Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Solid Bookmatched Furniture Panels- A Tutorial

They seem simple, but there is some technique to achieving great looking bookmatched panels. On a piece like this blanket chest I'm working on, I always start with the panels. They get the choice cuts, and I want to have some flexibility on the project dimensions depending on how the panels are turning out.

With quartrersawn material, I look for medullary rays like the picture below. For something like knotty alder, I would strategically place the knots...etc.

When cut and bookmatched, quartersawn rays can have this great arched look:

So cut some nicely figure boards to length. Leave them over-sized. You'll want some play. With a lot of panels (12 on this chest), I made one extra. Never fails when you resaw and'll have some nasty defect or ridiculous tearout.

With the boards cut to length, I like to rip a kerf top and bottom. (couple passes raising the blade each time)

This makes it easier on my wussy 1HP bandsaw. Keeps the blade from straying as well.

Now, don't get your pairs mixed up. Mark the ends if needed and move on to the planer. You can be aggressive planing off the ugly bandsaw blade marks. But after that, you'll want light passes. And pay attention to grain direction....or you'll be sorry. I planed these down to 5/16". That's about the most you can get out of 4/4 material.

Tearout...never fails. Some pieces hate you and everything you stand for. For these deviants, there is the no. 80 scraper. This little bugger allows to scrape smooth those trouble spots.

Now play with your panels. Try 'em different ways, see which looks best. If they're oversized, you can even rip some off the inside seam edge to get a better look.

When you get the look you want, fold them like a book, plane a nice glue edge.

Gluey schmoooey. I'll start gluing these a couple at a time while I mill the other parts to the project.

Smoothing bookmatched panels can be a pistol because the grain flips direction right on the seam. I give them my best shot, the I follow up with scrapers or fine hand sanding.

Might all sound simple, but if you'll see, there's some method to my madness. If you pull it off, you'll have some sweet panels like this:

Hope it helps,
Dan Westfall

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