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A few of the Curly Details

I had some comments about the laminated top and thought I’d post some more pics of the process. The strips started a little better than 1 1/4″ square; I laminated them up in smaller ‘batches’ ending up with four larger pieces between 6″ and 8″ wide. The process was pretty straight forward with lots of glue, lots of clamps and then lots of clean up. This is why working the strips into a few larger planks is much easier than gluing all 30 together at once and trying to flatten them all. The middle ones were cross cut and the walnut frame pieces were fitted. Blind dowels were added between sections and around the opening for some added strength. As mentioned, a laminated top like this took much longer than if I used the flat planks but it’s more stable and the figure in the maple is much more pronounced through the edge grain. I’ll build up a base of shellac and then decide on a top coat for durability. I’m thinking about a water based varnish on the surface for strength and longevity in the finish.

(some of these shots are pretty bad due to fluorescent lighting fixtures and dark dining rooms and weren’t intended to be used here- my apologies for the poor quality pics)

Setting out the first 'batch' of maple strips and getting my clamps positioned.

Glue applied and then brushed over to insure full coverage...glue bear seems to approve.

I said it before and I'll say it again- 'You can never have too many clamps!"

When the clamps come off a card scraper removes most of the squeeze out...

A cabinet scraper cuts a little more aggressively and will remove the glue as well as bring small discrepancies in the maple closer to true.

Cross cutting one of the assemblies under the cold din of fluorescent light.

The holy trinity of the 50 degree club- front to back is my smoother, jack and jointer. All 50 degree irons and all bevel up blade configuration-

Out of the basement and into the dining room for final glue up. Wooden cauls are wrapped in plastic to help align the pieces. It worked...


  1. Posted by Tim Dahn on Mar 12th, 2010

    Thanks for posting this Tom, the resulting grain pattern is great, may have to give this a try.

  2. Posted by Andrew Watson on Mar 12th, 2010

    Great looking work, Tom, and thanks for sharing! Like Tim, I think the way you’re accentuating maple’s inherent beauty is inspired.

    One question about the plane irons – is the total cutting angle (bevel angle plus bed angle) 50º, or is that just for the iron? In other words, are you grinding your iron at 50º or 38º (assuming a 12º bedding.)

    Kind regards,

  3. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Mar 12th, 2010

    thanks for the comments and question. The iron is ground at 50 degrees and then honed to about 53…this combined with the 12 degree bed brings in to about 65.

  4. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Mar 12th, 2010

    Try it for sure- the curl in the maple is so much more pronounced through the edge grain…I think we see this effect quite often in instrument making.
    Thanks for the comment and best of luck.

  5. Posted by Andre on Mar 12th, 2010

    Hey Tom,

    Your clients for sure picked the right ‘wood project builder’ to make them some extraordinary pieces of furniture!

    The table top indeed turned out beautifully, I very much like the walnut accents combined with the edge grain of the maple.

    When I read about this project when you first brought it up I never would have guessed that this much time would be involved (and I’m not sure you did yourself :) )

    Do you ever get to a point with a project that takes a lot of time that you say to yourself: I want this finished to start something ‘fresh’ (I know I sometimes do), or do you enjoy working it too much to get to this point?

    So when you are asked to price something, do you make an estimation of your time involved and the materials needed or do you price the project as a whole (like you have a pictured end result in your head and want X $ for it)?

    Planing at 65 on this larghe surface eh, add a little more and the things become ‘unpushable’. No wonder you were adding knobs….

    Tom, I admire your craftmanship and eye for detail!

    Keep up the good stuff, I follow closely.

  6. Posted by Brian Anderson on Mar 14th, 2010

    I have never messed with anything like that scale, but I have found when planing laminated boards that it helps a lot in terms of avoiding tearout to try to keep the grain running in the same direction. Did you mark the ends of the boards as you ripped them to do this, or were you able to just rely on the high angled planes and light cuts to get it done? Stunning work, in any case. Thanks.


  7. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Mar 14th, 2010

    thanks for the comments- grain direction does make things much easier- especially on face grain laminated tops. This piece is all edge grain so the grain was all over the place; The beauty of these high angle plane irons is they really don’t care which way the grain is running!

