Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Practical Woodworking Day 2

After our first day of learning, watching, and listening, we arrived at day 2, ready to use some machines and tools! As I mentioned yesterday, we were each given our three rough wood boards and asked to plan which board would be used for each part of our table. Now it was time to take that rough wood and start forming it into the parts we had designated. This is when I get nervous. I am a great planner but when I have to execute, my nerves kick in knowing I have the potential to mess it all up. But, alas, I survived day 2 without completely botching anything.
I can credit the teachers here, mostly, for that. They spend time at the start of the day going through the processes you will carry out throughout the day so you can see how it's done correctly. From there, they released us to begin work and creation. There are four teachers are around and ready to walk/talk you through each step along the way so people like me don't second guess myself and ruin something. As you can see, in almost every picture in this post, there is a teacher with us making sure we are comfortable and understanding what is going on and why.

I had a great time with jointers. If you don't know what a jointer is (because I sure didn't before this week), it is a long, narrow table with a rotating blade in the middle that flattens and smooths the surfaces of the wood as you run the pieces over it. The fence along the back is perpendicular to the table so it can create right-angled cuts. The most challenging part of learning to use new machines like this was remembering that the grain means so much. Looking and feeling which way the grain runs and making sure you run the board with the grain will give you a smooth surface. Consequently, running it against the grain will tear it up and leave grooves and texture. This rule is particularly important for the jointers and the planers. Keeping safety in mind at all times, we are all wearing protective glasses and, in this case, I am using handled pads to push the board through the jointer as to avoid anything happening to my hands because, after all, I do need them to teach student's math on my off days.

To the left, Steve and I are learning the ways of the planer from Rob. On the cart, you can see that we both had spent the morning cutting one of our boards into eight legs (which will be glued together eventually to make four). Using the jointer to make a flat working edge, we used the fences on the table saws and jointers to make perfectly flat, squared legs. The planer was our final step to making sure the face sides were parallel. The planer pushes the pieces of wood against the flat, metal table (which worked perfectly since we had jointed a face side to be flat and smooth already) and, using powerful rollers, pulls the wood through where a rotating blade at the top levels and smooths the top face of leg. We marked each end of the legs as they came through the planer so that we could remember which way the grain went in case we had to put it through more than once (which, of course, we did).

Because the surface of our table is wider than the width of one of our boards, we have to combine two. Here, I am using a router and a sled table to smooth one side of one of my boards. Ordinarily, I could just run it through the jointer but, this board was more than 8" in width and the shop doesn't have any jointers exceeding 8" so, I had to tackle another method. Using the sled that the router is on, cooped with the fact that when Rob and Jeff made the table they made it perfectly straight and flat, I ran it back and forth over the board and it cut a straight, smooth face on my board.
The second method for dealing with a board greater than 8" in width would have been to rip it into two pieces, use the jointer like I did for the legs, and then glue those pieces back together. I considered that option except that my board didn't have any really straight grain to rip along so it could have been messy.
Here, Eoin is teaching us about biscuits. Biscuits are used to make sure that two pieces stay level and in the correct position when they are glued together. As I said before, our table tops require us to glue two of our boards together in order to make it a reasonable width so, we will be using biscuits to hold them together. Biscuits look a lot like small, flattened wooden footballs that slide into notches that we cut into the edge of the boards. Because it's tough to describe in words, I will be sure to snag some photos today of what exactly a biscuit looks like. But, paired with some wood glue, they will be sure to keep our table tops level and bonded strongly (which is just what I need to hold my obese cat when the decides to make a home on top of this table).

Eight hours flew by and I found myself with nearly completed legs and a smooth, squared table top ready for some biscuits! At the end of the day, with the ring of the "clean up time" bell, we all grabbed brooms and brushes to tidy up the shop. It's much easier to come in in the morning to get started in a shop where the table tops aren't coated in dust and the floors aren't riddled with piles of shavings. Today, I will get up close and personal with the biscuits as well as finish up the legs. We are getting closer and closer to a room full of completed tables!

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