actually knock chunks out of the trailing end of the board!  And if I wet the board first, they knock out wet chunks.  So I've ordered (hopefully sharp) replacement blades from Infinity, and chalk that up to experience.


Following the advise of several others, I've successfully sharpened and set up my hand plane to the point where I can clean up what the power tools tear out, so progress is being made.


Mike D


Edited 12/5/2007 6:19 pm ET by Mike_D

saschafer's picture

(post #104098, reply #23 of 27)

"The new Freud blades are not especially sharp, and greatly worsened the tearout."


Really? I've gotten Freud jointer blades, and they were very sharp. Not quite what I can achieve by hand on my chisels and hand plane blades, but close.


-Steve


 

Mike_D's picture

(post #104098, reply #24 of 27)

Hi Steve,


I was unhappily surprised as well.  My Freud sawblades are very sharp, and that's what I expected to get.


These 3 blades are not especially sharp - for example, their edge will not catch on my fingernail, just kinda skate.  And they leave a fuzzy surface on any wood I tried them on (maple, oak, poplar (expected), and pine). And they are loud when cutting - rather a subjective measure, but I've found that sharp blades make significantly less noise than dull ones.


I'll let you know if the Infinity blades are an improvement.


Mike D

Clutch Cargo's picture

(post #104098, reply #26 of 27)

I do a lot of work using figured and birdseye maple. I also own/use a thickness planer, numerous Lie-Nielsen handplanes, and a Performax drum sander. I've found that I consistently get the best results on figured wood using the Performax. Admittedly, the low angle shearing action of hand planing reveals a wonderful chatoyance in the wood, so that's my first choice whenever possible. Sanding sometimes tends to muddy the overall look of the finish more so than hand planing, but it's still the better option when faced with the alternative of chipping. You can still make the figure/birdseye "pop" if you use a wash coat of diluted shellac as a sealer to prevent blotching, followed by a dye rather than a stain to bring out the figure, and then a couple of coats of topcoat.


The best of luck to you.


Clutch Cargo

KeepItSuperSharp's picture

(post #104098, reply #20 of 27)

Great question, and one answer that I didn't see from anyone was the cabinet scraper! I have an assortment of LN and Veritas planes; I always find myself defaulting to the scraper when it comes to curly maple(including birds-eye, quilted, and fiddleback). I like the Veritas Cabinet Scraper with handles; easy to use(after a little practice), easy to sharpen, and puts the best finish on maple of anything that I've used(also, much less of an investment that the LN or Veritas planes). It's also a very "utilitarian" tool; you can level two edge-joined boards, scrape glue, or leave an awesome piece of fiddleback maple with NO tearout what-so-ever. Best of luck!

Max Sawdust's picture

(post #104098, reply #25 of 27)

Hi,


No Guru here!  But can give some advice, from a guy who planes 10's of thousands of feet and had tear out problems...


You can get your power planer and jointer knives back beveled to reduce tear out, or upgrade to spiral head cutters.  As far as hand planes go, the higher the bevel angle the less tear out.  LN makes a higher angle frog option for their planes, or you can grind a back bevel on your irons.  I personally am a fan of LV low angle planes, but think you can achieve good results with what you have.  Another option would to use a good scraper to work those areas of difficult grain.


Respectfully


True Timbers


Max

jeff100's picture

(post #104098, reply #27 of 27)

This might be too expensive for your planer, but you mention a jointer as well. Someone else already recommended this but I also recommend upgrading the cutter head to a helical carbide cutter head. Problem solved. I upgraded my 6" Powermatic jointer and I now get glass smooth surface on the most difficut grained wood to be found with zero tearout. It's a heck of a lot quieter now too and takes MUCH less power (feed) to surface all hardwoods...Your problems with difficult grain will be a thing of the past. I love my handplanes and use them often, so this advice is not meant to dissuade the use of handplanes, but time is money for a lot of folks, once you try a helical carbide insert cutter you'll never go back.

Jeff


Edited 12/8/2007 10:41 pm by jeff100