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Will Beemer demonstrating the locking dovetail prop.I discovered the Heartwood School while attending the recent NWA Saratoga Woodworkers Showcase and wrote about it in my April 3, 2011 Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletter. All I knew about the school at that time is what I had seen at the show and read on its website. I sent the owner, Will Beemer, a copy of my newsletter and he wrote back inviting me to an active class. I took Will up on his invitation and visited Heartwood School on June 23, a damp and rainy Thursday.


Shaping a tenon's seat with a spokeshave.Located in Washington, MA in the Berkshire mountains, Heartwood is run by Will and Michele Beemer. For the past 34 years Heartwood has been teaching students to design and build their own homes, mostly in timber frame construction.

Will has an extensive background in home design and construction, as well as teaching design and construction. He has taught at Cornell, Palomar College in San Diego and Colorado State University. He has written for Fine Homebuilding, Joiner’s Quarterly, Wood Design & Building, and Timber Framing. Michele is office manager, provides lunches for the students, is an on-site instructor and an author.

The first timber frame built by students houses the cafeteria, classroom, shop & library.Heartwood has a full range of courses in design and construction that run from April through October. Courses include energy efficiency techniques, fundamentals of woodworking, traditional cabinetmaking, building a workbench for woodworking, converting trees to timber and much more. They even teach SketchUp for timber frame designs.

My Visit

Checking the cut of an Eastern style tenon saw.Using my GPS I managed to find a small sign on a wooded road in Washington, MA. It said simply – Heartwood. I turned onto a paved and winding drive, which turned to a dirt drive that broke out into a clearing. The view reminded me of a childhood campground. Nestled in the woods to my left was a timber frame building with a sign over the door, once again announcing I had arrived at Heartwood. To my right were two long tents, open on all sides, like the tents used for a country fair. Under the tents, and protected from the rain, were eighteen students, an instructor and owner Will Beemer; all busily working away on 7” x 7” timber frame beams.

Tents set up to provide shelter from the rain.Trucks and cars were scattered everywhere, randomly parked under trees and I saw no defined parking area. As I sat there looking for a place to park my truck Will approached, introduced himself and welcomed me to Heartwood. He gave me a quick orientation introducing me to students, staff and showed me the shop, classrooms, library and kitchen. The latter rooms all resided in the timber frame building, which was the first building the students constructed when the school was opened in 1978. Will and Michele were not the owners at the time, though Will was an instructor. In 1985 they purchased Heartwood and have owned and operated it since.

"Get out of here with that camera so I can work!"Heartwood’s business model is simple and elegant. It brings together property owners who desire a timber frame home, barn, shop or other structure with students who wish to learn timber framing. Sometimes the owner and student are one in the same.

Everyone is busy but there is no panic. The raising is tomorrow.The first half of the business model is an owner who contracts with Heartwood to design, mill and erect a timber frame for about $30 a square foot. This includes frame only; finish materials, pre and post construction are the responsibility of the owner. If the owner’s site is more than 1.5 hours from Heartwood, trucking and other costs may be extra. Timber frame materials are rough cut Eastern White Pine, un-planed. Since Heartwood is a school for woodworkers and all work is done by the students, the owner must accept occasional constructions flaws, though Heartwood does its best to hide such mistakes. From my observation I doubt this is ever a real problem. The work I saw was top notch.

Now, that's a chisel!The second half of the business model is students. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and experience levels. Some have never held a woodworking tool before or never made a wood joint. Some are experienced woodworkers but who have no experience in timber framing. Many are hobbyists who want to build their own timber frame and attend the school to learn how. Still other are professional woodworkers or construction professionals who want to expand theirs skills and trade. I counted two women wielding chisel and mallet in this class of eighteen students.

Finished work ready to load on the trailer.Sometimes a class is held without a contracted owner. In that case a modest sized timber frame is crafted on speculation, though finding a buyer never seems to be a problem. The class I visited was building a studio for a contracted owner. Raising day was Friday, June 24th, the day after my visit. But there didn’t seem to be any schedule pressures, nervousness or frenzied activity. All seemed to be in control. There was a large stack of completed beams and the work-in-progress seemed near completion.

I believe this is a hand cut brace.My brother-in-law designed and built his own timber frame home and barn from hand hewn timbers. So I am familiar with the excitement of raising that these students had to look forward to. As I am writing this article on the 24th I am looking out the window at the rain coming down. Par for the course in the trades and a good lesson for the students.

Lots of mortises are needed for a timber frame construction.My primary interest in woodworking is furniture crafting. The interest I share with these students, however, is hand tools and joinery. The dovetails, mortise and tenons I use in my joinery are not all that different from those used in timber framing with the exception of size (I will post a follow-on article on one unique and interesting joint used by these students). Most of the joinery these students use are cut by hand with a combination of handsaw, chisel, mallet, spokeshave and drawknife. To be sure, those joints are larger than one would use in a furniture shop, but they are used in very similar ways.

How's that for a mortise bit?In my shop I use a power mortiser and I was surprised to see the timber framer’s equivalent sometimes used by the students. It is driven by electric motor and plunges in to the timber much like a plunge router would. However, instead of a square chisel and drill bit, the cutting blade is three – stacked side by side – chain saws. The beams used are 7” x 7” and the tenons are 1 ½” thick. So I suspect the chains are designed to be 1 ½” in width when stacked, and long tenons are formed with Looks like instruction on how to use the power mortiser.repeated plunges, though I failed to ask about this. A fence can be adjusted to place the tenon the appropriate distance in from the edge of the timber. It appeared to me that the “blade” could be plunged a little more than eight inches for a through mortise, or adjusted less deep for a stopped mortise.

The dovetailed tenon half of the locked mortise and tenon joint.Most of the mortises I saw were hand cut with a mallet and chisel. A couple of students were being instructed in the use of the power mortiser. So this may have been the one signal that the scheduled raising was requiring the use of more rapid methods, though once again I failed to enquire about this.

Friendly conversation over Michele's lunchtime meal.I was struck by the accuracy and smoothness of finish of the hand cut joints. Obviously not the kind of finish you would find in hand crafted furniture, but still I found myself needing to wipe my hand across the joints and marvel at the smoothness. I picked up a few tools and checked out the sharpness and found myself approving what my hand felt. As I studied the joinery I could see the light pencil lines that provided guidance for hand cuts. All in all I could relate to the work of the students and I even had a feeling of wanting to join in. That’s when Will came out of the timber frame building and yelled “Lunch”.

Lunchtime at Heartwood

Michele at work in her kitchen talking to the students.When Will invited me to visit he said I should plan to arrive at noon and join he and the students for lunch. I had read about Michele’s fine cooking on the Heartwood website and I was eager to sample the food. My eagerness was aided by the fact that I was just plain hungry. Hunger is a feeling I get if I spend too much time watching others hard at work. So I joined the rush to the dining room.

