I'm building an Army #2: Cutting (and cutting, and cutting and...)

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Blog entry by Gianni posted 01-02-2015 02:30 AM 1545 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Designing the pieces Part 2 of I'm building an Army series Part 3: aaaaand cutting, and cutting »

So the first piece I wanted to cut was the knight. This was the piece about which I was most unsure of the design, so I thought I’d give it my best and abort early if it turned out poorly.

A few mistakes I learned right quick:

1. Cutting the notch in the base is no job for the scrollsaw, at least with me behind the wheel. Blade flex and alignment in wood this thick just makes lining up the grooves from side to side nearly impossible.
2. Blade speed and feed rate. I normally scroll with the blade at or near top speed and feed as rapidly as it’s willing to go. I found this to cut much straighter and the corners more navigable at about half to three-quarter speed. Feed rate somewhere between painfully slow and crawling kept the blade vertical.
3. Blade type. I started with a fairly aggressive 7 tpi blade due to the thickness of the wood. After about 3 pieces I started experimenting with blade types and speeds and found that I could do a much more accurate cut with a 20 tpi skip tooth blade, and the much finer blade also made cornering much cleaner.
4. Burning. This was my biggest worry, because there would be no way to sand out the burn marks on the small curves and fine pieces. Shockingly, it has not been a problem, even in the walnut.

To avoid burning in the white pieces, I picked up two chunks of “Natural soft maple” at the lumber joint when we were at my wife’s house for Christmas. It usually has a grey appearance, but since I wasn’t after much, I picked through and found a piece that was as light as rock maple and glued it into a blank. This stuff machines like a dream, I may start using it for more projects where abuse isn’t a large concern.

After milling up the sticks, I used a glue stick to apply the pattern. To get the fold exact, i “looped” the paper a bit around my index finger and rolled it back and forth while pinching the fold closed with my other hand. I built a little jig to help give something to hold on and keep the sides clamped during the second cut. It has a handful of bandsaw kerfs in the sides to give a spot for threading the saw blade.

After the first piece turned out, I decided to just cut a groove with the table saw in the base. This made it easy and aligned well, but the sawblade wanted to chip out the walnut badly. Not so with the soft maple though. I may come back around to the bases and build a router jig to fancy them up. We’ll see how tired I get by the time I hit that 16th pawn.

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