Optimum Yield from a Precious Plank

The wood selected for my next piece has been seen before. I'm using off cuts of maple and birds eye maple from the drawers of the Entry Hall Mirror as well as yellow birch from the same plank as the Letter Box. What's going to make this interesting is that there isn't a lot of extra material. Sometimes it works just fine to quickly layout the parts on the plank and begin cutting, but in this case we'll be cutting it close... "down to the gnats eyebrow" you might say. Most of the off cuts this time around will be shavings and dust. This just makes creation of a parts list and the layout of the parts that much more important. There will be over 200 individual parts to be prepared and assembled to make this piece; a rather large number considering its small size. So what is it that I'm making?

Have you seen Thomas Jefferson's revolving book stand? It's basically a carousel capable of holding five open books. A 12" cube, it's small enough to fit on a desktop. You can check it out on the Monticello web site. A larger image of the original can also be found here. My version will have the same functionality, but with a more substantial base and veneered panels to give it a very different look overall.

Why push the limits with the parts layout? Well, this yellow birch plank is valuable old growth material that sank after being logged over 150 years ago. The beautiful lines of grain in this reclaimed wood are very straight and tightly spaced. It would simply be a shame to let any of it go to waste.

I've penciled out each of the parts, accounting for grain orientation as well as the orientation of the part within the depth of the plank. The legs, for example, will be rotated relative to the plank itself in order to ensure a consistent line of grain on all sides.

I've also laid out the veneers. Here you see the layout of the birds eye maple. These 5 1/4" squares will be arranged in a "four-way center and butt" pattern, a traditional way of book matching veneers.

Most of the material will be cut into veneers. Even though it requires a lot more effort, using veneer construction allows for the use of the entire depth of a unique or special plank of wood. Covering a stable core material with these shop-sawn veneers results in optimum yield from these precious planks.

The birds eye veneers have been cut and are now stacked between stickers to make sure the daily changes in humidity don't cause them to warp, thus avoiding problems down the line.

Well, it's time to head back into the shop to cut more veneers...