Tricks for joining heavily figured tops?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, Mar 9, 2014.


  1. tjclem

    tjclem

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    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Central Florida
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    Owner and builder Clementbass
    When you are getting ready to glue up a heavily figured top set running it through a joiner can be a nightmare. What tricks do you use to make the joining surfaces as smooth and clean as possible?

    Thanks ...tom
  2. Rodent

    Rodent

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    Dec 20, 2004
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    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
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    Owner/Founder/Builder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    what you using for a jointer set-up?

    I use a 6" Powermatic with a helical head, and about the only time I have an issue is with a couple woods that are either brittle or rotten (spalted)

    on the brittle woods, slight chip out can occur when jointing a set where the clue line is across the grain. I'm sure there's a better approach, but taking a couple very light passes after I have a nicely mating edge seems to eliminate 99% of the chipping with the remainder being so slight that it can easily be filled and never be seen after a spray finish without the aide of magnification

    the too far gone spalted stuff I hate - it's like trying to cut a dried natural sponge with a butter knife. IMO/IME only thing worse is Horse Chestnut ... I mean Buckeye burl ... as it can be full of little mineral deposits (small stones) that ruin your blades as soon as you start jointing the set. given the downtime and cost to replace a set of blades in my other jointer, asking $350 extra for a Buckeye top is a pure bargain

    R

    all the best,

    R
  3. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    How thick?

    I use my table saw for most edge joints- I remove a minimum of material, so it doesn't have a chance for a major chip out.

    Another way, if you have a decent router involves a simple jig or you can simply use two long pieces of plywood or MDF and a pair of clamps at the ends. You'll need a straight cut router bit and a bushing or a bearing, to guide the router along the edges of the two guide pieces. You want the guide pieces to be parallel but they can be a little farther apart than the diameter of the bushing or bearing. The pieces for the top should just protrude from the guides.

    Use a fresh carbide bit, not a steel one. If the wood wants to chip, you can move the router in the opposite direction, but be careful. This is called 'climb routing'.

    If you have a router table, you can use that, too. If the fence is in two pieces, just shift the outfeed section by the amount you want to remove.
  4. 1958Bassman

    1958Bassman

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    How do you like making a nice, clean cut on spalted wood, with a chain saw?
  5. LightGroove

    LightGroove

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    Oct 24, 2006
    Location:
    Happy Bottom, VA
    This is my next investment. A decent table can be had for relatively cheap.
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member

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    Feb 4, 2011
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    Fillmore, CA
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    Professional Luthier
    Tom, I always use a router in a fixture for jointing the edges of highly figured woods. Like 1958Bassman is describing, the fixture holds the halves up vertically, against each other, with supporting boards on either side. The cutting is done with the end surface of a standard 1/2" or 3/4" straight router bit. I've found that the end teeth, spinning in little circles, are much less likely to rip out chunks than teeth cutting cylindrically, such as jointer cutters or the side of a router bit. That and light cuts. On the most fragile woods, take shallow, gentle cuts.

    I've made several different sizes and variants of that fixture. You can see one of them on this page, the second picture down on the left. Once you've made the fixture, the setup and operation is actually about as fast as a jointer.

    http://www.xstrange.com/Building/Buildingbody1.html
  7. tjclem

    tjclem

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    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Central Florida
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    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Thanks for all the feedback guys. I just have a normal Jet 6" joiner. I do have a router table. I like Bruce's idea. I am not the greatest jig maker though but definitely something to look into.
  8. LightGroove

    LightGroove

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    Oct 24, 2006
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    Happy Bottom, VA
  9. Luthier Atlanta

    Luthier Atlanta

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    Atlanta, U.S.A.
    I agree, I also find it helps to use a pore filler or epoxy first.
  10. Ironfingers

    Ironfingers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    I use the method in the video except we have a Kreg router table which has a system for this built in.

    There are 2 rods that go into these 2 sets of holes. one set bites a bit more than the other one.

    [​IMG]

    Rods installed in the outfeed fence.

    [​IMG]

    Algning the fence with the bit.

    [​IMG]

    I love this bit. Top AND bottom bearing.

    [​IMG]

    It works very well as long as you don't put pressure on the infeed side of the fence. You'll get snipe on the end if you do.
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Location:
    Houston Tx
    My old Craftsman Jointer leaves a lot to be desired as far as a smooth cut goes, its on my to be replaced list. I usually run my tops through the jointer to get them flat then get them perfect by using some sticky back sand paper on my table saw fence like a long 90 degree sanding block. It works very well.
  12. Big B.

    Big B.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    If you are looking for a long term answer I'm with Rodent on the helical jointer head. My Grizzly 8" is easily the best tool investment I've made yet. With exceptionally figured woods I make slower passes but I've never had a chipout issue with any burls or even the most curly maple. Aside from the edge joining I also love being able to surface the face of curly boards with no tearout as well.

    As an alternative I like Hopkins method of using sandpaper on the tablesaw fence. If you use the router table setup I would recommend a spiral bit or a straight bit with a shear angle to the cutting edges. Traditional straight cut bits tend to have some of the same issues as a straight knife jointer or planer where as the shear cut bits function almost as well as the true spiral bits.
  13. LightGroove

    LightGroove

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    Oct 24, 2006
    Location:
    Happy Bottom, VA
    Yep that was going to be another thought...a simple sanding setup..I love this idea..might try it this afternon :)
  14. tjclem

    tjclem

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    Jun 6, 2004
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    Central Florida
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    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Thanks all to me threads and answers like what I have seen here are what I would like to see more of in this forum and a bit less of "how do I get this tone?"

    Just my opinion naturally though.
  15. Big B.

    Big B.

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    Dec 31, 2007
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    Austin, TX
    Not just your opinion. :)
  16. Rodent

    Rodent

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    not sure I like the 'tone' of your last comment

    :bag:

    R
  17. tjclem

    tjclem

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    Central Florida
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    Owner and builder Clementbass

    :D
  18. sowilson

    sowilson

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    I have a 14" jointer and for figured wood I use new steel blades as they are a bit sharper initially than the carbide blades I use mostly. Another way that I find very satisfying is to use a hand plane (Lie Nielsen 5,6, or 7) properly sharpened and set up with an extreemly fine cut. If the wood is really squirley I'll go with a higher angle frog, try a low angle smoothing plane, or pull out a scraping plane. I use to use a router setup but it's a lot quicker to pull out the hand planes.
  19. tjclem

    tjclem

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Central Florida
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    Owner and builder Clementbass
    wow never seen a joiner that big!

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