I’ve been a little quiet on the blog recently, but that is not to say that I’ve been slacking at the bench. The sides for the boarded book case are now down to final dimension (save for being shot to length, but I’m planning to build a new shooting board before I do that) and ready for joinery. It is worth taking the time to get these key components right, because everything else is laid out from them, and they are the main structural elements. In a more forgiving material, such as pine, this would not have taken too long, but this maple is both beautiful and truculent. When I was at Totnes we used to say that the more beautiful a piece of wood was, the more difficult it would be to work. That is a phrase that takes me back to visions of fitting the cocobolo bridge to Esmerelda, a 3 day process which involved taking thin shavings from specific parts of the bridge until a perfect fit with the curvature of the top was achieved. Which is fine, until you start doing it in an incredibly hard and brittle timber like cocobolo. Good times indeed.
The maple for the bookcase isn’t as horrifying as that, but even with sharp tools I’ve found it wants to tear out quite a bit, so going slowly and moving to a smoothing plane sooner than I would normally do, has been the order of the day. And there is something very rewarding about working slower – accepting that a job will take longer than you think and settling into the rhyth. The results are worth the work, and this should be a nice looking piece when it is complete.
With the sides finished and put safely out of the way, I prepared the shelf components for jointing. Like the sides, I am edge jointing two pieces of maple to get the requisite width for each shelf. To provide a reference face for checking that the edge joint is square, I planed one face of each shelf board flat. These surfaces do not need to be perfectly smooth or pretty right now, just flat so that I have a datum surface to work with. The opposite face of the shelves are still in the rough, and I will work them once the shelves have been glued up. My plan for the shelves is to have the top face smooth and pretty, and leave the underside of each shelf with the tool marks from traversing to thickness with a jack plane. The scolloped texture from traversing is always a nice surprise for enquiring fingers, and traversing the shelves till be a very efficient way of bringing them down to the requisite thickness.