Tuesday, February 9

Tray Rails

We begin the process of making and installing the tray rails by setting up the big band saw for resawing. The resaw band has wicked, large teeth that will tear the flesh from my hands if I’m not careful, leather gloves are a necessity. Then comes marking and resawing the billets that were made up earlier. It is vital that I mark the billets so that after they’ve been cut I can keep them paired up and oriented for proper grain flow. More about that in a bit. As the pieces come off the band saw I set them aside in pairs, when all are done I surface plane the strips to smooth the band sawn faces and reduce the strips to the finished thickness. I also check them to see if there is any bow in the vertical plane, if so I joint that out before trimming them to finished height on the table saw. Then I change the table saw over to use a dado head and set it up to plow the groove on the inside face of each rail stock strip. This groove will house the panel assembly. I use a set-up block from the template set to get the dado head height and rip fence position right. When everything is in position and double checked, I plow the panel groove in all the strips, paying close attention to inside/outside and upper/lower edges. I finish up the rail stock preparation by rounding over the upper-inside edge of the strips. This edge will be very difficult to work after the tray is assembled, so I take care of this one now. The others will get rounded after assembly. Now comes the tricky part… unwinding each pair of rail strips so they wrap around the tray with an unbroken grain pattern. To do this I use an old box-makers trick that starts with resawing a solid piece of wood, then cutting the two pieces so each piece cut mates up with the next. I start at one end of a pair, lay out the left side rail, then the back rail. Come up to the other strip and lay out the right side rail then the front rail. With very little excess length in each strip, where the two raw ends meet at the left-rear and right-front corners, the grain pattern will still flow nicely around the corner. The other two corners are cut from the middles of the strips and matching those is easy. I set up the miter saw to cut the 45 degree miters at each corner and cut all the parts using stop blocks to insure that all longs rails are the same length and all short rails are the same length. The first of each are the guinea pigs, these I cut just a little long and sneak up on a perfect fit. Once the precise length is determined I cut the rest to the same length. When all are cut it’s time for a dry fit to be sure all went well. No glue here, just friction. When I’m sure all is right I take the rails off again and sand the inside faces. Again, these faces will be difficult to work properly after assembly, so sanding them now is a great labor saver. Then glue is applied very carefully to the joints where the rails meet the backer panels. The rails are not glued to the ribbon panels. Clamps are place to apply gentle pressure to hold the corners closed until the glue dries. No screws or nails can be used in these joints because they are so slim and delicate, proper glue joints are mandatory. I’ll let these assemblies set up overnight, then pull the clamps, route the outer edges and sand the outer surfaces of the rails. And that will complete the tray assemblies.

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