Thursday, March 13

Assembling Trays

I got an early start this morning because I have some maintenance type things to tend to this afternoon, when it will be nice and warm but before the rain starts. So I started off with scraping and sanding the final full ribbon panel. Then I set up the big crosscut sled to trim the ribbon panels to length. This is done in two passes, trimming a little off each end to that the both come out smooth and square. When done I have nice rectangular panels that will serve as Ira’s tray table tops. Making them the way we do – using strips of solid wood – take a lot more labor than simply cutting a piece of veneered plywood and popping it into the slots, but should the tables ever become scratched, the scratches can be sanded out and refinished very easily, With plywood the veneer is only a few thousandths of an inch thick and sanding it at all risks sanding right through the veneer, exposing the glue and substrate below, ruining the table. In addition, with veneered plywood the veneer tends to be saturated with glue so stains won’t color the plywood the same as it does natural wood unless you seal the wood so the stain doesn’t penetrate it either. Then the color is the same through out the piece. It’s too light, but it’s all the same color.

Because we’re not using the 1/8th inch Baltic Birch that we usually use, I need to “adapt” the ¼” cabinet grade birch plywood to the purpose. Mostly that means cutting a shallow rabbet along the edges where the backer board will go into the groove in the rails. Then I mark the center on both ends of the ribbon panels and their backer boards, apply a little glue down the center of each and clamp them together. I let these sit while take my lunch break.

After lunch I finish sand the insides of the tray rails. It’s much easier to do this now than later because later I will have to worry about scratching up the panels as I try to sand the rails, especially the end rails that run across the grain of the panels. By doing the finish sanding on the panels and the insides of the rails before they are assembled I can eliminate that risk of damage.

I fit the rails to the panels, paying attention to the lay-out marks so they go on in order, and use tabs of masking tape to hold them together while I check the fit. I cut the backer boards just a hair large so I can sand them down to a precise fit. This takes a little time as I want it to be right. If I rush it and sand away too much, then that causes problems.

Once they fit properly I flip over one rail -- leaving it taped at one end like a hinge -- and apply glue to the rabbet and the lower lip only of the groove inside the rail. This too is cautious work, I don’t want glue slopped in a spot that will bind up the ribbon panel or come gooshing out an inside corner, where it is mighty hard to sand it out again so it won’t show as white stains under the finish. But I do want the parts that are supposed to get glued together to be glued together solidly. These parts are too small to use screws or nails as mechanical back-up. Band clamps with corner clips draw the parts together securely and will hold them there until tomorrow morning. Since there is tension in these joints I want them to stay securely clamped until the glue is good and hard.

This takes the rest of the afternoon. I’m quitting a couple of hours early today to take care of the afore mentioned maintenance chores. We’re expecting rain starting tonight and going through the weekend and into the early part of next week. So doing these outdoor chores on the weekend has been precluded. Besides… it’s a gorgeous, 72° day out there and I have a touch of spring fever. It will be nice to get out and enjoy this while we have it. It *is* only mid-March, we will have another cold snap I’m sure. I just hope our fruit trees don’t bloom before a hard frost like last year. We got no fruit at all from any of our trees last summer.

See you tomorrow!


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