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Working with Sapele..

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HomeyJay

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I’m trying to cut Sapele to a thickness of 5 to 6mm strips but just can’t seem to get a decent straight edge to any of it. I’m using a 60 tooth Freud blade on a Bosch Pro saw but this is the first time I’ve tried to use Sapele at this thickness. Is this wood hard to cut into thin strips?
The strips are going into chopping boards for the family as Xmas presents so they need to be accurately cut to avoid visible gaps!
 

memzey

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Opinions from others may vary but I find Sapele can be an awkward pipper to work. Not so much with regards to machining or hand planing, as techniques can be employed to get good results rather, it’s whenever I have to pare with a chisel that the interlocked grain can become a real nuisance - such as on the dovetails for this little cabinet:



They were a pig to get right.
Much easier to surface, thickness and joint and no problems dimensioning with a table saw though. I also made a Sapele chopping board for Mrs. memzey a while back and it behaved itself impeccably:


Can you describe the problems you are having a bit more clearly so we can try to help you diagnose what’s going on please?
 

HomeyJay

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Thanks for that. The chopping boards that I’m trying to make are a central slab of walnut and two sides of London Plane. These are separated by two thin strips of Sapele that are 6mm wide. Everything is 37mm thick.
The issue is that while the LP and Walnut have razor sharp and straight edges, the Sapele just isn’t that straight so when held up to, say, the walnut, small gaps are visible here and there where the Sapele edge doesn’t follow the walnut. The gaps are not huge - less than .5mm, but still visible and annoying!
Do you think .5mm is an acceptable tolerance for work like this? I’m really not sure!

I’ve recut the Sapele again and again but when it’s cut this thin, the edge is pretty dodgy. Strangely, it’s absolutely fine when cut thicker!
 

whiskywill

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Can't help with why you don't have a straight edge but can help otherwise. I have a drum sander which can finish the strips accurately to whatever thickness you want. I live about 15 miles outside Cardiff but am at work in Splott every week day.
 

memzey

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Seems like you might just need to joint the edges with a suitable hand plane before glueing them. All the edges on the end grain chopping board I show above were finished by hand using a No. 7. Tricky with stock that’s only 1/4” thick though. Might be best to shoot one edge on a shooting board to give yourself a reference face first and then thickness/joint the other face down to your desired line, with your reference face against the bench.

Whether .5mm is acceptable is entirely up to you. I didn’t want to accept any gaps for fear of food waste getting trapped and going off but you may think that is overkill for your application.
 

HomeyJay

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At the risk of looking like an 1diot, what’s a “shooting board”?
 

sunnybob

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you tube is your friend here. Theres a million shooting board vids.

To get thin strips really flat, I use a router sled.
Again, you tube will explain. =D>

Memzey, winter is here! I'm wearing clothes!
Sorry, back to the main question :roll: =D> 8)
 

Trainee neophyte

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sunnybob":3cff1sjh said:
Memzey, winter is here! I'm wearing clothes!
Sorry, back to the main question :roll: =D> 8)
Down to 25° during the day here, with lowest temp of 13° this morning. I'm itching to light the fire, but it's just too warm still :-( House refuses to cool below 22 ° - just not fair.

Maybe when the rain turns up on Thursday...
 

Adam9453

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We’d generally machine them oversize then drum sand them down to the final size. It’s quite an open grained timber so can be a pig to get a nice finish off the plane let alone the saw.
 

profchris

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I get a decent surface with a hand plane on sapele, though planing can sometimes produce a little tearout without using a close set cap iron.

One way to get nice even strips is to take a piece of flat board, say MDF, and glue 6mm thick strips of wood or plastic either side of the piece you are thicknessing and a stop around 4mm thick at one end. Then hold your plane at an angle, heel resting on one strip and toe on the other. Plane until it stops cutting and you have 6mm.

On a musical instrument a 0.1mm gap can look enormous, so I'm aiming for better than that. Not saying I succeed, but I can get close.
 
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