Friday, March 21, 2014

Did I Mention..........SAWMILL?

Yep, gotta go with the old standby - cottonwood. The thing is I have lots of cottonwood slabs, but cut them all too thick in order to leave some "wiggle room" when working with them. To top that off, widths also vary, so they needed to be trimmed in order for four of them glued up to make a nice 3' wide by 4' long tabletop. Easier said than done.

Cutting with the chainsaw was problematic because no matter how hard I tried, my accuracy just flat out sucked! The next best thing is, of course, is the router planer even though it is very labor and time intensive. I need to keep telling myself the results are usually worth the effort, but it takes an awful lot of convincing just to get started..

First step: Set the slab on its side to try to plane it down for jointing. There's about 2 1/2" to 3" of excess that needs to come off on one end. The rest kind of tapers off almost to nil. Shouldn't be too hard or take too long, should it?

Well, yes, it will (both be too hard - at least on the router - and take too long). That's really way too much for the router to handle. I mean, it can be done, but it's really hard on both the router and me. Next best thing (I hope) is to use the angle grinder with a grinding disc (Harbor Freight) to try to get a rough "plane" down to a line drawn on the side of the slab.

That actually worked pretty well as can be seen in the photo below. All that's left is to "smooth" plane with the router.

Finished one edge. In order to keep the slab steady, a prop had to be butted up against it on one side. A 6" x 6" landscaping timber cut to length and clamped to the table worked really well.

Now it's a simple matter of flipping the slab, securing it and doing the same planing on the other side.

Getting the thickness down to a manageable level for the router planer is another story. This slab was around 7" thick to begin with. Not only would that take forever with the planer, but it would be awfully hard on my already aching back (just thinking about it).

Again, the angle grinder came to mind. Scribing a thickness line along one of the finished edges gave me a depth to shoot for when grinding. Doing this involves simply eye-balling the edge and the surface to be planed to determine which edge would be best for stock removal. Once that's done, it's easy to put a long straight edge on the side and use a magic marker to draw the line.

Grinding it down is really not that hard to do - it just takes quite awhile to do it. This time I used a little chainsaw wheel called Lancelot (can be purchased at Harbor Freight and is actually made in the USA) on the angle grinder. This wheel can really mess you up if you don't take proper safety precautions. I remember on Extreme Home Makeover when the guy from Britain (can't remember his name) was using one of these to cup out the seat in a chair he was working on. Problem was he had taken the guard off the grinder, it kicked and pretty much took half his hand off in the process. Leave the damn guard ON! Wear proper eye, hand, dust, and ear protection. And, above all else, keep the work area clear of obstructions. Nuff said on safety.

This thing does take awhile to learn how to use. I found it can be used much like a grinding wheel can be used. Or, it can be used like a saw combined with a cupping motion for really great stock removal (and it stays sharp a really, really long time, too).

I am wearing a protective apron in the photos and video below which some might consider to be a hazard of sorts. I agree it can be a hazard if left too loosely tied. I tried to make sure it fit snug around my rather larger than I'd like it to be waist. That pretty much took care of keeping it away from the spinning tool.

A short video to give a little perspective on how the grinding works for those who might be interested.

That's it for now. See you next time.