Stacked Veneer Experiment with a Shocking Lesson

You’re probably aware that I like to incorporate a twist in my designs.

For some time, I’ve had this idea to laminate a stack of veneer in a twisted manner, so each subsequent piece of veneer is rotated just a degree or two. I suspected that, due to the difference in appearance between long grain and end grain, I would see a gradual lightness/darkness shift along the surface.

To test my theory and see what it would really look like, I cut cherry veneer into 2-3/4 inch squares with my bandsaw, because is was the quickest and easiest way I knew. I chose cherry because of the marked difference in darkness between its long grain and end grain, for better contrast.

I also grabbed two Quick Grip XL clamps, a bottle of Titebond Extend wood glue and prepared some small pieces of melamine as cauls to permit even distribution of clamping force and help ensure the faces stay flat.

Working efficiently and methodically, I spread glue on one face of a piece of veneer and placed another piece of veneer on it, rotated one veneer thickness counter-clockwise. I repeated the process for about a dozen pieces, then put the assembly between cauls and clamped them tightly. I glued together another dozen, then glued it to the previous dozen and put everything back in the clamps, continuing until I had two stacks each about 1″ high. The whole process took about an hour.

After a full day of drying, I unclamped the twisted veneer stacks and trimmed the uneven edges. The yield wasn’t particularly high, so I didn’t have many options for a finished product. I did have some pen kits on hand, so I decided to make a pen with the veneer. I cut one stack into 5/8″ squares, then glued them together, again rotated the thickness of one veneer.

I built a mini router jig to true up the pen blanks then drilled out the centres and mounted them on the lathe.

Once that dried, I made the pen. As I neared completion, I noticed some darker rings in the wood. They puzzled me, and I wondered if I had somehow put some veneer pieces in indirectly. Anyhow, I finished the pen and this is the result.

The twisted design I had attempted to produce was evident, and even more pronounced when I applied a thin coat of oil-based polyurethane to accentuate the long grain/end grain difference. But those rings!

After carrying the pen around for a few days, it struck me that the dark lines were caused when I put a dozen pieces of veneer in clamps to work on another stack, then glued them together! Somehow, this resulted in a darker veneer. How? Did the PVA glue absorb more into these pieces?

To avoid those dark laminations, I may have to glue all the veneers together in one shot before the glue starts to set. A glue with a longer open time would definitely be an asset. Or maybe a different glue, such as a plastic resin or epoxy would work. Or maybe if I just soaked the veneer in water first, the PVA glue would dry more slowly and encourage equal penetration.

If somebody can offer an insight as to why this happens, or if you have your own theory on how to prevent it, I’d love to hear it.

Dovetails and Plywood

My cousin, Michael, asked me to make a wooden box to store his torque wrench.  When he gave me the wrench so I could make the box to fit, he told me, “It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – just something to protect it.”  My job was just to make the box and he intended to line it with foam.

I didn’t have much in the way of non-fancy materials in my shop.  I was tempted to use some red oak but ultimately decided to use up some narrow strips of 1/2″ poplar plywood.  (Unlike most hardwood plywoods which have stupidly-thin veneers that splinter when you sneeze at them, this plywood is made of nice thick veneers.  This plywood is 1/2″ thick and has three layers.  You do the math.  This is my favourite plywood.)

At the tablesaw, I cut the six parts to size and milled grooves in the long sides for the bottom and sliding top.

I could have simply glued and nailed the corners, but I felt inspired.  So I dovetailed the corners.  No, they weren’t the best joints I’ve cut, but this application did not demand fine joinery.  These dovetails provided some visual interest and mechanical strength.  And that’s what mattered.  Yes, I used wood putty.  And yes, I missed a spot.  And no, I wasn’t concerned.

I decided to try the time-lapse function on my new video camera so I set it up when I cut the dovetails.  When I shot the video it was dark outside so I was in full control of the lighting.  A single fluorescent magnifying lamp directly over the bench illuminated the workspace.  I set the camera to take a picture every 10 seconds while I cut dovetails for a box.

This is definitely an experimental video.  Please let me know what you think of it.  (I’ll cover my strange dovetailing techniques in a future post.)

Christy Oates – Crab Desk

Crab Desk by Christy Oates

Artist Name:  Christy Oates
Title:  Crab Desk
Details:  circa 2009  –  Plywood, maple veneer, steel hinges, acrylic paint, wood dyes
Flat:  48″W x 35″H x 1-1/4″T
Opened:  48″L x 14″W x 35″H (Desk) and 13″L x 13″W x 17-1/2″H (Stool)

Why It’s Notable:

This piece merges wall art with furniture and takes collapsible furniture to a new level.  A few folds and flips transform a picture of a desk into an actual working desk complete with a stool.  When not needed, both the desk and stool disappear into the wall.