How To Square A Board

Wood from the yard can either be rough or surfaced. Circular and giant band saws are used to cut it from logs at the saw mill where it is obtained as rough lumber. It is always cheaper and beneficial to buy it rough then surface and square it by oneself.

Knowing how to square a board makes building projects easier as work is done with straight, flat and squared timber which are easier to work with compared to twisted and warped ones.

When squaring a board, different machinery that are not readily available may be needed, huge shaving piles will accumulate and a lot of time will be required; but these do not outweigh the benefit of saving much money and being in charge; in terms of deciding the sizes and shapes of timber that is required

The overview steps of squaring a board include:

  • Crosscutting rough lumber
  • Straightening one edge
  • Planning
  • Jointing
  • Ripping the edges
  • Squaring the ends

Tools That May Be Needed

  • A jointer
  • A planer
  • Miter and hand saw
  • Radial arm saw and table saw with crosscut blade and rip blade respectively

The tools must be in good working condition and well-tuned, the working area should be well set up and results continuously confirmed while working.

Important Tips To Consider

rough lumber
  • When purchasing timber, ensure it is flat and straight. Warped, twisted or bowed boards are difficult to machine. Such boards also indicate that the wood may be unstable
  • Purchased rough lumber should be a quarter thicker than the finished thickness. In woodworking terms; purchase 4/4 inches for final ¾ inches or 5/4 for final 1 inch
  • The process of flattening and squiring boards needs ½ inches thicker and rough boards to start with. This allows for more extra passes on the jointer when flattening
  • Though slightly expensive, best graded timber is easier to square and produces maximum yield with minimum waste
  • Again, do not size or square lumber when not ready to use it. This is because wood tends to distort if left idle

Take note of the squaring list and give priority to long and wide pieces of lumber when squaring. In most cases, some other pieces may be obtained from the remaining wood. It is also vital to know that short piece edges are easier to joint compared to long piece edges.

Therefore if edge jointing was to be done after squaring, cross cutting on timber lengths should be done first. Consequently check on defects and never machine lumber that is less than 12 inches long since its too dangerous.

How To Square

The following steps should be adhered to every time a board is being converted from rough stock to smooth lumber S4S-Surfaced on all the four sides. Boards should not be squared individually, they should all be run at the same time for consistency.

Step 1: Crosscutting Rough Lumber

Crosscutting Rough Lumber

With the help of a radial arm, miter or hand saw, stock should be cut to rough length i.e. length which is a couple of inches longer than required.

All the rough pieces should be more than 18 inches (as in the space of feed roller on the planer) and sized at least an inch longer than the finished length to ensure a slightly thick piece of timber that does not get jammed between the blade and the saw fence while cutting

Step 2: Straightening One Edge

Straightening One Edge

With the jointer, surface the stock part that is concave. Continue removing the material until most rough mill marks are over and the edges are straight. At this point, the joiner fence should be set at 90 degrees with the cutting depth of 1/32 inches, multiple passes are then made until the edge is clean and free of mill marks.

Step 3: Plane The Board For Desired Thickness

Step 3: Plane The Board For Desired Thickness

Measure the stock thickness and ensure the planer is set to the thickness obtained minus 1/16 inches. E.g. an inch board set for 15/16 inches then minus 1/16 inches (which represents one adjustment wheel turn) for each cut while turning the board end to get rid of material from both ends until the desired thickness is maintained.

Most planners have speed that can be varied. The cutting speed can therefore be changed from fast rate level when the board is 1/8 inches more than the required thickness to slow rate level when the board is around 1/16 inches from each face.

Step 4: Jointing The Board Face

With the jointer, joint the concave edges until all the rough mill marks are finished. Again, never force warped or twisted boards to joint.

Instead, stock spots must first be removed until the desired flat surface is attained. This should leave you with a straight edge for use at the table saw.

Step 5: Ripping The Board

Ripping The Board

At the table saw, the fence should be set to the finished width of lumber board. The lumber board should then be ripped ¼ inches more than the finished width by pressing the jointed edge on the fence to rip the board (a good ripping blade should always be used as it makes work easier). After ripping, get back to the jointer and clean the sawn edge.

Step 6: Jointing The Ripped Edge

Jointing the ripped edge removes the last 1/32 inches

Step 7: Squaring The Ends

When squaring, it’s advisable to trim one of the square ends, then turn the board around and make marks on the finished lengths. Cuts are then made through the marks and the ends squared.

The above are perfect steps of how to square a board each time with little waste ensured and desired end product guaranteed.

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