Cherry Bed Frame: Stage 3, A Lot of Sawing

In my last two posts, here (#1) and here (#2), I showed how I began building the head board for my bed frame.

It’s starting to look a little more like a headboard now. I have the main rails mortised into the legs and the holes drilled for the drawbore pins. More later on the M&T joinery. The next step will be to mortise the two smaller dividing stiles into the top and bottom rail, which should be pretty straightforward.

Now to deal with the panels.  (Cue dramatic music!)

As I begin to describe this process, the opening of Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart” occurs to me: “why WILL you say that I am mad? . . . How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.” Some of you are going to think I’m crazy for doing this…

It all started with a colleague of mine, a widow, whose husband was an avid woodworker. I now have a few of his power tools “under the wing” (i.e. on loan for an indefinite period), as my wife would say. While picking around the remains of his old shop, I found this slab.

It is 24″ long, a little over 16″ wide at its narrowest, and about 2 3/4″ thick at its thinnest. I took it home and planed one corner, and I quickly discovered it was curly maple. It’s been sitting in my lumber stash ever since, waiting for the right project.

And this is it.

I had to begin by flattening one face. It was resawn with a chainsaw, so plenty of work to do here. My wooden jack/try/scrub plane got a lot of use here. But I finally got it something like flat.

Now to break it down to size. The saw bench works very well for jobs like this one.

I sharpened up my Disston 12 and ripped off the edges.  I don’t keep a big rip saw sitting around my shop just to look pretty!

Unfortunately, my best crosscut saw is 13 ppi. Not exactly what I want for crosscutting a 3″ thick slab of maple. (Thank God it’s soft maple, or I’d still be sawing it.) So I decided it was a good time to test a historical theory. The theory is that all old saws were filed rip, but because they were hand-filed, a little fleam was unintentionally introduced, thereby rendering the saws serviceable for both ripping and crosscutting. Since I sharpen my own saws, I decided to try my Disston 12 (filed rip) as a crosscut saw. 

It cut aggressively all right, but surprisingly smoothly. Yes, there was more break-out on the backside than usual, but hey, I’m going to plane that all off anyway, so it hardly matters. Point being, this saw DOES work pretty well as a crosscut saw in a pinch. (I still think that, historically, most joiners and carpenters had no idea how their saws were sharpened, since it was almost always hired out to a specialist, hence no mention of rake or fleam in the old books. But back to the matter at hand.)

Now that it’s broken down to a 16″X20″ slab, it’s time to resaw it.

By hand.

I started by plowing a 1/8″ groove all the way around the slab with my plow plane, as deep as it would go, which is about 5/8″ with the depth stop removed.
Usually you define a cut like this with a backsaw, but my backsaws aren’t that long.

Oh, and the Veritas plow works great on end grain.

Yes, those shavings are from the end-grain.  I just had to push the plane a little harder.

And now, the difficult part. Well, not so much difficult as tiring and time consuming.  Once I had defined my cut with the plow, it was pretty simple to keep the rip saw in the line. Sure, with a 1/8″ groove as a guide, I had some wiggle room, but that turned out to be a very good thing, as I had lots of opportunities to get off track.

Here’s the process. First, saw the corners, leaving a diamond-shape inside.  Then, saw the remaining corners.

This all takes some time.

Once I was well into the slab, I decided to try sawing left-handed in order to give my right arm a break for a bit. It worked pretty well switching back and forth a few times, though I’m not as good with my left hand.

And finally, after what seemed like a LONG time, they popped apart.

Here is the first panel. One more identical cut (and a lot of planing) to go!

I finished the resawing a few days later. I clocked myself this time, and I think it took me about 40 or 45 minutes to make that one cut. (I was briefly interrupted a couple times.)

Not something I’d like to do every day, but not really all that bad once in a while. My arm is going to be sore tomorrow, though I did manage to use my left hand more often this time around. That really helped me keep up the pace. Plowing that groove around the workpiece really helped me see where I was going, too.

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2 Responses to Cherry Bed Frame: Stage 3, A Lot of Sawing

  1. Pingback: Cherry Bed Frame: Stage 4 | The Literary Workshop Blog

  2. Pingback: Cherry Bed Frame: Stage 5, Tears and My Danish Oil | The Literary Workshop Blog

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