How to Flatten a Bench Top or Any Slab With Only Hand Tools

How to Flatten a Bench Top or Any Slab With Only Hand Tools

Sarah’s Bench Project:
Flattening my bench:

Flattening a Slab or other wide piece of wood with hand tools can be difficult but with the right method, it can be a lot of fun. today I want to look at flattening a bench using just hand tools.

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  1. Alan Green on June 1, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Wow! Thanks for this video. Your explanations of how and why were the best I have seen so far. Good job!

  2. Paul Allen on June 1, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    🎶 Flat bottom bench you make the woodworkin’ go ’round… 🎶

  3. Ryan Randazzo on June 1, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    I don’t know what it is about using a bench plane or watching someone use it, but it has a good ASMR affect for me. I could watch this for hours. Thank you for all of the wonderful content.
    It was a #4 Stanley that got we addicted to woodworking just a year ago. Started out as a hobby and has become a daily passion.

  4. sorchard6 on June 1, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    If you have cupped/bowed boards would you flatten them individually before gluing to make a wider board or glue up and then flatten the whole thing?

  5. SUPERWAVES on June 1, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    what if you only have a no 4 plane (custom from veritas though!)

  6. PXstella on June 1, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    I came here to find out how to flatten a table top bottom parallel to the top. The last 2 min answered my question, so I learned two new methods for flattening. Thanks!

  7. Dave Brown on June 1, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    Amazing video. So perfectly explained for me. Thanks and keep up the great work.

  8. Legend Eternity on June 1, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    What are your thoughts of 50 and 55 degree angle frogs for the no. 7 ? Or will at standard 45 degree work just fine?

  9. David Chavez on June 1, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    Heres a thought… set it level, draw your level line on both ends (assuming you have cut them square), plane down to the line, then make it flat longways across. At the end of the day, you’re going to plane your brains out by the end.

  10. Paul Moritoshi on June 1, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    I guess it would take longer than using the various planes you used but it’s still possible to flatten a bench with a 5 1/2 jack plane, right?

  11. UK Guitar Yogi on June 1, 2023 at 12:35 pm

    its taken me ages… but I am nearly on this stage on my bench … will glue and bolt a big pine 8 by 4 to the already 1.5 inch top…. needs all sides flat tho !.. anyways thanks for your help in the process…. you always responded fast!… i want to send a photo of it to you haha!!

  12. robohippy on June 1, 2023 at 12:35 pm

    Well, I would have to take several bench tops similar to yours and turn them into shavings before I really know what is going on with my tools. One question. I have one of the ‘saw tooth’ type of blades from Lie Neilson, and love it more than my scrub plane. It is mounted in my low angle jack plane. It is just easier to push through the wood than the scrub plane. I am wondering if you have tried them and what you think of them. I do have an ‘extra’ #5 plane that I should probably convert to a scrub plane like your #5 with a much more shallow arc in the curve of the blade. I do ‘have’ to experiment…… I might even get one similar for my #8……..

  13. BladeforgerKLX on June 1, 2023 at 12:35 pm


  14. Matt G on June 1, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    WbW, do winding sticks need to be offset in thickness/height? I noticed you’re using what looks like a milled two by 6 and a milled two by 4.. I’ve been using square aluminium tune stock from home depot, which are quite reliably flat, and but I’ve been using two of the same dimensions.

  15. Matthew Sherriff - Growing Food on June 1, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    I really need to make some winding sticks and a scrub plane

  16. Andrew Brimmer on June 1, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    Great teaching video thanks

  17. Chuck Cirelli on June 1, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    Way too many adds…😩😩 can’t enjoy it…sad…stay safe…

  18. William Branham on June 1, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    Beautifully done.

  19. alan desgrange on June 1, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    During the flattening process, did you have to stop to sharpen?

  20. Scott Mobley on June 1, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    Now show how you flatten the top and make sure you get it coplanar with just hand tools.

  21. Karol's Kakes on June 1, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    Things that would be helpful. (I know every project different). Timer: Show rough time spent each step, and total time. (A 21 min video – does not express effort needed). Also many of video makers stress sharp tools. Well how often did you stop and sharpen each type of plane? Some more then others? Flatter (smother), verses high spots (scrub)? As always – the info you share is of great value – thank you.

  22. Gee F on June 1, 2023 at 12:42 pm

    In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art , and unto dust shalt thou return. (Gen 3,19)

  23. Axel Alexson on June 1, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    Still quite new at this. But what wood would you make a straight edge out of so it wont warp too fast?

