Stock selection & preparation, various musings and commentary, lots of pictures.

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Blog entry by Derek Lyons posted 08-13-2009 11:20 PM 1632 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Now, into the meat of the tutorial after the musings in part the first… Fellow LJ’s are invited to chime in with comments! (I’ll also be forwarding this outside of LJ, so please forgive the more obvious bits of explanation.)

One of the reasons for the delay in getting the new cutting board going (on top of not being able to work in the shop) was just being too dang busy to get over the Seattle and find the wood. Two weekends ago, I was finally able to get over there and found two nice pieces of turning stock at Woodcraft for the decorative parts and happily Crosscut Hardwood had some nice hard maple on sale…

Maple board

It’s always a bit sad for me to look at a pristine board, even though it will be reborn as (hopefully) something wonderful, it will have to undergo much transformation and torture along the way.

Anyhow, I let the board rest in the shop for a week. As my little Ryobi chopsaw isn’t up to the task of tackling such a large and hard board, I headed over to a buddies where his big Makita made short work of cutting it down to size.


Here we can see all the components of the board-to-be as they were last week, the cherry and walnut turning stock, some cherry and maple veneer I may or may not use, and the maple that will form the bulk of the board cut down into 30” slabs. I’d have liked to cut it a little longer, as the length of the staves that will eventually be cut from the slabs determines the thickness and length of the final board… But the turning stock that I’m using for the decorative stripes is 30” long, so the maple must match that.

Since the week before I chopped down the board had been the hottest and driest in Kitsap County history, I decided to let the slabs rest a week before cutting them down further.

Which brings up a great worry for me – the board is being built in the Pacific Northwet, but will be used in the dry heat of Southern California. The possibilities are endless for problems. So I’ll make it as thick as possible to resist moving, and rest it as much as practical so that I don’t “lock in” any stresses.

Monday, I got up and headed out into the shop fairly early…

Coffee on the workbench

If your brain is the most important tool in your shop, a nice cup of coffee is the most important accessory for that tool! Especially on a cool and damp morning.

Other than getting enough caffeine in me, the other task to start the day is a little cleaning and organization in the shop.


Isn’t she pretty? All clean and freshly waxed for a days work. I took a moment to enjoy it as it won’t be so pretty at the end of the day!

The first task I tackled was to machine the turning stock. The first step is to make two sides flat and square to each other on the jointer.


One can’t forget one’s safety equipment!

Safety equipment

I keep mine on the filter handle for my dust collector. When I step over to it to turn it, it’s right there at eye level where I am less likely to forget it.

Once two sides are flat and square to each other, the next task is to move over to the planer to make a third side parallel to one of the sides flattened on the jointer.


Then the last side is brought into true on the table saw.


You can also do this on the planer, but doing it on the saw lets me remove the excess material and cut all the pieces being machined to the same dimensions in one easy step.


To take off even this small amount of wood would require either multiple passes through the planer, or a fairly aggressive cut. It’s a philosophical thing really. (If you asked ten woodworkers how to do a simple task, odds are you’ll get eleven answers. At least)

Now, some may ask what I worried about getting the thickness consistent between the two pieces, but not the width. The answer is simple, I’ll be cutting these pieces into thin strips, so the width at the point is irrelevant. A little forethought can save you from doing work that doesn’t need to be done. Failing to think things entirely through can lead to problems down the line – and will later in the process.

Thin strip ripping jig

A thin strip ripping jig (the blue thing in the picture) makes this a breeze. Once it’s set the proper distance from the saw blade, all I have to do after each cut is move the fence over to hold the stock firmly against the jig and featherboard to make another strip of the same thickness.

With the decorative bits done, I turned my attention to cutting down the slabs into staves.


The setup here is a bit different from cutting the thin strips… because I don’t want to trap the heavy stave between the fence and saw blade (it could be caught on the blade and hurled towards my face with great force), I use an auxiliary fence to set the distance between the edge of the board and the saw blade. Rather than moving the fence between cuts, I just adjust the featherboard between each cut to hold the slab firmly against the auxiliary fence.

One of the things wood working shows mislead you about is how much time adjust the setups between cuts takes… It’s kinda like watching a cooking show where the chef slides a dish into one oven, then turns to another oven and slides a finished dish right out… :)

The staves were cut a bit oversize – the wood can move considerably after being so dramatically cut (from stresses locked into the board either while the tree was growing or while the lumber was dried, and as the newly exposed interior acclimates) I need to leave room for this to happen before machining down it’s final size. I’m racing to get this all done before cooler weather means I can no longer work in my unheated and uninsulated shop. Labor Day is fast approaching, and while everything needs time to rest, the weather rapidly turns colder afterwards.

Anyhow, several hours after setting the coffee cup down on my bench all the wood is done and ready to rest for a week…


If you’re wondering why there are only two pieces of walnut and four of cherry when both started the same size… let’s just say I cut the walnut first and there was a learning curve involved in using the jig mentioned above. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Besides, there are no mistakes in woodworking – only design opportunities.

Despite all that, I messed up a little bit on my planning (remember what I said earlier about forethought?). The thinner pieces are already trimmed to their final dimensions, while the maple staves are not – which means it will take more effort to make everything come out right next week.

Experience is a harsh teacher.

Nothing to be done about that now, so it’s time for my best Scarlett O’hara imitation – “Fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll worry about that tomorrow”. (My best imitation isn’t very good – be thankful you’re only reading it, not listening to it.)

A bloody battlefield

What this morning was a pristine operating table is now a bloody abattoir covered with sawdust, shavings, and tools.


Like geological strata, the dust collector bag is a record of what has transpired in the shop. On the bottom, some pine from one project. Above that, some poplar from another. Then a thick layer of sapele dust from when a buddy brought over the pieces for a large bookcase and we flattened and squared them. The layer of dark walnut dust is barely visible above the dark sapele and below the lighter layer of cherry and maple above it. Topping off the whole layer cake is a melange of wood dusts swept from the floor and cleaned out from inside the table saw cabinet.

All done for the day, so time to turn off the lights and head into the house for a belated lunch. See you next week, same bat time, same bat channel!

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

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