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Help cutting curves in slats

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Forum topic by jwils218 posted 02-27-2018 06:22 AM 401 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jwils218

22 posts in 187 days


02-27-2018 06:22 AM

I’m making a shower bench for a disabled man, and I’m running into some problems. The design consists of 19 2” slats each spaced apart 1/2” with 2 1/2” slats on the end. He requested the seat lean back a little bit so he doesn’t fall forward because he can’t use his legs and doesn’t want to lose control and fall forward. I have the bench top angled by 5 degrees, but I want to add a slight curve in each of the slats to make it a little bit more comfortable. The pictures should explain what I need a bit better.

What I have:

What I want:

It’s subtle, but I want this guy to be comfortable. Apparently he was walking five years ago, but his disease has progressed a lot, and in a few years he’s not going to have the choice of taking a shower by himself.

My initial idea was to make a template on a piece of plywood by taking a thin piece of oak and bending it, then drawing a line. I’d then cut it out on the bandsaw, clean it up with the oscillating spindle sander, then draw it onto a slat and cut it out. However, My bandsaw is only a wee little 9”, and I have a hard time finding saw blades with less than 6 TPI (Thanks, Lowe’s) that can actually make a clean cut through 2” material. When I tried sanding out the saw marks, I got a very rough surface that wasn’t a smooth curve at all. It was very bumpy and wavy. Any suggestions? I did find a 3 TPI blade that’s the proper length (56 1/8”), but it’s going to take a while to get here and I need the bench finished rather quickly. Also, I’m pretty terrible at using a bandsaw. Thanks!


17 replies so far

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LittleShaver

328 posts in 647 days


#1 posted 02-27-2018 01:12 PM

You could just assemble the bench and do some really aggressive sanding to set the curve. I’d rough it out with an angle grinder with 30 grit disk. Once i was happy with the general shape, I’d switch to higher grits and work my was to an ROS to finish. Probably end up hand sanding the edges of the slats to break the edges.

-- Sawdust Maker

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John Smith

1005 posts in 190 days


#2 posted 02-27-2018 01:20 PM

J. you will probably get many, good suggestions on this one !!
you said it will have a “subtle” depression.
well – a 4” belt sander with a 40 grit belt can really tear up some wood in the right hands.
[also can cause a lot of irreparable damage in the wrong hands]
If it were my project, I would clamp all the slats together and profile it with the belt sander.
then progressive finer grits on the random orbit sander
then finishing up with the 4×4 palm inline sander.
it would probably take me less than 45 minutes for the profiling.
I don’t have the patience for the hand planes like some folks do. so I grab something with a motor on it.
my second option would be to build a profiled sled/jig for the hand-held router.
I am guessing you will have a space between the slats ??? and not one solid bench ?
(spaces between the slats would be safer – not as slippery).
mahogany is easy to shape and the job will go pretty quickly. [you can also mess it up pretty quickly]
looking forward to seeing your finished project !!

-- Graduated Valedictorian from the University of HardKnocks --

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EarlS

1131 posts in 2375 days


#3 posted 02-27-2018 01:24 PM

Consider making a template of the curve, then use it to make a template jig for your router and then use your router to make the curve. It the slats are too tall, use the template jig for the lower part and a flush bit for the rest of it. Sand the curve with a 5” ROS and you should be in good shape. You can rough cut the curve on the bandsaw then move over to the router.

That is the basic approach I used to make curved back and crest rails for some chairs. Check out my blog. There should be pics to help show you what was done.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

15369 posts in 2646 days


#4 posted 02-27-2018 01:30 PM

Like John, I’d clamp all the pieces together and work the curve with sanding. Except, I’d consider a series of saw kerfs across the width of the pieces that set the depth of your sanding, so you know when you’re done.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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Matt Rogers

110 posts in 1997 days


#5 posted 02-27-2018 02:50 PM

You should certainly make a plywood template of the shape and pattern rout all of the pieces.

Pros
All the pieces will be exactly the same shape.
It is fast and you should not even need to pre cut the shape on the bandsaw with such a slight curve.

Cons
You Will leave two empty screw holes in the sides of the material that you use to hold the plywood pattern on during the routing. This can be eliminated by making your slats and pattern a few inches longer and cutting off the ends where you put the screw holes.

If you have trouble routing the pieces in one pass. Just take a light cut the first time and don’t worry if the bit hits the pattern everywhere. Just do a second pass taking off the remaining material.

-- Matt Rogers, http://www.cleanairwoodworks.com and http://www.cleanairyurts.com

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jwils218

22 posts in 187 days


#6 posted 02-27-2018 04:16 PM

Strangely enough, I actually woke up this morning with an idea. John Smith is probably right about using a belt sander, but it would be in the wrong hands with me because I’ve never used one before lol. This is African Mahogany I’m working with, so I can’t afford to screw up. What if I took a 2” hole saw and cut a hole into a piece of scrap wood, then cut it in half on the tablesaw (or however big I want the “semi” circle), then I could clamp it on my oscillating spindle sander with stops on either side? Then all I’d have to do is sand until the slats hit the fence and won’t sand away anymore.

