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Flying solo and slow

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A lot of you, like me, operate one-man shops. There’s a feeling of freedom working on your own schedule, but sometimes a helping hand would be good. Often, though, one’s not available.

Working with large stock can be difficult. You can break sheet stock down with a circular saw, and then work the resulting smaller sheets more easily. Solid stock can also be broken down sometimes before further working it. Sometimes not.

For a current project, I needed two workpieces 1-1/4” x 2-1/4” x 78”. I bought a 2" x 6" x 11’ piece of poplar (actual dimensions) a couple weeks ago that weighed a ton. Had to cut off the last 4' to get it in the car, leaving me a 2” x 6” x 7” working chunk, which was still mighty heavy.

The poplar was twisted and bowed, so before I could do anything else with it I had to true it up. To get the board flat I had to take off about 3/8” from one face, then move to my planer to bring it to the desired 1-1/4” thickness. Yeah, a lot of waste but the warpage required it. Then I jointed one edge and ripped out the two 2-1/4"-wide pieces I needed, then trimmed them to length.

Everything came out true and square, but muscling that big slab of poplar around was a job and a half. Each step in the milling process made it lighter so it got easier as it went along, but it was still a slow process. A second person to help out would have been great, but no one else was around. So would a long-bed jointer, which I don’t own.

Making the job tougher was the weather. Unlike the delightfully cool, humidity-free conditions I mentioned in my last blog, the temperature was in the low 90s yesterday. (And they say that will be the coolest day of the week!) So between the heat, the ungainly size and weight of my stock, and working alone, it took nearly two hours to do it right. Yeah, two hours to arrive at two finished pieces of working stock.

But because of the heat and the difficulty of the task, it was necessary to work slowly. Safety issues demanded it; the size of the stock demanded it. And the fact that I only had one – rather expensive – piece of poplar demanded it, too, because I had to get it right the first time. And working slowly did the trick.

But, working slowly sometimes has its own rewards on a hot day, and by the time I was done – with two perfect workpieces – it proved to be a very enjoyable experience.

Till next time,


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