Saturday, November 3, 2012

Assigning Parts to Boards

This is my first real attempt at considering wood grain for every element of a project.  Everything I've read about "designing with the grain" suggests that putting this effort in before you begin the project will really help bring the end result to that "fine furniture level."

Enough with the quotes.  This was a royal pain in the ass.  I thought I ordered 50% extra wood because I'm new at this sorta thing and I wanted to leave plenty of room for flaws, selection, waste, and mistakes.  From what I can tell, after working on this for the pat 4 hours, it looks like I ordered exactly the amount this project requires.  I'm not sure where my math went wrong, but it's on my list to find out so that I don't make this mistake again.  I got really lucky.

Once again, here's what I'm going to be building:

So here's my thought process.  There's probably a faster way to do this, and if anyone out there is reading this at all, and if you know a better way, please chime in.  This was tricky.   Maybe it's easier when you have a huge supply of lumber, and perhaps the reason I had so much difficulty is because I didn't have any extra to choose from, but even so, it took awhile to get to the point where I realized I was running low on stock.

  1. Best Grain First.  Identify the parts of your project that will be most visible, and where decorative wood grain can be placed for the most dramatic effect.  If you went through the trouble of buying figured wood, here is your chance to make it shine.
    • In my case, the 3 front panels are where I want the best figure to be displayed. 
    • My wife and I looked through every board and decided on the one we liked the best.  We decided to resaw it in half to create a bookmatched panel, and glue it to a substrate to return it to the 3/4" overall thickness.
    • I made a little template out of poster board to help us decide where to cut the panels.
  2. Best Grain Second.  The second most important location for beautiful grain: the bench lid.  I decided to bookmatch the lid as well, which then requires glueing it to substrate material to return it to the 1" overall thickness.
    • All of this resawing and veneering is going to take forever.  The alternative is to just pick a bunch of differently grained boards that sort of look similar and glue them together.  That's the easy way and I've taken that route on every lid and table top I've built so far.  This time I'm going to push myself a little harder and see what's to see.
  3. Straight Legs.  I want straight grain for the legs, and I need enough wood to make them quadralinear, so that the face-grain wraps around the entire 2"x2" leg.  I'm going to be using a lock miter router bit for this.  
    • I've attempted a quadralinear leg once before (without a lock miter bit) and failed miserably.
    • I now own a lock miter bit and have used it successfully on the pine blanket chest.
    • I've also studied up on how this is done.
  4. Straight Frames.  For frame & panel construction, it's considered a best practice to use quiet / straight grain boards for your frame, if you're going to have the focus on the panel.  Since my panels are going to be wild and crazy, I set aside some straight-grained boards for the panel rails and stiles.
  5. Curvy Curves.  Ideally I'd be able to cut a board where the grain pattern flows along the same curve as the arcs under my bench.  I couldn't find any boards that matched the arcs, so I picked something pretty without being too loud or distracting.

I saw Dave Jeske using blue tape to label the parts of his daughter's hope chest and I thought it was a great idea.  In the past I've scribbled, erased, crossed-out, and re-written part names on the face grain, end grain, and side grain and it never seems like I put the label in a spot where it's not going to get sawn or planed off.  By writing my part names on blue tape, I can peel the tape off and move it to another board without having to rewrite or erase anything.  This happened more than a dozen times as I attempted to figure out this mess.

I methodically went down the cut list, checking off parts as I assigned them to boards.

Keeping track of all these blue tape labels as I scattered them across a dozen or so boards required a lot of back and forth and triple checking.  Hopefully everything goes smoothly from here on out and I don't run into any hidden flaws in the wood.

Here is the end result:

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