Author Topic: Advice on Milling Lumber  (Read 5207 times)

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Offline ChicagoNewGuy

  • Posts: 10
Advice on Milling Lumber
« on: May 23, 2019, 08:31 PM »
Hello everyone,
I'm hoping for some advice.  I find milling lumber to be extremely difficult and I'm wondering if I'm biting off more than my tools can chew.  I have a stock Dewalt D735 planer and an old Craftsman 6" jointer with 18" long infeed and outfeed tables.  Many years ago, I bought gallons and gallons of rough walnut from a guy that was moving, the boards are 12" x 1 1/4" x 10'. A couple of years ago I made my first project with this lumber, a simple 20"x40" vanity.  I cut the boards to length and then ripped them down to 5" wide, so they would fit in my jointer.  By the end of it, I had milled the 1 1/4" boards down to 7/8" thick.  It was absolute torture.  My jointing produced boards that were fatter in the middle and using the planer was like pulling teeth, pushing and pulling the boards through at the end to keep them from getting stuck and burning.   It made me hate my workshop for a while.  I think a lot of my issue was not having long enough infeed/outfeed tables.  Well now I'm about to embark on another adventure with this walnut and I need to create a 24"x70" slab as part of a piece of furniture I'm going to take a shot at.  Part of me just wants to go out and buy some veneered plywood but I have all this freaking walnut that I want to use up.  Today I got started by cutting a couple of boards to length and ripping them down to 6" wide.  I started face jointing one of them and I'm realizing this is never going to work, it feels like it is going to be exponentially worse than the bathroom vanity. 

Any advice on how to make this less painful? 

  • Is my issue not enough infeed and outfeed space?  I feel like guys on YouTube just send 8ft boards through their machines and catch them on the other side no sweat.  This would be a lot of effort for me and my shop is small.  Are rollers as good as extension tables?
  • Are my tools too small, am I expecting too much from them?
  • Instead of trying to mill (4) 6" x 70" boards should I try a brick pattern and mill up a bunch of 6"x24" boards?  Or would chopping up these long beautiful walnut boards into tiny pieces be sacrilegious?
  • Would my life be easier if I re-sawed the lumber in half to 5/8 thick boards that might be easier to handle?
I am throwing random stuff out at this point; any advice would be appreciated!
TS55, OF1400, MFS400, MFT/3, CT48

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Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 1086
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2019, 08:45 PM »
I sold my jointer years ago (space now used for my Kapex), and have since used a technique like this:

You can find other more sophisticated sleds online (one example below).

This technique handles a wide board (12" to 13") with ease.

« Last Edit: May 24, 2019, 11:20 AM by ChuckM »

Offline aufinger

  • Posts: 8
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2019, 09:12 PM »
The total bed is 18"? General rule of thumb is 2x bed, so you can probably realistically do 3' boards or so. So, yeah that seems under-sized for what you're doing.

You might be better off face jointing on your planer w/ a sled and shims. Then square up the edge on a table saw. Lots of YouTube videos on this.

Or just find someone to do the milling for you. Either a buddy or hardwood retailer/mill.

Offline Gregor

  • Posts: 1269
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2019, 04:18 AM »
I would use a router sled for an initial flatten pass, random search result to illustrate the concept:

Offline kevinculle

  • Posts: 287
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2019, 08:47 AM »
While shorter jointer tables do present limitations it is most important to first make sure your jointer is set up as accurately as possible.  The tables must be reasonably flat (say within 0.01"/0.3mm) and coplanar, with the outfeed table plane matching the OD of the cutterhead across it's width.  The fence must be precisely square to the tables for milling square stock. 

Technique on the jointer is also important..if the board has lengthwise warp start with the concave side down and take short passes at each end swapping end to end and working toward the center.  This will get you to a flat reference side with less stock removal than taking multiple full length passes.

Your DW735 is fully capable if you don't mind listening to the howl (through ear protection of course) and if you want to make it truly capable a Byrd head provides enormous benefits in noise reduction and minimizing blade maintenance.  In your situation though I would first invest in a longer bed jointer and perhaps step up to 8" width.  There are plenty of older Delta and Powermatic jointers available for relatively cheap prices needing only some TLC and bearings to be superior to most new machines sold today.  See this website for all you need to know:

Offline Michael Kellough

  • Posts: 3942
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2019, 09:01 AM »
As Kevin says the jointer must be correctly setup to produce good results. This can be difficult or even impossible with lower quality equipment.

You can bypass problems with the jointer with the methods Chuck and Gregor posted.

Another option is the one you brought up, buying some stock that is more suitable for the scale of the project. That nice old ten foot long 6/4 x 12” walnut should be used for large tables. Consider selling some to buy a better jointer or trading for suitable stock.

Offline Mike Goetzke

  • Posts: 236
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2019, 09:14 AM »
I'm a serious hobbyist that built all the cabinets for our kitchen remodel few years ago. I like milling my own lumber and started out with a 6" jointer and the same DeWalt planer you have. For the kitchen job I justified buying an 8" jointer and 13" floor standing planer. This was quite an upgrade but I also produced nicely sized flat lumber with tools similar to yours.

Just few thoughts:

- Working rough sawn lumber don't first cut to size. Leave maybe 3" to 4" (or more) on the length and 1/2" to 1" on the width and cut to size later.

