I bought about sixty board foot of White Ash to make a rolling cabinet. Its to fit into a 19″ wide opening underneath the 12/12 pitch incline of roof in the corner closet of a bedroom.
Honestly I was thinking “light and strong” when I was shopping lumber, as well as a certain quality of calm face grain and not too much contrast in the color of the wood itself. Never having used White Ash before, it surprised me with its weight. Definitely a hard wood, feels comparable to red oak in a lot of respects, but has proven easier to work. Total bill for the lumber was about $275.
Where did the Ash come from I wonder? Its been planed, but there’s still enough saw mark to tell it was sawn on a circular saw mill. Some of the writing on it marking a batch number tells me it was probably one of the larger dedicated hardwood mills, modern equipment. I struggled to find good grain, they had about 300bf available and I pulled through all of it. Even many dedicated woodworkers don’t like to sift through to the bottom of a heavy pile of hardwood, so that’s where most of the good pieces were left. I’ve also watched professional cabinetmakers of the modern variety pull boards off a bunk almost indiscriminately, something I don’t understand.
Whatever tree or trees the lumber I bought came from were also not so straight, with most of the eight foot lengths I bought being sections of internode between branches, where you get that heavy reversing/rising rain on both ends of the board.
It involved a regrettable amount of waste for me to saw around defects and drop either edge of most of the boards to get my rough cut lengths.
The largest panels I’m gluing up will be 18.75″ x 6′. It makes me nervous to do such a long and wide multi board glue up, so I only glued one joint at a time. Besides, it makes a big difference to how much work planing the panel out will be, to get the glue up just right. The boards are all 4/4 (about 15/16″) and need a finished thickness of 3/4″. As anyone who has tried this will find out, its pretty easy to glue a cup or serious twist into your panel if the edge jointing isn’t done well. Thankfully I don’t have to suffer the prevarications of a poorly made jointer or planer, I have hand planes.
Sometimes with hardwood it feels like you’ve brought a knife to a gun fight, using hand tools. Well, it is a knife wedged in a block of wood. There’s no secret to it, you just need a really consistently sharp cutting edge, set evenly from the sole. Oh, and a properly conditioned dai, with its edge perfectly square to its contact points on the sole. And a planing beam with its face as perfectly flat as you can render it. And an edge runner perfectly parallel to the face of the planing beam. And then I guess you need acceptable technique and stamina.
Damn, I’m making it sound difficult, its not. It just takes concentration and strong hands.
My planing beam is proving to be a bit short for the task, but I made it work. If I have a lot of material to take off I’ll plane the board on edge so that I can use my body weight and gravity more effectively. It also allows you to use the cutting edge of the plane iron more evenly between sharpening.
The beam is also the reference surface for checking the straightness of the edge. In a way you are checking how flat your planing beam is when you joint a board to its surface. When you compare two boards edge together that have been planed to the same reference any deviation is doubled. Thankfully, even though my planing beam is thin it has had a good year to settle and dry. It still moves enough to cause me headaches, but I know where to look now when I’m checking it.
This happened to me for the first time with the blade to my sole conditioning kanna. I’ve felt over the past couple of months my sharpening technique improve, but my 60mm blade is apparently just too back heavy and long to stick to the stone. Its nice to have concrete examples of improving technique.
And way to go homemade clamps! They don’t develop near the pressure of a metal screw clamp, but have proven to get the job done quite well in this case. Now I just need twice as many of them, haha.