Here is 1 of 2 installments of the Wedding Gift. In this post I will whiz you through the process of creating the seating plan blocks and their etching. While planning this project I had in mind creating lengths of the necessary forms and then cutting them down to the appropriate size. However, when you are creating something fairly new and untested, plans are soon swiftly amended. I was fortunate enough to find all the timber necessary as off cuts in the machine room. Unfortunately, once they were machined and sanded to size, then passed through the spindle molder with the wobble saw, the lengths weren't as dead straight as I needed them. The natural tension in the wood is always at risk of giving way when it is brutally machined and shaped.
As soon as I had the lengths in the workshop and had set up the router table with a dovetail bit, it became clear I would have to fit the internal Sycamore strip to each individual block. It is in this situation that a fraction of a millimetre becomes magnified, and can make a break the quality of fit. By doing it in this painstaking way I could guarantee a perfect fit throughout the project, which was one of the more important details for me.
I wanted to create a patchwork of colour to show off the incredible natural colours of the material. Here they are in all their glory, from left to right: Oak, Yew, Cherry, Elm, Walnut and Ash, each containing the light coloured Sycamore strip.
There was a few days of hand planing the blocks. With a marker on the shooting board I trim them to size, while cleaning up the rough saw edges. My right arm was considerably bigger than my left afterwards!
On the final day of planing, a jig was made to hold the blocks while the Sycamore strip was planed back to leave a clean leave surface on every edge of the blocks.
Now, off to the Eden Valley to visit Joe Butler. Joe and his Father, Ian run Croglin Toys, the sweetest little toy workshop, based in Lazonby. They very kindly let me loose on their laser cutter, so I tucked myself up in their tiny little workshop to add the finishing touches to my Wedding Gift.
A grid was cut so the positions would remain the same. Each table was etched at a time, to avoid confusion or missing someone out. Final checks of spelling, number of names per group and laser settings, then *click sit back and watch. It's meserizing seeing the lettering emerge as the laser head darts left and right.As everyone in England is well aware, this summer has left much to be desired. Cumbria has had record amount of rain during June and July, exactly the time I was beaving away making these blocks. When I was about to head down to Gloucester for the wedding I did the final fine tuning to the sliding Sycamore bit. I convinced a little helper to pretend to play "wedding guest" and test the friction, and adjusted them accordingly. A quick rub with scented wax and they all slide wonderfully.
This project has really highlighted to me the difference humidity makes to this natural material. The temperature difference was considerable on the way South, and the blocks shrunk! I was gutted, my lovely fitting blocks were all loose. Ah well, the way of the material. They all looked smart lined up next to each other... and everyone managed to find their seats, which is the main thing.