Laminating Wood

Laminating is a more controllable method of curving wood than steam bending, although it involves more work. You take a shaped former or mould — not unlike that used in steam bending — and wrap thin, flexible strips (laminates) around it. The thinness of the laminates means that the process does not involve using water to soften the fibres.

Laminating

The easiest way to make laminates is by using 2-mm (3/32-in) thick constructional veneers. These are available from specialist veneer suppliers, or can be cut on a band saw or table saw. You coat the laminates on both sides with glue and bend them around a former, secured in place with plenty of cramps. The cramps are necessary for holding the laminates in close contact with both the former and each other. If you do not use enough cramps there will be gaps between the laminates, causing unsightly glue lines. Once the glue has cured, which takes at least a day, you can remove the cramps. The laminated component will now hold the shape of the curved former. You can remove dried glue that has squeezed out using a sharp chisel or plane, leaving the finished laminated work piece with little, or no, visible evidence of how the shape was formed. For laminations such as contemporary table or chair legs it is possible to glue together heavier strips of solid timber, rather than veneers. When laminating larger components a vacuum press is a more efficient method. No cramps are necessary and the bag is simply folded up when not required.

TIP

• Cut laminates longer than needed. Once glued together, you can cut the curved shape to the exact length and trim the ends with a block plane if necessary.

The Former

You can make a former, or mould, from sheet material such as chipboard or MDF, or from solid timber. Reclaimed softwood is also ideal. Depending on the depth of the laminates you are using, it is common to build up the former in several layers, which you glue together and cramp before cutting the finished curve on a band saw. If the finished depth is relatively shallow – less than about 64 mm (2½ in) – you can cut the shape with a jigsaw, preferably fitted with a new blade.

It is a good idea to make a card template first, cutting out the required shape with a craft knife. You can then draw around this, on the former itself, with a pencil. The curve needs to be shaped accurately as the laminates will follow the sawn edge exactly. If necessary, you can tidy the curve up using a sanding drum or spokeshave.

Band Sawn Laminates

To make your own laminates, fit a wide, sharp blade to the band saw and check that it is square to the table. The fence should be sturdy enough to support the depth of timber that you will use to produce the laminates. If necessary, fix a vertical piece of thick MDF to the fence to support the work.

Plane a face side and edge on the timber and determine which way you want to cut it. Raise the blade guard so that it is just above the height of the timber. With the planed surfaces against the fence and table, carefully feed the timber through the saw, using an offcut to maintain sideways pressure against the fence. Make sure you also use a pushstick, so your hands are as far from the blade as possible. When you have completed the cut, plane the freshly sawn edge of the timber again, so that it is straight and flat for feeding against the fence. Repeat the process to make as many laminates as required.

You will probably need to clean up the sawn surface of each laminate, unless your band saw produces an exceptionally clean cut with no ridges. Use either a cabinet scraper or a power sander (belt or orbital) to do this. Alternatively, coarse abrasive paper wrapped around a sanding block will do the trick, but it may be hard work. Using a plane on such thin wood is likely to make it snap.

Word Discription :

Face edge The second surface to be worked when preparing timber. The face edge and face side are always at 90 degrees to each other. Face side When preparing timber this is always the first face to be planed. It must be perfectly flat and straight.

Former A mould shaped to the required curve, around which laminates are cramped while gluing. Often female and male moulds are used together, with laminates cramped in between. Laminate Thin strips of wood glued together to form a thicker, stable board. The work piece may be straight or shaped to a pattern.

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