  24. Richard Wright on June 1, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    That’s one smooth bottom

  25. Johnnie Griffin on June 1, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    Nice job

  26. James Fulghum on June 1, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    It was my first top that I learned from an old neighbor that taught a lot about hand planes and sharpening irons. Long before YouTube. I bought the SYP on a Wednesday and cut and glued up that weekend and a week later it looked like the lumber was glued up wet. Warped and cupped like crazy. It was a learning experience for me. I screwed it up when I drilled the dog holes by not using a sharp bit. I could have done a better job with a spoon for those holes.

  27. Ste H on June 1, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    Glad you managed to get to the bottom of this 😁

  28. David Clark on June 1, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    Very informative and extremely useful. Thanks.

  29. Brian Prusa on June 1, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    This is why I have a 22” planer 🤣

  30. Matt G on June 1, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    WbW would you recommend converting something more like a number 4 or 5 to a scrub plane? Or should I go for something more like a 6? Or does it not really matter much? I feel the smaller planes are easier to handle and less taxing/faster, but the larger ones have a larger flat reference surfaces.

  31. JJ Nitz on June 1, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    Great timing with this video! I’m flattening a laminated pine top right now and I have the same issues with twist and then fun that comes along with it. I noticed your straight edge was the perfect size for the bench. What would you use on a longer bench, say 7 feet?

  32. Ronald Witte on June 1, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Hi James, really liked watching this video. There is only one question… How long does it take, to flatten a board or slab, when you’re going "flat out"

  33. Buddy Thompson on June 1, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks. Very instructive video. I plan to build a new workbench top later this year and this will come in handy.
    Quick question – When you glued up the slab, did you take care to make sure the grain in each board was running in the same direction?

  34. Judy Hammond on June 1, 2023 at 12:51 pm

    Is it healthy to sleep naked?

  35. Vic Vancini on June 1, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Beautiful lesson, thanks!

  36. Ian L on June 1, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    @James How long in total to get to where you were…..

  37. Adam the Woodworker on June 1, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    So how would you do the end grain on such a long piece of wood? I’m trying to find information on this but I don’t exactly know what to search

  38. alpha numeric on June 1, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    What type of wood did you use for the bench top?

    What were the length and width dimensions of the bench top?

    How many hours did the flattening take?

    I was given a "basement bar" top made by someone by nailing, screwing and bradding together warped 2×4’s of maybe some doug fir, but maybe all white wood… a wood so poor it doesn’t even have a name, it is only known by its color, but it is about as stiff as a styrofoam cooler lid… a styro cooler lid absolutely filled with knots. He then poured some type of really hard crystal resin over the "bar" to laminate the boards and get a flat top. The boards themselves have up to 1/8th inch gaps between them as there were inexplicable wood chips between the boards when he nailed the 2×4’s together. Net result is there is this crystal resin in between the 2×4’s, at varying widths.

    I’m disabled, not collecting disability, so am poor. I was given a little Sargent No. 4 hand plane, in truly derelict condition, by a widow whom I was buying a couple old beat up Delta sanders from on Super Bowel Sunday, as all the extremely price sensitive tool scavengers in this town were firmly parked on the couch, allowing me this rare opportunity to actually purchase barely working tools at near new price!

    I was over the moon about the plane until I tried to restore it, having no real knowledge of how hand planes work. I watched some videos, and went at it with very marginal success. The Sargent No. 4 wasn’t built during the hey day, but well after, so new, it had the attributes of human solid waste, but after 50 years of abuse and neglect, it is in quite a state. The knob is split with half the round base missing. The tote is split in two in its crotch. The chip breaker is twisted, so doesn’t lie flat on the bit, and the bit itself is mushroomed and curved, not to mention the corners of the flat, not the bevel, were sanded down so the chip breaker has no chance of firmly contacting the bit (even if it were straight). I literally thought this was some unique Sargent design, a curved bit, it is flattened by the frog but above that it is bent down towards the tote top, and somewhat twisted. Of course, after actually using this plane and actually learning how planes are supposed to work, I deduced the bit had been hammered into various positions, thus the bending, twisting, and mushrooming at the top… of course the adjustment wheel had no describable effect on the blade depth, and about four or five full turns of slop before it pretended to adjust the blade depth. The lateral adjuster, likewise, was impotent and caused no lateral adjustment, not that it itself could actually significantly move laterally, being jammed in place by the bent downward and mushroomed bit. Also, the mouth is about as wide and distorted as Jaws 14, after all my work on this plane, this seems to be the one thing that I can’t really fix, absent welding cast iron, which I’m not sure is a thing, nor do I have any welding tools. Also, the cheeks, or whatever the side perpendicular plates of the plane are called, each appear to be out of square.

