Big Panels? Don’t Tarry - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Big Panels? Don’t Tarry

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Gluing up narrow boards into big panels stresses out many beginning woodworkers. Sorry to say it, but I have another stressor to put on your shoulders: Don’t tarry. Schnell. Andele.

Large panels are like manicured lawns. Right after you mow and trim your yard, it looks like a golf course or a military haircut. But within minutes or hours, the blades of grass and weeds begin to move and grow, and your lawn looks like the members of Quiet Riot on a bad hair day.

If you want to save a lot of time when gluing and processing panels, you need to commit to jointing, planing, edging, gluing and clamping them all within a short period of time. And, if you aren’t out of breath by the end of that process, smooth planing them on that same day is a capital idea.

Why? Every board is a bundle of fibers that are in tension – sometimes slight; sometimes not. And these fibers have a certain amount of moisture in them.

So when you process a stick of wood, you remove fibers that can release tension. You can expose areas that are wetter than the core. A crappy piece of lumber (that is case hardened, compression wood or reaction wood) will move in seconds and assume a terrible new shape. Good lumber will take its time and will make small adjustments – a tiny cup, a tiny bow, maybe a little twist.

But little changes will make it more difficult to glue, clamp and plane the wood. A .003” cup or twist can ruin your whole day – doubling or tripling the time it takes to get a smooth surface.

So my strategy when making panels is to do everything in one fell swoop. I start with rough lumber that is fully acclimatized. I crosscut it, joint it, plane it, edge it and glue it all without stopping. If I have daylight left, I’ll smooth plane it after the glue cures.

I know that this is contrary to a strategy where you plane all the wood to a certain size, let it acclimate again and then plane it again to final shape. This works, but it is much slower and it still requires you to work quickly at the final stages if you want to make smooth-planing easier.

I started the panels shown in the photo above at 10 a.m. (plus one more panel ) and kept at it until 4:30 p.m. with everything in the clamps and flat. Now I have to decide if I have the energy to smooth plane them today or wait until tomorrow.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 15 comments
  • dawatson833

    In a previous post you wrote about modern benches length and width that are usually to long and wide.
    The bench in this picture is smaller than most benches. Is it what you used on this project to plane
    the panels when ready?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Not every bench can be 9′ long. That bench is the longest that the stock I had could accommodate.

      I still contend that benches should be as long as possible for your shop.

      • dawatson833

        After re-reading the blog, Woe be it to the Double-Wide Workbench realized you were referencing the width of the workbench only. And not the length. I’m expecting to move to a bigger shop this year. Thinking about layout issues and a narrower bench is something I’ll use in this workshop.

        In the past I’ve done panels in steps. Have one coming up this month and will try this approach.

  • Bill Rainford

    Has nothing to do with the real content of the post, but 3 random things:
    Wow that is some metal working vise on that bench.
    Also neat the lathe with the wood bed. In the preservation carpentry dept at the school we hd a huge one with a wood bed for turning columns. 🙂
    And last one is really random but I have a ton of that same generation old style K-body clamps and I still like them 10x better than the Body revo which has different thickness pads, those useless glue pads that fall off and was assembled in America instead of Germany though even more expensive than ever. I’ve also seen the new lower tier Uniklamp and new K-body Junior and would much rather have the tried and true old k bodies. Ok, stepping off my soapbox.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz


      Totally agree on the old K-Bodies. In the 1990s I would save up my change and buy one clamp every few weeks at Lowe’s. I have about 30 of them. Wish I had more.

  • Rick4212

    Chris please tell me the metal vise behind the panels is just sitting on your beautiful bench and not screwed in place 🙂

    • rwyoung

      I see 2 deep-reach F-clamps…

      • Christopher Schwarz
        Christopher Schwarz

        Correct. The Record vise is there as a temporary metal sawing and filing station for a different commission.

  • Matt_Rob

    So who is responsible for the wait to acclimate BS I just checked Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking book and it wasn’t him so ….Hayward doesn’t give a crap about glue ups and doesn’t address the subject in The Complete Book of Woodwork soft cover maybe in the LAP 4 edition series but that is in the house and DeCristoforo in the Complete Book of Joinery gives no tips to wait after roughing to dimension to glue up. So I checked a few of the books I have in the shop and could not find after a quick search of Blackburn,Tolpin,Tesolin,Fidgen,Schwarz ,Krenov, but he lived with his wood for 20 years or more so that doesn’t count. Nope it seems it live in the ether. So I guess the waiting to glue up after milling has been a experience of a few folks on forums after a few potato chip glue ups. I duno I just know that when a glue up goes sideways I end up with with pretty firewood. And yes hide glue does glow different than pva.

  • Evan B

    How long do you let the glue cure until you remove the clamps and plane?
    Are you using old brown glue?
    i thought is usually 24 hours in clamps before stressing joints.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz


      Really the only time I use PVA is when speed is necessary – repairs and (at times) panel glue-ups. With PVA, I leave things in the clamps for 30 minutes. For liquid hide glue, 16-24 hours. For hot hide glue, about an hour.

      • Jochen.konemann

        Taking the clamps off a liquid-hide glue joint after an hour is surely fine, but how long would you wait before planing the board?

      • Strakap

        Any tips on using hot hide glue?? Just completed a three panel glue up and it seems that the glue cools awfully fast, even before I can get the boards clamped together. How thin or thick do you like your hot hide glue??

      • nabullet

        I am very new to the whole ‘real’ woodworking thing. I say ‘real’ because I have built things out of wood but have not doing any gluing of boards like you have shown above.
        I have to questions, if you do not mind?
        1. Which type of glue for gluing up boards to make the larger panels as shown above?
        2. Which type of glue for gluing up wood to make cutting boards?
        I am asking because if I am going to take the time to do it, I would like to do it correctly.
        Thank you for any advice you can share. Also thank you the blog.

        • Christopher Schwarz
          Christopher Schwarz

          1. Which type of glue for gluing up boards to make the larger panels as shown above?

          For panels I use yellow glue (PVA) or hide glue. In this instance, I used PVA because I needed to work fast.

          2. Which type of glue for gluing up wood to make cutting boards?

          It depends on if you want the cutting board to survive a dishwasher or not. If it is going to be hand washed only, then a Type III adhesive such as Titebond III will work. If it will go in the dishwasher, then I would use an epoxy designed to withstand heat.

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