A 1 personpower drill press. Notice the dual crank.Dining at Heartwood is cafeteria style and all the food is home cooked. I had a soup, sandwich and crab salad. If you are a New Englander there are three chowders of choice: clam, seafood and corn. I love all three and I thoroughly enjoyed Michele’s corn chowder and crab salad.

Over lunch I talked to several students I The classroom is on the second floor across from the library.sat near. One was from a town not far from where I was born and raised and we shared news of that area. I learned that students stayed in B & Bs, hotels, friends homes or even commuted to Heartwood. Those I talked to came from all over New England and New York, though I suspect Heartwood draws from a much wider area as well.

The comfortable portion of the library. There are additional bookshelves out of view.After lunch I took more pictures, including the shop, library and classroom. The library has a wonderful collection of books on timber framing, general construction techniques, drawing, energy efficiency and many other home building related topics. If I go back to Heartwood I would like to spend some time in this library and get some titles for my own collection.

I said my goodbyes and thanked Will and Michele for the visit and lunch. I left feeling I had visited a woodworking school I could really enjoy and learn from. And I left with more questions than I had answers. So one day I hope to go back and talk with Will in more depth – and of course have another lunch.

Heartwood Update

I'm guessing this is a vertical support post with both mortise and tenon joinery.I spoke to Michele on Friday late. She and the class had just returned from the raising. All went well and the class finished the raising early afternoon. Though it rained in my area the rain held off at the building site. The raising marked the end of the class. Eighteen students were going home newly proficient in timber framing. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Vase & Flower - Sells For $27,000. Worth Every Penny!As a kind of annual spring trek my brother Clark and I visit the Woodworkers Showcase woodworking show presented by The Northeastern Woodworkers Association. It is held each year, usually the last weekend in March, at the City Center, Saratoga Springs, New York. Next year it will be March 31st and April 1st. Mark it on your calendar, because this show is the best woodworking show you will find.

Water Powered Woodshop Model, My Favorite.The show is not just for woodworkers, but anyone who appreciates art and fine craftsmanship. This year my daughter Summer, her husband James and James’ parents, Don and Ellen attended. None of them are woodworkers but they loved the furniture pieces, guitars, bowls and generally the artwork and craftsmanship.

Handcrafted Guitars - James Liked These.This year there were 40 free lectures and demonstrations ranging from hand carving to turning. I attended two 17th Century Carving lecture/demonstrations by Peter Follansbee ( and a turning demonstration by Lulia Chin Lee. There were numerous other lectures and demonstrations by Ernie Conover (planes and dovetails), Tom Wetzel (Windsor Chairs), Bob Van Dyke (mortise & tenons with a router), Bill Sterling (crafting acoustic guitars), Dave Mobley (inlays with a router), Chris Schwarz (tool chests), Lyle Jamieson (goblet turning), John Grossbohlin (the scrub plane), Chris Walker (marquetry the French technique), Sheila Bergner Landry (scrollsaw), Barbara Nottke (beginner’s scrolling), David Nittmann (airbrush color expression), Alan Craft (bandsaw setup and techniques) and yours truly (SketchUp).

I Can't Bring Myself To Eat Off These!Where Do You Get Figured Maple Like This?The majority of the displays are by hobbyist woodworkers. In fact the large display room is restricted to hobbyists. None of the woodworking displays are for sale, keeping that portion of the show a display only for art exhibition and appreciation. Professionals are relegated to a rather narrow and short display area called Featured Exhibit. This year’s featured exhibit was Grand Workbenches, although there were a couple of other pieces in that area. The makers of the benches each gave a one hour talk on their design and construction. Notable among them were Chris Schwarz and Lie-Nielsen.

The Sign Says It All.Patricia's Restored Desk With A Jeweler's Lathe On Top.Most pieces displayed at the Saratoga Showcase are of new or contemporary work. But at this year’s show there was a restoration project the caught my eye. It clearly has a story much deeper than the display can tell; a story of a love between a husband and wife.

Patricia Betterly, wife of Jack Betterly a jeweler, restored the roll top desk pictured in the poster shown left. The restored desk was on display shown right. It is one of the finest restorations I have ever seen. I was unable to look inside, but judging from the outside the amount of care and love put into this project was truly impressive.

_MG_1518This desk is apparently used daily in Jack’s shop for the repair and restoration of timepieces and jewelry. A close-up picture is shown at right. A small motor sits behind it and drives an adjustable pulley to control speed. The bed, headstock, rest and tailstock are like any you might see on a larger lathe. I would love to have seen what the turning tools look like. I was so curious that I went on-line and found a You Tube video on the basics of using a clockmaker/watchmaker/jeweler’s lathe. Apparently the motor is about 1/12 horsepower and the tools are a stubby version of those we woodworks use. Except for the size, this lathe would look right at home in my shop.

Good Night - Sleep Tight - Don't Let The Bed Bugs Bite!In addition to woodworking displays there is also a large room for tools, machine and materials exhibits and sales. Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley are always present as are many others. Hardwood suppliers are in attendance with some of the finest figured woods you can imagine.

A Tiger Maple Rock-A-Bye Baby.I never miss this show. Of all the shows I attend this is by far the best, especially the hobbyist’s pieces. Everything from chairs to lathe turned hats, period highboys to toys and musical instruments to benches are all on display; all crafted by some of this country’s best woodworkers.

Pure Artwork! Elegant And Beautiful.The setting is Saratoga Springs, a beautiful and small early colonial settlement. Saratoga played a major role in the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Saratoga sealed the fate of British General John Burgoyne’s army in the American Revolutionary War, and is generally regarded as a turning point in the war. Saratoga boasts the most beautiful and oldest race track in America and The Travers Stakes is the oldest thoroughbred horse race in America. Saratoga Springs is where President Ulysses S. Grant spent his final days while writing his memoirs and bathing in the springs to nurse his failing health. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is a cultural seasonal outdoor theatre that hosts summer theatre groups to pop artists. There are numerous and excellent restaurants and hotels in the city.

Now That's 3D!If you have never attended this show and live in the greater area make sure to see it next year. Even if you live a distance from Saratoga, NY, plan a vacation. Take in The Woodworkers Showcase along with a car tour of central to northern New England during sugaring season. I promise you won’t regret it. Let me know if you attend next year and would like to connect to talk all things woodworking.

A Bench To Die For.For more information on The Northeastern Woodworkers Association or the Woodworkers Showcase visit You might especially want to view the 2010 Showcase Winners at

For a complete set of show pictures click here.

Note: All pictures in this post were taken by me and are of pieces on display at Woodworkers Showcase 2011. None are my pieces. However, I did examine them critically and can vouch for their excellent craftsmanship.

