My grandmother was a great quilter. Not because she made prize winning quilts, but because she made nice quilts out of scraps. She used whatever cloth she had on hand – old clothes, other quilters leftovers, even sacks that food came in. The point is that she didn’t typically go out and buy materials for a quilt, she just mixed what she already had to get the nicest looking quilt. Since I am fortunate enough to have a decent stash of lumber, I try to follow her example.
In this day and age it is difficult and expensive to find boards wider than 10 inches. That means that when a panel is needed a glue up from multiple boards is in order. The goal is to make the new panel look intentional.
Here I am playing with the arrangement of 4 boards to get the best looking panel that I can. Obviously the face grain plays a big role in layout since it is the first thing you see; however, I find the end grain just as helpful here as the face grain. Why? The end grain tells you which side of the board pointed toward the center of the tree. I generally arrange the boards so all of them are oriented the same – as if they came from one board. Why? I like it that way. If that reason seems insufficient, then I have noticed that cherry looks a bit different when viewed from different ends. Sometimes this is more apparent after finish is applied. Arranging the boards like one plank helps make them look more uniform in my experience.
Once you have the best arrangement, it is time to start prepping the stock. Bob R. at the Logan Cabinet Shoppe did a great podcast on gluing up panels like this so I will not go into details, but here are a few tips to add to his.
1 – Flatten the SHOW side of each board. Why? After you glue up the panel the back will need more work to make the panel flat. Since the show side is the only side where appearances matter make it the side that requires less removal later. Get the show face of the boards pretty flat overall, but no need for perfection at this point. Just make sure that when you put the two “matching” faces together that the boards do not rock or move with respect to each other (a small hollow can be ok).
2 – Clamp the 2 boards securely when jointing the edges. If one of the boards moves then you will never get a nice joint. Here I clamped on both ends of the board and I would like to clamp the middle. I need a sliding vise… Also note, I planed the backside of the board showing. That is not usually required at this point, but this board was so twisted that I had to get the backside fairly flat so the show side could be worked easily.
3 – A slight hollow in the jointed pair is ok, but this is too much. If you just see light, you are golden. If you see this much light remove a bit more wood from the ends with 1 or 2 passes from a jointer.
4 – Use a plane with a long sole and a STRAIGHT blade. I use cambers (of different amounts) on every other bench plane except my #8. I reserve that plane just for the match planning of panels. I have found that if I use a cambered iron it can be a bit tricky to get a well jointed surface. Feel free to experiment on your own. Notice here that I am getting 2 sets of full width shavings – that is good.
5 – When testing for a good joint, stack one board on top of the other. If you think you have a good joint try rocking the bottom board (literally just a touch – careful not to push over). If the 2 boards move together as one, you are good. If the top board rocks on the bottom board then there is a high spot somewhere which requires more work to remove.
6 – A good long straightedge is your friend. The better you get at checking the jointed edge with a straightedge the faster you will get since you will not be unclamping the boards and testing the fit as frequently.
If you have any tips to share, the comment section is the right place!
Thanks for reading!