Published: Wed, March 08, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Let's Get This Straight | By Hand & amp; Eye Online

Let's Get This Straight | By Hand & amp; Eye Online

Here's how I go about selecting and conditioning wood for a straight edge that will best maintain its accuracy over a period of time:

Wood species. Generally less-dense woods will be more stable, but there are numerous exceptions. Mostly I go with Honduras mahogany and cherry. There is a good chart at the website (under "resources") that lists dimensional change coefficients for many common hardwoods. The measurements refer to a plain sawn board-be aware that a rift-sawn (sometimes called radial cut) usually has about one-half less dimensional change.

Therefore, to reduce inherent tendencies to movement I always cut My stock from rift sawn true radial (not just from the quarter sector) grain orientation. Notice the difference in the illustration. Rift sawn gives you what riven wood (split with wedges and froes) would produce.

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After I cut the stock to length and resaw it to rough thickness (I'm usually three-eighths of an inch) I condition these workpieces by standing them on edge for several weeks (in the same environmental conditions as the place / shop they will live out their lives). Avoid laying them flat and stickering them-you want to see them move so you can cull out warped and bowed stock.

Speaking of finish, I hand rub slow-drying oil into the wood. I use tung oil with non-toxic dryers. (I'm a big fan of Bioshield furniture finishes). I add enough coats to thoroughly saturate the pores. After the last coat, when dry (takes a couple of days), I apply several coats of shellac. Shellac provides an excellent steam barrier, more so than most other film finishes.

To test (and occasionally retest) the finished tool for straightness I use the magic of geometry: Flip it over and draw a second line on top of the first. If there is no variance, the edge is perfectly straight.

Keep tuned: Further down the digital road we'll be posting a short video clip on how to make a straightedge to accurately tolerances of.001 inches using a hand plane.

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