Christmas Doesn’t Mean December

It’s been three months of almost non-stop travel for work. I put on my shop apron, move the Christmas wreath and the ice cream freezer off my bench, and suddenly, all’s right in my world again.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I got a late start on a picture frame for Brian and Tia – but I realized I can’t actually post this until after giving it to them (I doubt either of them read this, but with my luck, they’d see it within ten minutes of posting). Did I actually have it ready before Christmas? Of course not. So between late construction, late delivery, and lots of travel, this post is a little behind schedule.

I decided to do something pretty simple. Originally, I was going to do a 1/4″ string inlay, but I realized it would be even easier to just build the frame with three strips – one 1.5″ strip of padauk, one 1/4″ strip of maple, and another 1/4″ strip of padauk. Scrap wood is a wonderful thing.

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This was simple – just ripping the strips to width, passing them through the planer, and gluing them together. The maple strip was slightly wider than the others, but it didn’t matter. It was two minutes with a jack plane to bring it all down to the same thickness.

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This is the sort of operation where the Roubo really, really shines. One end in the vise, one holdfast holding it against the bench front, and it was perfectly aligned and rigidly held for planing.

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In the past, I’d have set up the router and used it to cut the rabbet for the glass and the matte. That meant putting in the right router bit, setting the fence width, setting the bit depth, and cutting the rabbet in about three or four passes to avoid tearout – changing the bit depth each time.

This time, I cut the rabbet with my new/old Stanley #78 plane. it took less time to cut the rabbets in each frame section than it would have to set up the router in the first place. For this kind of work, I’m never going back.

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Splines for the corners were cut and planed by hand, and the finished frame got two coats of oil, one coat of sanding sealer, and two coats of lacquer. I’ll probably always do some operations by machine, like long rip cuts and stock thicknessing. I say that today, but it keeps changing… and every project, I find myself doing more handwork, not less. It’s amazing how many operations are faster by hand than by machine. Go figure.

Oh, and sometimes redefining “scrap” is worth considering. The cutoff pieces from the miters made an interesting wine stopper.

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Ross Henton

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