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

1346 posts in 1251 days


#7 posted 02-27-2018 04:45 PM

Are they small enough to make a homemade steam chamber and bend them?

I have never done any bending yet but I would think that’s simple. If not, then do the sanding route. I have used a handheld belt sander with low grits to do some major flattening of warped slabs and it does work. You just have to really work on your touch but it shouldn’t take long to get the hang of it.

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jerkylips

416 posts in 2598 days


#8 posted 02-27-2018 06:02 PM



Are they small enough to make a homemade steam chamber and bend them?

I have never done any bending yet but I would think that s simple. If not, then do the sanding route. I have used a handheld belt sander with low grits to do some major flattening of warped slabs and it does work. You just have to really work on your touch but it shouldn t take long to get the hang of it.

- AZWoody

This is what I was going to say – cut the curve you want in scrap wood, make a jig for clamping, then steam/clamp.

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jbay

2342 posts in 926 days


#9 posted 02-27-2018 06:44 PM

Make a small router sled and jig for the sled to ride on, and rout them.

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jwils218

22 posts in 187 days


#10 posted 02-27-2018 08:13 PM

Unfortunately, building jigs isn’t really my strong suit yet. In case you guys can’t tell, I’m still a fairly new woodworker lol. Do you guys think something like this would work? This is a jig I can build for the OSS. It was a random idea I had pop into my head literally the second I woke up this morning. I also get pretty obsessive with projects like this lol. I guess all I needed was a good night’s sleep. I think I can just sand straight through the first one, and then butt it up against every other one and draw the curve using the first slat as a template, then cut the other ones faaaar away from the line on the bandsaw, that way I don’t have to keep buying more sand paper lol. Do you guys think this would work for an inexperienced woodworker such as myself?

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pintodeluxe

5706 posts in 2841 days


#11 posted 02-27-2018 08:22 PM

I would seriously consider angling the whole bench and losing the curves. I’m not sure it will add to the comfort factor as much as you think, but it will certainly take a lot of hours to produce.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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jwils218

22 posts in 187 days


#12 posted 02-27-2018 08:25 PM

It is angled by 5 degrees. I actually don’t know if adding a curve is worth it with the angle, now that I think about it. You should’ve seen the original design. I had a curve that went from the top corner to half way down the other side. Talk about subtle lol.

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jwils218

22 posts in 187 days


#13 posted 02-27-2018 08:37 PM

Part of the problem is when I’m not following the plans and actually physically working on the project, I keep getting bored and wanting to change things lol. I have a hard time stepping away from a project in the design phase.

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

1005 posts in 190 days


#14 posted 02-27-2018 08:41 PM

J. I keep looking at your design and it finally dawned on me that your “curve”
is going the wrong way – according to most seat designs.
the butt is more comfortable if the curve is from side to side and not front to back (I think).
is it too late to re-think your project ?? [and yes, some bandsaw work will be involved. but less grinding]

and as for safety of the user, I think the curved slats should run from side to side instead of front to back.
that way, the lateral slats would provide some friction so the user would not slip forward
off the seat onto the floor. (which would not be good).
a person with mobility issues is already at risk in a wet environment – add soap and a slope forward
and you may be setting up a recipe for a problem – a serious problem.
then your heat/steam bending hidden talent could kick in to get the slats curved side to side.
then you can provide a comfortable, stable and safe product to your customer.
have you give any thought as to the non-slip feet ???

.

no matter what design you go with, it will still be more personal and beautiful to your client

than this . . . . .

.

-- Graduated Valedictorian from the University of HardKnocks --

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jwils218

22 posts in 187 days


#15 posted 02-27-2018 09:15 PM

“no matter what design you go with, it will still be more personal and beautiful to your client

than this . . . . .”

That’s why he wants me to build it lol. The disease is very progressive and he only has a few more years of limited control before he’s in some sort of long-term care facility being “showered” by a nurse every day. Right now, he has no control over his legs whatsoever, and I can tell he’s losing control of his upper body because he missed my hand when I held it out to shake it the first time I met him. It also needs to extend out of the shower a little bit so he can get onto it from his wheelchair and slide himself over. Here’s the design from a better angle.

It’s going into a rental house that has no one living it in right now, and they got permission from the landlord to screw it into the wall. They are going to have a licensed contractor do that for liability reasons. They know I’m not a professional woodworker, or even an incredibly experienced one, which is why they went with me because I told them I’d charge them a hell of a lot less than a professional, career-woodworker who does this for a living. Not that they charge too much, obviously, but they also wanted to give someone fairly inexperienced such as myself the opportunity to build a project like this.

Also, the 5 degree curve screws up the measurements of the legs, so I just rounded to the nearest whole number. They’re about 1/8” off on both sides, but that’s OK because I’ll be installing adjustable rubber feet to level it out and to keep that thirsty end grain off the constantly wet ground.

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