Help salvage this mess...

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I'm making a chess board out of multiple strips of wood. Conventional wisdom says use nine strips of each color, rip into strips, slide, then cut off the extra squares on the ends.
I just figured out the hard way why conventional wisdom says that. I tried to save material, and thought I was being clever. I cut them a little long, glued them up, then cut them into checkered strips of the proper width, and rotated every other one 180 degrees. I have a nice looking board with a lot of potential, but now I have to get myself around a couple of thorny problems:
1) the squares aren't all flat and level by a long shot, so the board needs a good deal of planing... having the grain all going the same way sure would have been handy... I think I'm probably doomed to face horrible tearout, though I haven't yet tried my luck.
2) the edges after the second glue-up are a little off. I whacked them against a straight edge before clamping, but there were minute variations, and when I put a piece of frame against those two edges, the little gaps stick out like a sore thumb.
For #1 I'm thinking maybe plane it anyway, get it flatish, then remove the tearout by renting a portable belt sander. Any better ideas?
I have a contemporary #4 that's my de facto scrub because it's better for ugly work than smoothing. I have a 1960-era #5 that can take a pretty thin shaving, but I don't think it's up to tackling this grain either. Could I do this with a scraper? Am I likely to get a scraper to work well enough to do this job with no previous experience using them? Or maybe try that router surface flattening jig?
My router is a piece of crap that will *not* hold a depth setting, so that complicates matters. It might be the best way to go, the more I think about it. I've proven to myself that while I think planes are fun to use, I really do absolutely *suck* at using them for anything more complicated than truing the edge of a board or planing a very narrow face. If it's wider than my plane iron, I'm going to fuck it up *horribly*. That's just a fact right now.
Dealing with #2 is quite thorny. Owing to minute variations between the two times I set my rip fence, even checking it myriad times and using both a combination square and a spacer block to ensure the same setting, the "squares" are all 1/64" wider than they are long. The extra size adds up to 1/8" of extra length on the board, and it's in the direction opposite the rough edges. This means if I trim the edges to even them out the board will become even more rectangular than it already is.
I could trim, say, 1/16" all the way around the board, I guess. It might not be too obvious. Another idea is to attempt to put a tiny overhang on the frame members so that they cover 1/16" of the board and hide the gaps. This again takes space away from the perimeter squares. Of more concern, I'm afraid of executing it poorly. I'm envisioning a small, thin overhang, and it would be exceedingly easy to break it off with whatever I use to craft it, whether it be the table saw, router, or chisels. Removing 1/16" from the board might be safer. Or maybe 1/32". I haven't actually measured to see just how small an amount I can remove. I could tolerate a tiny gap here, but the current gap is much too obvious. Planing all that endgrain is out because I don't have a block plane. The way they line up, it would be hard to plane anyway. It's like the edges of the boards weren't square going in, so there's a little triangular divot at every joint.
Well, anyway, there it is. I'm on my second attempt as it is, and I have four days tied up in this. I want to use this one if I can come up with a way to save it. If not, I can cut it back up and make more turning blanks out of it I guess. At least I took notes on what to avoid next time.
Learning is expensive, and time consuming.
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Hi Silvan,
IME, conventional methods of doing things usually become convention because they work.
I think a belt sander might be a bit brutal for what you want to do. I'd try a scraper and, if you don't have any joy, a ROS. Keep it moving.
For your second problem, I'd simply use a block plane on a shooting board to trim your edges.
HTH
Frank

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Frank McVey wrote:

Yeah, well... :)

Too much wood to remove for a ROS. It needs a lot of help. I figure after I plane it against the grain with my crap planes, I will need to remove another 1/16" to get the tearout. I got *bad* tearout on the maple planing it the wrong way under much more ideal circumstances than what I will face on this lumpy, off-kilter board.

Don't have a block plane... They're too far out of whack to plane anyway. Now that I've had another look, there are three blocks of strips that have slid out of alignment, and the squares don't line up.
This one might be cut up and glued into a turning blank after all.
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snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net says...

Maybe you could find someone with a drum sander? Don't sell a good ROS short, I've planed down panels with some pretty bad mis-alignments (back in my early days of woodworking mind you ;-) ). Just start with a fairly course grit. It may be painful, but will probably be less painful than having to deal with severe tearout.
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Mark & Juanita wrote:

Did I mention I don't *have* a good ROS? :)
Maybe I could rent one though.
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T. wrote:

Now we're talkin'! Level top with, um, 3D visual effects. "Gawwwleee, Mable, how'd he make it look like some o' them squares is more lower and slanteder than some others?"
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If you do start over here's a couple of suggestions which I learned the hard way. 1. If you have a crappy saw like I did, set the fence once and don't touch it. Rip your slats, glue them together, and then crosscut without moving the fence. This way you maximize the probability of the squares coming out actually square. 2. When you have the slats ripped, align them so all the pieces have the same uphill grain direction so that if (when) you need to plane the finished glue-up you're not planing against the grain on any piece.
Art

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Wood Butcher wrote:

What he said. :) I tried very hard to avoid having to move it, but I couldn't true up a rough edge after the first glue-up without my crosscut sled. I pretty much can't trust any type of crosscut unless it's stabilized by riding on both outside table edges and both miter slots simultaneously.

