Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DAMN...Still Wishing

Yep - I'm still wishing I had a sawmill. As much as I love my router planer, it's still not as quick and efficient as a sawmill would be in planing down logs for use as tabletops.

From the last blog post, you can see there are two log slabs that need to be planed down to a 4" thickness to start (ultimately, the finished thickness will be 3"). In order to do that, the router planer has to be "modified" to accommodate their very large size (they're still 10' long overall).

If the planer were wider, it might be possible to do both log slabs at once, but not only is it not wide enough, but it would also be a killer on my back having to reach across both logs to plane off about 1/4" each pass. So, the decision was made to do one at a time (see photo below), and to take it a little easier on my poor, old achin' back in the process.

The rails on this setup are 15' long and consist of square steel 4"x 4". When the sled is set up on the rails, there is a lot of drag, so it isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but a little beeswax on the upper surface of the rails does help.


I originally cut the logs to 10' lengths in order to have a little wiggle room to play with since the final length is going to be 8'.

In looking at the log slabs, it became pretty obvious taking another 6" off on each end would not only save a little bit on lengthwise passes to be made, but would also decrease the weight of the slab and make it just a tad easier to manhandle.

The 4" inch thickness was marked using a felt tip magic marker to give me a stopping point on the first side to be planed.


The next step was to get the sled set up for "running". In order to do that, a spacer was placed between the rails and then pipe clamps were used to tighten it down. Not only does this provide an even length of run the entire length of the planer, but it also helps reduce "racking" of the sled itself since width of the rails is uniform.


Adjusting the height of the planer is relatively simple. I used 2"x 6" scraps and keep 3/4" x 6" scraps in reserve to use for increments as height needs to be reduced to accommodate the depth of router cuts.

The weight of the planer, itself, keeps it stable. I'd ratchet tie it down if there were any slippage at all, but there isn't, so on to the next step.


Adjusting the width of the sled is critical to the entire operation. Enclosed bearings allow the sled to "run" the outside edges of the rails also helping to reduce racking to almost non-existent motion. I'm thinking of maybe doing the same type of ball bearings on the underside of the sled in order to make it easier to slide when making cuts - haven't quite figured out how to do that, yet, though.


Setting the depth of cut for the router is also pretty simple. All I did was push the sled up against the thickest end of the slab and adjusted for an approximate 1/4" depth of cut - ready to rock n' roll!


After four passes, this is how the top of the slab looked. A long process, but getting there slowly.


Checking how close I am to being done with this side. Dang it! Still have a ways to go to get it down to 4"!



Oh, and the red grill you see in the photo below? That's the air filters that keep the airborne sawdust in the shop while I'm planing to a minimum. I used an old furnace motor to pull air through the filters and blow clean air out the other side. I was skeptical at first, but this thing works great!


Now we're talkin'! I'm done for the day! Even though the planing didn't quite take it down through the entire mark, this is close enough for now. DAMN! Am I ever tired! And SORE! Oh, my achin' back!


I guess more got taken off overall than I thought. That's a really nice flat edge to work with.

To start the other side, all I need to do is flip this one over. It won't even require any shims (did I forget to mention I had to shim the slab before starting in order to prevent it from wobbling during planing? Didn't think so, but shimming is required on the first cut almost every single time).


The deeper I got into the wood, the more the grain popped. There was even some spalting going on that you can't see in these two photos.



The last "to do" item for today is to flip this bugger over and take a looksee at what's in store for tomorrow.

Well, the sapwood is kind of punky in spots, but shouldn't be too much of a problem to grind off to get a nice natural edge. The heartwood is another matter entirely.

This is a Douglas Fir tree. In leaving it up by our barn in the sunshine to help it dry, ants got into it. You can see the vein where they attacked. It goes almost all the way through this slab. I guess it will need to be ground out and filled with something to finish it, but I ain't giving up on it! No way, no how!



You can also see how I "missed" the mark with my rip cut using the chainsaw. I just gotta get better at doing this - this is just frustrating, not because it affects the end result of the planing, but because I'm kind of anal when it comes to how things should be done.


The ants were driving me crazy the next day! Every time I made a pass with the sled, the router bit would uncover more of them. They'd climb out very slowly (this is winter time after all), and I'd have to smash them as they did (didn't want them to get into any of the other wood I have in the shop).

This kept going on and on, so I decided to grind out the heartwood with my electric long necked die grinder and cup rasp. Now I know what I'm facing when it comes time to fill this chasm - it is deep, that's for sure!


On a final note for this post, the stump I hope to use for pedestals for this table was just sitting there waiting for itself to get cut in half before the snow set in. My son, Bobby, has been after me to teach him how to use the chainsaw, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do just that. He's almost 18 and I've been putting it off long enough now (Mom and Dad concerned for his safety, don'tcha know).

The stump is an old root system taken from our property. Most of these stumps are chock full of resin, so they are very dense and the sawdust that comes out is very sticky.

After Bobby got all the appropriate safety gear on, and he'd been prepped in how to tighten the chain, check everything for safety (you know - like clearing an area around the stump, making sure he was working on a pretty level surface area, etc.), he was ready to go.


First cut - looking good!


Tip it upright to take a gander at it.




 Tip it back over on its side, and finish the cut all the way through.



And there you have it! He really did a nice job on this, especially for his first try at chainsawing.


Well, that's it for now. Next step is to finish planing the other side of the first slab. Once that's done, it's twin will be next. Until then......