Thursday, February 28, 2013

Brown Oak Burl Wall Installation Part II

We have been hard at work on Brian's wall installation and I am here to update you on it's progress! 

Yesterday began with bone-making. The oak slab has a very obscure shape to it and one of it's features is that there is an almost spiral shaped portion arm out from the side. In order to keep that spiral piece strong enough as well as at the same level as the rest of the slab, we decided a bone was necessary. As you can see, each bone is unique in that Rob drew a few before picking the one he thought had the best shape and size to fit with the piece. Once he decided on his favorite, he traced it onto a piece of thick wood that would be cut into the bone. I asked Rob how he went about choosing the piece of wood he would use for the bone and he told me that although bones are a beautiful and function detail to add to a piece, he didn't want to choose a dark, contrasting color to take away from the natural color and detail of the wood. Then, he cut the traced shape out on the band saw and smoothed it's edges and curves. From there, he traced the cut bone onto the slab using a knife. This way, he would know precisely what to router out so the bone would fit tightly. In the photos, you can see the spiral-esque arm and where Rob decided to place the bone to keep it stable.

Now it was onto the plunge router. As you can see, Rob made a template so that the base of the router would have something to ride on for stability. He did three plunges, progressively getting deeper with each cut. He was watching the router bit closely and made sure it was directly lit so that he could see exactly what he was cutting. Rob was explaining to me that he would get as close to the knife trace marks as he could for the three cuts and then during the last cut he would run the router right up to the knife line. It was interesting to see how the router fell in sync with the knife cuts as it just flaked away the little slivers that were left. This made a perfect, clean routered-out space exactly the size of the bone.

Notice, he didn't cut through the slab; there is still some thickness of wood to serve as a shelf or base to glue the bone to. This way, the spiral arm will be pulled up to the same level as the rest of the slab when the bone is glued into place.

Now it was time to glue the bone in it's new fitted home. You can see the West System materials Rob used to make the epoxy resin concoction that he used to hold the bone in place. He smeared it into the routered hole as well as on the base of the bone. I noticed he was careful to make sure to use the right amount; thus avoiding the potential oozing factor. He taped around the hole in order to keep the resin from getting on the surface of the slab.

In order to fit this thick piece of wood into it's tightly-cut hole, we needed forced stronger than what our human muscles could provide. So, using two C-clamps, Rob slowly pushed the bone into the hole. He made sure to tighten the clamps at the same rate so that it lowered into the hole at the same angle on both sides. It's not pictured but, he also made sure to put a piece of wax paper and a caul between the clamp and the bone itself. This way, there would be no chance of a mark being left from the small circular pad on the clamp and/or any issues with resin squeezing out onto a place it shouldn't be. It was a tight fit and you could see the spiral arm slowly pull upwards to match the level of the rest of the slab. That is what I call a successful, functional, and class looking bone.
While the resin dried, I took a Dremel 200 series rotary tool with a felt tip to the edges of the slab. As I previously blogged, I spent a good portion of a day last week carefully removing the bark to expose the shapes of the natural edge. Now, I spent some time taking away any remaining fiber hairs and breaking sharp edges and corners. This way, when it hangs happily on the wall, Brian and his wife can touch it without any sharp protrusions. I have a good time working with the finest details of things so this was a great job for me to tackle.
Over night, the resin dried and the bone was successfully locked into place. Rob used a handsaw to cut off the excess thickness of the bone. Cooped with some hand planing and sanding, the bone was level with the surface of the slab.

As you can see in the photo below, now that it has been leveled, the bone looks so nice and natural holding the gap together. I think the tone of the wood is subtle but adds such an interesting detail. Kudos to Rob on a job well done!

The rest of the morning was a lot of quality time with the sanding machines. Starting with 80 grit and working our way through 120, 180, 220, and finally 320, we made sure any tear out or marks left behind from the belt sander were gone.

Since this slab will be a wall hanging, we want the surface to be free of marks so it can be admired. Furthermore, we want to make sure the surface is smooth so that the finishing materials dry evenly and cleanly. Man oh man, when we were done, the wood surface felt like marble.
Now, we are onto the final stages. I helped Rob lay the groundwork for mounting yesterday and then quickly set to work on beginning the finishing process! Because the natural color and patterns of this burl oak are so stunning, we didn't want to taint it with stain. In order to make sure it maintains it's color, we decided to use boiled linseed oil. I had a great time watching those natural colors pop. I was careful to make sure the oil covered every inch of the slab. Now, it will dry for a week before we begin to apply the protective coats of finish. I will be sure to keep you posted on the finishing and completion of Brian's wall installation. I am so anxious to see how it looks mounting on the wall!

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