  8. Posted by Bill Vittal on Mar 17th, 2010

    Did you adjust the camber (less) on the plane blades for each plane used? I had a similar, but not nearly difficult situation with a figured maple tabletop I made. I used my normally cambered jack plane across the grain, and followed up with a scraper plane and hand scraper with the grain. I did try a high angle plane blade, but the effort was more than the scrapers.


  9. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Mar 17th, 2010

    Not really- just the normal camber I usually have-
    my jack and smoother have a real curve honed in the iron but my jointer is more relaxed. I used the jack across the grain and then the smoother and block for clean up.
    thanks for the comments-

  10. Posted by Morton on Mar 17th, 2010

    Tom – when I saw this top, it was like “wow”. Awesome. I’m a huge fan of curly maple and this is a really cool way to use it. I’ll store that for future reference.

    Are those Veritas bevel-up planes? How do you enjoy them? I’m just starting to get into handtool work and contemplating Lie-Nielsen and Veritas and also really looking at the bevel-up since there are more options (keeping multiple irons on hand with different angles for different work). What is the downside of bevel-up? They seem to have less mass (no frog) – that ever seem a problem to you?

    Beautiful work as usual!

  11. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Mar 18th, 2010


    thanks for the comments- I’ve been enjoying working the curly maple and now with a bunch of shellac on it its really popping that figure!
    Those are Veritas bevel up planes and I don’t have any problem with the bevel up configuration vs. the standard frog set up…a little less mass is true but it feels like a different animal altogether and only took a few minutes to get used to.
    I love the bevel up system- its simplicity and ease of set up is really nice.
    That said, I still like my standard planes as well for face grain-
    some people it seems need to choose one or the other almost to the extreme…I just use what ever works for the job at hand-
    hope that helps.


  12. Posted by Dan on Mar 21st, 2010

    It’s a good case of the right tool for the right job. I’ve tried similar projects with a second hand stanley and regardless of how sharp the blade was it just didn’t leave that nice crisp finish.

  13. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Mar 21st, 2010


    well said Dan.

  14. Posted by Robert Little on Jul 2nd, 2010

    wow nice set of planes. I have the Number 4 smoothing plane and a low angle one from Veritas (my wife says it is easy to buy a gift for me: “just pick anything from Veritas and he will be happy” I have been thinking of the jointer or the Jack, have an original LeeValley jack from Before the Veritas line but it is not bevel up. Do you find you use the Jointer Plane as much as the Jack? Just curious.


  15. Posted by Tom Fidgen on Jul 4th, 2010

    hey robert,
    sorry for taking so long to reply but i just got my internet set up out here-
    i think you’d probably get more use out of the jack than the jointer but its nice to have both…start with the jack is what i’d recommend.
    thanks for the comments.

  16. Posted by metamind on May 26th, 2015


    I am a new follower from Germany. Inspired by your books, I bought my first hand planes (Veritas Low Angle Jointer and Jack). I bought a beech board in order to practice. Unfortunatley, the standard configuration (25° blade) lead to catastrophic failure: I had massive tear out (as a beginner I did not notice that I should stop at a certain point but thought, this was a matter of wrong technique :-) and the blade has been damaged. I guess a 50° blade would have been better ? There are hardly information on woodworking with beech to be found online.

    Now, I ordered a second blade and I have to sharpen / hone the damaged blade. As there are only 25° blades available in Germany, I am considering to put a 50° angle onto the damaged 25° blade with my new Veritas Mk. Honing Guide.

    How would this usually work ? Does it make sense to hone a 50° angle into the 25° blade in primary bevel mode (= microbevel ?) or does it make more sense to “erase” the 25° blade entirely with a 50° bevel and then to hone a 2° micro bevel in microbevel mode ?


  17. Posted by tom on May 26th, 2015

    Hi Tom,

    having a dedicated, high angle iron is always beneficial for difficult timber. I would suggest making one of your irons ( the damaged one ) the high angle, and keep the other at a standard ( 25-ish..) angle. The shaping can be done with a grinder, coarse stone or abrasive- then, once shaped, treat it as you would any iron and polish the bevel and the back.
    As for erasing the entire original bevel, if you have a grinder you can do so- if you’re working by hand then it would take a long time so maybe just a ‘large’ micro-bevel would be the way to go !
    Hope that makes sense-
    all the best!

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