Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fish inlay trivets or small cutting boards

This last week I had a chance to visit my wife's grandfather's wood shop and work for a morning. I decided to try an experiment with wood from his scrap bin and this is the result.

I started with a piece of 1" maple board 20" long which I cut roughly in half to make two pieces. Then I hand drew a fish made of two smooth arcs on each piece. I cut one of the arcs as smoothly as I could on the band saw. Smooth and straight was more important than accurate, so I drifted a bit from my original lines rather than making sharp corrections; this was important. It's critical to have a smooth curve right off the cut so everything fits together well.

On the table saw I ripped some thin strips of purple heart, roughly 1/8" thick and a little wider than my maple boards were thick (so just over 1"). I briefly soaked the purple heart in water and then did a test fit by clamping between the two pieces of maple I cut on the band saw. The purple heart didn't crack, so I repeated the clamping process with lots of glue and more clamps as tight as I could get them.

While one piece was drying, I cut the arc on the other piece and did the test fit and glue up. By this time the first arc on the first piece was dry enough. I took a hand plane and cut the purple heart inlay flush with the face of the maple and trimmed the excess ends off on the bad saw.

It wasn't very pretty at this stage, the maple was covered in wood glue and wasn't clamped together perfectly straight, but it was flat enough to be stable when I cut the second arc on the band saw to complete the fish design. I then glued it back together with the same process and purple heart inlay. When I glued the second inlay I referenced off where the pieces cross near the tail of the fish. I didn't care if the edges of the board lined up (they didn't), but I wanted this little section to all line up. My inlay was wider than the kerf of the band saw, so I couldn't have more intersections of the inlays and actually have them line up. That's why the mouth of each fish is open, it wouldn't line up properly without a much thinner inlay to match the thin kerf of the band saw.

With the final glue-up dry, I squared it off using the mitre saw and table saw. Ran it through the planer to clean the faces off. I could have sanded them flat, but why bother with a 220v 15" planer handy! Rounded the corners off with the router. Then finally sanded a bit to clean it up. I coated them with some food safe mineral oil since I plan to use them in the kitchen.

This was beach week vacation and I had been drinking corona light on the beach and while fishing. I intended these as small cutting boards for limes or cheese. I gave one to my wife's grandfather and the other I took home to use in my kitchen. They will work just as well as Trivets. Since the wood goes all the way through, it would be trivial to re-sand and finish them if they were ever to get burnt or scuffed.

When I get home, I plan to use some dark exotic hardwood and maple inlays to make an inverse board to compliment this one. I have the wood to do it now, I took a pile scraps home with me to work with. I plan to do a future post showing the cuts and glue-ups I described above.

I used this cutting board conditioner to protect them.