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DrPhill

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Hello all,

I am more of a carver than a carpenter (I would post an image but I have not made three posts yet), but do need some carpentry skills to make the boxes that I carve. Up until now I have been working with salvaged hardwood (a set of shelves that needed removing) but that s running out.....

I am hoping to make a box from yew next, but the only yew I can source is fairly rough. I was wondering what approaches there are to producing workable chunks of timber from the rough lumps? I am on a limited budget, so I cannot see myself purchasing a thicknesser(?), and my only appropriate tool is a 1/4 inch shank router (and no table!). How did our forebears manage?

Any and all help and suggestions gratefully received.
 

Eric The Viking

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Do a search on "converting timber".

I'm only a novice, but you'd be better off with a bandsaw. The process is pretty simple:

You use a frame with spikes to hold the log steady and pass it through the saw repetitively, end-to-end, slicing it up. These will be 'waney-edged boards', i.e. with the bark still on the edges. The 'sled', which can be home made, doesn't take a lot of force if the bandsaw's working properly. You can use the same approach to cut off one edge, leaving you with a "U" of fresh cut sides, that should be reasonably square to each other. Using a simple fence, you've got the other edge cut roughly parallel.

But now it's rough and only roughly square. At this point you need to dry it to the humidity levels in a modern house. It's likely to move around, twist and warp during this process (which is why there's no point in getting it any tidier first!). The general rule is to allow one year drying for each inch of thickness, but you can accelerate this significantly with a dehumidifier and/or warming ("kiln" drying), and even use of a microwave, if the pieces are small enough to fit inside.

When its moisture content is low enough you can plane it up square and flat and straight. Again, most people have recourse to a planer/thicknesser at this point, but it can easily be done with simple and inexpensive hand tools (I used to!), it just takes a bit of effort.

Then you've got pieces that are square and straight and reasonably smooth, that you can work with.

Honestly, a small bandsaw, say 10" or 12", is such a versatile tool, and most probably man enough to cope with what you want to do. They cost in the low hundreds, but don't get the three-wheel type (look triangular), as they aren't as strong. My SIP 12" will easily cut hardwood up to about 7" thickness, and leaves a good finish needing little cleanup.

Get Steve Maskery's DVDs on how the bandsaw works and how to tune it, set it up carefully, with Tuffsaws' blades, and it will serve you very well.

If I had to choose only one machine in my workshop, it would be a hard choice between that and the router table, but the bandsaw would win.

Gosh I do go on a bit :oops:

E.
 

DrPhill

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Eric The Viking":1u3jg79t said:
Do a search on "converting timber".
That I will do, thanks Eric. Knowing what to search for is part of the trick.
Eric The Viking":1u3jg79t said:
I'm only a novice, but you'd be better off with a bandsaw. The process is pretty simple:
You use a frame with spikes to hold the log steady and pass it through the saw repetitively, end-to-end, slicing it up. These will be 'waney-edged boards', i.e. with the bark still on the edges. The 'sled', which can be home made, doesn't take a lot of force if the bandsaw's working properly. You can use the same approach to cut off one edge, leaving you with a "U" of fresh cut sides, that should be reasonably square to each other. Using a simple fence, you've got the other edge cut roughly parallel.
The source I have is a timber suplier - the initial bandsawing has been done - 'waney-edged boards' is what I will be buying, it is the steps after that I need to work on.
Eric The Viking":1u3jg79t said:
But now it's rough and only roughly square. At this point you need to dry it to the humidity levels in a modern house. It's likely to move around, twist and warp during this process (which is why there's no point in getting it any tidier first!). The general rule is to allow one year drying for each inch of thickness, but you can accelerate this significantly with a dehumidifier and/or warming ("kiln" drying), and even use of a microwave, if the pieces are small enough to fit inside.

When its moisture content is low enough you can plane it up square and flat and straight. Again, most people have recourse to a planer/thicknesser at this point, but it can easily be done with simple and inexpensive hand tools (I used to!), it just takes a bit of effort.
Ah... this is the bit I need to concentrate on.
- Do I need to test the moisture with a tool, or just leave the wood for a suitable amount of time? The stuff I will get is 'dried' but the man said that it 'might still move', and that he could sell me a moisture tester......
How do I get a good 'plank' or 'block' from the dried board. I can run the router up a straight edge to get the 'verticals', but am at a loss as to how to do the 'horizontals'. From what you say a plane is the tool, but how to get a good flat even finish? I do not mind trying some 'hard graft' if I know the result will be worth it.