    I used this plane on the above "bar" in an attempt to make a workbench surface for myself by removing the 1/8th to 1/4qtr inch thick crystal resin from the top and sides of the lumpy 2×4’s, that 50% of the time adhered to the spongy 2×4’s and thus ripped chunks of the wood out with the resin as my misshapen bit floating loose in my plane’s cavernous gullet occasionally caught into the resin. I was so excited that I might actually have a workbench surface, I planed for 4 hours, filled three trash bags of crystal resin shards, wood chunks, splinters and shards, until I could no longer move my arms. It was 3am and I went to bed soaking wet with sweat, but didn’t sleep a wink, as I’m a side sleeper, absolutely cannot sleep on my back, so each time I tried to roll onto my side, my shoulder burned even brighter until I couldn’t take the pain, so rolled onto the other side and that shoulder would go from yellow hot to searing white… what a night.

    After several days of this insane planing, scattered over about a month and a half (allowing me to regain the use of my arms in between), I almost have the top and bottom flattened, though with catastrophic tear out throughout both top and bottom and high and low spots I’m going to have to just accept.

    A neighbor moved out next door and left me several 2×4’s and a few 2×6’s that were scrap from a construction site, they’re either sun and rain worn into checked, split and splintery grey nail and screw hole filled tetanus farms, or they’re covered with concrete, as they appear to have been used in creating forms for poured concrete. Also, some of them seem to have been dipped in either hydraulic oil, used motor oil, or perhaps automatic transmission fluid, can’t say, oh, and one appears to be partially burnt. They vary in length from about 4 feet to 6 inches. I’ll use these to build the legs, and cross stabilizers.

    The take away from this screed is timber prices are too damn high!

    Can you imagine going through this when dry straight doug fir 8 foot 2×4’s were $3 each, and not $12 each?

  39. mat tomon on June 1, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    thank you for that info.

  40. Mark P on June 1, 2023 at 1:01 pm

    An incredibly informative video! I loved the detail and process points. Showing the work was very helpful as well along with the choices of planes as you went through. Thanks so much!

  41. Faramund on June 1, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    Been trying to flatten some old planks for the past few days with one of those hand electrical planes.
    As a newbie, this was frankly a nightmare although I did learn from it. These electrical things give you no feel nor precision and simply are not made for flattening.
    Now the planks are glued together and it’s still far from straight, so now I’ll have to flatten the top as a whole again.
    This video I think will help, I also saw you run into the same problems as me and fixing them the same way so that gives me some confidence!

    By the way, it’s been your channel along with Wood and Shop and an old Dutch manual for wood working that gave me the confidence to get started with this, my first woodworking project.
    Also I made really shitty winding sticks with your help, they are only the same height but fucking in every way elsewise. But as you said, as long as I use them ‘right’ it actually works.

  42. Jared Baker on June 1, 2023 at 1:04 pm

    His wife was ok with a few curves, but James wanted a nice flat bottom.

  43. Manuel Espinosa on June 1, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    Muy buen tutorial, gracias por la explicación

  44. Swinky88 on June 1, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    Hey, I got some pretty bad tear-out on the edge of the slab when using my scrub plane. It wasn’t taking that heavy of a cut – Is there a good way to make sure the edges don’t blow out?

  45. erkeltree on June 1, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    And now your work will slide all over the bench. Flat is good, smooth is a pain to work on.

  46. Cerberus on June 1, 2023 at 1:12 pm

    An L-N Jack plane is as long as I have, I guess I’m screwed!

  47. Aqua Escape on June 1, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    Nice work.

  48. Jonah Innuksuk on June 1, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    Why not flat the top surface, measure all lengths, find the thinnest spot and line all the edges with a straight edge?

  49. Sloppy Doggy on June 1, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    I followed the directions in this video but I ended up running my plane all the way through my table top before I got it flat…..

  50. Paul Babcock on June 1, 2023 at 1:19 pm

    I assume you did the glue up for demonstration purposes only. A properly glued up top should never be that far out.