Finished Panels With 3 Coats Of Wipe-On-Poly Picking up from where I left off in Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 1, I finished all five panels. Three panels will be framed in the headboard and two in the footboard. Just like panels in frame-and-panel construction you must add a few coats of finish to the panels before encasing them in their frame. If this step is skipped unsightly unfinished edges are visible as the panel expands/contracts through seasonal changes.

Trundle Bed Shown With The Trundle Out The next step in Trundle Bed Crafting is to tackle the swan necks that top the headboard. I began by printing out a full scale SketchUp drawing of one swan neck. They are mirror images of each other so all I need is one paper template. However, the swan necks are constructed with two layers glued together and the result is a 3 1/4” piece of stock. Since I need to shape four pieces, all with the same top curve, two of them share the same bottom curve, and two have a bottom curve that is 3/4” away from and smaller than the other two, I decided to make one hardwood template. Using the paper template I traced it onto 3/4” thick cherry stock being careful to arrange the grain for best strength. I rough cut the template on the band saw and completed the shaping on the edge sander.

Completed Swan Neck Cherry Template The completed cherry template, shown left, will be used in a series of steps with template router bits. The Swan Neck presents a number of interesting challenges for the woodworker. The first one is its thickness. The Swan Neck is 3 1/4” total thickness made of a sandwich of a 2 1/4” back and 1” front. I designed it as a sandwich to make shaping easier and doable with my current collection of shaper and router bits. But even the back is wider than my longest 2” template bit.

The Cherry Template Is Traced On 2 1/4" Thick Stock Fortunately I have two 2” template bits; one with a bottom bearing and one with a top bearing. So I used a three step procedure to shape the Swan Neck backs. I traced the cherry template on 2 1/4” stock. I needed two of them and they need to be mirror images which was simply a matter of flipping the cherry template.

Rough Cutting The Thick Back On The Band Saw The first step in this three step procedure is to rough cut the thick Swan Neck back on the band saw. My band saw had a 1 1/4” re-saw blade mounted in it and I should have replaced it with one much narrower allowing me to follow the curves smoothly. But being lazy I simply hacked away at the stock with the re-saw blade. You can see the resulting burn marks created by a 1 1/4” blade struggling to follow comparatively sharp curves. But with no damage to the blade I was able to cut to within 1/8” of the outline making the job for the template router bit minimal. When I was done I had Side A and Side B of the Swan Neck back and the template.

Shaping All But Top 3/4" Of Swan Neck With Bottom Bearing Template Bit The second step in this three step process it to attach the template to the appropriate side of the one of the Swan Neck backs. Appropriate side means keeping the side labels matched, for example Side A facing up on both, but with the template on the bottom. I attached the cherry template to the Swan Neck back using double sided sticky tape (carpet tape). In this step I use the bottom bearing template bit and with the template as a guide and shape all but about 3/4” of the Swan Neck as shown at right.

Complete Shaping With Top Bearing Bit In the third step of this process I replace the bottom bearing template bit with a top bearing template bit, remove the cherry template, turn the Swan Neck over and use its partially shaped surface as a template. See the picture at left. I have to use this three step process on both Swan Neck backs. But I am not done; I still need to shape the Swan Neck fronts. However, they are only 1” thick and only require rough cutting and one template bit. But there are still some tricks that need to be employed to complete the Swan Necks as you will see in Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 3.

Note: Chiefwoodworker Newsletter recipients received an early version of this review. Since then I have had a chance to do some real work with this machine and have added some new comments and adjusted old comments to reflect that experience. You may wish to reread it.

Fully Assembled G0512 Edge Sander With Shop Fox Base Some of you may recall I have a Grizzly 8” Jointer and wrote a not so glowing review of it on my website. My brother recently bought a Grizzly lathe and it is a honey. So, when I decided to purchase an edge sander I decided to give Grizzly another chance and purchased the model G0512. It arrived on September 8 and this is a chronicle of my experience.

Events did not start well. The unit was delivered by UPS. The driver parked at the bottom of my driveway and phoned to ask I come and receive the unit. This was not a surprise. Grizzly warns you during delivery scheduling (via phone) that the truck is a tractor/trailer and may not have a lift. Further, my driveway is very long with low power lines crossing it. What was a surprise was the condition of the box. There were two large holes clearly made by a fork lift. The UPS driver told me they existed when he picked the box up at the Grizzly facility. I believe him because the only fork lift he had was a manual one. To create these holes you would have had to use a powered fork lift (or intentionally rammed the box multiple times with the manual fork lift). I insisted he accompany me to my shop, help me unload the sander and open the box to inspect every piece for damage or scratches. After careful inspection there appeared to be no damage and I signed the delivery form.

Shop Fox Base Is Too Large And Difficult To Modify In addition to the G0512 Edge Sander I ordered the companion base. The base turned out to be an adjustable base made by Shop Fox. Its minimum dimension in the short side is 18 ½”. The G0512 base is 15” wide in the minimum dimension leaving a 3 ½” gap. To fix this I contemplated cutting 3 ½” off the metal rails or putting a platform in the base and living with it. Cutting 3 1/2” off the rail was not an option because the gap between the feet was about 1 1/2”, making the feet still 2” too wide. I chose the platform option for now. You can see the gap in the picture above. I spaced it evenly on both sides of the base. In actual use I noticed that this “too wide” base cuts down on the toe clearance; it is possible to accidentally stub your toe if you are not careful.

The real problem with the Shop Fox base is that if you follow the directions for assembly the base does not work; you can’t rotate the swivel wheels. Using the bolts they specify prevents swivel. Worse, some of the assembly instructions were physically impossible to perform. But being a clever guy I came up with a method of assembly that worked. I suspect my method is what Shop Fox designers intended, but the instructions are grossly wrong.

Back View Showing Belt Tensioning MechanismAt this point, I was getting frustrated and decided to make a thorough inspection of all remaining pieces before going any further. I noticed an additional assembly issue. The table is attached with a raising/lowering threaded lead screw, threaded hand wheel and three L-shaped brackets. The instructions showed a picture of three simple brackets, each a different size; large, medium and small. What I received where three brackets of two sizes, large and two small ones. The large one was not a simple bracket, it had a metal plate, two bolts and four Allen screws, though I have no idea what their function is. Obviously a change had been made to the design and that change had not been reflected in the documentation. Again, being a clever guy, I completed the assembly with no further problems.

Motor Direct Drives Roller Installing a sanding belt and adjusting tracking is simple and quick. The entire operation can be accomplished in less than three minutes without exaggeration. The tracking adjustment is sensitive but holds steady when achieved. The picture above right shows a close-up of the belt tensioning and tracking adjustment. The first thing to notice is how simple, yet solid, the design is. The long lever loads and unloads the tension of the belt. The middle knob adjusts tracking; you course adjust it first by hand spinning the belt and centering it on the drive wheel and then turn on power and carefully and gently fine adjust it. The knob on the right locks the tracking adjustment. Simple as that.

