Friday, August 20

Tray Tables: Making Ribbon Panels

The first real parts I’ll make are the ribbon panels. I start with boards that have been jointed, surface planed and drum sanded so that the upper and lower faces are perfectly flat and smooth – these faces will become my glue joints, so they must be perfect. Then I use the table saw to cut these boards into 5/16” thick strips, or ribbons. As I cut them I am very careful to keep the strips in the same order and orientation as they were in the board. When I lay them down for edge gluing, having them in order means the grain patterns will flow across the panel instead of looking like a bunch of random strips of wood. One fellow who watched me make up a series of ribbon panels commented that I go through a lot of trouble to make something that comes out looking like a sheet of plywood – no visible joints or seams. I suppose he’s right, but veneered plywood uses a very thin veneer of hardwood over a core of crappy wood, often MDF these days. These panels are easily damaged and can not be properly repaired. Even a scratch in the wood can not be sanded out because the veneer is so thin. I lay out the ribbon strips and join panels together with three strips of wide masking tape. Then I set up my gluing jig and clamps. The jig (right foreground) keeps the joint I’m gluing open and supported, then as the panel moves across the back side of the jig it supports the strips to keep the joints closed up. I move the glued panel to the clamps (left foreground) and press the strips flat against the pipe clamps, which are positioned under the strips of masking tape to prevent the black globs that occur when the black iron pipe and glue come into contact. Panels waiting to be glued are on the small table behind the gluing jig. Each panel needs 2 or three hours for the glue to tack up, then I’ll glue up another and crape the glue pips off of the freshly glued up panel before they harden completely. I’ll let the glue in these panels set up hard before machining them further.

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