169 – Milling Wide Boards

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There is nothing worse then when you have an absolutely beautiful board that is nice and wide and you realize it won’t fit on your jointer. So you have no choice but to rip it in half, joint each piece separately, and then glue the pieces back together. Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if we could just keep everything whole and preserve the wood’s natural beauty without a grain-interrupting glue line? Well, it’s your lucky day because I’m going to show you two techniques that will help you keep your wide boards intact. Both methods utilize the planer for final flattening, but one method starts with a hand plane and the other starts with the jointer.

The Hand Plane Trick

It should be said that the traditional way to handle a wide board would be to simply mill it 4-square with your hand planes. But this method is intended as a quicker, more beginner-friendly, hybrid alternative. It begins with planing one side of the board flat. By laying the board face down on a known flat surface (workbench, assembly table, tablesaw…), you can simply rock the piece back and forth to determine if any twist, cup, or bow exists. Mark the high spots with a pencil and begin planing them down. Keep testing your progress by flipping the piece over and checking for rocking. Eventually, you should end up with a reasonably flat and stable board. Once you are confident the one side is flat, you can simply send the board through the planer with the flat side down and then mill the edges using your preferred method.

Here’s a quick tip. The initial flat surface doesn’t need to be perfectly flat. If the board is slightly concave and it isn’t too long, it can still register perfectly during a pass through the planer. So for the sake of expedience, don’t shoot for dead flat. Shoot for even registration around the perimeter and if the center area is hollowed out ever so slightly, that’s ok.

The Jointer Trick

So your jointer is only 6″ side and your fancy board is 9″ wide. No problem. But before I go into detail here, note that this technique does require the removal of the jointer’s safety guard. Exercise the highest level of caution during this process and place the guard back on the jointer immediately after! Don’t make me come over there!

Planer Trick RidgeOnce the guard is removed, you should have the ability to run an extra wide boards over the tables. Take one or two passes and flip the board over to see what you’re up against. If the board is badly twisted, it may take a few more passes. What you’re looking for is a little ridge. Only 6″ worth of the board’s width is making contact with the blades. So the overhanging area should appear as a raised portion of stock running the length of the board.

Now here’s the “trick”, and you have two options. First, you can simply double-stick tape a piece of flat sheetgood stock to the flat milled portion of your board. Planer Trick SledThe sheetgood sled can be anything from plywood to MDF to particle board and should be at least the width of the flattened section and the length of the board. Once securely attached, you can flip the sandwich over and run it through the planer. The uneven raised portion of the board will now be raised above the planer table surface and won’t have any impact. The flat section of the board is now registering against the sled and since the sled is flat as well, we are able to achieve perfect flat registration as we pass the assembly through the planer. One the new face of the board is clean and flat, we can disassemble the sandwich and run the board through the planer one last time to remove the raised uneven portion.

The second option after the initial flattening is to remove the uneven raised portion using a hand plane. A few passes with a hand plane is all it takes to flush up the rest of the surface. Once flat, you can simple pass the piece through the planer with the clean and flat face down.

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Category: Techniques


  1. Good trick with the planer “sled”, thanks, definitely be using that one….

  2. Thank you for this article. It is something I really need to work on!

  3. Brandon April 11, 2012

    Its funny that I know these techniques but when faced with a piece wider than my jointer I always tend to fall back on the “rip then joint” method to accommodate my tool. Thanks for the reminder to always think of ways to make my tools accommodate my wood.

  4. Jean-Marc April 11, 2012

    Greetings from the Great White North EH!!
    That was fantastic advice on how to Joint a wide board. I have had to deal with this situation several times and now I have a solution. I have been gleaning lots of useful information from your videos and I wanted to thank you for all that.
    By the way I had good laugh watching the termite commercial, eh.
    Thanks again. J.M.L.

  5. Even though I’m in the Guild, I actually watch all of these videos you do that highlight one particular skill. The Guild video are so packed with info, I’d almost need to take notes on what point in the video did Marc show the jointer trick? These get some of those very useful tidbits catalogued very neat and tidy for me. THANKS!!!

  6. Kirk April 11, 2012

    Hey Marc, in the video you have a long sleeve shirt on and a space heater in the background. You live in Arizona, what gives?

