One of the best pieces of woodworking advice is, “Go slow, it’s faster.” But that doesn’t apply to gluing up narrow boards into panels.
When I have to glue up panels, I start in the morning by jointing and planing the stock to its finished thickness (assuming I’m using machinery), and then I immediately joint the boards’ edges and glue up the panels that same day.
By compressing all that activity into a short period of time, there’s little time for the wood to distort. A board that moves even a few thousandths of an inch can be difficult to tame with clamps. And mismatched seams in your panels can add hours of work and frustration to the construction process.
I have enough clamps in my shop to deal with about five average panels at a time. So by the time I glue up five panels, I’m ready to remove the clamps from the first panel. That’s why I always scrawl the time I clamped up the panel on its edge.
Not everyone can devote six hours to this process. If you can work in short bursts only, consider tackling a project a few panels at a time – say, the sides and bottom in one session. The shelves in a second session. The door stock in a third.
That’s how I work when I dress stock by hand. I plane up the faces and edges of the boards in a panel. Then I joint the edges and glue them up immediately. I set that panel aside and begin planing up the stock for the second panel.
Either way, I end up with panels that need almost no additional flattening and seams that are perfectly aligned.
— Christopher Schwarz
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