Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Progress with a Bang!

This week at college, I’ve made proper progress on my chair. After spending the best part of a day painstakingly analysing my small quantity of low-cost English walnut, I settled on an arrangement of three pieces of equal width, edge-jointed without the aid of biscuits or any other reinforcement (I don’t want to risk something showing up when I come to carve it later).

Unfortunately, one of the two ‘book-matched’ pieces I showed you before wasn’t wide enough to give me half the seat’s width. So, I was left with little choice, really. I was initially thinking of making the central board narrower than the rest, to maximise the amount of ‘character’ in the two outer boards. Clive advised they should either be equal or, the centre board should be slightly wider. Otherwise, it can look as if minimal brain-power has been applied and as if it’s only purpose is quite literally to fill a gap.

Working this grain won't be easy!

This other lump, at just over 60mm thick, was quite different to the other two boards I had selected. It was too wide for the college’s thicknesser so, instead, I opted to put it through the wide belt sander – much great capacity but, you must respect these machines and removal a minimal amount of material with each pass (in this case, 0.2mm!). Ignoring the amount of time it took, it was certainly a lot easier than trying to plane the piece by hand!

On one face, a small amount of spalting near the top-right corner...

...Clearly, the spalting here was going to be almost unavoidable.

It is quite a spectacular display of figuring, there’s no doubt about that. Whether or not it will actually ‘work’, well, only time will tell! Now that’s glued up and out of the way, I can look at returning to the wide belt sander next week when it comes to flattening it!

As I didn’t feel one-day (6½ hours) would offer me enough time to start setting out and shaping the back legs, I used my remaining time this week to ‘resaw’ the veneers I’ll be using to laminate the curved back rail [and there’s still a former to be made for that, let us not forget!!]. Instead of using a point fence (as Joel did on his English cherry sideboard), I elected to plane a face and edge and then simply scribe a parallel line (about 1mm over width), which could then be followed roughly by the large bandsaw. Any saw marks can then be removed by temporarily fixing each veneer (planed face down) to a sheet of 18mm MDF using double-sided tape and then feeding that through the beloved speed sander [yes, I really must have one of these in my workshop!!].

A trick for sanding thin, bandsawn veneers.

About halfway through cutting my stack of veneers, the 17ft blade snapped with an almighty BANG!. Well, most bandsaw blades are to be regarded as ‘disposable’ and usually don’t offer much in the way of a long-term lifespan (unlike a circular saw blade). Therefore, I would rarely put a blade breakage incident down to user error – these things are almost inevitable. I tried to keep my feed-rate slow and regular although, to be honest, that blade had previously seen a lot of work in recent weeks with several students choosing to work with waney-edged timber grown and supplied locally (which is always good to see!).

‘Narrow’ bandsaws (and, particularly, narrow blades with many teeth) aren’t really designed to do this sort of work on a regular basis – that’s what a resaw is for! For the occasional cut, you can get away with it. But, as Clive explained to me; the build-up of heat between the steel blade and the rubber tyres can cause havoc with a blade’s tracking. That’s why, after this incident (which has left the college now with just the one blade for this machine!), I’m making a couple of cuts and then letting the saw ‘cool down’ for a good half-hour.

I feel this information is relevant to those of us with much smaller machines, as this college saw is a solid lump of cast iron made by Wadkin. At a guess, you can probably get 600mm/2ft between the blade and frame… Even when using good-quality blades, I’ve found in my time that many of them have snapped before they lose their edge. As I use my saw predominantly for ripping, I guess it’s possible I am demanding too much, at times, and that a regular period of rest my prolong the life of my remaining blades (and keep those all important stress-levels down!!).

Thanks for reading.

Sorry, I’ve been quite a bit quiet again lately. I’m trying to put a simple website together elsewhere but, I do have a couple of interesting points coming up soon – one of which will be a review of a brand-new Quangsheng Rebate Block Plane by Workshop Heaven.

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