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Home > Working Figured Hardwoods With Power Machinery
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Working Figured Hardwoods With Power Machinery

I am often asked about the work-ability of figured maple. I have found some time to list the more important things you ought to be aware of for a trouble free, safe experience when working figured lumber, or for that matter any wood, with power tools.

Figured maple is a joy to work. I find it no different to work than plain maple. Working with power tools, the primary requisite for a trouble free, safe working experience is keeping your machinery in good working order. This includes keeping your knives jointed and sharpened properly. Also in the case of a planer make sure you have all the rollers, chip breaker and hold down bars adjusted properly. Some less expensive planers do not have all these adjustments and you may experience some problems getting the finish you want.

Perhaps just as important as machinery adjustment is making sure you use common sense when power feeding your wood. Keep the wood feed speed down to a reasonable level to let the machinery do it's work properly. If you feed it at a too fast of a rate of speed you will experience wood tear out and a rough surface. Feeding it too slowly you will experience wood burn depending on the condition of your knives. You also have to be aware of the grain of the wood. If you experience tear out running the board in one direction turn it around and run it from the other direction.

Remember not to take too big of a cut per pass. As a rule of thumb a 1/32" or 1/16" depth of cut is safe to take. You may take a larger cut but the depth of cut you take is determined by the power and adjustmnent of your machinery and the finish you want to achieve. You will soon know what your machine is capable of handling for the finish you want.

An evacuation system to rid the shavings from the work when surfacing is suggested. This will help to ensure a smoother finish and provide a clean healthful working environment. If you don't effectively get rid of the shavings as they leave the board they will mar the finish by getting between the rollers and the board. This embossing can be taken out with the sanding process but it does take more time and expense in doing so.

Keep in mind that a correctly adjusted power machine is a safe machine and a joy to use........ unfortunately, the opposite is just as true!

A Couple Words Of Caution When Working With Power Tools.

Personal safety is the utmost factor you have to be aware of when working with power tools. Do not attempt to turn that switch on unless you are prepared to give that piece of machinery 100% of your attention. We are creatures of habit and sometimes our habits are not safe. These unsafe practices will eventually catch up with us when we least expect them . Always be aware of the consequences of your actions when you are around power machinery. There is an old saying that goes something like this "familiarity breeds contempt". Working with a same piece of machinery for years we become comfortable with it and don't give it the respect that it deserves. I've known professional woodworkers that worked on the same piece of machinery for a lifetime and due to one second of bad habit without thought in what they were doing lost fingers, hands and eyes in the process.

For Safe Machinery Operation.....Remember To:
(1) Keep the machine in correct adjustment and insure that the knives are reasonably sharp and tightly positioned in their heads.
(2) Be alert as to changes in finish, noise or anything that deviates from the norm of correct machinery operation.
(3) Always give the machinery your complete attention.
(4) Always respect that machine for what it can do....both good and bad.
(5) Do not use loose clothing around power machinery. It can get caught in the knives and pull you into them. This is especially true around jointers and shapers.
(6) Always, always make a habit of safe practices when you work with power machinery....and never, never deviate from them.
I hope the above thoughts stay with you when you work with your power machines. If they save a finger or more, it was worth the effort putting them on paper.
Happy Safe Woodworking!...Mike