Saturday, April 13, 2013

Poll: What To Do Without Ideal Stock?

Current state of Shaker side table.
It doesn't appear that I am getting far with this project yet, but in reality I am pleased.  Thursday I was home sick from work, and did not feel well enough to put any time in the shop.

If you can't tell by the photo, I have all of the pieces cut from the rough stock except the legs and I have to redo one 3/4" rail for the front.

The legs are turning out to be a problem.

It's not that I don't have enough wood, but I might not have enough wood to cut the legs with what Christopher Schwarz calls "bastard grain" in his DVD.  Bastard grain in these legs means the annual rings of the wood go at about a 45 degree angle to the faces, resulting in legs with the same grain on all four sides of the leg.  I have always called this rift sawn, but I think this term is supposed to be even more specific.  Using wood with the grain going one direction or the other results in a leg that has face grain on one side and quarter sawn grain on the other.  I agree that this is distracting.

The wood that I have available to me might still work, but I'm not confident.  There was enough lumber on the wide board to get a leg or two with bastard grain on them.  But, once I cut the live edge away, I found that the grain runs out at an angle on this face.  I am looking for grain that is straight on all four sides.

Luckily, I bought an extra board at the lumber yard.  The problem is, this board is almost perfectly quarter sawn - the rings go perpendicular to the face.  One side of the board might yield an acceptable leg or two - the pith runs near one edge.  There is enough bastard grain that I might get enough legs, as long as the grain is straight in both directions.

If it turns out I don't have enough proper stock for four legs, I have several options:
  • Use the quarter sawn wood the way it is.  This would be the quickest and most economical solution, but it compromises the refined look of this piece.  To me, it might seem like a waste of time and effort laying out the rest of the piece so carefully and conserve materials here.
  • Go back to the lumberyard and buy another board.  This time ensuring that I get a board from which there is straight, bastard grain that will make the perfect legs.  If this is not possible, I might have to go to the next-thicker stack of cherry to find some, or perhaps cut bastard grain legs out of oversize lumber with grain that is not at the ideal angle.  The quarter sawn board I have will not go to waste, it is beautiful stuff.  I am sure I will think of something to do with it.
  • Mail order some turning blanks.  I had good luck with this when I wanted a long chunk of wood for my Krenov style jointer plane.  The disadvantages are that I must wait for the legs to be shipped here (probably a week or two), the cost for four blanks might be equal to or a little more than an entire new board, and that I have to live with whatever they send me.  If I am not happy with the grain orientation, I am back to square one.
  • Veneer the opposite faces of each leg.  I did this with an oak table I made last year, and was pleased with the results.  I got legs that looked like they were showing quarter sawn grain on all four faces.  I'm not sure what it would look like on a Shaker side table, but I imagine it will draw the eye less than the first option.
  • Borrow/purchase some ideal stock from one of the local woodworkers that I know.  It might take some asking around, and I don't know a large number of local woodworkers, but you never know.  Plus, I have a couple good ideas of who to ask.
Please vote for which option you would choose on the poll at the right side of the screen.  There also are undoubtedly solutions I haven't mentioned, so feel free to leave advice in the comments.


  1. Brian have you considered sawing the QS at a 45. Get a piece of cardboard, cut a 1 1/8" square out of it and use this on the QS board to get the grain orientation you want. It'll mean a little extra work to plane and square them up but you should end up with 4 bastard grain legs.

    1. Hi Ralph,

      I did think of that, but my stock isn't quite thick enough for that. I'm pretty sure that after it is planed up, I'll only have 1 1/4" thick stock to work with. If I have to buy a new board, and an ideal one isn't on the stack, I will resort to this.

  2. Missing option: quadrilinear legs :)

    OK, if would be an anachronism on shaker furniture... but it would confuse people to no end.

    1. Haha! That would be awesome on legs that taper out to 5/8" square. Separate the men from the boys!

      I think if I do this I'll stick with veneer. I'm not that much of a glutton for punishment yet.

    2. Gluttony for punishment would be insisting on quadrilinear oak for most of the Van Der Velde piano bench ;) I am planning to build a copy some day, but I may stick to plain oak or beech.

  3. "Veneer the opposite faces of each leg" - seems to me this would be the fastest way to get the look you are after. Good luck!

    1. I am a fan of this technique to get the abovementioned quadrilinear look. Not sure what it would look like on tapered legs, but there is one way to find out!

  4. Get more wood then you'll have no regrets.

    Jim B

  5. I like Option #2. And take one of your rough cut pieces with you to best match the tone and grain. Just having this option makes it a no-brainer for me. Sometimes we're dealing with unique stock where buying more of the same just isn't possible. That's when you really need to make some tough decisions.


    1. Hi Eric and Jim,

      I am leaning this direction, although it may not be so economical. I am going to have a buttload of extra cherry in my tiny shop. Perhaps I can use it to make a second one.

      Also, there wasn't much cherry in this thickness left but just a few boards. I might have to get an even thicker board!

      BTW, I could have avoided a bunch of thicknessing by hand if I had gone with the one inch stuff for the parts that you see in the photo. I only bought wood that thick so I could get legs out of it, too. I guess that's the price of being picky.