One of the first things I did with my table saw was to create some cutting/bread boards and coasters, mainly to practice cutting. It was also a good opportunity to christen some of my other tools as I started to kit out my workshop in the old house.
[Images originally taken in 2015 in my old house when I was just starting out. I didn’t have the knowledge I do now, nor the tools or a website.]
By this point I had a zero clearance insert but had yet to change (upgrade) the blade. Still, it worked nicely. I had some rough cut oak and mahogany to play with.
I’d decided on an arbitrary width of strip and began to cut these down to size. I liked the idea of the MicroJig at the time so it was a good time to try these out. Below, I was using an offcut from the old house’s downstairs kitchen as a worktop, using an old table as a base. It was very rotten and rickety in places so I reinforced it and replaced the top. This later had wheels added and became my lathe.
Having got my eye in and run out of the oak, I used some walnut and another contrasting wood (I forget its name). It was then time to glue these up but I didn’t have any fancy clamps or jigs at the time.
So I had to improvise. Tip: this way works fine but put cling film or some plastic between the wood holding the glued parts together so as to avoid tear-out later.
More clamp improvisation…
The thickness and clamping allowed for the boards to stay flat.
Even then, there was some tear-out. Fortunately the wood used to aid the clamping was the one that stuck on and split!
A quick scrape and sand with the random orbital sander and a coarse grit.
I used these Benchdog Bench Cookies for the first time. They really helped to stop the piece moving around and reduce the vibration.
With the faces reasonably flat, I cut the ends square to the sides. It was here that I wish I had bothered to do the glue-up properly as the sides were not square to the fence – the clamping succeeded in turning the board into a slight barrel shape, but this wasn’t visible by eye.
I had missed that the stock I used was not perfectly square, so there was a recess to the bottom left which I later planed out.
Some food-safe mineral oil really brought out the flecks of the grain.
With the others dried, it was time to sand and prepare the rest.
I learnt a lot more about the random orbital sander here – spot the tell-tale small circles on the close up below. I sanded these off eventually and haven’t made the same mistake since!
I then cut the above one into strips such that the strips were as wide as they were tall. I then flipped alternate strips to give a chequered pattern. Unfortunately I dropped one and it snapped. Rather than gluing this up, I just cut down on the number of strips to use. This was then glued carefully so the clamps don’t split the recently glued parts at the interface.
This was my first real go at using the planer/thicknesser. It saved a lot of sanding but I didn’t have the correct sized hose attachment to catch the dust. Fortunately the big bag helped but it still made a mess. I had bought this on eBay, it came with spare blades, a setting jig and everything except a crank to raise/lower the thicknesser. I used a spanner until I was able to buy a replacement from the manufacturer. They were surprisingly accommodating and the whole thing (including postage) was about £6.
I was very impressed with the way it came out. It didn’t need sanding but I touched it up a bit to make it that bit more tactile.
However, on the smaller boards, some snipe was apparent. I soon knew to feed sacrifical boards in before and after, or just to sand/plane this off by hand. By now I had bought a new saw blade (thin kerf) and the difference was immediately obvious.
I wasn’t sure what to do with a board this long, so I decided to cut it into three.
The coasters were made in the same way and were much easier. I used offcuts from its parent board for this.
Over to the (also second hand from eBay) router table (the second hand from eBay router has a broken plunge lock on one side so it was ideal to fit to the router table) and a small round-over bit.
I used backing boards and routed across the grain first so as to clean up any splits on the long grain side afterwards.
I still couldn’t find an adaptor to suit, so I just taped the two ends together. The diameters were the same but the plastic was solid enough to cope. I filled the cyclone twice in the second planing operation!
A couple of coats of food-safe mineral oil later…
Here’s another few pics of some boards and coasters in the making:
With this one, I used sash clamps to glue the strips together.
I could perhaps have put two or three in one but since they weren’t identically sized due to variations in glue, this may not have been effective at closing all the gaps.
In some of the squeezed out glue, I rubbed in some sawdust.
I separated the layers with some plastic before clamping from all three directions using the vice and some other clamps. This worked very well and the plastic facilitated this.
With some of the spare strips I made some larger boards to try to replicate the chequerboard pattern.
These boards are a mixture of woods (oak, sapele, ash, cherry, beech and mahogany).
This board is made from cherry and sapele.
Here’s how one of them turned out:
This was finished with food safe mineral oil and was a gift to my best friend and his girlfriend when we stayed with them. The other one was not as successful, despite having better looking grain. Unfortunately there was a small disconnect in the middle squares which has been niggling away at me for months. Come Christmas 2017 – in a new house and a partially assembled workshop – it was time to remedy this.
I cut it down the middle, the kerf of the blade rectifying the mistake nicely. I then set the fence smaller and cut each half such that the middle row of squares were the same size as each other. Using a leftover bit of walnut, I glued this in.
It was then planed using a low angle block plane for the first time.
After re-sanding the old finish away and some glue residue, I was delighted with how it was turning out.
Back to the table saw to trim the ends.
It was then back to the router table to re-round all of the edges…
… before the food-safe mineral oil came out again.
This became a lovely Christmas gift and part of me wishes I’d kept it for myself! There were many learning points along the way and I’m glad I used my skills to revisit this and rectify it. Once the workshop is finally set up again I will be able to set up more of a production line and try all sorts of combinations out.