Figuring out which way is which is going to be a big part of my problem. I need to do more homework here to make sure I figure it out in a timely enough fashion. Some of these boards have swirly grain, so it's harder to pick one direction for the entire length and stick to it. I may have to make choices at the individual square level.
Or avoid planing it as a practical concesesion to the reality that I'm not very good with hand planes yet, and I don't have terribly good planes to use either.
Third time's the charm, right? :)
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I thought I'd run this idea by everyone. My made-from-strips board-making problems are largely with alignment issues in all three axes during glue-up. I took every possible precaution to cut and clamp these pieces well, but I have low-end equipment, and I just don't think I can do any better. I might salvage the most recent one, but I'd like to be uncompromising on this project, so I'm thinking hard about taking another fresh start.
So what I just tried out is the original tinker toy idea I was tossing around back when I asked for my initial advice on this. After doing three pieces, it _seems_ like it might work, but I thought I'd put it out for people to point out my obvious stupidity before I start to commit any more valuable wood to this endeavor.
1) clamp a stop block to my crosscut sled *securely*, maybe even screwing it down to be sure it never moves.
2) joint the edge of a board so that it's perfectly perpendicular to the face, and perfectly straight
2a) test and mark grain direction 2b) mark which face is up
3) cut off a small strip to get a straight edge
4) push to the stop, crosscut into strips
5) take the strips, rotate 90 degrees and push into the stop, effectively ripping like a crosscut
6) take the resulting squares to the DP, to a jig built to *just* hold a square
7) use the DP to drill four holes into every piece, keeping the same face out
8) stick dowels into all the little holes, and assemble like tinker toys, then surround with a frame
*IF* I get all the holes drilled perfectly, this will solve the alignment problems. If the two woods are of a slightly different thickness (and they will be), one face should still come out very close to being in the same plane. I could even drill the end-grain holes all the way through, and have long dowels that run through the entire piece.
Problems are:
* that's a hell of a lot of glue work to do in 15 minutes * if the holes don't come out perfect, everything will be out of whack * clamping from two different directions simultaneously while keeping everything *square*
Seems with all the parts interlocking, I could get away with light glue. Maybe just a few dots, which would speed up the spreading. Thoughts?
Other than the obvious "wow, that's a lot of work, why don't you just cut strips and follow conventional wisdom" type responses, does this sound plausible?
I already thought of doing alternating strips, then cutting into checkered strips and then running dowels through those. The problem is that my checkered strips are made of segments that aren't perfectly parallel to each other, making for an irregular distance from the fence or doweling jig. I could try planing the board after the first glue-up, but the last time I tried that, I wound up with a chucker. I'm hoping to minimize the amount of opportunity I have to screw up the board surface with my poor planing skill, and I want to do light planing only.
With so many interlocks, could I get by without clamping at all? I've got stuff I glued together without clamping that has lasted for years, and this doesn't have to take any weight. It *will* be the lid of a hinged box, if that makes any difference. Hinges attached to the surrounding frame. Not having to clamp would simplfy matters. Seems like this thing might hold together fairly well with no glue at all. Especially if I put two dowels into every side of every square.
64 squares * 8 dowels = 512 alignment pegs minus ((8 * 4) * 2 = 64) for edge pieces = 448 dowels. Probably want to buy ready-made dowels for that, but with 448 dowels holding everything together, the glue wouldn't have to be very strong.
OK, I'm babbling now. How *else* could I ensure proper alignment in all three axes when careful cutting and careful clamping aren't doing it? The bottom line is that the pieces are coming off the saw parllel to each other, but not perpendicular to the earth. They're ever so slightly slanted //// so they squeeze into funny shapes under pressure. When I tried jointing them with a plane, I just made every strip a different width, which resulted in a total ruin. I have to glue them straight off the saw, or not do this at all, so I have to live with and compensate for the minute slant. I can't get my TS to behave any better than this. This is all a Skil 3400 is good for.
Blah blah blah... Sorry. Thinking as much to myself as asking questions. Writing helps me think.
I've about convinced myself to try it anyway, FWIW. What the hell. I already have $40 worth of future turning blanks. May as well make this the most obscenely expensive simple chess box the world has ever seen and go in for another $20 or so.
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I think you are making this much more difficult than necessary. I would never attempt to do a 3 axis glue up like you are talking about. See my response to your other thread for 2 suggestions. Here's a few more. 1. See Rogowski's article on gluing up tabletops in FWW #166 Dec'03. What you will be doing is building a miniature tabletop. Adapt his method of using the jointer to your tablesaw. Substitute your tabletop for the jointers fence and your saw blade for the jointers knives. 2. Use cauls during the glue up to keep the top as aligned and flat as possible. 3. When dry repeat steps 1&2 for the crosscuts.
Art

