Thursday, April 07, 2011

Working on Wide Boards

The way I cut my boards to final length may be unusual, or it may be very common.  I really don't know because I don't remember ever reading about how anyone else does it (though I haven't read very many of the classic woodworking texts).  Anyways, this is how I go about it:

I typically rough cut an inch or two oversize, depending on how my material works out and whatever other factors are in play.  Then (if not already done) I will joint one edge and shoot one end of the board off of that.  I pull my measure from the shot end, mark for square and saw about 1/16" over.  This allows for a little slop in case my saw has had a few too many to drink.  I then shoot to a hair shy of my line, being sure to reference off of the same edge.  This makes sure that my two ends are parallel, and square to the face edge.  Once I have all the pieces that are to match through this process, I carefully line them up to see how they compare.  I adjust their length with a few more passes of the plane until they match perfectly.

In the photo above you can see that the 14" wide panel for the bottom of the DVD cabinet I'm building takes up just about my whole shooting board.  Luckily I didn't have to make a new shooting board for this project, but if it were any larger I would have.  With longer planks like this, you can see that I have a couple of boards propped under the end to keep the board flat on my shooting board.  This takes a lot of strain out of the left hand, and lets me focus on shooting.

Below, you can see the trouble in flattening and smoothing a 14" wide panel on an 11" wide bench.  Luckily it's not that much overhang, so it's manageable.  I opened up my vise some to provide support, and used my Veritas Wonder Dog to secure the panel against my planing stop.  This allowed me to use my #5 Jack diagonally across the grain to bring down the hump, and then I had no problem using my block plane to smooth things up.

Where I did run into trouble was on the other side of this panel, where I had to plane out a dish.  I ended up getting rid of the Wonder Dog, and planing straight on each edge of the panel into the stop.  I simply shifted the board back and forth to support wherever I was planing.

If I were working something much wider (but still not wide enough to reach across to the back of my tool well), I could clamp a 2x4, 4x4, or whatever else would be necessary into my leg vise, and if needed secure it against the other leg with a holdfast or bar clamp, depending on the thickness of the piece.  This would effectively  give my a wider solid benchtop to work on.  I think for my next bench I might for a wider bench top, but I'm not sure yet.  I suppose it will mostly depend on what I end up doing more of when it's time for a new bench.  In an ideal world I could have a couple of benches, like Tom Fidgen, one like this, and then one with a really wide solid top for working panels and for assembly.  In an ideal world I would also win the lottery...I suppose I should stop complaining.  Haha!

I also decided that smoothing this big panel would be a good job for a cardscraper, so I made a couple real quick from a dull impulse hardened Japanese saw blade I had laying around.  I cut the blade into two pieces, ground most of the teeth off, more-or-less jointed the edge, ground a roughly 45 degree bevel on one side, polished the flat side on my sandpaper setup to 1200 grit, polished the bevel to the same (bringing it closer-to-but-still-not-quite-90 degrees), and put them to work.  They worked pretty well, but I still feel like the finish isn't quite as gleaming as I get off a sharp plane.  I need to make myself a nice comfortable wood bodied smoother.  This block plane is simply difficult to hang on to.

Once I had the parts for the primary carcass cut, I stood them up to get an idea for how the thing would look.  It should be pretty nice when it's all said and done.  The boards are all three feet long, to give you some scale.  This nice thing about having a low ceiling is that I can brace the thing together by applying a spreading clamp against the ceiling joist (difficult to see in the photo).  So I think that brings the tally to one benefit of low ceilings, five thousand reasons to still hate them.

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