Saturday, February 5, 2011

Burning Embers -- Honest!!

There are times when being thrifty doesn't count and today was one of them!  The current project is the shelf for the table I'm doing a bit of restoration on and I made it out of European Steamed Beech.  It's a nice, straight grained wood that I chose because my original plan was to use a black, aniline dye on it.  However; I just happened to read an article where a woodworker was bemoaning the fact that when he used liquid hide glue on a piece he'd used aniline dye on, the dye ran into the inlay even though he sealed it before using the water based glue on it.  I had a test piece that was dyed so I routed a groove into it, soaked the cane, and set it with the spline.  Just as advertised the dye ran into the moistened cane.  Reminded me of the experiments we used to do in science class with dye and a carnation -- ever do that one?
Once it became apparent that I couldn't use the dye I had to come up with another plan.  In the meantime I had also started to clean the waste basket and it is in rough condition.  Re-finishing is not in my bag of tricks and my client knew this so I suggested that since the legs and apron of the table appear to be painted black anyway, why don't we follow suit and paint the shelf, repaint the legs and apron and then do the waste basket to match -- they agreed so that's the plan.  I've had pretty good success using Krylon on some of Diane's picture frames, after they've cured waxing them gives a nice luster.
So, where do the burning embers come in?  Once the framework for the shelf was mortised and tenoned together I needed to rout a 1/4" x 1/4" groove all around the opening for the cane spline and it looks like this:

 The groove was routed into the end and crosspiece before assembly and the lengthwise groove was done after it was glued and assembled.  This left an area a little over an inch long that needed to be cut to join the groove all the way around the frame.  By this time, the router bit I was using was beyond sorry!  Trying to rout that little section resulted in so much burning that the embers were actually  smoking and on fire!  Never saw that before, looked like a cigarette ash!  Rather than put up with the smell and the possibility of a fire I decided to finish it off by hand, much safer all the way around.  Besides, hand work is much more rewarding and I enjoy the quietness of it all.  Rather hear the sound of a chisel and mallet then the roar of a router, even a small one.
The other thing required of this groove is that the inside of it should have a radius so that the cane won't break on the sharp edge when the spline forces it into the groove.   I knew it could be sanded but thought that would be a hassle, instead I used a specialty carving chisel called a back-bent gouge and it did the trick.  Here's what that looks like:

It worked well, the wood is a little ragged in a few places but sanding that will clean it up.  The edge won't be visible, the cane will cover it.
Hopefully the wind won't be blowing tomorrow so I can get some paint on these pieces.  To keep the groove clean and free of paint I'll stuff some rope into it.  That way the wood will remain raw so the glue can penetrate into it and hold the cane in place.

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