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"Free'' Edges k la Nakashima

Fd like to built a tabic with natural edges like those on George Nakashima's work. How did he make his edges so smooth to the touch?

Scott Braun New York, NY

O Working "free" edges is an art requiring the patience and lyrical judgment of a sculptor. It involves carefully removing the bark, and then scraping and sanding the sapwood without destroying the wood's natural contours.

Air drying a slab for several years allows much of the bark to loosen naturally. It is then carefully pried off using

Controlling Planer or Jointer Tearout on Figured Woods

I've started working with curly maple recently, and I'm getting frustrated by grain tearout when I run the figured boards through my jointer and planer. I keep my blades well-sharpened and adjusted, and I take light passes. Do you have any suggestions for minimizing tearout on figured woods?

Jack Arnold Madison, WI

OT'he blades on most planers and jointers meet the wood at an angle between 50° and 60°. (See drawing.) This cutting angle—designed more for cutting softwoods than hardwoods—produces an aggressive cut that tends to tear out the contrary grain on highly figured hardwoods.

strong tools thin enough to insert into the gap between bark and sapwood. Various prybars, screwdrivers and hammer claws will work for this, but great care must be taken not to scar the underlying sapwood.

Bark on burls can be particularly difficult to remove because it clings to many small projections on the surface. Because it's difficult to judge the varying thickness of burl bark, you may have to remove it little by little to prevent tearing off the sapwood protrusions underneath.

When the majority of the bark is off, you can remove remaining shreds and small pieces on smoother areas with a drill-mounted fine wire wheel. For get-

Figured hardwoods cut much more cleanly with a scraping action, so I modify my planer and jointer blades to reduce their cutting angle. This involves back-beveling the blades as shown in the drawing. The back bevel results in a thicker cutting edge, which stays sharp longer. I send my blades and a drawing of the desired profile to Forrest Manufacturing (800-733-7111) for back-beveling. They do an excellent job.

When 1 get my blades back, 1 hone just the primary bevel (not the back bevel) with my 6,000-grit waterstone. This removes the wire edge and makes the blades sharp enough to cut hairs.

The reduced cutting angle docs limit the amount of wood you can take oft in one pass, so take lighter cuts. It also helps to feed stock at a slower rate and at an angle to the cutterhead.

ting into crevices on more erratic surfaces, rifflers and dentists' burrs and picks can be helpful. It's difficult to describe a particular approach because every surface is different. You'll have to use your judgment.

Dark splotches on the sapwood must be painstakingly scraped or sanded through until the color of the wood is uniform. Small bits of sanding belt are useful for getting into tight spaces. Sand to at least 150 grit before finishing. Wc use a wiping varnish, sanded and buffed between coats.

Mira Nakashima-Yarnall Nakashima Studios New Hope, PA

Another trick for reducing tearout on difficult figure is to wet the wood before planing it. The water swells the wood fibers and packs them tightly together, providing better support against the cutting edge. Using a plant mister or sponge, thoroughly wet the wood, and allow the water to soak in for a minute or so before planing. Adding one or two tablespoons of glycerin (available at drugstores) per pint of water softens the fibers further, making them even less brittle and prone to tearout. The water shouldn't create anv warpage problems, as most of it is planed away. You may want to wipe oft your blades and cutterhead to prevent rust, though.

David J. Marks Des i gn er/c raftsm a n Santa Rosa, CA


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