Eric The Viking":1u3jg79t said:
Then you've got pieces that are square and straight and reasonably smooth, that you can work with.

Honestly, a small bandsaw, say 10" or 12", is such a versatile tool, and most probably man enough to cope with what you want to do. They cost in the low hundreds, but don't get the three-wheel type (look triangular), as they aren't as strong. My SIP 12" will easily cut hardwood up to about 7" thickness, and leaves a good finish needing little cleanup.

Get Steve Maskery's DVDs on how the bandsaw works and how to tune it, set it up carefully, with Tuffsaws' blades, and it will serve you very well.

If I had to choose only one machine in my workshop, it would be a hard choice between that and the router table, but the bandsaw would win.

Gosh I do go on a bit :oops:

E.
For the moment a bandsaw is out of budget - but I may be able to justify one at a later date if I do much work with less-prepared timber. And no, you do not 'go on a bit' - I was not specific on where I was starting (my ignorance) so you have mapped out the whole process, supplied some correct terms, and given me some pointers to more research, so thank you.
 

Digit

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How did our forebears manage?
With a saw pit, lots of muscle power followed by planing. If you ask nicely, (grovel,) I'm sure there are some members in your neck of the woods who would be willing to help you.
I would but west Wales is probably a bit too far.

Roy.
 

DrPhill

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Digit":2g0m7d24 said:
How did our forebears manage?
With a saw pit, lots of muscle power followed by planing. If you ask nicely, (grovel,) I'm sure there are some members in your neck of the woods who would be willing to help you.
I would but west Wales is probably a bit too far.

Roy.
Thanks for the thought..... I can see south Wales from here, its not far, but it is a long swim.......
 

marcros

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it would be useful to see a couple of pictures of what you produce. You may not need perfectly smooth timber if you are going to carve a large percentage away. what sized chunks do you start with?
 

DrPhill

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Now I have reached my fourth post I can paste an image of my best box top (showing off really). Apologies for not knowing how to resize images.

For some work I like to get a really flat smooth finish to show off the grain.


Even when I carve I like to start with a relatively smooth surface - I stick a drawing of the design to the wood, and transfer the design with a sharp knife.
If the wood is too uneven I do not get an accurate transfer.
 

marcros

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thats ok, it seems to resize them for you. Nice work, particularly the hearts box.

if you are starting with waney edged boards, and are on a limited budget, I think that you could do a lot worse than a handsaw, and a couple of hand planes. You are not looking at needing huge pieces. Alternatively, you have a router, and somewhere on here, there is a thread about using it to thickness timber. Never tried it myself, but worth a read. You may also find it worth looking at a card scraper for finishing. You may have to spend a few quid to get what you need, but it doesnt need to be more than just a few quid. There will be people who will be able to advise what hand planes are most suitable- not my area of knowledge.
 

Eric The Viking

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Moisture: simplest solution is to store it "in stick" in the environment you intend it to live in eventually, so that it settles down. 'In stick' is your bought boards laid horizontal, with "stickers" (basically small battens, nothing special) supporting and separating them so the air can get around them. They say you need to allow one year per inch of thickness, which is why people resort to kilns and dehumidifiers.

Getting it square and flat: if you want to do it all yourself, you need winding sticks (can be as cheap as, er, straight sticks, or thick rulers - anything that doesn't deform easily), to check for twist ("wind"), a good straightedge to check for flatness (decent long steel rule is fine), and a good, truly square square, to check for right-angled corners. I use an engineer's square to BS whatever-it-is, grade "B", as I don't trust wooden ones any more (don't ask why!).

And you need a good plane (#5 or #5 1/2), and a sharp plane iron, and to delve into the Hand Tools forum, where there are many nice people and lots of past threads on plane tuning and [whisper]that thing you do to get the edge bit that makes the curly shavings fresh again[/whisper]. Sharp****ng techniques aren't at all contentious, honestly.

Contrary to common belief (and tool shops!), you really don't need bigger than a jack plane to get things true, you just need to check your work regularly as you go.

Someone who knows loads will be along in a moment...

E.

PS: the carving is lovely. The first piece looks like relief - if so, I'm awestruck!
 

lanemaux

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Welcome to the forum Doc. If your interests are just making lumps into lumber , then may I cordially invite you to visit our hand tools section. Doing the stock preparation by hand for small boxes is not just doable it is downright near to a hobby itself. Besides which , you will have the opportunity to observe obsessive compulsives in their most amusing form. We are all of us willing (insisting , craving) to give you advice. Nice boxes by the way, looking forward to seeing you iv the hand tooling ward.
 