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Wood Butcher wrote:

I've thought it further. One dowel per side, glue checkered strips together, then glue checkered strips into a board with the long-grain dowels going all the way through. It will work, and it will keep everything from wiggling.
Most critically at this point, it can give me just barely, barely, enough wood to finish this stupid #$^@#^ thing without *another* trip to buy wood, because I can use up some short pieces that aren't long enough for another set of 18" wide strips. I've already paid for two scrap boards, plus all the left-over that I couldn't use, and my budget for this box is shot to hell.
I think for _next_ time, I'll try putting maybe three dowels into the strips. I didn't do dowels originally because of problems getting them centered _precisely_ on the line. Solution is to clamp two strips securely, drill holes in both, remove one, clamp another, repeat. That way every piece is guaranteed to line up with its neighbor, even if there are other problems. Three dowels will probably hold everything well enough to avoid glue sliding problems.

I'll look for it. Is that one in stores now?

I did. I guess that's what you'd call it anyway. Piece of plywood on top, with a piece of railroad track on top of that. Yes, my workbench top is flat too, so it seems like that should have worked a lot better than it did.
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The way I'd do it would be to keep it in strips. Glue up alternating light/dark strips say 2" wide. Then when they dry cut into 2" strips across the colors. Turn each strip 180 degrees to make a checkerboard pattern and reglue those strips back together.
On Sun, 16 Nov 2003 21:38:42 -0500, Silvan

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I would definitely just trim the edge to straighten the pieces out. I don't think 1/16" will be noticeable with or without a piece sitting on the edge squares. To level the board you could take it to any cabinet shop and they can use their thickness sander to level the top. Shouldn't cost you much at all and it sounds like just a couple of passes will level it.
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Larry C in Auburn, WA wrote:

Hmmm... Sounds appealing, but I'm not aware of any cabinet shops hereabouts.
Is that one of those gigantic things with belts 36" wide? They have one at the factory in Asheville. Maybe I can find a way to get down there this week.
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T. wrote:

I hope so. I'm trying to do it right this time. I just finished writing out three pages of notes so I can look back and avoid doing stupid things next time. :)
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On Sun, 16 Nov 2003 19:53:47 -0500, Silvan

ya anywhere near wake forest? i got a decent 4 x 24 belt sander you could use. you buy the belts. skeez
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snipped-for-privacy@home.com wrote:

I might be going to Raleigh later this week. We'll see what I come up with between then and now. I appreciate the offer!
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In case you do start again, I have a couple (more) tips to help avoid the problems you're facing now. I am just finishing a chess board using pretty much the same procedure you are. In conflict with conventional wisdom (and directions on the bottle) I didn't clamp my board either time I glued it. Instead, I put a sheet of wax paper on a large flat surface. Then, I put glue on the edges of the strips and put the edges together, then set the board on the wax paper with the good face down (playing side down). I held the strips together just with pressure from my hands, but I was also careful to press each strip down against the flat surface. I did that to ensure there would be no height differences between strips (takes care of #1). Overall, less than 5 minutes passed between the time the glue first touched the wood to the time I left it alone to dry. The second glue-up went the same way, but I also made sure the squares lined up, making perfectly aligned +es (should take care of #2 if your original strips were the same size). When all was said and done, the glue joints are plenty strong. They've held up to all the stress I've put on them as I've experimented with finishes. They were level enough that I easily corrected the small problems with a ROS. I think most of the uneven spots were from resawing the wood, not gluing, so if you use good flat wood to start with you should be fine.

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Jeremy Brown wrote:

Yup, that's what killed me I think, after doing little for the last 24 hours but mull this over in my head. Even though I didn't crank way down on the clamp, the clamping pressure slid everything out of whack. Could have maybe averted some of that with a few well-placed dowels.
Given my ability with hand planes, I need to keep this realistic, and the #2 attempt is so far off that there are places where I have to lower the entire surface evenly by 3/16" or more to compensate for problems. No chance of my getting that right. I could do various sanding options, but that wouldn't fix the fact that the entire board is skewed like this slightly / /, and I'd have to knock it apart and try to re-glue it no matter what.
So I'm going to chuck it in the scrap pile and figure out something to do with the wood later. These squares are about the right size for train wheels. I can also cut them into little blanks for little detail turnings for steam domes, smokestacks, etc. Nothing gets wasted at Chateau Silvan; not even f-ups.
I can only afford to do this one more time, so I'm going to do my ridiculous tinker toy idea. I think it will work. Buttloads of dowels, very little glue, no clamping.
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Silvan wrote:

Have you considered splines?
-- Mark
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