Saturday, January 17, 2009
As many people say after the holidays "I'm Back". Before that I took a short trip to the Portland area. I flew out of Seattle which is about half-way to Portland from Vancouver. The main reason for this trip was Gilmer Wood Co. One may ask "why travel 7 hours to look at wood?" Then again one may exclaim "Only 7 hours to Gilmers!?" As their signage says this is the place for "rare and exotic wood".
I went to look for material for my cabinet stand and came up short. I did find this however. It was sold to me as Nicaraguan Cocobolo, which was the wood of the little box Robert made a bit ago. My heart skipped, there was no way I could pass up a large chunk of that!!! (which looked like great dimensions for a chair)
When I got it back to the shop and took a plane to it my heart sank. It wasn't even close to the same color as Robert's. WAY darker. It is still a very pretty selection but not what I wanted.
On to the project at hand...
Time to cut veneers. Which meant time to prep the board, but how does one flatten a piece that is larger than your jointer? There are a number of ways, I chose to use the planer with sled and shims. I cut out roughly the shape of the piece out of MDF then hot-glued shims between the MDF and plank so that it would sit flat and not come off in the planer. It's a rather simplistic method which is always nice. I actually took it to the band saw first to get a decent side first with the MDF on the re-saw fence. Then it was to the planer to get that side flat.
This specific operation would not have worked as well with thinner stock. Since the stock was at least 8/4" after the re-saw it was stiff enough for the planer with minimal bottom support.
We Started to cut the veneers with the "base" still on, I suppose just in case anything happened. I took it off soon enough and put it through the planer on the other side... much less bulk to work with. Though before I could do that.... ..........
This happened. We assumed correctly that a dull blade was behind this. I put on a fresh blade and looked over the whole saw. 45 minutes later we were back making good cuts.
Substrate. The stuff the goes in the things. Things being veneer and "bake-ins". I want the top and bottom of the cabinet to be finished around 5/8" thick. The shop-sawn veneer is finished around a 1/16" soooo I need my substrate to be 1/2". We did not have any 1/2" stock that was flat enough. We did have flat 1/4" and 1/8" material. A substrate sandwich it was to be which is actually sometimes a better way to go about it as... If you understand the principles of laminate bending the same apply for flattening.
Also I tweaked the thickness of the top by taking 1/32" off both faces of the core so the top will end up 1/16" thinner than the bottom.
Many woodworkers "now-a-days" would be more familiar with the vacuum bag, which the school does have (a large one at that). I will go for the bag in my own shop too but I was a little excited to used the good old mechanical press. It felt less stressful in a way, and you can get much more pressure (not that you should need it). I always find something, some feeling, towards the older or perhaps "primitive" techniques, machines, or "gadgets" that make me, naively maybe, long for the "old days". Ha I was never even close in time to those often imaginary days, but in these moments I feel a sense of admiration, pride, and a bit of nobility in what came before me, the path I have chosen to follow and hope I can maintain in the future.
Before I came to this school, I must say that I was in the boat of "only solid is real". I confess that, well frankly, I didn't find veneered work to be terribly respectable. The paper thin SLICES of wood put over ply-wood to make it LOOK LIKE some exotic solid wood. It didn't have the same weight or sound, and it can't be oiled like the deep tones of black walnut with the soft depth of a natural treatment.
The "shop-sawn" veneer taught at the school is different. We cut our own veneers once we find grain-graphics that we want, not the rolls of completely flat-sliced waves. They are cut around 3 times as thick as commercial veneer, can be hand planed to final dimension, and can be finished with penetrating applications (i.e. oils).
I found that the amount of material needed to get the grain just right too be much more on the "waste" side than I was used to but I feel the end product is defiantly worth it! This also can be an argument for this kind of veneered construction as you can cover a much larger surface in a way that may be incredibly wasteful if not impossible to do in solid wood! In addition, the process opens up new ways of combining colors and grains... perhaps a brighter interior to light up the enclosed space.
I still feel more attraction to working in "solid wood" but I now have an appreciation for the use of this kind of veneer.
Here are the first "bake-ins" being applied to the top substrate. If for some reason you want to know more about what a bake-in is or does feel free to ask but I felt like side stepping the technical stuff on this one heh.
And here is what I've been searching and waiting for! The wood for my cabinet stand! This is European Cherry harvested about an hour and a half outside Vancouver. A bit of an interesting story in this wood.
First off European ("euro") Cherry is different from the familiar Black Cherry. They both product fruit of course but the color of euro cherry is lighter and more mellow than black cherry, also unlike black cherry that darkens with age, euro just mellows a little bit.
So. European Cherry has, in the past, been in demand and mainly harvested from Europe of course. It has been pretty much of the charts for a long time and even Gilmer said they hadn't seen it for 15 years!!! Planks like this were bought from the same yard that this came from a couple years ago as "Cherry" now meaning Black Cherry. They got it in the shop and were mumbling disappointed about their purchase until Robert came out with a hand plane and a cut-off of one of Jim Krenov's cabinets in Euro Cherry. He planed the planks and set the cut-off on the surface. It was a match! It may not have been what they asked for but I think they felt pretty Lucky for it!
Some research was done and it was found that European settlers that came to BC brought with them some seedling of their cherry trees. This happened to come from one of those groves on Canadian soil! And a pretty big trees it was.
I hope that I can do this tree justice that it's berries would appreciate ;)