The Back Side Has No Platen - So Why The Table? The motor is 1.5 HP and comes pre-wired for 220 VAC. The dive is direct to the pulley wheel. The graphite coated platen is 6-1/4" x 31-1/2" and exists only on one side of the belt. The table top however, is equally spaced on both sides. Without a platen on the back side a table on the back side seems pointless. I may take this into account when I redesign the table top and add some self-designed accessories on the back in place of the table.

I read numerous reviews prior to acquiring this unit. There were two consistent complaints. One was that the table came warped and was flimsy. The second was that the belt(s) that came with the unit was unusable because the splice joint is too thick. I found the table to be OK. Its surface has a noticeable, but very shallow bumpiness. It doesn’t seem to adversely affect the sander’s use. The table is made of 7/8 inch plywood finished with a thin Formica-like surface. I suspect the very thin Formica-lake material gives way to trapped glue unevenness and that is what gives the surface a somewhat bumpy look. I may build my own from 1” sheet Melamine and fit it with a metal guide to accept a sliding T-fence. Perhaps even a circle attachment. However, as the table comes it is workable.

Full Scale SketchUp Paper Template Of Swan NeckThe belt, on the other hand, is rather cheap and indeed does have the problem indicated in the reviews. Unfortunately I ordered four additional belts of various grits and they are the same. In actual use the seam is so poor it creates a high velocity (1800 fpm) speed bump, making it difficult to control the work piece and get a smooth finish. I found this constant fight to control the work piece tiring. In one review I read the belts were referred to as “a piece of crap”. I would have to agree; they are inexcusably poor.  However, 80” belts are available from a number of reputable third parties. I highly recommend that if you buy this unit do not get additional belts from Grizzly.

Shaping Cherry Template On The Grizzly Edge Sander

My first project to make use of this machine is a Trundle Bed. To shape the template for swan neck I traced a full scale SketchUp drawing onto a 3/4” cherry board. I then rough cut the template on my band saw and finished it by hand shaping on the Grizzly Edge Sander. The high velocity seed bumps notwithstanding I was able to create a very useful cherry template. One last comment I should make; I found I used the small roller end of the sander most of the time and this end is furthest from the dust collection hence a lot of dust is left on the table uncollected. A repositionable  dust collector, or perhaps an array of holes in the table with dust collection underneath, may make it into my new table design. Let’s wait and see.

The bottom line is that I think I will like this machine and the cost is hard to beat – approximately $850 including base. So Grizzly is back on my list of manufacturers I will look at. But given my mixed experience I have two words of caution – caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).


High School Push StickFor those of you who took woodworking shop in high school you are likely to remember this useful safety device. It was typically made from scrap 1/4” or 1/2” plywood and shaped to fit your hand. The High School Push Stick is most useful for pushing narrow pieces through a table saw while keeping your fingers far away from the saw blade. For this reason I prefer the narrower 1/4” version.

Anyone who has used this handy little device will agree it is invaluable in the wood shop. So I have taken to providing readers my most complex SketchUp model yet; High School Push Stick.skp. Download it by clicking this link.

Create A Template

Open the model and choose Camera/Parallel Projection. Choose Camera/Standard Views/Front. Zoom Extents and minimize the amount of white space around the model by adjusting the window size (this is necessary to print this model on a single 8 1/2” x 11” page). In the Print Setup Dialog box choose the Properties Button. Choose the Basic Tab and select Landscape. In the print Preview Dialog box uncheck both “Fit to page” and “Use model extents”. Enter 1 and Inches for both “In the printout” and “In SketchUp” (this produces a 1:1 print scale). Now choose Print at the top of the menu bar. If you have trouble printing to scale read Printing To Scale In SketchUp.

Sandwich the printout between two sheets of Self Adhesive Clear Plastic which you can buy at any office supply store or Carefully cut out the template of the Push Stick and trace it onto a scrap of 1/4” plywood.

Cutout The Push Stick

There are three straight-line cuts that should be made on a table saw. They are: the 8 1/2” long line, the 1/4” short line and the 1” line. The three lines are perpendicular to each other. Cut these first. Next, use a jig saw, scroll saw or band saw to rough out the curves. Finally, with an edge sander and oscillating spindle sander (or just your hands) sand the curved edges to final shape. That’s it -  you now have a very handy and safe High School Push Stick.

Using The Push Stick To Shape Mullions & Muntins

Mullions Have A Through Mortise You can make a career out of searching for the correct definition of mullions and muntins but don’t waste your time. Suffice it to say they are both parts of a window or door, and they frame its lights. I think of mullions as the more complex of the two which has one or more through mortises and two tenons.

Muntins Have No Through Mortise Muntins on the other hand are less complex with no through mortise and two tenons. Definitions you will find on the internet vary all over the place; some even give the mullion a structural meaning similar to a stile. The tenons on a mullion usually fit into a stile or rail while those of a muntin fit into the through mortise of a mullion. Ok, with that as the definition for mullion and muntin let me demonstrate how the push stick can be used with both the router and table saw to shape them.

Feeding Narrow Stock Through A Table Saw The most often used application for the push stick is to feed thin or narrow pieces of stock through a table saw. In the picture at left I am cutting two rabbets in a muntin by holding 3/4” stock against the fence with a feather board and feeding the stock with the push stick. Notice my hands and fingers are well clear of the red area and at least six inches from the blade. (There are numerous feather board designs that can be used allowing for taller and still narrow stock.) In this case the push stick is merely feeding the stock, but not assisting in holding the stock against the fence.

The Push Stick Feeds & The Feather Board HoldsAnother application for the push stick is to feed narrow stock through a router. In the picture at right I begin the feed with the push stick held vertically and pushing the stock while my fingers hold the stock against the fence. The feather board does not engage until the stock leaves the cutting area. Because I don’t want my fingers to encroach the area above the metal plate I am limited in the length of stock I can shape with the router. These pieces are about minimum size.

The Push Stick Feeds And Assists The Feather Board As the feather board engages I tilt the push stick to about 35 degrees and assist the feather board in holding the stock against the fence. Here my fingers also help out. They have encroached on the area above the metal plate, but only after the stock completely surrounds the router bit, in essence shielding my fingers.

Shaping mullions and muntins are one of the more dangerous operations in a wood shop and for that reason many woodworkers build windows and doors that have lights using imatation mullions and muntins. I applaud that choice and understand it completely. But the push stick and feather board can go a long way in reducing the risk and making this operation much safer.

A reader wrote me in the comment section of one of my blogs and asked how I like the Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander. He was considering purchasing one and wanted my opinion. I replied “I can’t say enough good things about the Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander”, and I can’t. So much so I thought I would write a post just about this invaluable tool.

