Planing a Tapered Timber

      Ideas for surfacing a 13-foot tapered redwood timber ó while keeping the taper. June 12, 2006

I have a 13' long redwood timber that is 8 x 8 at the base and 6 x6 at the top. This is a custom order. My question is that originally when I opened my mouth and agreed that I would surface the thing, I forgot that it was tapered. I liked the idea that someone here on WOODWEB used a Delta planer and let it walk up the timber he was surfacing. Now that I'm at that point, the obvious has struck my brain - the taper - what is the next best suggestion?

I have thought about:
Using a wedge in the planer as a guide.
Using a adhesive sanding disk on my swingblade mill and sanding it with that.
Using a belt sander and connecting it to the sawmill frame to avoid dips and valleys.
Taking it to someone with a belt sander.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
If I understand your problem, you wish to surface - as in plane - the tapered cant and to keep the taper, correct? If that's the case, push the cant over a 10" or larger jointer, all 4 sides. This method will take 2 men to manage the cant over the jointer, but should work and be done within 5 or so minutes.

From contributor B:
I like the jointer idea, it seems fast and easy if you already have one. I don't have one so I'd pull out my old hand plane, in particular a fore plane. It would probably take about 5 minutes per side.

From contributor C:
Fine Woodworking had an article awhile back on using your planer as a jointer. The problem I'd have with my planer in this case would be the 8" dimension - I don't have the height clearance. Hand planing sounds like the way to go for just one.

From contributor D:
I do these things all the time with a 3" wide jointer plane or my 2" wide smoother. If you take the taper off both sides when you saw it, your grain will all run out nicely when stroking the kitty. If the bandsaw's cutting well, the kitty will be purring in just a few strokes. Also, if you hone a little curve to the edge of the plane blade, good technique will easily overcome the tendency to leave grooves where the strokes overlap.

From contributor E:
Can you get a surfacing blade for your swinger?

From the original questioner:
As for the surfacing head for the swingblade, I am going to get a blade ground on one edge so that I can surface timbers with it. I decided to use my belt sander and make a jig to mount it on the swingblade track and finish the piece with that. Itís a one time deal. Itís the backbone to a 14 foot tall Buddha for a temple. See what advertising the listing on the WOODWEB can do for you?

From contributor G:
I've made a plywood jig to mount a big router on the frame of my Peterson mill. I use it to plane down large slabs, but it would work the same for planing a taper like you need. It does leave some slight machine marks between runs, but those can be taken off easy enough with a belt sander. The surface is at least true, so only a light sanding is needed. It's a useful thing to have for finishing off all sorts of beams and slabs.

From contributor H:
As you work with surfacing with your sawmill, be sure to remember about backdrag. It is tempting to line-up your stock perfectly with the blade, and of course, if the back of the blade touches at the same time as the front of the blade, it is a trainwreck, not pretty. Good luck and be safe out there.

From contributor I:
If your post timber is already tapered then the easiest (not cheapest) is to hand electric plane all 4 sides with a large Makita or similar brand plane used by most timber frame folks. I was the one who posted the walking electric planer photo which I took at a timber frame project. Also a floor belt sander with different grits would work very well too. I've used a jack plane on such jobs in my past but if the surface is rough and needs to be a fine finish youíre in for a lot of hand work.

From contributor D:
If you already have a thickness planner, build a sled out of a good true plank. That is, take a 2 X 12 or so and put a stop block at one end to catch the fat end of your tapered post and jack up the narrow end to the same height as the fat end with a spacer block fastened to the 2 X 12 (a couple of intermediate blocks might be a good idea too). Take a light pass and turn the post, repeat for each side, adjust the thickness, and repeat until you hit your goal. This is kind of a take off on planing real thin stock by using a backer board or sled.

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