RIPPING THE LEG STRIPS
With the bending jig all done, I actually started making the legs. The first step was to rip a number of thin strips from 6/4 (1-5/16” thick) cherry. After some experimenting, I discovered that I could bend an 1/8”-thick strip around the arc of the jig. Any thicker than that and it wouldn’t bend around the jig without breaking. Since the finished legs were to be 1” thick, that meant I needed 8 strips per leg, or 32 strips for all four legs.
My first thought was to rip the strips on the table saw or band saw a little too thick and then send them through the thickness planer to get them smooth and consistent. That didn’t work so well as the pieces were so thin, they started chipping out and shattering as they went through the planer. I tried the technique of fastening them down to a carrier board with double-sided tape. Even that didn’t work so well.
So I tried using one of Freud’s new “Glue Line Rip Blades” on my table saw. Then I just cut the strips to exactly 1/8” thick, see Fig. 11. The little green plastic piece behind the blade is a MJ Splitter from Micro Jig. It holds the kerf open after the cut. This technique worked great. The cut was so smooth that I could hardly see any saw marks on the wood and the pieces were a very consistent 1/8” thick.
I also used a push block from ShopNotes No. 1 that pushes the thin strips safely past the blade, see Fig. 12.
Note: There are a number of other ways and jigs to safely rip thin strips. See Ripping Thin Strips from ShopNotes No. 34.
Setting the rip fence to cut exactly 1/8”-thick strips took quite a bit of experimenting, but once I had it right on, I used my dial calipers to show that 8 of the strips put together would equal exactly 1” thick, see Fig. 13.
You will also notice in Fig. 13 above that I numbered each of the strips as they were cut. This helps keep the grain lines and color “close” when I glued them up. I say “close” here since I lost 1/8” of wood (the kerf cut) between each of the strips. Actually, that’s one thing that was hard for me to get used to. Since half of the wood ended up as sawdust (the kerf cut), I needed twice as much wood to make these legs as were actually in the legs! I couldn’t believe how much cherry I went through just to get these four little legs.
Also, while I had the saw set up, I cut four or five extra strips. I know from past experience, that having extras can really save you when one of your “good” pieces splits, chips, or there’s a knot or blemish.
Something needs to be said here also about the length of the leg strips. I measured the outside arc in the bending jig and added about 6” extra to that to be on the safe side. Then I wouldn’t have to align the pieces perfectly in the jig.
Before actually gluing up the pieces, I did a “test run” by trying to load them all in the jig and clamping it up dry. The first thing I discovered was that it would take some brute strength, dexterity, and about four hands to bend all 8 strips around the inner form and get them clamped in place. So I drilled a couple of holes in the base of the jig where I could temporarily insert some dowels that would hold the pieces roughly in position while clamping (you will see these dowels in an upcoming photo).
GLUING UP THE LEGS
Okay, here’s where things start getting really messy. To give me some extra assembly time, I used Franklin Titebond’s Extend Wood Glue. I laid out my pieces in order on the bench and applied glue on one side of each piece, see Fig. 14.
Then I grabbed all of the pieces up in their final position and stuck one end between the temporary dowel and the inner form, see Fig. 15. Next, I pulled the other end around the inner form and stuck another temporary dowel into the other end of the jig to hold the pieces roughly in position, see Fig. 16.
Next, I started adding the clamps, working from the center out to the ends. The glue on the pieces wanted to make them slip up and down a bit, but I tried to keep them down tight against the base of the jig using a mallet and block of wood, see Fig 17. I didn’t worry too much that they be were all at exactly the same height, as I knew I was going to do some planing later to produce the final width of the legs.
It really took a lot of pressure on the clamps to squeeze the two parts of the jig tightly together. More than my old, arthritic hands could muster. So I used a tip that I picked up quite awhile ago. I drilled a hole through the wooden handle in my clamps. Then I used an awl in the hole to get some extra leverage, see. Fig. 18. That was just about enough to squeeze the clamps tight and close up most of the gaps between the thin strips.
With all that glue, it takes quite a while for it to dry. So I waited 24 hours before removing each leg from the jig. (And, that meant it took four days to make all four leg blanks.)
Before I removed each blank from the jig, I labeled the “TOP” and “BOTTOM” of each leg as they started looking alike, see Fig. 19.
I considered hand planing the legs, but that seemed like a lot of work and chipout was likely. Since the bottom of each blank was fairly flat, I glanced over at my thickness planer and wondered if somehow or another I could just send each blank through there? Sure enough, I fed it through sort of wiggling it around the corner as it went, see Figs. 21 and 22. It was surprisingly easy and the surface was perfectly smooth. Then I flipped it over and took a pass on the other side.
Side Note: You might have noticed my 10” Ryobi Surface Planer. Yep, that’s one of the original models (vintage 1986?) that kind of changed the whole woodworking field when it brought the prices of planers down to something home hobbyists could handle. I bought this from Woodsmith when they were upgrading many years ago, and I’m still very happy with the quality of cut.
With all four leg blanks planed to final width, I sanded the inside and outside faces. Then I rounded over all four edges with an 1/8” roundover bit on my router table, see Fig. 23.