Jointing Curly Cherry

Tips and tricks for avoiding tear-out. August 30, 2005

I'm using curly cherry to build a small jewelry box, but I can't seem to get a good, smooth cut on the face with my 8 inch jointer. There is always a little tear out because of the irregular grain. If I sand it, it seems to dull the figure. Any suggestions on getting a clean, smooth surface that enhances the figure?

Forum Responses
Sand, sand, sand, with progressively finer grits.

You can often get a good, clean joint on curly wood if you wet it a few minutes before jointing, and take very light cuts. The water softens the wood enough for a clean cut.

From Professor Gene Wengert:
Several items. First, do not use carbide cutters, as they will not be as sharp as HSS. This will make a tremendous difference. Next, feed slowly and do not remove much wood (that is, shallow cuts). As mentioned, avoid overly dry wood. Finally, if you are making your own tools, avoid a large rake angle (which means the tool is very slender). Small rakes will mean that the tool is "plowing" the wood off rather than splitting it off. You might find that the book THE WOOD DOCTOR'S RX (for sale at the FDM magazine bookstore) will have more technical information.

I think you should install fresh knives and take real light cuts.

The advice I've gotten is that you don't want to plane or joint curly cherry. Always sand it with a belt sander.

For figured grain, it is often best to use a cabinet scraper (a card scraper).

What about back beveling the planer knives?

From Professor Gene Wengert:
Back beveling is effective when the angle of the knives in the planer head is not sufficient. By back beveling, you make the knife more slender and more likely to chip the grain, over-heat, and dull, so care must be used. Back beveling has been used for softer woods (aspen, cottonwood, basswood, etc.) only, in my experience.

I am presently building a jewelry box of curly cherry and curly maple. I have had no problems with tear out. Here is my setup:

My jointer/planer is an Inca with very sharp HSS kives (I sharpen my own knives). Take light cuts, feed slowly and feed stock at an angle if possible. For finishing, a properly sharpened card scraper or progressively finer grits of sand paper (320, 400, 500, 600, 800, and 1000) will work fine.