This is not a power tool that gets used only on occasion – no sir. Nearly every board in my shop goes through it during at least one process step. Mostly immediately following the planner. I use it for final thicknessing of all parts using 80 grit paper. I may also use it for finish sanding of panels and other parts with 220 grit paper. This is especially true for stock that has grain direction changes that would cause tear out with a hand plane.

Bringing Door Stiles & Rails To Final Thickness My thicknessing process starts with the planner where the stock is brought to within 1/16” or 1/32” of final thickness. If the stock is figured wood such as tiger maple or blistered maple I may even leave the stock 1/8” over sized because tear out on figured woods can be excessive. I will then bring the stock to within 1/32” or 1/64” with the 80 grit paper on the Performax Pro. Depending on other factors, I may even bring it to final thickness with 220 grit drum paper.

The drum sander has five significant advantages over the planner for final thicknessing. First there is negligible to no snipe at the ends. Hence you can save two to four inches on rough stock lengths.

Second, small nicks in a planner or jointer blade leave noticeable ridges in the wood. This only happens on a drum sander if you have a burn in the paper from clogging (generally caused by pitch pockets). But the latter is extremely rare while the former is quite common.

Third, with fine paper you can attain the final thickness while also leaving the stock with a finished surface.

Fourth, you can finish figured woods with no tear out, which is nearly impossible on the planner.

Thicknessing A Wider Than 22" Panel After Glue Up Fifth, and this brings me to another feature of the Performax Pro in particular, is that you can thickness wide panels. The 22-44 in its name means you can sand panels as wide as 22” in single passes, or up to 44” in two passes. Note in the picture on the right that the panel hangs out the edge of the drum sander. Simply turn the panel around to sand the remaining portion.

This can be a little tricky on long and wide panels, for example, 30” wide and 72” long table tops. You must be careful to keep the piece moving and prevent it from drooping over the edge due to its weight. It helps to have a helper in such situations.

A Simple Leg Taper Jig One of the things about a drum sander is that it is relatively safe. You might get pinched if you are not careful but it is very unlikely that you would lose a digit or suffer a significant cut. In fact, if you use your imagination you can use the drum sander to de-risk otherwise risky shop operations. For example, tapering table legs can be a risky operation, particularly on a table saw. But you can taper legs on a drum sander very safely.

In the picture above left I have rough cut tapers on four legs using the band saw in free hand style (this is not a necessary step but one that makes things go quicker). No need to be accurate, just be sure to leave the taper line. Stay an 1/8” away from it if you are not confident about your free hand cutting ability with a band saw; or skip this step all together and do it all on the drum sander.

Tapering Table Legs With A Simple Jig & Drum Sander The jig is simple; use either 3/4” plywood, or as I have here, a Formica covered piece of particle board. Using double sided sticky tape place two pieces of 3/4” wood in the direction perpendicular to travel through the drum sander. Space them for the correct taper by sliding one board closer to or further away from the other until the taper lines are parallel to the jig surface. Place the rough taper legs as I have in the photo with one piece keeping the legs from moving beyond the end of the jig and the other providing the correct taper. You may wish to tape the top ends of the legs together to keep them from slipping sideways. Start with 80 grit paper and finish with 220 grit paper and feed the legs through while monitoring the taper lines. See photo at right above.

Finished Tapered Legs - No Sanding Necessary The finished legs are shown at left; they are completed and require no final sanding. I have found this method to be not only safe, but the final product is more accurate than when cut on the table saw. In addition there are no burn marks from the saw blade which is particularly troublesome with cherry. Lastly, any significant grain direction change is no problem for the drum sander, but might be for even a hand plane. These legs were made for an Office Table which you can read more about by gong to

Flattening A Panel After Glue Up Glue ups can create wide panels and no matter how careful you are the individual boards do not align perfectly. I generally leave panel stock 1/16” to 1/8” thicker than finished width. After the glue is dried I scrape any excess squeeze out from the panel and then draw numerous parallel lines on each side with carpenter’s crayon. I sand one side keeping an eye on the disappearance of the crayon marks. As soon as they are completely gone I turn the panel over and bring the opposite side to parallel. With 220 grit I then bring the panel to final thickness. See the picture at right.

Two things you need to know about this tool: One, you must have dust collection connected and running at all the times when you are using the Performax; Two, feed the material at half speed, using 1/8 turn on depth adjustment for each pass and don’t let the material stop. I have ruined several pieces of cherry when I first used the Performax Pro until I understood these issues.

One last piece of advice. If you do buy a Performax, it comes with a drive belt that moves the material which is similar to a sandpaper belt. Optionally they sell a rubber surfaced belt. Buy it. It’s worth the extra cost. The grip is better and it doesn’t mar your surface.

As you can see, the Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander is an invaluable and frequently useable tool. Not only does it do a better job in many situations, but it is often more accurate and safer. Its snipe free operation can result in less material used. And it can handle wide boards and panels that the planner cannot. It is the only tool that can handle figured or difficult wood without any chance of tear out. Even my trusty hand planes cannot guarantee that. This machine has been a workhorse in my shop and it is rugged and reliable. I wouldn’t hesitate a second to buy another if I found it necessary to do so. But I have a feeling this one will last so long that buying another will never be an option.

Wood Expansion Calculator 1.0 Sample Input Page Wood Expansion Calculator 1.0 is now available. The picture at left shows some of the major changes.

When using the Relative Humidity input option the temperature can be specified in either Fahrenheit or Celsius. The other temperature scale will be calculated and also displayed.

When choosing a Calculation Mode input boxes appear for receiving user specified dimension inputs. These can be supplied in either Imperial (US) or Metric units.

Metric dimensions require one, and only one, unit; either m, cm or mm. The following are the only valid inputs:

     i m
     i cm
     i mm
     d m
     d cm
     d mm

Where i is an integer whose first digit cannot be a zero. Where n is a decimal number and the first digit cannot be a zero unless the decimal point is immediately to its right. In fact, a decimal number less than 1 must begin with a zero such as 0.967 cm. Note the space between the dimension and its unit. This is required.

Imperial dimensions may require more than one unit, for example 3′ 7 1/64" is a valid input. The following are the only valid inputs:

     i n/d"
     f’ i"
     f’ n/d"
     f’ i n/d"

Where i, n, d, and f must be non-zero integers who’s leading digit also is not a zero, e.g. 0123 is invalid. Note, unlike the Metric units, there is no space between the dimension and its unit; in fact a space will create an illegal entry.

Wood Expansion Calculator 1.0 Sample Output Page Consistent with supplying the alternate units results as was the case with temperature, the output will show results in both systems of measurement. The type supplied by the user will appear first and the alternate second. A sample results page can be seen at right.

