Flatten a Wide Slab in the Planer!

When you need to flatten something wider than your jointer.

Any knowledgeable woodworker will tell you that a surface planer doesn’t flatten a board, it only planes the top face to be parallel with the bottom. A jointer is the only machine in the wood shop that will produce a truly flat face.  This is true.  But there is a simple way to machine a flat surface on a slab that’s wider than your jointer.

Use a sled.

By using a sled for the slab to ride on as it goes through the planer and shims to take up the space between the uneven surface of the board and the sled, the planer can create a truly flat face.This works because the slab is held perfectly still on top of the sled as the feed rollers pull it through the machine.  Because the shims are taking up the uneven space under the rough board, the feed rollers can’t push the board down against the sled.  This allows the sled to act as the reference surface and the machine planes a face parallel to the bed, which should always be flat.  This works.  I do it all the time in my custom woodworking shop.

The sled has a lip at the front. Shims have been taped on to keep the board still as it passes through.

The sled should be made of a material that is consistent in thickness such as MDF.  It will need a stop at the front, yes, the front, of the sled to prevent the board from being pulled off of the sled as the feed rollers pull it through the machine.  (This is contrary to what is published on FineWoodworking.com but like I said, I do this all the time and the stop needs to be at the front.) The shims should be fairly short, so they don’t stick out the sides and get caught in the planer.  The set up should be done on a flat surface like the top of a table saw.

Shimming the board.

Passing it through the planer.

I start by placing the slab down on the sled right against the stop.  The board will move forward as the feed rollers grab it so it’s best to start with it at the front of the sled.  Then I add shims as needed to prevent the slab from rocking.  Once it’s sitting stable, I add more shims to take up any space at about 12” intervals down the length of the board.  I tape them in place so they don’t move then I pick up the sled and move the whole unit to the planer.


I do light passes through the machine until the top face has been fully planed then I take it back to the table saw to check to see if it’s flat.  I remove the slab from the sled and place the newly planed face down on the flat table saw top.  If it’s flat, then I keep that face down and go back to the planer and thickness it as usual.  Sometimes, if the slab was severely cupped, it will need further flattening on the sled.  I do this in two stages.  The first stage gets me close to a flat face.  Then I reset the sled with the “mostly flat” face down.  This second stage usually only requires a few small shims to hold it steady.  After planing on the sled the second time, I check the new face for flat then mark it as the reference surface.

Board is marked and passing it through the planer.

I use this technique for flattening boards and live edge slabs for all kinds of projects in my woodshop.  I always take the time to make my live edge slab serving boards truly flat.  I do the same for wide slab table tops in my custom furniture projects as well.  My end grain butcher blocks are flattened in a similar way but I use the drum sander as the surfacing tool.

Checking the board for flatness on the table saw top.

Upcoming Events – Spring / Summer 2017

Come and see me at these markets and events.


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/

Terroir Saturday, MAY 13 2017 – Picton, Crystal Palace. http://www.countyterroir.ca/

Fiber Fest Saturday May 27th – Picton, Community Arena. http://prince-edward-county.com/event/fibre-fest/


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly. 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/

Art Among The Ruins Saturday June 17th, Newburg ON http://www.artamongtheruins.com/

Cheese Festival. June 3rd, 4th, Picton Fair Grounds. https://cheesefestival.ca/


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly. 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly. 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/

Prince Edward Women’s Institute Annual Craft Show. Thursday August 3, Picton Fair Grounds. http://thecountywomensinstitute.ca/craft-show/


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly. 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/

Taste! Community Grown. Prince Edward County, September 24 http://www.tastecommunitygrown.com/


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Happy Spring!

It was my busiest winter yet here in my little shop in Waupoos. Typically, I have quite a bit of down time in January to rest, read some books and give the shop a good overhaul. This year the requests for custom furniture just kept coming in. I was busy working almost every day and now, it’s Spring already.

Part of me wishes I had more down time to rest, relax and reset in the new year. You may or may no know this about me, but I like to have a very clean and organized shop. At one point recently, it looked like this. Which for me – is really letting it slide.

