Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ambrosia veneers...

The exterior side panels and door fronts of each of the cabinets will be of ambrosia maple although the top and bottom panels of each cabinet will continue to follow the soft maple theme. I have chosen ambrosia maple because it is a wood I have worked very little with in the past and am intrigued by the subtle variations in color throughout the boards. The grain graphics can be summarized in one word...wild. In one of these particular planks I am using to create veneers there are also traces of a pink colour throughout, the traces take the form of swirling areas which run the length of the planks. It is this particular color which caught my eye, and these planks beg to be used on a cabinet. I have paired the boards into two sets, one set for each of the cabinets.

Each set has slightly different characteristics. The second set of cut boards exhibit a darker chocolate colored swirling area which when set against the lighter background provides dramatic effect. Another unusual characteristic of each of the boards sets is that they exhibit curl, and tight curl at that. I usually look for either interesting figure or curl in planks, but these boards exhibit both characteristics together.
To the left are the resawn sets of veneers, one set per cabinet. I make sure to keep the sets separate from each other and mark them as much as I can to identify them once I begin creating the veneered panels. These particular planks from which I resaw these veneers are very wide and this allows me to use the veneers as a whole instead of gluing two halves together as I did with the soft maple veneers. Slicing these veneers was somewhat of a challenge for my bandsaw, but I took my time. I also sliced them a little thicker than normal to accommodate any blade wander which might occur.

At this stage, I am very pleased with how these veneers have turned out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Taping veneers...

I left off with clamped veneers. This photo illustrates how I tape two veneer slices together to form a wider veneer sheet. These particular sheets are destined to the interior of the cabinet as well as the inside of the doors for the cabinets. My resawing setup is not ideal and I make do with a too small bandsaw for the operation. This introduces some issues as some of the veneers are not quite the same thickness as others, although all the veneer slices are thicker than necessary. I need to use a very slow feed speed to make sure the waste is cleared from the bandsaw blade gullets, this keeps the blade tracking straight and true, otherwise the induced stress of clearing the blade gullets might cause the blade to wander or even worse bow or barrel.

These particular veneer slices I am taping are marginally under 1/8 inch overall and are slightly too thin to clamp. I joint them straight and true using the technique described earlier and use the tape process to clamp them together. This process works surprisingly well with a practically non-existent glue line resulting afterwards. Working with veneers introduces another element of time into any project as the veneers sheets need to be sawn, dressed, glued together, and prepared for use... whereas using solid wood uses considerably less time. In my case, I need to resaw these veneers as the exterior and interiors of the cabinet panels are of different woods.

Clamping veneers...

I left off with jointed veneer slices. I usually use two different methods to create wider sheets of veneer from narrower individual pieces. If the veneers are 1/8 in. or greater in thickness, I clamp them using very light clamps and weigh the sheet down afterwards to keep any of the veneer slices from buckling. This method works well for me and the photo illustrates how I do this. The other technique I use is to tape the two halves of veneer together and use the tape as the clamp. I place blue tape at regular intervals along the length of the veneers halves and make sure to do this on both sides of the veneers. This method works well with thin veneer slices as they cannot be easily clamped together any longer.

Another technique I sometimes use is to spring the joint, that is each side of the joint is so very slightly concave, there is a minuscule gap at the center of each of the slices. This technique only really works when clamping veneer halves together, veneers which are thicker than 1/8 in. The reasoning behind this is that when the center portion of the slices are clamped together, the ends of the slices are so much tighter there is little opportunity for the joint to open up. This is purely cautionary though, as once the veneers are laminated to the substrate there is little chance any of the joints will open up anyway.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shooting veneers...

I left off with a good selection of soft maple veneer slices. These veneers are narrow or a little over half the width necessary for the cabinet panels. I need to double them up to create the wider sheets necessary for the cabinets. One long edge of each of the slices needs to be jointed as it will mate with another corresponding narrow slice of maple. I carefully select and match the slices to form pairs; these pairs are somewhat similar in grain and graphics to present a cohesive expanse of veneer. The technique I use to create a perfectly matching edge which can be used to join the two halves is to fold the veneers over and joint them simultaneously. This techniques serves to create a matching joint regardless if the edge is perpendicular to the face, although it is. It is a time proven technique, I didn't invent it, just glad someone thought of successfully doing it this way! The shooting process is quite straightforward. Clamp the two veneers together at one end and hold the other end, or clamp both ends, your choice. I use a wood handplane with a square body, this works well along the surface of my bench.