A number of bugs were fixed in this release but do not materially change the functionality.

There are future changes planned for Revision 2.0 that include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Provide the capability for users to supply their own Regions and corresponding EMC values.
  2. Provide the capability for users to supply their own Species and corresponding shrinkage factors.
  3. Provide memory so that user settings and inputs are restored when next the tool is opened.
  4. Strengthen the help messages, especially for the dimension inputs, and add more help features.

If you have any suggestions please pass them along in a comment to this post (preferable because others can see them) or forward them in email.

Download Wood Expansion Calculator here.

Well, I have finally started crafting the trundle bed I wrote about in the Trundle Bed Design series. Many family and unrelated projects got in the way of this project for some time. But no more excuses. The show must go on.

Headboard And Footboard Panel Details I decided to begin with building the panels for the headboard and footboard. The headboard requires a panel 22 57/64” tall by 40 1/2” wide and two panels 8 3/4” tall by 40 1/2” wide. The footboard requires two panels 8 3/4” tall by 40 1/2” wide.

The final thickness of the panels is 5/8”, but I prepare my stock for 3/4” and bring it to final thickness on the drum sander after glue up has been completed. This will allow me to take out any slight mismatches in the glue up joints which are unavoidable. In addition the drum sander can bring the finish panel to precisely 5/8” with 220 grit paper. That way, after shaping the edges, I can immediately apply several coats of finish, which I always do before affixing panels in their frames (The headboard and footboard are essentially a frame and panel construction.). Subsequent shrinkage of the panels will not reveal unsightly voids of finish.

Edges Are Always Prepared With A Hand Plane Before Glue Up Preparing stock for glue up requires the standard jointer, planner, jointer and table saw sequence to face and edge the boards. But the final step for me is always preparing the edges by hand with a hand plane. This accomplishes several things. First it removes any oils on the edge that exist from handling or are naturally secreted by the wood. This is especially important if the time from wood preparation to glue up is hours or days. Second the edge is given a glass smooth surface void of machine marks and scratches. Third I get a better edge, i.e. perfectly straight and square.

All these add up to a better looking and stronger glue joint. One of the tests I use for a properly finished edge is that I can get  a continuous, very thin shaving, of equal width all the way to the end, and the length of the shaving is the full length of the board. Notice the shaving above right. A Lie-Nielsen smooth plane is the one I use for the final cuts. But I will start with a jointer plane if the edge is close to straight, or a block plane if I have to cut short local areas to correct for a bow for example.

Headboard Panel Glue Up When I have finished preparing the edges with a hand plane I immediately glue up. If I have a number of panels to do, as in this case where I have five panels, I’ll prepare all the stock on the power tools. But only the edges for one panel at a time is prepared on the hand plane so that the time from edge preparation to glue up is short, keeping the edges from getting soiled or dinged.

I have tested glued edge joints numerous times and always found that a properly prepared and executed  joint will always be stronger than the wood itself. How long a joint will last I will never know because I won’t live long enough to see its failure. But the accelerated life tests manufacturers perform indicate these joints will still be going strong hundreds of years from now (barring abuse such as prolonged exposure to water, high heat or direct sunlight).

One other idiosyncrasy I have is that I always leave joints clamped overnight. True, the manufacture says you can work the wood after only one hour of clamping provided there are no undue stresses placed on the joint. But I am not sure what an undue stress is. This is an analog world we live in. Stresses don’t magically become undue at 10 lbs of force but not 9.9 lbs. So I am conservative but feel much more secure this way.

The Performax Pro 22-44 Is Used To Final Thickness The Panel After curing for an evening the panel is ready for final thicknessing. I do this on my Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander. To gauge when a side has been entirely sanded and flat I mark the panel with red carpenter’s crayon in wide horizontal lines. When the marks are completely gone I have succeeded in flattening the side. See the picture at right. I use 220 grit paper for this final step. I will sand it one more time just before applying finish with 320 grit and an oscillating rotary sander.

I am careful during glue up to put the good side of the panel up, i.e. away from the clamp’s bars. This allows me to clean the entire surface unimpeded by the bars of the the clamps. See picture above left. I clean the other side too, but the bars always obscure some glue. When dried the backside will have little glue hills which I level with a putty knife. Still, there is remaining glue to be removed. So the backside is the one I drum sand first. Then I turn it over, mark the good side and continue drum sanding until I reach final thickness.

On a panel this wide each pass actually requires two passes. As you can see in the picture above right, the panel is wider than my drum sander. The 22-44 in the name implies you can sand a 22” wide panel in one pass, or one as wide as 44” in two passes. One note of caution about drum sanders; you must not let the work piece stop while going through the drum sander. If you do the sander will sand a horizontal valley into your piece deep enough that you may not have enough thickness left to remove it.

Squaring The Panel On My Large Panel Cutter Once the panel is thicknessed I use a hand plane to create a square and straight reference edge. I then use that edge in my large panel cutter to square the panel to finished length. This panel cutter has been a life saver and workhorse for me. If you don’t have one I strongly suggest you make one soon. With it I can cut large panels (wider than a kitchen cabinet end panel) perfectly square every time, and with ease. The panel shown is 24” wide and 40 1/2” long. This panel cutter uses both table saw slots, has a high fence to keep your hands away from the blade and has a block that completely covers the saw blade as the fence passes it.

Inspecting The Panel With Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner) When the panel is cut to size I wet it down with mineral spirits to inspect for any remaining glue spots. Hopefully there are none. This step also gives you an idea of what the panel will look like when finish is applied.

Of course, this being cherry, it will darken considerably with sunlight and age. Most of the darkening takes place in the first few months of exposure to strong light, but it continues for a long time. In the picture at right the wood came from two piles, one which had not been subjected to light and one which had (it was on top of the drying stack). These pieces will darken to the same color in a few weeks time.

However, you will notice some sapwood in this panel. Purists argue that you should remove all sapwood when crafting fine furniture. I respectfully disagree. I have always felt that nature does a better job of designing wood than we do. I like to expose all “imperfections” in the wood, including dark pitch pockets in cherry, or cats paw markings. I feel they add to the piece. I am sure that the Shakers didn’t throw out pieces with these imperfections, and if its good enough for the Shakers, it’s good enough for me.

A Full Scale Print Out Is Used As A Template One of the really neat features of SketchUp is that you can print drawings to scale. I printed out the headboard to full scale (1:1). It took about 23 sheets of 8 1/2” by 11” paper, though most of them were blank and I put them right back in the paper stack. I taped one side of the swan neck together and then encapsulated it with self sticking clear plastic and made a template, which I then traced on the panel. Only one side is needed for a template because the curves are mirror images and you can flip the template.

