Mortising Catalpa

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Forum topic by BustedClock posted 11-04-2013 04:29 PM 835 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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128 posts in 2723 days

11-04-2013 04:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: catalpa mortise chisels question

First off, I’m a noob. I hadn’t ever done anything, really, until I started the Intro to Woodworking class at Red Rocks Community College.

For my final project, I decided to make a coffee table. At the local hardwood dealer, I ended up getting Catalpa because the sales person said it was “pretty easy” to work. Just what I needed after a disaster trying to make a stool from curly soft maple!

Well, Catalpa does plane fairly nicely—although there is some reversing grain. Of course, reversing grain doesn’t scare me much after a disaster trying to make… My problem, however, is chopping mortises. I wanted to do this by hand, but it seems Catalpa is really really soft. Maybe my chisels just aren’t as sharp as I thought they were, but I ended up with a whole lot of fibers and not much in the way of wood chips. I used a bevel-edge chisel per Paul Sellers. I guess it’s relevant that I was chopping the mortises cross-grain.

The instructor says I can drill out, then clean, the mortises; so I guess that’s what I’ll do. But I’d still like to know whether this is a lack of skill problem, a problem with improperly sharpened chisels, or I just fell victim to an unruly species of wood. This is frustrating!

Please advise.

Randy in Denver

-- Hey, I'm usually right twice a day! Except where they use 24 hour clocks.

2 replies so far

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Monte Pittman

30058 posts in 2539 days

#1 posted 11-04-2013 05:23 PM

For a hard wood, Catalpa is actually very soft. softer woods are much harder for me to get clean M&T joints in. Chisels should always be sharp enough to shave with, but Catalpa is a stringy wood. You aren’t doing anything wrong, you’re just learning the joys of different woods.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3170 days

#2 posted 11-04-2013 11:41 PM

In my experience a plunge router will make the cleanest mortices of all. Haven’t used catalpa. Not something you’d see over here.

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