Archive | September, 2012

Basket 2.0

19 Sep

The project I’m actually building these baskets for calls for 3 of these things.  Now, normally, I’d batch these things up and try and do them all at once.  With this basket, that hasn’t been really possible, due to the limits of the forms and whatnot.  Plus I figured I should really make one and get the kinks worked out of the system first.

All in all, I don’t know that I’ve ever built the same project twice – at least not on this scale.  It’s been intriguing because normally, at some point in the build I think “Gee, I sure wish I had done X instead of Y.  Oh well, there’s something to think about next time…”  But there really isn’t a next time coming up anytime soon, so when it does come, I’ve pretty much certainly forgotten that pearl.

So this time, making the baskets right after each other, I’ve had much more chance to actually learn from my mistakes.  If you read my last post, there were plenty to work with…

Forms – on an Industrial Scale (or nearly so)

My first forms were plywood boards.  I went to some effort to make sure they were all identical, but, well, they weren’t quite.  Also, since I had 6 forms and each form could only hold one band, and each band had to sit in the form for a minimum of a day, well, you can see that this is pretty slow.  That’s not to mention all the clamping involved in that…

So I applied my big brain to the problem and came up with this:

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This image doesn’t show a matching plywood top.  Basically the 4 posts with rounded corners are screwed into place, both in the top and the bottom.  There are grooves cut to match the placement of the half-laps in the basket slats, so that as I bend the wood around the form, they match up with the form.

Clamping is simplified because of the 2×2’s that are sliding through the runners.  The 2×2’s have about a 1/16th of an inch of wiggle room so that they slide easily down the runners and hold the slats close to their final position.  They need to be clamped to be perfectly snug.  But it’s still a whole lot better clamping experience than what I had before.  To do a single corner I go through these steps:

    1. Place the (wet) slat so that the half-laps line up exactly with the dados (in the event that the dado faces in, it actually fits over a block in the form.)
    2. Place the 2×2 runner to hold it exactly in that place and go ahead and clamp it in place
    3. Use my trusty clothes iron to bend the wood around the form.
    4. Quickly jam a 2×2 into position to hold it (roughly) in place
    5. Clamp it into place, making sure that the bent part is laying exactly where it should

In all, there’s a whole lot less frantic grabbing for clamps, as step #5 doesn’t have to happen in a mad rush.

Another big bonus of this stand is that I can do 3 or 4 slats at a go with no problem.  I can also leave previously bent wood in the form while I make some new bends (so long as the previously bent wood has set in there long enough to mostly hold its shape anyway).

Here’s a shot of it holding a slat in there and the 2×2’s, just to help you get a feel for what it works like.  This isn’t what you’d call an action shot, as when it’s really in use, it’s got a bunch of slats in there and a dozen clamps on board.

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In hindsight, I was really sloppy with the Sketchup for this form, and I didn’t properly account for the fact that 2×4’s are really sloppy.  If you’re keen to try this, be sure and plan on 1 1/4” x 3 1/4” 2×4’s, and go ahead and make sure they’re jointed and planed to a precise thickness.  Else you’ll waste time and wood fiddling with this stupid thing after the fact.  Trust me on that.

Table Saw Sleds are Win

I watched a wood whisperer video a few months back that extolled the virtues of a table saw sled.  It’s a great video, I highly recommend it.  I built my own, but what I built was mainly aimed at large stock.  I figured why bother with small crosscuts on the tablesaw when I’ve got a chop saw for that kind of thing?

Well, as you can probably piece together, the dados on this basket require obscene accuracy.  The first one I built required an immense amount of time fiddling with the chisel to make the half-laps line up.

I was able to mostly fix that problem by building a dado sled.  There are a number of videos out there that describe how to do it.  I can’t point to any one of them and say it’s any good.  Anyway, it’s not what you’d call rocket science to build one of these.  I knocked it out in the (I think) obvious way, and here it is on my saw:

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That Sliding Table thing…

So you’ll note that I have a sliding table on my saw.  Mine’s 10+ years old; here’s a link to the modern equivalent.

It sure looked to me like a good thing when I got it.  I suppose I’ve used it to some little success, but all in all, I can’t recommend it.  I mean, it’s a fine thing, but table saw sleds are just plain better.  They’re more accurate and more flexible.

Want my advice?  Take the time, make the sleds, save yourself the money.

Test First

One final discovery about wood bending is that, if you’re intending to make cuts before the bend, you really need to bend a test piece first to see exactly where the wood will end up after you bend it.

I had it pretty simple here, with only one variable to contend with.  That was the question of how much the wood would compress as I put it through the corner.  Had I been more clever, I would have bent a test piece around the form first, with marks so I could carefully calibrate where it was landing so that I could determine exactly where the cuts needed to go instead of just relying on the math to give me the number.  The math got me close, but a test bend would have put me on the money sooner.