Ask WWGOA: Square Material Without a Jointer or a Thickness Planer

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Question


How do I go about getting square material without a jointer or a thickness planer? I have a table saw, circular saw, and various cordless tools. Thanks in advance for any help.

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Answer


This is a great skill to have in your bag of tricks, as it will come into play on nearly every project. Here’s a video that walks through the process: Post Haste Project: How to Square a Board. It’s tough to do this without a jointer and planer. The key is to establish one square face on a jointer first, then use that face as a reference for each of the next steps where you will square up the remaining sides. Then you will simply cut the ends square on a miter saw, or if you don’t want to add one of those, you could easily do this on a table saw.

Without investing in a jointer or planer, you will have to start by choosing lumber that is at least flat to begin with. Then you can use a table saw and a sled as described in this article to establish a straight line on one edge, then flip that over and rip as normal on the table saw to square up the other edge and make it parallel to the first.

Hope this helps,
Paul


Related:
Post Haste Project: How to Square a Board
Jointing on the Table Saw

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8 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Square Material Without a Jointer or a Thickness Planer”
  1. Kurt
    Kurt

    I have a chunk of slab wood and would like to save the bark on it. What is the best way to keep it on. It was cut this past summer. I was hoping to use my cnc to put a 3D scene on it Simla
    What product do you recommend to use to keep bark on the edge of slab wood that was cut in the summer.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Dear Kurt,

      Thank you for your patience. In regards to your question-

      I generally just press on it in a few locations and if it is tight it will typically stay on. If it is flaking off easily, I just take it all. It’s hard to preserve it with a product if it is prone to falling off.

      Sincerely,

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Dear Robert,

      Thank you for your patience. In regards to your question-

      Many find this to be challenging and/or time consuming, but if you have a good set of planes along with the necessary skills and patience, this approach can work well. It can be very satisfying work.

      Sincerely,

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  2. Robert Taylor
    Robert Taylor

    Along with the question about squaring a board I have read that we should not trust a factory edge on plywood and the corner to be 90 degrees. If we do not use at least one of them how is the best way to ensure a straight side and square corner?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Dear Robert,

      Thank you for your patience. In regards to your question-

      It’s extremely important to square up your tools and use a good straight edge. I have generally found factory edges to be reasonably reliable, but it is still important to develop some known “go to” sources of straight and square in your own shop so that you can build with confidence rather than trusting your supplier.

      Sincerely,

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  3. RANDY
    RANDY

    What if you can’t afford a planer or jointer at the moment. Surely there is a technique using table saw, router or miter saw to square a piece of wood for use as a straight edge template. I watched “squaring plywood with a router” and “jointing with a router”. Can one of these techniques be modified to create a true square long edge?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Yes, you are on the right track. A jointer and planer can speed things up in the shop, but you can get by without them if necessary. You can definitely joint long stock using these techniques. Thickness planing can be done in varying degrees of effectiveness using a hand plane, belt sander, or hand held power planer.

      -Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply