Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Milling Gorgeous Red Cedar for the LOG

Today I got to mentor my uncle on milling planks and what a joy it was to see these planks blossom!  You cannot believe the amount of different colors in them!  It was cool teaching my uncle about the thickness planer and then to see the wood when it was done was icing on the cake!  We knew when we were cutting and slicing the planks on the band-saw that they were going to be nice, but when we saw them come out of the planer we were ecstatic!  My only regret is that I took pictures with my phone and they didn't do the wood justice out in the sunlight like that.  Tomorrow I will use the better camera and show you what I really mean!

So last year my Dad and I got these 5 x 1 x 14 Eastern Red Cedar planks for back up on the canoe from Medford Cedar Products (a great group of folks that are very helpful and enthusiastic) in case we needed to mill extra strips for the canoe.  We didn't need them so I was actually thinking of making cove and bead strips for the rails of my surfboard with them, but I took a closer look at the grains on them and said "wait a minute here!".  The grain in that wood was nicer than a lot of the grain in the redwood that I have milled for the board.  I knew the grain was nice, but not the color too!  BONUS!  So some of the more boring redwood planks I am going to mill for the cove and bead rail strips which are about 1/4" by 1/4" or so.  I might make them a wee bit bigger.

Below we are cutting the planks in two before we split them.  I would have rather let them stay at 5.5" but splitting them at that width would have been beyond our means.  Cutting them in two lengthwise was no problem, the green featherboard worked great for holding it in place on one side and the fence on the other.  Getting everything square was tough on this saw as it is of poor quality.  If I make a new fence and adaptations to the featherboard I can probably slice a 6" plank and I think that would be worth it!

Below you can see us slicing the plank.  On our first attempt the green featherboard was flush with the table and it barely reached the 3/8" distance from the blade that we needed.  The distance was fine as 3/8 on either side of the blade to split the wood is a perfect 3/4" (3/8 + 3/8 = 6/8,  6/8 divided by 2 = 3/4) so we just made it by the skin of our teeth on that one, but because the featherboard was flush with the table the plank tended to tilt to that side at the top not giving us a perfect 90 degree angle.  What we had to do was either double the featherboard up with an identical one with longer screws like some are capable of doing or add as many washers between the bottom of the featherboard and the table.  That was our only option and we were only able to raise it a 1/2" but it was enough to eliminate the problem.  Voila!
Here are some pics of the planks after they were split.  We flipped when we saw how nice they were!  I regret not having my camera for better pics!

Here we are working the thickness planer.  Basically this machine gives us a really flat surface as we thin the board down from 3/8" to 1/4" as long as you keep the plank from bowing in the middle while planing by dropping or raising either end of the plank.  If this happens it will throw the plank up at the cutting blade in the center and you will get a wavy surface or even worse, blade chatter.
****OK reminder**** Safety gear is necessary at all times.  This machine is especially loud.  Loud doesn't describe it.  It is PIERCING to the ear drums.  I like to wear ear muffs for this one.  Plugs aren't all that great.  This step is also very dusty.  Much more dusty that the band saw and you gotta wear a mask.  Cedar can be very irritating.  I felt a little woosey in the stomach and was sneezing quite a bit with a mask on.  I have a beard and masks are only so effective with beards. 
Here is another look at the grains.  I will edit this post later tomorrow and show you the difference between my cell phone pics and what a real camera looks like because there are literally 7 different colors in this wood ranging from yellow to purple.  It's incredible!!!!
 Have a great day!

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