- You shouldn't have to push & pull lumber through the planer. The drive rollers should do that. Are you hogging off to much per pass or does your planer drive wheels need cleaning? maintenance? new blades?

- You jointer should flatten the board across the entire width. Again, are the blades properly set up and sharp? Technique?

(I'm in the Chicago area - if all fails I'll take that walnut off your hands. [big grin])


Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 5995
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2019, 09:21 AM »
I would use a router sled for an initial flatten pass, random search result to illustrate the concept:

I like that approach. Use it for slabs & use it for rough sawn.  [smile]

Offline Michael Kellough

  • Posts: 3942
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2019, 09:24 AM »
If the op jointed both sides of the board before going to the planer, and the board was thicker in the middle, then he would have some difficulty feeding through the planer. I wouldn’t continue to use the jointer until it is adjusted to make boards flat.

Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 1086
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2019, 10:24 AM »
The router sled method is great for big slabs, but a poor approach for day-to-day planing jobs for two reasons: It is slow, and it is very dusty. Trust me, it will take forever to joint half a dozen 8"x 8' boards, both faces that way.

Someone correctly pointed out the importance of skills in using the jointer (assuming it is properly tuned up to start with). Cupped boards are the easiest to handle, but not a twisted one. This is one way to do it (the balancing method):

Another almost fool-proof method (for shorter twisted boards) is to support the trailing high corner with shavings or paper towel. Or, use a handplane to knock off the high points first.

It is true that the easiest and usually also the more pricey route is to go buy milled stock for your projects. The choices of thickness and grain patterns may be limited by what vendors carry. However, that may be the best way to go if you find stock milling too much work, and would rather spend time on other parts of the projects.

Caution: Whether you buy or mill your own stock, you should use it as soon as practicable as wood moves, and depending on your shop conditions, the boards could go "out of shape" as they react to changes in humidity.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2019, 10:41 AM by ChuckM »

Offline cpw

  • Posts: 131
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2019, 10:42 AM »
The DW735 should be able to handle this easily, but you will get better results with the folding infeed/outfeed table attachments.  When I did my kitchen with several hundred bf of cherry it was a worthy upgrade.  I did all that jointing with a RIDGID 6" jointer, with a 45" bed.  I mostly did things that were in the 4' range, with some 6' and very few 8' boards.  The 8' boards were more challenging, but doable.  It sounds like with 18" long beds, maybe you have a benchtop unit?  I would certainly want something floor standing with sufficient mass.

Offline ChicagoNewGuy

  • Posts: 10
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2019, 11:25 AM »
Thanks Everyone,
The tools are well maintained and sharp so I think I'm going to try the planer sled first.  See how that goes and then consider upgrading to a spiral cutter in the planer. 
Thanks for all the feedback, truly appreciate this forum.
I'll keep you guys posted.

TS55, OF1400, MFS400, MFT/3, CT48

Offline aufinger

  • Posts: 8
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2019, 04:53 PM »
Kevin has a good point. First question should be how it performs on shorter boards? If you can get flat boards up to 3 feet or so, then I'd say the planer and operator are working well. If not, might want to address that.

You can run longer boards on a jointer with a helper or careful aligned stands. An upper body workout pressing the board into the outfeed table to maintain contact works too.  ;D

Offline Alanbach

  • Posts: 296
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2019, 05:08 PM »
To me this sounds like most of your issues start and end with your jointer. Are you jointing both faces or only one? You should only be jointing one. Are you using paddles to keep consistent contact between the work and the jointer on both sides of the blade? Do you have supports that can help you keep the work from teeter tottering as long pieces go through your short jointer? If the first surface comes off the jointer without one flat face as a reference face for the planer then the struggle will continue. Fix that and I think you fix your problem. I assume that when you talked about the jointer producing boards that were thicker in the middle you were talking about along the length. If that is the case then planing would be torture because the planer is trying to duplicate the reference face.

Offline grbmds

  • Posts: 1886
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2019, 09:44 PM »
For years I used 6” Rockwell jointer with a short bed. In addition there was no way to adjust the outfeed table. Because of this I could never get the jointer set up properly and the results were always less than desirable. The indeed and outfeed tables must be set properly as well as the cutters. I would suggest searching you tube for a good video on jointer setup, follow that process and, if after that, you don’t get any better results the jointer is the problem.

Also as at least one other responder suggested, only one side should be face jointed and the other side flattened parallel on the planer. Even if the first side isn’t completely flat you should still have lees problems running the board through planer.

Offline jobsworth

  • Posts: 5665
  • Festool Baby.....
Re: Advice on Milling Lumber
« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2019, 10:44 AM »
I was looking at jointer techniques on you tube etc last night .

I found this one by Charles Nell. It was the most informative one i found with some tips that may help you.
You never said what tools were available for you to use so here is what Id do

 Use your TS 55 w a guide rail to joint the timber, then use your domino for glue up strengthening and aligning the joints, your RO 150 in rotex mode with a hard pad to rough sand the surfaces flat then go over it with either your RO150 in random mode to finish sand or your ETS 150/3 to finish sand. Your MFT with TS55 to square the timbers up.
This type of work seems like what festools are good at.

Heres the video by Charles Nell on setting up ad using a jointer along with some good tips

« Last Edit: June 01, 2019, 10:54 AM by jobsworth »