This tutorial assumes that you know how to safely
operate your power tools. Always refer to the manufacturer
instructions if you are unsure how to use your tools.
Any wood worker needs to take a board from the lumber
yard or their local
sawyer and make this board a uniform
thickness, length and width. This board needs to
have all four edges square to each other. This is referred
to a milling a board four square and is a pre-requisite
to any wood working project.
This is best accomplished by using a jointer, thickness
planer, miter and circular saws and a table saw. In
this example we will mill a board 30" x 4-1/2" x
5/8" with all for edges square to each other.
Step 1: Rough cut your stock
Rough cut your stock to 30-3/4" x 4-3/4" and
maintain the same overall thickness. Start by selecting
a piece of stock larger then your finished size (obviously)
and use a framing square to square off one end of the
board. Be sure the end isn't checked (cracked) and
if it is square the board off just beyond where the
Make the cut using a circular saw being careful to
make a fairly square cut. Now measure 30-3/4",
the rough length, and square off the board using your
framing square. and make the second cut the same way
you made the first. Be careful to cut on the waste
side of the line.
Step 2: Rip to rough width
The table saw is the best tool for this cut. Set the
rip fence so it is 4-3/4" from the blade and
set the height of the blade so the gullet of the
teeth are the same height as the stock. Following
the directions included with your table saw start
the blade and make the cut, being sure to use a push
Step 3: Truing one face
Now that your piece of stock is the rough size needed
it is time to true up one face. This is best accomplished
with the jointer.
As always with the jointer it is advisable now to
take more than 1/16" per pass. Taking more wood
per pass will overwork the machine and give results
that are less than optimal.
Analyze the board to determine the direction of the
grain and whether there is cupping. It is best to place
the cupped face down since it will site better on the
jointer table. Run the board through for a couple of
passes until you have a uniform face free of voids
Step 4: Truing the second face
The thickness planer is by far the best tool to accomplish
this. On the jointer it is simple to get the second
face true but it is quite difficult to get it parallel
to the first.
The thickness planer guides the board and makes the
second face exactly parallel to the first. Once the
second face is true and parallel to the first continue
to plane the board until it reaches the finished thickness,
in this case 5/8". Remember to feed the stock
with the grain to ensure a smooth clean cut.
Step 5: Square one edge
Back to the jointer for this step. Set the jointer
fence so it is exactly 90 degrees to the table and
be sure the cutting depth is set to 1/16". Determine
the direction of the grain and place on face against
the jointer fence and make a pass through the cutter
applying steady pressure against the fence.
Once you are satisfied that the edge and face are
square to each other mark the edge for reference.
Step 6: Square the other edge
Now that you have one edge prepared it is back to the
table saw to rip the board to width. Set the fence
4-9/16" (1/16" larger then needed). With
the marked edge against the table saw fence rip the
board. Now return to the jointer and make one final
pass, milling the new sawn edge. Be sure that the
jointer is set to 1/16".
Step 7: Squaring the ends
I prefer to use a table saw to square the end and cut
the board to length although a table saw with a miter
gauge will work as well. Check that your miter saw
is cutting a true 90 degrees and when you are sure
it is trim one end of the board, taking as little
off as possible. Now measure the finished width of
30" and make the cut taking care to cut on the
waste side of the line.
You should now have a board that is 30" x 4-1/2 " x
5/8" with all four sides square to one another.
There are a number of methods that will work for milling
a board square, however I have always had good luck
using this method.