What's It Like To Work With? The best spalted wood machines just like a regular board, but some pieces can be a real challenge. Decay is a gradual process, so some parts of a board can be very hard and others very soft. Soft spots can peck out when planed or become dished when sanded. Turners often use cyano-acrylate glue to penetrate and harden soft spots.
You can best capture spalted wood's natural look by using a fast-drying finish, such as lacquer or shellac. Soft spots can soak up a lot of slower-drying finishes, such as oil and varnish, which will unnaturally darken the wood.
Caution: Fungal spores can be an irritant. Use good dust collection and wear a respirator or mask.
Where Can I Get It?
If you're lucky, you can find spalted wood in any firewood pile. If green wood isn't dried in ideal conditions, it can be attacked by fungus and start to spalt. For use in woodworking, the trick is to catch the wood at the right stage of decay and stop the fungal attack by quickly drying the wood to a fairly dry moisture content, from seven to 12 percent.
One of the best ways to order spalted wood is on the Internet. Some sites provide a digital photo of an individual board, so you can see exactly what you're buying. I bought my wood from BuzzSaw International, (360) 497-7097, www.stores.ebay.com/Buzzsaw-lnternational-Hardwoods. The firm specializes in figured West Coast big-leaf maple. It's a bit spendy ($7.50 to $50 for 1 bd. ft.) but truly gorgeous. For more standard wood at about $5 to $7 for 1 bd. ft., try West Penn Hardwoods (716) 373-6434, www.west-pennhardwoods.com. The site doesn't show photos of individual boards, however.
What Is It?
Spalted wood is just a fancy name for partly decayed wood. Its spectacular colors come from different colonies of fungus, which start the decay process. Black lines between the colors are actually barrier walls set up by competing colonies to protect their territories. Spalting is most prominent in light-colored woods, such as maple and beech, but almost any kind of wood can be spalted. No two pieces are alike.
19. Cut the bottom to fit the base and glue it into the rabbets.
20. Chit the trays' bottoms (Q, R) to exact width, but leave them 3/4 in. extra long. On the tablesaw, cut l/8-in.-wide grooves, 1/8 in. deep, wherever you want to insert dividers (Fig. A. page 66).
21. Mill a few long pieces for the trays' sides (S, T, U, V) and dividers (W, X, Y). Plane them to lit into the grooves in the bottoms. Rip all the sides and dividers to final width. Cut the long sides 3/4 in. extra long.
22. Glue the long sides to both trays using the same opposed-wedge jig you used f or the base. Add shims to span the distance between the trays and the jig's sides.
23. Crosscut both ends of each tray (Photo 12). Measure their length directly from the inside of the box. When you add in the two end pieces, there should be 1/16-in. wiggle room between the ends of the trays and the ends of the box.
24. Cut the short sides 1/4 in. extra long. Glue them to the trays using the opposed-wedge jig. Cut the ends flush and sand them even.
25. Cut the long divider (W) to fit. Glue it into the groove. Clamps aren't necessary. Cut and glue the short dividers (X, Y).
26. A shim (E) fits between the hinge and the lid (Fig. E, page 66). To calculate the shim's exact thickness, place the closed hinge on the back edge of the box. Measure the distance from the top of the hinge to the top of the box and add 1/32 in. Crosscut the shim to fit between the spacers (J), allowing for 1/16 in. of play. 27. Glue the shim to the lid using spring clamps. Use a spacer to make sure the shim is parallel to the lid's edge.
28. The hinge screws are centered on the box's back edge (Fig. F, page 66). Draw or scribe a line down the center of the back. Put the hinge in place and mark die locations of the screw holes with an awl. Set up a drill press with a fence to drill the holes (Photo 13) using a 1/16-in. bit.
M Install the hinge and lid. These No. 1-size screws are delicate, so take it easy. Use a very small screwdriver that fits tightly in the screw's slot to avoid marring its head.
29. Draw or scribe a line down the center of the shim under the lid. Mark the screw locations directly from the hinge, as in Step 28. Drill holes for the screws using the drill press.
30. To accurately mark the screw holes for attaching the base to the box, set the box on top of the base. Draw the outside perimeter of the box on the base's top. Mark screw locations 3/lb in. inside the lines. Drill and countersink holes for the screws.
31. Turn the box over, place it on some tall blocks and clamp the base to it. Drill pilot holes for the screws into the box. Disassemble.
32. Finish the base, box and lid as separate parts.
33. Screw the base to the box. Screw the hinge to the lid, and then attach the lid to the box (Photo 14). The hinge has a built-in stop, so the lid won't open too far. /W
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Can you believe it? I drilled hinge screw holes all the way through the top of my box lid! Fortunately, the fix was easier and more invisible than I could have imagined. First, I found a piece of mahogany whose end grain was so light in color that it would blend with the face grain of the piece I drilled through. (I just wet the piece with water to see what its color would look like with finish on.) I made some tiny toothpicks from that wood, tapped them into the holes with glue and pared them flush. Now, everyone thinks my box lid is perfect, but I know where the bodies are buried!
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The perfect fit ^
comes easily with a simple shop-made jig.
ox joints are a cinch to make on a router table. All you need are a sharp bit and a basic plywood jig.
The biggest problem in making box joints has always been getting a precise fit, because the line between success and failure is only a few thousandths of an inch thick. Fortunately, the solution simply requires that your jig be easy to adjust, not difficult by Tom Caspar to make. I've added a micro-adjust system to my jig that is incredibly precise but takes only a minute to put together.
This jig is specifically designed for the jewelry box on page 64. You can certainly use it for other projects, but there are some limitations. It's dedicated to only one-size of router bit. To make wider or narrower box joints, you must build another jig. For box joints wider than 1/2 in., you're better off using a tablesaw and a different
First, Makf thf Jig
IRout a groove down the length of a piece of plywood to begin making the jig's base (Fig. A, below). Make the base the same length as your router table. Use the same size bit that you'll use for the box joints. Here, it's 3/8 in. A spiral bit makes the cleanest joints (see Source, page 78), but a straight bit works fine.
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