A Hardwood Headache

Back to college this week after the Christmas break and another week off due to snow (with the exception of two students, last Friday…). That large quantity of 2in. ash I showed you previously had reached an average moisture content of 10-11% during the break, which meant it was ready for roughing out and cutting up this week.

With most of my projects, I often find this part offers the greatest challenge of the entire build process (from design to applying a finish). You’ve got to make good use of what you’ve bought [actually, I now try to make the best possible usage of my timber…], while avoiding all manner of defects and ensuring not to waste good wood. Buying too much timber offers flexibility in your thoughts and planning, before you take that first length of wood to the saw. Then again, that doesn’t necessarily help matters when you’re a little indecisive (as I can be….). Making chairs and particularly working with shaped components (where grain-direction is all important) only makes this even harder as your choices become critical to the durability of that piece.

...But an awful lot of wood left over!!
Not much required for this one...

It doesn’t surprise me at all to look back and note that I’ve spent one-and-a-half college days doing just this [this morning, I was busy with something for British Woodworking magazine – look out for the next issue at the end of the month!]. I’ve encountered a couple of splits or cracks that have forced my decision with where to cut-out the back legs but, I’m glad that today is over and that this deed is done. Actually, I haven’t touched the walnut I’m intending to use for the seat yet – more of the same for next week, then!

As something I should’ve posted before Christmas, you might also be interested in this “double-station” jig I’ve made for the spindle moulder. It will safely and securely hold rough-sawn components in place as the MDF edge runs against a ring fence, which will give me the desired shape. Concave on one side, convex the other (hence, the term: “double-station”!). Last time I did anything like this was when I was employed by a local firm, just over two-years ago. Our jigs were [and theirs still are, today!] as crude as nothing more than a shaped piece of 9mm ply screwed directly on top of the work piece, with a couple of handles added to keep your knuckles in close proximity to the rotating cutter block… I was foolish enough to try it once but, never since!!

For safe shaping on the spindle moulder.

My current thinking for the back slats is to alternate the grain; light, dark, light, dark, light. What do you think?

Next week, I need to decide on how I’m going to form the seat and, depending on how I decide to do things, I may even get a trial run set up on the spindle moulder. At college, we have one machine where you can reverse the cutter block’s direction of rotation – so, whichever way the grain is going, you should be able to achieve a clean, tear-free finish.

Thanks for reading.

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