Thursday, January 12

Ribbon Strip Panels

 This day began with cutting red oak boards into billets on the chop saw.  I've got rail stock for 6 rails milled out, so I want to end up making 6 ribbon panels to go with them.  Calculating how many ribbons that will take is a bit tricky, so I try to make a few extra just in case.
 The first step of course is jointing one wide face and one edge of each billet.  The jointer flattens the board, removing any cupping or twist.
 By flipping the board up and running the just-jointed face along the vertical fence I joint an edge, straightening and smoothing that *and* forming a good square corner between the two jointed surfaces.

Getting the wood "square" is quite important if you want pieces to fit together well, and in a glued-up panel a good fit is paramount to success.
 Next it's on to the surface planer where I run the just-jointed face down on the bed, the cutter head inside the upper part shaves off a little wood at a time to smooth that face and make it parallel to the jointed face - that "getting it square" thing again.  In most cases I will run all the boards through the same number of times so they all come out the same thickness, but this time that doesn't matter at all so I set each blank aside as soon as the upper surface is dressed.  I use the finishing speed (slower feed rate) for a nice smooth surface.  This is important because the wide faces of the boards are about to become my glue joints.
 The completed parts blanks (rough boards get cut into rough chunks called billets, the billets get dressed out into parts blanks.  The blanks get shaped into parts.  Parts get assembled into furniture.  that's how that works, in case you were confused.

The table saw is equipped with a thin kerf blade and used to cut the blanks into a series of ribbon strips.  Care is taken to keep the strips in order and oriented.  This step can take a while when doing it all by myself.  When I had help the helper would stand on the back side of the saw and take the ribbon strips off as I cut them.  I could cut them one after another: zip-zip-zip and the job was done in short order.  Doing it by myself I run the blank through to cut one ribbon strip, then walk around the saw to take it off the back (because leaning over a whirling saw blade to  try to reach the strip to remove it is an extraordinarily stupid and dangerous thing to do - especially when you're short like me and have to really reach to get to that cut off piece) set the strip on the right table wing, walk back around front, pick-up my push stick, cut another ribbon, lay down my push stick, walk around back, take the trip off and set it on the wing, walk around front, pick-up my push stick... tedious to read about?  Try doing it non-stop for an hour or two.
 To break up the monotony I cut enough ribbons to make a panel, flip them down flat and play with them until I get a pleasing look.  Oddly enough, my goal here is to get it to look like plywood - no obvious seams, and a pleasing "continuous" pattern to the graining.

I use a couple of strips of masking tape to bind the panel together, fold it over and take it to the assembly room.
The masking tape works like hinges to allow me to open up each joint individually to apply glue.  I work quickly but carefully.  When all the joints are glued I spread out the clamps and lay the panel in place on the clamps: 3 below, 2 above, just snugged up.  There should be no need to apply excessive force here.

While the glue sets up, I go cut more ribbons, arrange them into a panel, tape it, fold it and bring it in for gluing.  I do this all day.  As I'm writing this my 5th panel is about ready to come out of the clamps.  As soon as I'm done with this I'll go take the 5th one out of the clamps, glue and clamp the 6th panel, then scrape the 5th.  The 6th one can sit in the clamps overnight.  It's getting late, I'm getting tired.  Tomorrow we'll dress these panels.

See you tomorrow!

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