But of course the other part of me is really happy and thrilled to be so busy. I’m really happy and grateful to be able to be self employed and work creatively.
I’m kicking off the season with a calendar full of work orders and planning my appearances at art and craft shows for summer. Stay posted for a finalized list of show and events for 2017! As always, thank you for your support and your interest in handcrafted, unique, Canadian made goods.

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Have Boards Will Travel


Oh, September.


Cool, crisp evenings. Sunny warm afternoons. The comfort of regular schedules as the kids go back to school. A dizzying array of fall colour starts to peak out of the green foliage. All these act as a signal to the end of the busy summer art and crafts show circuit.


This time of year I get to take a deep breath of that cool fragrant air and think about the past few months of busy shows, driving through cities, and being away from home for days.


I get to think about all the people I’ve met, the adventures I’ve had and the family I had chances to visit. I can think back and appreciate all the fantastic fellow artists I met and the work I saw at ArtFest Distillery, Port Credit, Kingston, Beaches. The beautiful works at Cabbage Town Arts Fest and Art Among the Ruins. Appreciate the delicious treats of Cheese Festival, Terroir and weekly the farmers market.


I  admit, I take some relief knowing that I won’t have to pack the van up with all the supplies and products and truck them around for a few months at least. I can put down some roots at home and start thinking about the larger projects. I can sit down and do drawings for custom projects and get creative. Assess my shop stock, reassess my work flow, my set up and board designs.


It’s a small pause. A little moment of time in the year. Soon, Holiday shows will start and we’ll be caught up in the whirlwind again before we suddenly find we’re settled down again, mid January, in front of a cracking fire. Reassessing, breathing and reflecting. For now, I’ll appreciate the pause, as brief as it is.


Packed van, ready to travel.

Packed van, ready to travel.


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Upcoming Events – Fall 2016


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/

ArtFest Toronto, Distillery September 2-5  http://www.artfestontario.com/

Cabbagetown Arts Festival, Toronto September 9-11 http://www.cabbagetownartandcrafts.org/

Taste! Community Grown. Prince Edward County, September 24 http://www.tastecommunitygrown.com/


Wellington Farmers Market, Wellington, Weekly. Ends OCT 8th. 8am – 1pm http://www.countymarkets.ca/


The Makers Hand, Prince Edward County November 4-6 http://themakershand.com/


Keep up to date on all our events and new products.

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Straight Line Ripping in a Small Shop

 Straight Line Ripping in a Small Shop

“Straight lining” a board is when you create a straight edge along the length of a board, similar to what is done on a jointer.  So, why not use a jointer?  A few reasons. First, because a jointer is only as good as the length of its tables.  Even though I have a long bed jointer with a total length of 6’, it’s still too short to get the truly straight edge that is required for joining boards together.  Second, ripping the edge instead of jointing is much faster and easier.  You can rip it in one pass whereas it may take several passes on the jointer.  This is especially true when you have a 9’ board with a major crook.

The jig requires straight, parallel edges and some toggle clamps to secure the board.

The jig requires straight, parallel edges and some toggle clamps to secure the board.

Straight Line Rip 3

Crooked board on the jig with the crook facing out.

Straight line ripping is something that is usually only done in large wood shops with specialized rip saws to perform the task. It doesn’t have to be a task relegated just to the big shops. I’ve developed a method for doing it in my small garage shop on my table saw.

Here’s my method for straight line ripping on the table saw.  I start by flattening and planing the boards.  This will ensure that the ripped edge will come out square to the face.  (I have methods for flattening long boards as well, that’s another blog though.)  Next, I set up the saw with plenty of infeed and outfeed support and of course, have a ripping blade installed.

Straight Line Rip 4

Cleaned up edge.

Then I put the crooked board on the jig.  The jig is just a piece of MDF with parallel straight edges and some toggle clamps to hold the board.  I put the board on the jig with the crook facing out (away from the fence,) and clamp it so that there’s a little bit overhanging the jig at both ends.  I set the rip fence to the width of the jig or just wider then make the cut with the jig riding along the fence.  The edge of the board is cut parallel with the straight edge of the jig.  I then use the new edge to rip the opposite edge parallel to it and it’s ready to go into a glue up. Straight Line Rip 5



Straight edges.

