A few years ago, while attending the AWFS (Association of Woodworking and Furnishing Suppliers) in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to take a short seminar from Michael Fortune. Those few hours changed the way I look at design. I knew a lot of makers have done curvilinear pieces, but it always seemed too difficult for a novice. Although, the class was more specific to steam bending, Fortune did get into laminate bending as well. That information along with what I've gleaned from David Marks of DIY Woodworks and from Marc Spagnuolo of The Woodwhisperer, demystified the procedure enough that I felt I could incorporate the technique into Gretchin's Cradle build.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I sacrificed board feet for spectacular grain pattern. This left me with a few options, of which I chose laminate bending for the trestle stand of the cradle. In the previous cradle post, I show the basic form that I'd come up with as my destination. The process of getting there is actually quite simple, although there are certain, key steps that made my heart stop along the way.
The first step was to get the form made. This was a simple matter of transferring the lines of the sketch onto a clean white sheet of paper and have it be a clean decisive line/curve. For this I used compasses, a straight edge and a French curve. I knew the thickness was to be 1 1/8", so the next step was to use a compass to make another line that distance parallel with the first line. I then cut took those and came up with the size of material I need to make my first plywood template. The template was squared on the tablesaw then the curves cut on the bandsaw and faired. Next up, I screwed another piece down to the template and used a pattern bit in my router table to flush trim that to the template and so on, until I had the thickness I need for the form. Since I wanted to help the outcome be symmetrical, I was going to be gluing up the width of two legs at once and then sawing them in half after the glue dried. I applied self adhesive cork to the inside of each side of the form to protect the wood and wrapped the entire thing with packing tape to allow the form to release when I was done with the glue up. Blocks were added to the top to help keep the form in position during the glue up.
Because I'm fortunate enough to have a drum sander, my approach to making laminates varies from the norm. Normally, you should joint the wood, resaw, joint, resaw, etc. I find I don't have anymore waste just by jointing the wood and setting the cut wide enough to compensate for the amount of sanding that will need to be done, which is about 1/16". To get the thickness I was shooting for, I ended up with 9 laminates just under an 1/8" thick after sanding off the saw marks
After a couple dry runs, I was finally ready for the real glue up. I was lucky enough to have Al Navas of Sandal-Woods in my corner via instant messaging on Facebook. This is the part that has the possibility of making your heart stop. Per Marc Spagnuolo's suggestion I used DAP Weldwood Plastic Resin Glue, which is a urea formaldehyde product (respirator required). Using warm water and my wife's good mixing cups (they're mine now...oops), I mixed up a batch that I thought would cover my needs. I had the clamps all ready to go and started pouring the mixture onto the laminates and rolling them out with a stainless steel roller. Almost to the end of the first set, is when my heart stopped and I realized I didn't quite have enough glue mixed up. This stuff has a long open time, but that didn't seem to make me feel any better. So, I hurriedly mixed more and finished up. I place the entire pack of laminates into the form and started cranking things down.
Here you can see how much better the second round of glue ups went than the first.
Yeah!!! I had my first leg out and, although it was covered in what seemed to be a very hard plastic, it didn't look bad! I glued the next one up the following night and then spent about a week cleaning them up. I didn't have near the mess on my hands on the second glue up. But, that IS how we learn. I cleaned both glue ups with my carbide and regular scrapers and my Stanley No. 80 Cabinet scraper.
If you decide to use this glue, be mindful that it fractures much like glass and leaves very sharp edges. I was quite bloody by the time I was done.
I apologize for the extremely long post. I try to keep them rather short, but a couple guys from the Woodtalk Online forum have expressed interest in copying the project, so I'm being much more detailed in my descriptions than I would normally. Please feel free to ask questions or comment on anything you see here. Thanks for stopping by!
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