Saturday, January 17, 2009

Get Crackin

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 ;)


Nick Brygidyr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Brygidyr said...

That veneering disaster was exactly what happened to me with some bubinga...i'm assuming it was a blade tension problem(too loose), because i tightened it up and made some nice ash veneer later on. But my disaster really turned me off to cutting my own veneer...but working with that commercial garbage isn't any better!

Bandsaws are so damn finicky!

I agree with the whole grain graphics thing, it breaks my heart when i see a pile of odd shaped triangular pieces of wood in the shop, but then again it is worth having legs with perfectly straight grain.

Can't wait to read your next entry!

Nick Brygidyr said...

"...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..."

I'd like to know!

na.nelson said...

Ha are you serious? Sounds like you've already done some veneering. You were a student at IP yes?

Nick Brygidyr said...

haha hey, it never hurts to hear what someone else has to say about veneering!

Nope i wasn't a student. i just read a lot and studied pictures...and bugged ian and jacques on techniques =)

na.nelson said...

Well then by the looks of it you've studied those pictures pretty hard and/or asked a lot of questions!

Bake-ins... Well since I don't know where others are at or how common bake-ins actually are... (In the cabinet school I was in I saw mostly just a final edge-banding on the substrate itself).
Plywood is composed of cross-banded veneers, that is to say one layer the grain runs left to right, the next layer would be up and down, and so forth. This means that at any edge (cut parallel or perpendicular to the grain) is about 50% long Grain and 50% end grain. End grain = little adhesive strength of course.
SO one glues a strip of solid wood, in this case poplar because it will not be seen, to the edge of the plywood giving you about 50% long grain. Now, one might say hey that joint is still weak! Yes, theoretically it is. This is where the "in" of "bake-in" comes... in. So the solid strip is joined to the plywood, veneer is then adhered over the plywood AND the solid strip. this "traps" or "sandwiches" the solid strip in as it is overlaid with all long grain surface. Thus the edge is made up of solid wood and one can pretty much work it as such YAY!
This would be easier with illustration heh.


Another big reason to use a bake-in is to allow you to hand plane a perfect joint that you wouldn't get with just the plywood there.

Nice post Nick!

Sell me your cocobolo.

na.nelson said...

Actually, Sir Lord, I did not forget that as it is covered by the "treat it as solid wood" clause.
But it is true!
I'll coco your bolo?

Nick Brygidyr said...

AHH so i was on the right track! thanks for the explanation dude!

I tried cutting some practice dovetails in curved drawer fronts...what a disaster lol. it takes about 2 hours to get all the cradles and shims and angled chopping blocks. at least i know more or less how to do it and thank goodness it was poplar haha.

I will be needed those opivisor thingies after all, those things are smaaalll!

Blogger said...

Get your access to 16,000 woodworking designs.

Teds Woodworking has over 16,000 woodworking plans with STEP-BY-STEP instructions, photos and blueprints to make all of the projects simple and easy!