Straight edges.

Over the past few years of working and learning in my shop, this skill has proved pivotal to my work. This process is essential for gluing up table tops and counter tops which I’m often commissioned to make. To see some past examples of my work check out the “Custom Woodworking” section of my website. To keep up to date on the newest projects, like me on Facebook or sign up for my newsletter.


How to Season New End Grain Butcher Blocks

New end grain butcher blocks are quite thirsty and require many coats of food grade mineral oil in the first few weeks of use. Your new end grain butcher block should be oiled 2 or 3 times before using it for the first time. Continue oiling your board every day for the first two weeks of use. The idea is to get the board saturated with oil to prevent it from absorbing water. Once the board is saturated, then it will require oiling only once a month.


Oiling your butcher block only takes a few minutes and is an important step in ensuring that it will last a lifetime. Butcher block oil is available directly from Emerson Pringle Carpentry and can be found here.


Here’s how to apply the oil:


  1. Drizzle a generous amount of mineral oil onto the face of the board and spread it around with a paper towel. You will notice the oil being sucked into the wood fibers. Add more oil to ensure the entire face has been “wetted.”
  2. Turn the board over and repeat step 1 for the other face.
  3. Use the excess oil on your towel to wipe the sides and edges. They will not absorb as much oil as the end grain faces but make sure they get some.
  4. Allow the board to absorb the mineral oil for a few hours between coats or before using.


Feel free to call or email with any questions.


Care & Maintenance for Wood Cutting Boards

Clean and dry your cutting board after every use. When not in use, allow the board to be open to the air by standing it on its edge. Do not submerge it in water or machine wash.

How to Clean

  • Rinse with clean running water
  • Wash with hot soapy water
  • Dry thoroughly immediately after washing


Season and protect your cutting board at least once a month. Use food grade mineral oil and/or beeswax polish which is available at www.emersonpringle.com. New butcher blocks are quite thirsty and will require more oil in the first few weeks of use.

How to Season and Protect

  • Rub mineral oil into board with paper towel
  • Allow oil to soak in, then wipe off the excess


Sanitize your board on a regular basis and always after cutting meat or fish. Use full strength white vinegar. Keep it in a spray bottle for convenience.

How to Sanitize and Remove Odours

  • Wipe with pure white vinegar to kill bacteria
  • Slice a lemon in half and rub into board to help remove strong odours


Other Tips

  • Use both sides of end grain butcher blocks
  • Allow air flow under large butcher blocks by propping it up on small rubber pads
  • Use beeswax polish on your wood salad bowls and tongs as well as your boards

Juice Groovin’

Yes, they’re handmade! And this is how you know.


Routing juice grooves in a butcher block is an easy task for a CNC router, but you’ll find no automation in my shop. I start by making a template, setting up each board individually and pushing that router by hand. This can be a tedious task, but I’ve learned a few things over the years which make the job go smoothly. Here’s a look at my current set up.

A big router is required. I’ve recently upgraded to a 3 1/4HP Triton router, it’s a beautiful thing deserving its own blog post. The important features that are helpful for performing this task are the power, dust collection and depth stops. Hogging out a deep groove in hard maple produces a lot of chips, so having the dust collection attached to the tool is really helpful. The depth stops allow me to make the grooves in all the boards the same size. Even with all that power, I still do two or three passes to ensure quality of the cut.

The template that I use is actually just a set of “walls” that are spaced out from the side of the block. I find this set up to be more versatile than making a plywood template. The walls are clamped to the side of the board so that the groove is an equal distance from the edge of the board all the way around. I can use this set of walls for any size butcher block with only a little adjustment. The finger grooves in the sides of the boards are made in a similar fashion.   I use the fence on the router base and clamp two stops at either end of the board. I set up the butcher block so that its side is flush with the top of my workbench to provide extra support for the router.


And it’s as simple as that. No automation required, just elbow grease.


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