Since this was going to be 32+ feet long I needed to build it in at least three sections in order to handle and transport it to the karate school. In order to maintain alignment in the shop and then at time of installation, I built in two joints that slide together using a plate of hickory wood with dovetailed edges like this one.
Essentially it’s an over sized dovetail joint that uses friction to hold itself in place. The hickory piece was made to snugly fit into the first dovetail slot and glued in place, then the second slot was made just a tad smaller so that hickory piece wouldn’t fit this slot. I then cut two kerfs to allow the hickory to flex and wedge itself into the slot; I then added a biscuit that is only glued on one side for added alignment and this made it a very tight fit and allows it to get put together and come apart easily.
Rough Cutting the Profile
The next step was to layout the profile to prepare for shaping later on. I did this with my homemade compass and the band saw. With the piece laid out on the bench I traced out large and small arcs along its length to remove the edges.
Then after gluing up some of the length into pieces short enough to handle at the bandsaw I cut out the profile. This was the rough cut piece for the center section.
I place a couple of level lines on the wall to check that the belt holders where aligned correctly and all worked out really well. I don’t have the last belt holder fully assembled in the above photo just yet.
Putting the parts together
So after my first screw up on the first few boards by gluing the inlay sections in, I decided to change up my process a bit. Instead of gluing up the entire section, I just used double faced tape to keep the piece from moving around during layout of the belt holders. So first I made the belt holder and determined the angle of the cut. Then I just cut the inlays at that angle to end up with pieces like this.
Then once they all fit up nice the end result would be like this,
One other thing I changed up, was the miter joint at the end of each board, I started out using biscuits. I soon found out these weren’t strong enough to handle the stresses of shop handling and transportation. So I switched to a simple through spline with was much stronger and still pretty fast to make. Here is a shot of the spline and dry fit joint.
I continued gluing up parts and found a better way to glue up the odd corner angles as shown in this picture here.
I clamped to bar clamps tightly to each side of the joint. I made sure that on the inside of the joint the two clamp heads were in contact with each other at the top, the clamps are not touching each other where they are holding the wood. I then put a quick grip clamp on the inside corner of the joint to squeeze the two clamps together. The contact at the top of the clamps acts like a pivot point and the two pieces are held tightly in contact with one another. I then put another quick grip clamp on the outside of the joint, clamps the two other clamps together and squeezed them tight. This worked really well and the resulting joints turned out nice and tight.
It’s Shaping up Now
The next step was to start the shaping and getting this to start looking like the tree branch it was intended to. Basically this was about a week long process. I honestly, didn’t think it would ever really end. I started out with at the 4.5” angle grinder with a 40 grit flapper sanding wheel. This works great and goes pretty fast. Here are a few pictures as I progressed through the rough shaping.
This was an extremely dusty process, my entire shop was covered in a 1/4” of solid wood dust. It took me about 2 hours to blow it all down and vacuum and blow it again and vacuum some more.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the finish sanding but I sanded some then sanded some more and then sanded even more. I think I sanded for about 3 days after the rough shaping. For the sanding I used my random orbital sander and took it to 220 grit to get a very smooth surface. I am sure there would be a better tool to use other than the RO sander but that is was I had. I now have to replace the pad on the bottom of it but it got the job done.
Well that’s all I have for now, next time I will show you the finishing which I am working on right now. It’s looking pretty awesome, man I love working with walnut, just wish it wasn’t so freakin’ expensive.
til next time,
-- Joe Truehart - The Craftsmans Woodshop