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Fingerboard Planing --- Anybody Else Use a Jointer?


EarlyRetiree
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I've used a power jointer (joiner, sp.?) for the fingerboard and the part of the neck that mates to it. Any other sinners out there? I fail to see the downside --- it takes only one or two passes and the joint that's made looks as good as possible. I realize it's not traditional, but I expect that if these tools had been available in Cremona (along with electricity), they would have been welcomed.

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It's hard to generalize without inviting a flurry of contradicting opinions and long-winded, fruitless debate (fruitless to me, that is, because I will not change my methods), but I have always found that machines leave surfaces that cry out for cleanup or further refinement with hand tools.

Addressing your inquiry specifically, I use a try plane (it's a 22" wooden, single iron plane) and follow that up with a couple passes using a very finely set, small smoothing plane (also a wooden, single iron plane).

I prefer hand tools in general in order to keep the three Ds (danger, dust, and decibels) to a minimum. Having said that, by 14" band saw and I are on very good terms with one another!

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It takes nearly as much skill to set up and use stationary power tools properly as it does to use hand tools. Personally, I can make joints on bass plates with a jointer that are all but invisible , even dry. If a joint line is that hard to see, is it possible to get significantly better? We are a semi-production shop and make everything from violins to basses, and use a jointer on plates and fingerboards, but it's a dedicated machine for finish cuts only, and it gets frequent skilled maintenance. If you don't have first rate machinery with a first rate setup, you're better off doing it by hand, IMO.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Nonado

It takes nearly as much skill to set up and use stationary power tools properly as it does to use hand tools. Personally, I can make joints on bass plates with a jointer that are all but invisible , even dry. If a joint line is that hard to see, is it possible to get significantly better? We are a semi-production shop and make everything from violins to basses, and use a jointer on plates and fingerboards, but it's a dedicated machine for finish cuts only, and it gets frequent skilled maintenance. If you don't have first rate machinery with a first rate setup, you're better off doing it by hand, IMO.


I can believe a pretty good joint can be accomplished by machine... but honestly can't say that the joint could, or couldn't, be improved by use of a hand plane without seeing the results your shop is getting.

I can say that I have some experience with high quality machine tools (in another portion of my life) and agree that, like any hand tool, setup is king.

What I have a hard time envisioning is as perfect and sophisticated a joint made with a machine as one can make by hand. Understand, the fingerboards I make are mostly replacements... not boards for new work... so there are some differences in approach, but the goal is similar.

When I use a hand plane, I'm looking for a very smooth, straight, surface with no twist on both faces (the neck and the board), but I also wish a very slight and even "cup" (crosswise) to the cut. The resulting joint acts similar to a spring joint when joining plates (but it's not lengthwise). After application of the glue, the board and neck surface "suck" into one another when rubbed a bit... but yes, I do use clamps.

I can't accomplish the above without the use of a fingerboard holding jig (to eliminate flexing of the board) and a very, very sharp hand plane, so I'm having trouble imagining a setup on the machine that might do the job as well.

Maybe David will drop over and show me the one you send him if you get around to that, or I can pop over to his place.

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For the record:

A joiner is a carpenter.

A jointer is a machine that makes joints.

I have a 6" jointer but do not use it on fingerboards. It a preference thing with me, not a safety issue. I like planes and sanders for ebony.

I do use the jointer for plates and the joints are as good as those with my humongous jack plane. I do only rub joints, no clamping. Every time I used to clamp, I could see a seam. Maybe I'm a lousy clamper.

If you get ripples with your jointer, there are a couple of issues. First, the blades are not balanced or one is dull. Second, you are running the jointer too slowly and/or feeding the material too quickly. Another problem is taking too large a cut in the pass. Skim cuts are best. Get some wood out of the trash and experiment!

Yes, they are dangerous, but so are knives. I have seven stitches from my knives, nothing to date from the jointer. I think being scared stiff of the jointer (it is LOUD like a jet turbine) prevents any injury. (grins)

Mike

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I have a jointer that is set up very, very well. Not by me, but by a machinist. I skim pass that barely taeks anything with really fresh, hard steel knives still leaves the slightest trace of pattern from the cut. Taking a record plane, also set up, but this time by me, and taking one pass is really cool. There is this "tickedy-tickedy-tickedy" sound as the plane takes the peaks off. In other words, I am roughing out, but really close to finish on well tuned mahines, but still finishing by hand. Marilyn

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quote:


Originally posted by:
JohnCee

quote:


Originally posted by:
Michael_Molnar

For the record:

A joiner is a carpenter.


