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The Skill Gained from Doing it "The Hard Way"

The last few weeks have not been banner woodworking weeks for me. Not because of a lack of shop time…far from it. I have been furiously working to complete my Queen Anne Side Table. The less than stellar experience comes from my own mistakes. This has been a series of “nothing gone right” shop days. For those of you who watched my last podcast and raised their eyebrows at sheer board footage I went through to practice tapered turned legs you will know what I’m talking about. 12/4 stock is not cheap no matter what species you buy and considering that by the end of the build I had made 9 legs and gone through almost 24 board feet, my wallet was a wee bit lighter. Eventually when I had screwed up two of the Walnut legs I had to make the decision of whether to buy more 12/4 Walnut or glue together some thinner scraps to form the 2.5″ square legs. Obviously the cheaper method would be to laminate some new blanks but I was concerned about the appearance and lack of continuity to the over all piece. The reality however was that I just did not have the budget available to head up the Hearne Hardwoods and buy some more 12/4 stock at $9/board foot.

So I did it the hard way. There was no question that I would get the best color match doing it this way since I was essentially gluing up cutoffs from the original stock to make these 2 legs. The problem was that I only had thin strips about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick and would need anywhere from 6 to 10 laminations to make my 2.5″ square stock. This many laminations can be tough to get a good consistent grain pattern as well as add a lot of jointing and planing work (especially doing it by hand). Not to mention the difficulty of laminating so many pieces and keeping them in line so you don’t waste stock cleaning it up later.

In the end I feel I was able to get 2 good looking blanks with almost invisible glue lines. It helped that I used dark brown hide glue as well since it blended in with the Walnut very nicely. I knew that I would use these two legs at the back of the table so I wasn’t too concerned but I made sure to place the non laminated side forward when laying out for the turning. Once I have established the pommel and turned the lower portion of the leg, I stepped back to assess the look.

Laminated Leg Blank

Laminated Leg Blank

I am really happy with this as the turning blended the different strips together and you have to look really hard to pick out the glue lines. Moreover the color is consistent and the grain all flows nicely together. So really my point here is going through this exercise reaped a lot of benefits for me: it gave me even more planing practice as I flattened each face, more glue up practice as I laminated all the blanks and kept them in line, and design practice as I worked to unify the grain and piece them together.

It would have been a lot faster to buy some new stock, but in the long run the payoff for doing it the hard way far outweighs the time difference.

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