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I have some 600x1200mm (24"x47") hardwood (iroko) boards at just over 27mm (>1") thick that used to be old work tops from a school.

I would like to clean them and use them for a kitchen worktop as it's beautiful and robust wood.

The issue is that they currently have bowing and cupping and I don't have a thicknesser and certainly could not afford one that would have the capacity to handle such a wide piece of hardwood.

The options, as far as I can tell, to me are:

  1. attempt to plane and thickness the entire board by hand using hand planes.
    • Downsides here are that it'd take forever and I am not that confident in my skills to be able to do this to a high standard.
  2. Pony up and pay a professional company to plane and thickness the entire board
    • downside here would be cost and potentially losing a lot of material.
  3. Dejoint the board using a circular saw & guide so they are narrower, then plane and thickness those narrow boards - either by hand or with a more easily available thicknesses, rejoint those boards together.
    • My fear with this approach is that I won't be able to get the joints spot on and they'll be a very obvious gap along its length.
    • Will lose some material off the edges.
    • Pros are that I lose less material off the top face.

Are there any other options open to me?

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    If you leave near a local makerspace, they may have a wide drum sander or planner that can handle 24" wide material. Many makerspaces offer public access hours for an optional small donation. Also, check around your area (craigslist, neighboorhood, fb-marketplace) for amateur saw mill owners, listing fresh cut slabs and surfaced lumber. Such local entrepreneurs may have the necessary equipment. If so, they may be cheaper than "a professional". You might even ask them to do it for free after buying some of their lumber. If they do you such a favor, make sure to tip them. – Henry Taylor Nov 10 '19 at 0:08
  • There's no one way to do this obviously but examine the panels and measure the amount of material that would need to be removed from each one to get them dead flat if worked as-is, that'll tell you if cutting into narrower boards that you then address individually is the best approach. This isn't going to determine what you will do, but it'll tell you what you should do ideally. In general, if a glued-up panel can be sawn back into boards that can be dealt with one at a time that is the ideal — you almost always lose much less thickness. You do lose more width, but it's not excessive. – Graphus Nov 10 '19 at 8:20
  • How many panels do you have? Do you want to use all of them or can you cherrypick the best ones? If option no. 1 becomes the default choice what planes do you have available to you? (You can't really do this with just a no. 4, it is possibly but it would make the job far harder than it needs to be.) Re. option 3, how do you currently joint edges? – Graphus Nov 10 '19 at 8:27
  • @HenryTaylor yeah I looked into this, there is one not toooo far away. I am going to ring them and see if they have a planer thicknesser. I also thought about ringing around my local joiners/carpenters and see what they've got. – 111111 Nov 11 '19 at 8:39
  • @Graphus I have 5 panels, each is made up of 2 or 3 board jointed together - I need all of them, I have only just enough material really to make the kitchen, that includes an allowance for working the material. The largest board is still 40cm/15" which is still larger than the average DIY thicknesser/planar here. Regarding opt 3 I do it with a hand plane (Stanley Bailey no4) - but I've never worked on boards this big or wood this hard (and expensive!) - just hobby projects. – 111111 Nov 11 '19 at 8:43
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Are there any other options open to me?

There is one other option that you didn't mention. You can build a "router sled" to flatten wide boards.

This is basically two rails on either side of the board with a narrow platform that slides along them. A router rides on the platform, and the platform has a slot cut through it that the bit projects through to contact the work piece. The router is then passed over the entire surface of the board, flattening it.

Start by putting your work piece on a large surface or floor. Stabilize it with shims or wedges so that it doesn't rock or flex.

Then you'll need two flat, stable rails at least a foot longer than your work piece. These have to be thick enough to support the weight of the sled with minimal flexing. Steel beams or square tubing work well if you don't have a good way of jointing long material. Place them on the floor to either side of the work piece with the jointed edges facing up. Block or shim them up so that they're above the surface of the work piece, then make sure there is no twist in them by running two taut strings from corner to corner. The strings should just touch in the middle.

Then make a platform for the router to run on. This should have rails running along the top to give it enough strength to not sag when the router is in the center. These rails can also serve to keep the router "captive" so it only moves from side to side. Plunge the router through the bottom to cut the slot for the bit to project through.

I don't actually recommend this option for you, though. Since these are already glued-up panels and not slabs I'd personally rip the panels apart and re-glue them. This will save the most material in the long run, and only requires a table saw and some clamps. The narrower boards can be jointed by hand or on much more common equipment.

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  • Thanks for you reply. As you state, this is not an ideal option. But it's starting to look like my only one! I can buy a planar for relatively little money which can go up to 10", but after that they get specialist and significantly more expensive and heavy - units like Wadkins etc. So for large pieces I might not have a choice. I rang one timbre shop and they said they'd wouldn't plane Iroko because apparently the dust causes issues with asthmatics etc... – 111111 Nov 15 '19 at 16:43
  • Since you're using metric numbers I'm going to assume that you're using the Euro terminology "planer" to mean "jointer". You can also make due with just a US "planer" (i.e. "thicknesser") by using a flat sled to "skip plane" one surface: woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/2116/… . It should be fairly easy to find a planer with 12 1/2" or 13" capacity. Then both sides can be alternately planed to flat on the same machine w/o the sled. – SaSSafraS1232 Nov 15 '19 at 23:03
  • Yep Planer is jointer, Apologies if that's caused any confusion. And good thinking regarding using a sledge. The largest panel is still 16" which is on big side even for a US-planar (UK thicknesser) too. I think using a combination of all these methods (starting at the best and working down to the worst will get the job done. Thanks for your help. – 111111 Nov 18 '19 at 11:03

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