During most classes I teach, someone asks me how to plane a glued-up rail-and-stile joint so it’s flush.
My answer: Don’t do it.
Yes, it can be done. There have been barrels of ink spent to write about this topic. How to arrange the grain in the stiles and rails. How to skew the tool as you approach the joint. How to make the turn with poise and aplomb.
I never do this trick unless I’ve made some sort of mistake and have no choice. Instead, I get all my joints flush before assembly. That’s easier than it sounds. Check out the video above where I’m planing the joints for a fairly sizable table.
By planing these joints while they are dry-assembled I gain a lot of advantages.
1. I can run my finger across the joint and know when I’m getting close. No measuring.
2. I can use the curved iron in my plane to sneak up on the seam. By shifting the plane left or right I can control how much material I take off at the seam.
3. If I mess up and nick the intersecting piece with my plane, it’s an easy thing to disassemble the joint and fix the cross-grain boo-boo.
In the video I’m using a jointer plane. You can use any plane – from a jack to a block to a smooth. I needed to remove about 1/32” of material on this table so I chose a tool that had an aggressive curve to its iron.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The background music can be downloaded for free from the Free Music Archive.