How to offend a joiner in one easy step......
[/img]

John,

I checked the American Heritage Dictionary for my definitions. Check it or whatever you use. I do not mean to denigrate any one's profession.

Mike

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Jeffrey Holmes

What I have a hard time envisioning is as perfect and sophisticated a joint made with a machine as one can make by hand. Understand, the fingerboards I make are mostly replacements... not boards for new work... so there are some differences in approach, but the goal is similar.

I can't accomplish the above without the use of a fingerboard holding jig (to eliminate flexing of the board) and a very, very sharp hand plane, so I'm having trouble imagining a setup on the machine that might do the job as well.


No argument there. Restoration and repair on fine instruments is a lot different than making even very good shop instruments.

New instruments are a lot easier, especially in a "semi-production" environment. No doubt a one-person shop would find other approaches that work better for them, especially considering how even well seasoned wood can move while it's sitting around.

Speaking of movement, it occurs to me that if I send a fingerboard as an example, it might not be so straight by the time it gets there unless the grain is dead straight, and that's not gonna be too likely on a reject fingerboard. I'll give it a try, though - maybe wrap it in plastic to help keep it stable. Might be a while, depending on production schedule.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Nonado

Speaking of movement, it occurs to me that if I send a fingerboard as an example, it might not be so straight by the time it gets there unless the grain is dead straight, and that's not gonna be too likely on a reject fingerboard. I'll give it a try, though - maybe wrap it in plastic to help keep it stable. Might be a while, depending on production schedule.


Maybe strap it down to a piece of MDF for shipment?

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Michael_Molnar
If you get

ripples with your jointer, there are a couple of issues. First, the

blades are not balanced or one is dull. Second, you are running the

jointer too slowly and/or feeding the material too quickly. Another

problem is taking too large a cut in the pass. Skim cuts are best.

Get some wood out of the trash and experiment! Yes, they are

dangerous, but so are knives.

At it's very peak of operation, a circular cutter-head will leave

ripples or ridges, it's just a matter of how much.

The very act of a rotating cutter-head is the main culprit, and the

tuning that you mention takes care of the other minor culprits.

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I have a few "nice" words for those of you who insist on using hand planes. Of course, I speak from my own experience. First of all, they never taught us how to use hand tools in the high school woodworking shop. Naturally, the first two machines I bought were 14" bandsaw and 6" jointer. Later on I acquired a 2nd hand INCA 8" jointer. These were very useful tools. Then, I bought 2 small block planes. Millers Falls #56 low angle and Stanley 102. These are handy tools for me. Then came the nightmare, I got a Stanley jack. This is probably the worst designed and constructed gadget ever made for wood working. The blade adjusting mechanism has too much backlash. After a few shavings, the blade would move because the spring clamp is not tight enough. I would get the screwdriver to tighten the center screw. The most dreaded thing is that wheel under the blade and behind the frog. It couples with a loose lever to a super large square hole on the blade. I can never use this wheel to set the blade depth. After the adjustments are done, I try to plane, and the darn thing would chatter. You'll say that I don't know how to use it. Perhaps I don't have the patience to spend a good half hour to fool around with it. I really hate that piece of metal called chip breaker. No matter how well I sharpen the edge, Wood chips still jam in between it and the blade. It breaks no chips. We should called it shaving curler. This plane is some where in the corner of the house rusting. More recently, I bought a Veritas low angle jack. It's a much much better hand plane, but I still use more often my power jointers.

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I've used only hand tools for the majority of my luthier career,

and only recently began using power tools for certain jobs, like

resawing, and edge joining. I've clipped a couple of finger tips,

and a knuckle on the joiner, despite a healthy respect or fear. For

safety and control, I made a sled that holds the fingerboard for

jointing. I concur with others regarding proper set up of the

machines, adding that sharp planer blades are imperative. I take

the ridges left by the jointer with a scraper, plane, or

a sanding block.

A jointer can be used to make tapered sleds that

fingerboards can be placed in, and run through a planer as well.

There are all sorts of jigs that can be made for routers, table

saws, planers, etc., to increase productivity. I see nothing

wrong with some power assist in making musical instruments.  

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