  7. Nice video! So .. I’m not going to own a jointer. I really don’t have the space. But I will own at least a 13″ planer (I’ll be shopping for that puppy at WIA). So my method has been and will be to hand plane (joint) one side of my boards sufficiently to run them through the planer. Then flip it over and clean up my hand planed surface.

    However, I do use the Community college’s 8″ jointer and 20″ planer occasionally so I image I could put all of these methods to use. Thanks for giving me options!! Love it when that happens.

  8. That’s the one!

  9. David April 12, 2012

    Thanks Mark it’s a few days late or I would have used one of those methods. I have been doing the rip then joint method as well and need to give this a shot. Unless someone has a 12″ jointer that’s just taking up space and who needs that headache am I right? I’m so willing to help relieve those stressful situations.

  10. Brian April 12, 2012

    You could also do the router trick you used to flatten the workbench top for this wide board too. It is just on a smaller scale.

  11. Ted (http://7.62x54r.net) April 13, 2012

    Drop it on the CNC, push “start” and go do something else for a while. ;)

  12. Rodrigo April 14, 2012

    hello, I like their videos a lot because I have been learning a lot with them, I am Brazilian, and I don’t speak English, he/she would like to know if you have videos with legends in Portuguese, I am using a translating program excuses if he/she has mistakes in the language thank you.

  13. Hi Mark,

    Some great tips here – I don’t have a jointer and am currently joining some softwood boards to make 330mm wide floating shelves so will be using jointer plane to attempt the hand plane trick. Check out my brand new blog (I owe you a huge amount of credit for making me want to share ideas/projects and in my case how-not-to-do-it mistakes!) to see my progress: http://www.jamescurrellwoodworks.com



  14. Frank April 17, 2012

    Hi Marc,
    I have a 6″jointer and often joint with the guard off and hand plane the rest. The sled trick is genius!!! I’ll have to make a 6″pipe sled. Great video THANKS

  15. Jim Werner April 19, 2012

    How about Matthias Wandel’s simple method for jointing boards wider than the jointer? Is there any reason why his method won’t work? http://woodgears.ca/jointer/wide_boards.html

  16. Lim April 20, 2012

    For boards that are too wide for the jointer, I use a flat sled and shims to level it and then send it through the surface planer. Once the top surface is flat, I use it as the bottom index and level the opposite side. Very quick and works like a champ!! I do like the jointer trick and can see how that would be preferable in some cases. Thanks Marc!

  17. zombeerose April 22, 2012

    Nice tip about the jointer sled. What are the limitations though? For example, if I am jointing a board that is 12″ wide and 1/2″ thick on my 6″ jointer, is it possible that the planer rollers will push the unsupported side down and cause a slight cupping across the board width? What if the board is only 1/4″ thick?



      I would probably only do this for boards that are a few inches wider than your jointer bet. The thinner the piece is, the more important this is. If you have too much overhang with a 1/2″ board it won’t take much effort for the planer’s pressure rollers to flex the unsupported area. It might not be dangerous so much as inaccurate and you won’t end up with a truly flat piece. So I can’t give you exact numbers here, but generally speaking avoid the extremes and keep in mind the thinner the board, the narrower the board needs to be.

  18. zombeerose April 22, 2012

    Also, how much tape do you normally use for the sled and how far apart are the pieces spaced apart?

  19. Thanks for the video, Marc! I recently ran into the issue of jointing a board that was a little over 7 inches for my drawer front. This video helped me get it flat without having to cut it in half and joint 2 pieces. Although a little scary, I took the red guard off of the jointer and rant it though. Worked great.

  20. agovi August 10, 2012

    Genial. No solo este artículo sino toda tu web.
    Saludos desde Sevilla, España.

  21. Mark September 8, 2013

    Marc should be called the postman cause he always delivers. This is a great solution to what I think may be a pretty common problem.

  22. John August 5, 2014

    I have a Powermatic 6 inch long bed joiner, but the piece that holds the blade guard in place is part of the infeed table and doesn’t come off. The infeed table is also wider than the outfeed table. Therefore, I can’t keep a straight edge from infeed to outfeed table. After passing the board through the jointer once, the raised edge will always be sitting on the infeed table when it hits the knives and the flattened portion will not be flush on the infeed table. This seems like an insurmountable problem unless I make my first cut deep enough to be the only cut. Any advice? It seems like a Planer sled is my only option. Thanks!!

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