The Delta BOSS Is Used To Remove Jig Saw Machine Marks After rough cutting the swan neck curves, I used my Delta BOSS with course paper to sand away the machine marks left by the jig saw. I usually use my band saw to cut shapes like this, but a 1 1/4” re-saw blade was mounted on it and I didn’t want to take the time to change to a smaller blade. The BOSS oscillating sander does a good job, however, in the end I had to finish the job with lots of hand sanding.

This panel is rather large for the BOSS table so I used adjustable roller supports to carry most of the weight while still making it possible to easily manipulate the panel. Note that the circle in the top middle of the panel is not cut out at this point. If I would have cut it out at this point, the shaper, which will be used to shape the edges, would likely destroy the delicate points that are formed by the circle (see the first picture).

Shaping The Edge With A Large Cutter I Am Especially Alert The next task was to shape the edges. During design of the bed I chose to do this on a shaper because I could get a cutter that would form a wider shape than possible on the router. But the cutter has a rather large 5 1/2” outer diameter. Plus the shape of the swan neck is such that I had to expose most of the cutter to be able to manipulate the panel during shaping. This makes for a somewhat risky and dangerous cut. In situations like this I am always super alert, especially during the start of a cut when the shaper can grab the piece and throw it, or throw sharp pieces at you. Also, I am conscience of where my hands are at all times.

The Circle Is Cut Out With A Jig Saw Finally I cut the circle with the jig saw and repeat the BOSS and hand sanding process. When cutting pieces like this where the panel has to hang over the edge of the table, I make the cut in sections, and support the cut-off by clamping it to the panel. That way it will not unexpectedly fall an split a piece out ruining the panel. These little extra steps can save a lot of work and material and pay for themselves many times over.

The Completed Panel Ready For Finish When the panel is completed I wet it down with mineral spirits again. This time I am looking for scratches or dings. This sometimes happens due to the hard surface of the shaper and BOSS tables. If I find a mark I remove it now. If I were to skip this step the imperfection would surely show up after finish is applied and would be much more difficult to repair at that point.

This concludes Part 1 of Trundle Bed Crafting. In Part 2 I will make the swan neck frames the will encapsulate the panel. Stay tuned.

I have written a number of blog posts dealing with techniques for handling the seasonal change of wood movement and I am sure to write some more in the future. If you have crafted much in the way of furniture, or other pieces constructed from rough wood, you know you have to take wood movement into account in design. Failing to do so will ensure cracks and structural failure. If you do not believe this let me point you to two very good articles outlining the problems and solutions. First, an article that appeared in American Woodworker, 1993 issue number 34. The title is Coping With Wood Movement – How to Build Furniture That Won’t Crack or Split, pages 38 – 43 and written by Jim Cummins. If you don’t have this issue you can find it on the internet by clicking here.

The second article is titled The Shrinking and Swelling of Wood and Its Effect on Furniture by Carl A. Eckelman. I will make this and other references available via Adobe PDF download at the end of this blog. Both of these articles outline specific construction situations, the effects of moisture and resulting wood movement on them, and techniques to avoid the problems that can arise. In both articles the author points out the importance of knowing how much movement to expect and that is the focus of this post.

Wood Movement – The Basics

SEM View Of Poplar - Photo Courtesy Of N.C. Brown Center, SUNY Let’s start with a short explanation of why wood moves. (For a comprehensive coverage of this topic I have listed a number of articles and books at the end of this post.) When wood is alive and green it is made up of soda straw like vessels that tend to run end to end along the length of the tree. These vessels are made up of thin walls consisting of specialized cells. (See the scanning electron microscope photo of Poplar at left.) Both the vessels themselves and the cells that form their walls contain water. When the tree is cut and sawn the vessels begin to lose water and continue to do so until all the water is out of the vessels. At that point the cells that make up the walls still contain moisture. This point is called the Fiber Saturation Point or FSP. It is the point where the tree has given up all its “free water” but the cells are still saturated with “bound water”. This point is very similar in most trees and represents a point at which the tree (lumber at this point) still has a moisture content of approximately 30%. (Moisture content is the ratio of water weight contained in the specimen to its oven dry weight, i.e. no water weight. Many trees, when live, have moisture contents greater than 100% which means that water accounts for more the half its live weight.)

The drying process from green moisture content to FSP, while making the lumber less dense or heavy, does not cause any shrinkage and in fact the lumber is still in its weakest state when it reaches FSP. As the tree (lumber) continues to dry from FSP to 0% (called oven dry) it gives up bound water from the cells, shrinks and becomes stronger. The shrinkage is quite linear from FSP to oven dry and the total shrinkage, expressed as a percentage, can be measured in three dimensions: radially, tangentially and longitudinally. Longitudinal shrinkage, which occurs along the length of the lumber in the direction of the grain, is very minimal and is generally neglected.

Flatsawn (Plain Sawn) Versus QuartersawnTangential shrinkage occurs along a line tangential to the tree’s growth rings and radial shrinkage occurs along a radial from the center of the tree. These two factors are called tangential shrinkage factor (expressed in percent) and radial shrinkage factor and can be related to two common types of lumber: flatsawn and quartersawn respectively. Tangential shrinkage is usually about twice as large as radial shrinkage but they each vary widely from species to species. In real life no lumber is cut exactly quartersawn or exactly flatsawn (also called plain sawn). As a craftsman you have to make a judgment call. If in doubt you might want to consider treating your lumber as flatsawn because that would be worse case.

Map Of Regional EMCs For JanuaryOK, so we know that wood shrinks as it loses water from FSP to oven dry. But the reverse is also true; it expands as it takes on moisture from oven dry to FSP. So what makes wood give up and take on moisture? Its environment. Relative humidity and temperature, and both change throughout the year, usually from dry air in the winter to moist air in the summer. If lumber sits long enough in a given environment it will reach equilibrium with that environment. Suppose for instance that the average temperature and relative humidity have been 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% relative humidity for the past two months. It is likely that lumber stored in this environment will come to equilibrium at a moisture content of 12.9%. Clearly higher than one would like if one intended to build a piece that would reside in Arizona. This is why we bring lumber into our shop and let it sit for a few weeks; to let it reach equilibrium.

Map Of Regional EMCs For JulyMost homes do not have humidity controlled environments and are subject to seasonal moisture changes. There have been a number of studies that have measured the outdoor monthly averages over the course of many years. Through the use of computer models, these studies produced maps and tables of indoor seasonal ranges by region of the country. The Department of Wood & Paper Science at North Carolina State University produced such maps in 2003 which you will find by clicking here. These values are called Equilibrium Moisture Content or EMC and represent the moisture environment a piece of furniture would be exposed to, on average, for each month and by region.

