I love it when the light hits a planed piece of figured wood just so.
Looks nice, doesn’t it?
But distractions aside, the head board is assembled!
The process was not without some difficulties, though. Here were some of the challenges I faced and the techniques I used. This is going to be another long post.
Panel raising with a hand plane is pretty easy, actually, but it does require attention when doing it freehand. I begin with the end grain, which on this soft maple actually planes pretty smooth.
I start on the end grain for two reasons: 1. any break-out on the far side will be planed away when you bevel the sides, and 2. it takes a sharper edge to plane the end grain cleanly, but you can get away with a slightly duller iron when planing with the grain. On occasion, I’ve drawn some guide lines in pencil on the face, and that works fine, but I found that once I got into the habit of planing at one angle, my hands tended to maintain that angle. I do plane down to a gauge line I’ve drawn on the edge.
Then plane down the sides:
Notice that even thought I don’t have a gauge line on the face, the line where the bevels meet makes a handy line anyway. Those lines should remain the same length throughout the process, and when you’re done, they should intersect precisely with the corner of the panel, as in the above-right picture. Here’s where a dedicated panel-raiser with a fence would be ideal, but I make do with my Sargent jointer plane.
Making Drawbore Pins
I have 1/4″ thick mortises in 3/4″ thick wood, so I don’t need huge pins, and the 1/4″ drill bit was looking a little too beefy, so I went down to 3/16, and that seemed about right. The trick is getting the pins that small.
I decided on pecan, whose light color will match the maple, but will be much stronger. I knew I needed to rive them out for strength, but how do you rive out pieces that thin?
Here’s what I came up with. The clamp holds them gently, and also prevents the split from going down too far too fast and running out. This method worked great!
Then I shaved the pieces down a bit on a hand plane held upside-down in the vise, and finished by shaving them down with a spokeshave.
I don’t think I’d want to use a less-tough wood than pecan for pegs this thin.
Now for the Problems
Apparently I had cut the panels just slightly over size, so the joints had some trouble closing up completely. Unfortunately, I noticed this only as I was driving in the drawbore pins. That meant I couldn’t disassemble the joints to correct the problem.
I guess I first noticed when one of the joints literally exploded as I drove the pin home. The wood split on both sides, and a chunk came spitting out of the top. I wish now I had taken a picture, but I was too busy trying not to panic. I located the piece that had blown out, flooded the joint with glue, and put a bit parallel clamp on it to try to contain the damage.
The end result wasn’t pretty, but it was still a strong joint. The above picture is a different joint, but almost all the mortise-and-tenon joints had gaps in them.
I was NOT happy when I saw this mess.
I left it overnight and went to bed wondering how to fix it. In the morning, I remembered a technique I had heard about on a woodworking forum but had never tried out.
I used my dovetail saw to saw some kerfs in a bit of scrap from the same wood and collected the sawdust. I mixed in enough yellow glue to make a paste. Instant color-matched wood filler! And because this is made with real cherry-wood dust, it should darken to the same color, and at the same rate, as the surrounding wood.
I used a dull chisel as a putty knife to scrape off the excess, and then went over the joint with a damp rag.
At least you can’t see light through the joint anymore!
I then gave the headboard some time to sun itself in the front yard to darken the cherry a bit, and to let me get on with building the rails and foot board.