I have to say this part of the cabinet construction is very enjoyable. Creating all the bits and pieces I will need to assemble the cabinets ensures that the components are uniform and correctly matched in grain and graphics. Word of advice, be very generous with markings when building multiples. All the components I an creating will be used in one or the other cabinet and matched accordingly. Also, the orientation of the grain of each of the veneers sheets is important. Grain orientation should be in the same direction for certain reasons, the main reason is that the grain direction affects any handplaning and scraping operations. The chatoyance of the woods is also dependant on how the grain is oriented and having two reversing slices of veneer together can create a strange effect in the right light. Next I will begin to assemble these veneer slices to form the wider sheets of maple veneer.

Resawn veneers...

I left off with rough cut planks. These particular soft maple planks are thicker than I need; this allows me to resaw a couple of sheets of veneer from each of the planks. I typically slice a veneer sheet from one side and then slice another veneer sheet from the opposite side. I do this to equalize the contact the newly cut plank has with the surrounding air to avoid any warping, twists, cupping or bowing of the resulting, narrower board. The planks I am working with are on average seven inches wide so this does not present too much of a load on my bandsaw and it is easy to track the planks straight and true through the wide blade.

The thickness of each board after resawing the veneers sheets is still thicker than I ultimately need for the cabinets, this will be to allow for handplaning and any irregularities in the resulting boards. I need quite a few of these maple veneer sheets as they will be doubled up for each of the panels in the two cabinets. In this case eight panels, therefore sixteen sheets of soft maple veneer are necessary. There are a few extra sheets I have also sawn just in case. The resawing went well, with each of the sheets a little over 1/8 inch in thickness. One side of each sheet of veneer has been dressed on the jointer prior to resawing so I will only need to smooth the other face of each of the veneer sheets. It is a great feeling to be able to draw so much more wood from single planks of wood instead of planing away to reduce the thickness. Some of the veneer sheets in the photo above.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The beginning...

The creation of these two cabinets begins with rough planks of wood which I have been acclimatizing in my studio for many months. While the exterior sides and door fronts are of ambrosia maple, the majority of the cabinet, the top, bottom and interior are of soft maple. I begin with rough planks of soft maple which have been cross-cut into manageable pieces, somewhat longer than the longest dimension I will be needing. The soft maple I have is fairly thick so I can remove a layer or two of veneer from the majority of the planks. This has another benefit in that the grain or graphics of the soft maple are similar throughout the cabinet since the veneers originate from the same boards which are reserved for the top and bottom of the cabinet.

In the photo there are a total of ten soft maple boards, eight of which will be used for tops and bottoms and the other two boards strictly used to slice veneers from. After having worked with wood for many years, I am still both amazed and excited to see the process of turning rough wood into fine, polished boards for furniture. Slicing veneers can sometimes be challenging particularly if the widths of veneer are wide. This taxes the bandsaw I use and in some of these cases it is at the limit of what it can cut. I need to slow the speed at which I feed boards through the blade considerably to compensate for these wide boards. Another benefit of utilizing veneers in the creation of furniture is that valuable wood is saved as a few slices of veneer can be sawn from a single board.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cabinet design...

I was given the opportunity to design and build a pair of cabinets recently. The design of the individual cabinets is very similar and this process exercises my skills at producing more than one piece of studio furniture at a time. The cabinets are destined for different locations and will be slightly different in the outside graphics of the side panels and doors. The other elements of each cabinet are fairly similar in many respects. The dimensions of each of the cabinets is both based on my earlier work and the size of the woods I have available for the components of each cabinet. I have not decide on the interior layout yet, although I have something in mind.

The availability of the woods to be able to create these cabinets is an important consideration for me since it can be somewhat of a limiting factor in the dimensions of the cabinet. In this case the limiting factor is the side panel width and the door widths. The side panels will be veneered inside and out since I plan to use highly figured ambrosia maple on the outside and lighter soft maple on the insides of these panels. Likewise for the doors of the cabinets. I like to have a seamless expanse of wood on both the outside of the side panels and the door fronts therefore the width of ambrosia maple I have limits these widths, although I do have fairly wide ambrosia maple planks on hand.

The drawing illustrates the basic design of the cabinet with overall dimensions specified. The depth of the cabinet is another consideration in the design. I need to have a minimum depth to introduce stability into the cabinet design, in this case I have decided on a 12 inch depth for the cabinet itself. The cabinet stand will be slightly deeper but not noticeably.... this to provide a smooth transition from the upper cabinet down to the cabinet stand.