Friday, September 13, 2013

Bookmatched Wood

One aromatic cedar slab - bookmatched

One term that gets thrown about in woodworking from time to time is "bookmatched." Something built from bookmatched lumber has a distinctive look to it because the grain pattern on the boards will match. It matches because a bookmatched set of lumber is a tree that has been sawn, but kept together.

A couple reasons to bookmatch lumber: It doubles your wood if you're working with a big piece, and it allows you to do interesting thing with grain patterns.

More info/pictures after the jump...

Bookmatched maple
Bookmatched lumber is any piece of wood that has been sliced along its length to produce two pieces of wood. There are two ways to get bookmatched lumber. First, you can saw a tree and put the tree back together the way you cut it up. Or, you can take a single board and "resaw" it. Resawing lumber is just slicing it along its length, parallel to its face.

Two compare with the big cedar slab, I cut the little piece of junky maple above into a bookmatch.

Band saw - set to resaw
Typically, you use a band saw to resaw. The way the teeth of its blade are designed it provides a good path for food chips to be ejected from the cut, it makes for better cut.

Band saw with magnetic fence
The table surface of a band saw is typically steel. Steel is magnetic, so there are magnetic fences (the blue thing) that you can buy that allow you to set up a guide to follow. Assuming you follow the fence, this ensures that you end up with relatively uniform thickness along the length of the piece.

Compare the grain patterns, particularly the knot
When you're done, you end up with two pieces of wood that can unfold, like a book. This creates a sort of mirror image effect to the grain. Look at the knot in the picture above for an example of this. This would allow you to make interesting cabinet doors, drawer fronts, etc... it's got a lot of design possibilities.

Now, lets say intsead of a piece of maple six inches wide, you want to resaw something like this:

We're going to need a bigger saw.
You need to up the horsepower on your saw to something more like this:

<Tim Taylor Grunt>
That's a portable sawmill. I found a guy, Jim Hoffman, who wasn't too far away and was willing to resaw my cedar slab. (Side note: If you've got a big tree you need to take down, consider giving him a shout and turning it into lumber).

The portable sawmill is really just a big ass band saw designed to make cuts like this.

Nailed it.
Now I've got twice as much usable wood from the slab and I have the luxury of being able to consider using pieces from the bookmatched set together for design purposes.

Cedar should give cool mirror image effect because of the wacky grain patterns.
Yup, this is going to be cool.

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