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observations on making purfling


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Hey all,


I have had multiple unsuccessful attempts at making purfling save for the stuff i made for my recent first fiddle, which was...useable... With this recent batch I think I'm to the point of experience where Id like to throw out some observations in hopes they may help other beginners who are too "thrifty" or curious to order their purfling from a supplier. I also am interested in any and all suggestions from experienced MNers that will help improve my process and product!


As of now I am using poplar and dyed walnut, because they're both readily available where I live, and they seem to do the trick. Here's why:


I like using walnut for the blacks because its easy to plane, reacts to the iron vinegar solution very strongly, and it bends well. The downside is that if it has any knot shadows, which a lot of it does, it can be less forgiving to work with, causing the fibers to sever on the portion of the shaving that contains the knot shadow.


I use poplar for the whites because its very forgiving and allows for thick shavings more so than a lot of other options.


Here's a gander at my current process:


1. Get my #5 and #7 planes extremely sharp. I mean so sharp that the hairs on my arm I'm testing it with leap away from the blade in horror, rather than just halfheartedly slicing off.


2. Prepare a piece of walnut and a piece of poplar to get my strips from. **The poplar was planed on the flatsawn** face. This in my experience made it way less brittle, which makes the purfling bend properly. The poplar block  I used this last time was about 17mm wide and 40cm long. The walnut was wider by several millimeters and a bit longer than the purfling.


3. Plane of strips of poplar to .7 mm or so ( I like the look of the wider whites and thin black strips). I used my # 7 for this, and found it very important to wet the wood prior to planing each strip. This is when it really devolves into a caveman style I'd like to improve upon.


Since It was too hard for me to push through in one stroke, I would make a preliminary stroke , and then, with the plane blade firmly lodged in the wood, I would knock the block of poplar against a stopping block on my bench 2-4 times being sure to keep the plane level and firmly pressed down as I went in order to keep the strip even in thickness through the entire length of the block.


Because it was such a deep cut, I would flatten the poplar after each of these passes with my #5. The roughness of one side of the strip doesn't seem to affect how it looks glued. 


4. Plane strips of walnut to whatever will allow the poplar + 2 strips of walnut to be 1.2mm. For the walnut I used my #5 (because it was still sharp and works well for making thinner veneers). Grain orientation was riftsawn, and I didn't wet the wood. I had to experiment with walnut scraps to find the right piece, but, if the shaving snaps easily when you bend it in your hands, you should probably try a different grain orientation or try a different piece of walnut.


5. Soak the poplar in warm water, then straighten with bending iron. After annoying attempts to flatten the curled shavings during the gluing process, I decided to try steam bending them flat. It works great.


6. Soak the walnut strips in iron vinegar solution. This solution has been discussed a lot in maestronet. Mine has existed for years for ebonizing stuff and never seems to need replacing. I just top it off with some steel wool and vinegar from time to time and it keeps doing its thing. You can also use rusty anything in the place of steel wool, but steel wool dissolves quickly.


After about an hour I removed them from the jar and let them drip the worst of their special sauce onto a sacrificial piece of plywood. At this point they were looking good and ebony...y, I steam bent them flat as well, which was kind of messy but effective. I suggest wearing gloves. Steam bending instantly dries them and I am curious if it could help the dye to penetrate deeper into the wood. 


7. Glue the purfling. I warmed the strips with a blow dryer just prior to gluing, then I speedily saturated the strips with hide glue. After saturated I pressed on them with a hardwood block to squeeze out excess glue, then I clamped them under a large piece of oak to a small assembly table I have. As others have suggested, I used plastic wrap to keep the strips contained so they won't adhere to the clamping surfaces.


8. Trim purfling into strips. After leaving the strips clamped overnight, and allowing them to dry once removed, I trimmed a side of the laminate down to where the smaller white strip is flush with the wider black strips, then, with my #5 mounted in my vise, ran the strip over the plane blade to ensure a flat surface. Then I just used my purfling marker set to about 3mm to make a line on both sides and carefully snapped off the newly minted strip from the laminate. 


Aaand heres a picture:





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I use steamed pearwood, the texture / grain may be easier to deal with then walnut I would think. I dye it  using the method you describe.  To glue, I use a thinned yellow glue.   I make sheets of the wood "veneer" about  4 inches x 30 inches (I don't use plane curls). Use plane and scraper to get thickness.  No fuss and very straightforward.  Don't have to deal with anything that wants to curl on it's own.....

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use a well set up band saw, then plane and scrape.  since I do late period DG I purposely keep some undulations in the thickness, it looks better then getting everything exactly the same thickness.  I have seen one maker set up a spindle sander to do thicknessing, never tried that method myself though.

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I find it helps a lot if you have a friend you can attach to you plane with a bit of rope, and who's gonna pull while you push and keep your plane straight.

Also you have to put the chipbreaker quite far away from the edge of your blade.

Pear is good for blacks and makes very nice shavings.

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I describe the whole process in the 'Making a double bass' article on my web site. However, I would always suggest buying veneers from a veneer maker. Usually companies that cut veneers have spare sheets laying around. Back in the 1980 I bought a few sheets mainly of poplar, willow beech, walnut and pear. I have sheets of veneer from about twenty different trees. I bought them because of the copies I like to make.



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