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5th Wedding Anniversary Gift - Wood

posted Feb 3, 2012, 10:34 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:11 AM ]
Well, it's quickly approaching that time of year again: my wedding anniversary! This year will be my 5th wedding anniversary which, as a woodworker, gave me something special to look forward to. The traditional gift for a 5th wedding anniversary is wood.

I have always tried to stay away from "practical" gifts for anniversary gifts. For me, I try to give something with some emotional connection, something personal. So this year I decided to give something with a little bit of heart (pun intended). Since our daughter will turn two less than a month after our anniversary, and since our daughter is such a large part of our relationship, I felt that my gift to my wife should include some representation of our daughter as well.

The design that I came up with is relatively simple yet very representative. Two larger hearts side-by-side (possibly interlocked) with a third, smaller heart below or on top of the first two, all three set in a frame of some sort. I looked at the wood that I had on-hand, and I chose bloodwood for the hearts, curly makore for the frame, and I'm still undecided as to what wood should serve as the backdrop.

My first step was to draw the three hearts out on my bloodwood board, then I moved over to the bandsaw to cut out the rough shapes. I tried to keep pretty close to my marked lines, however I felt no pressure to stay exactly on the line since this would essentially be a work of art, not a tight-fitting dovetail joint! Besides, there is still much work that needs to be done before any wood gets attached anywhere...

Rough cutout of hearts
Though I do not have a picture of any earlier steps, you can see from this picture the original chalk line, as well as some of the early shaping that I did. I had originally intended to do the rough-shaping using the router, however once I got the router setup and I pushed a few
Tools prepared for rough shaping of heart shapes
test pieces through the router, I was concerned for my own safety, since the hearts are rather small (about 7 inches for the large ones, 4 inches for the smaller one), and even with push blocks I was worried the heart would catch at some point and be tossed towards me with considerable force... As the old saying goes, "if something doesn't feel safe, don't do it," and so I didn't! The router is essentially a time-saving device, and there are other means to the same end. In this case, the alternate method was using planes and cabinet rasps. The cabinet planes were used to remove the bulk of the material from the top of the hearts, where the curve is convex, and the plane can easily be used without much concern about curves. But near the bottom tip of the hearts, there is a concave section which can not be worked with a plane. So when I could no longer work with the plane, I reached for my two rasps.

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The rasp with the red rag around the handle is a four-in-hand rasp, which has one side curved and the other side flat, with coarse and fine teeth on alternate ends. This is a great tool for removing alot of material very quickly, and the convex side was perfect for the curves on the hearts. The next file I used was a standard cabinet file, which has only one coarseness, but is much less aggressive and left the surface with fewer tool marks.

Pieces have been partially completed
While using the rasps and planes, I clamped the hearts to the corner of my router table. Since the hearts were so small they wanted to move around no matter how hard I clamped them, so I resorted to using a rubber mat under the heart. This works great to increase the friction on your workpiece without scoring its surface, however it does have the problem of leaving an oily residue on the wood's surface. You can see its effect on the partially completed hearts to the right. It is most evident on the small hart (top centre) where I had to clamp the hardest to keep it from shifting. I am not too concerned about this because I will be removing most of the top surface of the wood before I am completed.

Pieces have received their rough shaping
To the right is a picture of what the final project will look like... of course, the three hearts will be locked together in some fashion, perhaps puzzle-piece style, or perhaps I will just mount them temporarily with blocks to keep them level while I pass them through the bandsaw to get them to match perfectly... but that is a design decision for tomorrow! What I wanted to point out is the detail you can carve into your pieces if you think a bit ahead. In my hearts, I wanted one "lobe" to overlap the other, so it becomes more of a three-dimensional effect instead of a straight-on view of a heart. If you click on the image and look at the small heart, at the top centre where the two curves join, you may see what I mean.

Curly makore to be used for the frame
And this is just a piece of curly makore that I will use to make a frame for this piece. Once I finish with the hearts and get them mounted, I will cut and join the frame pieces. Until then, this piece goes back on the rack!

Let me know what you think!