DrPhill

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Thanks all for you compliments. I have never known any woodworkers, so have had to develop my style and 'techniques' in a vacuum. Now thanks to the internet I can ask the experts for help.
I wondered if I could use the router as a thicknesser - though the width of the piece may be limited by the size of the router shoe, unless I make/buy some sort of large, flat, rigid plate.
Otherwise, hand tools it will be for now. I recently inherited a plane from my Dad, so I will probably start trying with that until I know enough to decide on the next investment.

I live a fair way from the place that I have sourced timber from, but next time I go I will buy something with reasonable confidence I can make a go at using it.

I will nip over to 'hand tools' to pester those folks about tips for planing, and tool sharpening :twisted: (tee hee).

Eric The Viking":7vef9ho7 said:
PS: the carving is lovely. The first piece looks like relief - if so, I'm awestruck!
I am not sure what 'relief' means here... I have removed wood so that the design stands up above the plane of the lid. I cheated and use the router to remove the larger areas so that I could get a 'flat' background.
Luckily the bit of the pattern that I had to repair is not so glaring in real life.
 

Eric The Viking

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You can use a router for 'planing' but not quite in the way you think. I've never done it, but I do have the preferred cutter from Wealden though. Basically, you set up parallel straight edges either side of the workpiece on the bench and use the fence bars (or long versions of them!) to support the router to slide along the straight edges. Moving it along its fence bars gives you the other axis. It's important to support the wood (workpiece) so it cannot rock or slide, and you'll get as smooth a surface as the support system allows.

As I said, I haven't actually done it, but there are a lot of write-ups etc. on the web, and possibly even YouTube videos (I haven't looked).

Wealden, incidentally, make really great cutters, as many here will testify. I believe the key thing about surfacing cutters, like the one I linked to, is the rounded edge to the cutter - reduces or prevents tramlines. I've used mine for cutting tenon faces, for which it's overkill (and you still need to square off the shoulders afterwards), but I can confirm it leaves a great finish.

Have fun!

E.
 

DrPhill

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Eric The Viking":3kh95zrw said:
You can use a router for 'planing' but not quite in the way you think. I've never done it, but I do have the preferred cutter from Wealden though. Basically, you set up parallel straight edges either side of the workpiece on the bench and use the fence bars (or long versions of them!) to support the router to slide along the straight edges. Moving it along its fence bars gives you the other axis. It's important to support the wood (workpiece) so it cannot rock or slide, and you'll get as smooth a surface as the support system allows.

As I said, I haven't actually done it, but there are a lot of write-ups etc. on the web, and possibly even YouTube videos (I haven't looked).

Wealden, incidentally, make really great cutters, as many here will testify. I believe the key thing about surfacing cutters, like the one I linked to, is the rounded edge to the cutter - reduces or prevents tramlines. I've used mine for cutting tenon faces, for which it's overkill (and you still need to square off the shoulders afterwards), but I can confirm it leaves a great finish.

Have fun!

E.
Nice router bit, shame its 1/2" shank...... The method you describe is similar to what I envisaged - I will need to check the fence bars to see how much width they will give.
I will loose the width of the base of the router. Imobilising the work piece is a simple problem to solve if I plan ahead - for the long whistle box I left a couple inches extra either end for screw holes. Wastes a little wood, but makes clamping so much easier.
 

Eric The Viking

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There's also this one (sometimes Wealden's taxonomy is a bit odd!). Being three-wing the finish wouldn't be as good, but it is available in 1/4" shank.

It's worth pointing out though that it'll be a bit like a rebate cutter - because of the diameter it'll put quite a load on the shank and collet of the router. You'd be far better off with an 8mm equivalent if you can find one and you can get a collet for your router. The extra diameter makes quite a bit of difference.
 

DrPhill

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Eric The Viking":kr1s38x7 said:
There's also this one (sometimes Wealden's taxonomy is a bit odd!). Being three-wing the finish wouldn't be as good, but it is available in 1/4" shank.

It's worth pointing out though that it'll be a bit like a rebate cutter - because of the diameter it'll put quite a load on the shank and collet of the router. You'd be far better off with an 8mm equivalent if you can find one and you can get a collet for your router. The extra diameter makes quite a bit of difference.
[edit]That cutter looks reasonable - thanks. I will store the link for future reference.[/edit]

My router came with an extra collet - maybe it is an 8mm one. I will need to check.

As for a slightly rough finish, well I have a sander, and I can aim for my first attempt to look 'rustic'. Major on exposing the beauty of the grain and getting a mirror polish, even if not entirely flat....
 
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