Wood Expansion Calculator

An Opening Centric Analysis Of Cherry In The Massachusetts Interior This brings me to the real topic of this post – a SketchUp Plugin tool called Wood Expansion Calculator. I created Wood Expansion Calculator to estimate just how much expansion and shrinkage you might expect in a given structural situation. I developed this tool because I have for years used a stand alone application called Wood Movement Master by Kite Hill Software which does precisely this. You have probably read some of my articles where I used this tool. Unfortunately, it is no longer available or supported by Kite Hill Software or its developer. I decided to pick up the gauntlet and provide the same capability in a SketchUp tool. So here it is: Wood Expansion Calculator ZIP File.

One note of caution. In my professional life (I am now retired) I was an electrical engineer and engineering executive. I started my career when CAD tools were nonexistent and you had to figure things out with paper, pencil and a slide rule. The advantage of this was that you developed a close feel for what you were designing. You knew the expected behavior intimately. Years later, when I was an engineering manager and CAD tools were ubiquitous, it drove me nuts to see a young engineer model a circuit, run the tool and take the results as Gospel. He/she had no feel for, or personal intimacy of the expected results. Don’t use this tool that way. It is meant to give you a quick, efficient, and yes accurate result so long as the input and assumptions are correct. If, for example, the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit today at 90 percent relative humidity, and expected to be 30 degrees Fahrenheit and 10% relative humidity tomorrow, don’t expect wood stored in this environment to respond to that change no matter what this tool might indicate. Moisture takes time to enter or leave a specimen; that’s what equilibrium accounts for. So use judgment as well as the tool.

The tool itself is quite simple to use, and has Help notes for each input. To install the tool use WinZip to extract the one Ruby file and one folder to the SketchUp Plugins folder on your system. When you open SketchUp you can access the tool via Tools/Wood Expansion Calculator or go to View/Toolbars and check Calculators for a toolbar and icon (a tree). What you need to know to use this tools is the stocks current moisture content (best to use a moisture meter to measure this), the region of the country where you expect the final furniture piece to reside, the wood species, the stock type (flatsawn or quartersawn) and the construction situation you want to analyze (board centric, opening centric or breadboard end).

A Printer Friendly Results Of An Analysis If you don’t know the stocks current moisture content you can use a Relative Humidity and Temperature mode to calculate it. But be careful. Consistent with two paragraphs ago be sure to use average temperature and average relative humidity of the environment the wood has resided in for a period of time long enough to reach equilibrium. Do not use seasonal or daily maximums. The wood’s moisture content will not respond to fast or temporary changes.

One other note; board centric, opening centric and breadboard end are not a specific construction method but a representative method. For example, opening centric includes drawer fronts that fit flush in an opening, but could also mean a panel that is framed to make a door. Breadboard end could represent any cross grain situation such as a mortise and tenon. Don’t let the labels limit your use of the tool. Understand what is being analyzed.

This tool currently works only with Imperial or US measurements.

For example 3′ 7 1/64" is a valid input. More precisely, the following are the only valid inputs:
i n/d"
f’ i"
f’ n/d"
f’ i n/d"
where i, n, d, and f must be non-zero integers who’s leading
digit also is not a zero, e.g. 0123 is invalid.

In the future I will expand it to accept metric measurements. The region table is the contiguous US only. In the future I hope to get data for other regions of the world. But you can still use this data by selecting regions that you know are close to environmental conditions in your area. Also, in the future are plans to let the user build their own environmental tables or to add their regions to the existing table. Lastly, I plan to add persistence to the tool so that it remembers the last set of conditions analyzed and uses them as the starting point when the tool opens.

Please report all bugs directly to me, and include the conditions that resulted in the bug. Thank you in advance, and I hope this tool serves you as much as Wood Movement Master has served me in the past.

Related Reading

Centennial edition of the Wood handbook : Wood as an Engineering Material. This is an excellent reference book. You can download individual chapters in PDF format. Chapter 04: Moisture Relations and Physical Properties of Wood is particularly pertinent to this blog post.

Understanding Wood – A craftsman’s Guide To Wood Technology by R. Bruce Hoadley is a book that ought to be on the bookshelf of any serious woodworker. Chapter 6: Water & Wood is particularly appropriate to this subject, but the entire book is directed at the woodworker.

The Shrinking and Swelling of Wood and Its Effect on Furniture by Carl A. Eckelman was mentioned at the beginning of this post. It is an excellent article on designing for wood movement.

Download Wood Expansion Calculator Here

On my most recent project, the American Chippendale Mirrors discussed in my last post, I was forced to choose between using a table mounted router or a shaper. Specifically, was how to shape the picture frame molding which was complicated by the use of tiger maple hardwood.

Tiger maple is notorious for tear out whether hand planing, jointing. thickness planing or shaping. I have described in this blog numerous times how I thickness plane the final 1/8” to 1/16” of tiger maple using my Performax Pro 22-44 for just this reason.

CMT 855.902.11 Traditional 1/2” Shank Router Bit The bit used to shape the molding in this project was a CMT 855.902.11 Traditional 1/2” shank bit. Its overall cutting length is 1 5/8” and its overall diameter is 1 1/16”, rather small for even considering a shaper.

The primary decision making criteria between using a router and shaper is the bit diameter. Bit RPM being equal, large diameter bits have a higher tangential velocity compared to small diameter bits. Large diameter bits remove more material requiring more horse power. This is where routers and shapers differentiate themselves (portability is another but not applicable when comparing table mounted routers to shapers).

Routers generally spin at higher RPM, typically 10,000 to 21,000 RPM and range from fractional horsepower to 3 1/2 horsepower. Hence they are useful mostly for small diameter bits. Shapers generally have two or three speeds to select from, usually 8,000 and 10,000 RPM and start at 2 horsepower and range to in excess of 5 horsepower. Hence applicable to large diameter bits.

RPM are directly comparable, but not all horses are equal; a 3 1/4 HP router is not equal to a 3 HP shaper, the latter being much more powerful. I should also mention that shapers tend to be much more hazardous than routers, so special attention to safety is required.

Molding Picture Frames On The Shaper This all being true one would normally mount this bit in a table mounted router and shape away. I started that way and quickly realized I needed to consider the shaper. Even though I was using a 3 1/4 HP variable speed router with speeds selectable from 10,000 to 21,000 RPM I couldn’t achieve a tear out free finish, no matter how many light passes I made. I put the same bit in my shaper and selected 10,000 RPM and discovered I could make tear out free finishes if I cut the molding in five light passes and proceeded slowly and smoothly on each pass. I can’t explain this rationally but I can demonstrate it quite clearly. If someone has a technical explanation I would certainly like to hear it.

This is not the first time I discovered this about tiger maple. In fact, on almost every project requiring tiger maple molding I end up on the shaper. I always try to avoid the shaper because of the long setup time required, but in the end I succumb. So this time I committed to design a fence for my shaper that will allow fast setups, flexibility, and safety. Designing such a fence may take a while but will pay large dividends in the end.

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