Carving a wooden chain with only power tools
I last carved a chain out of solid wood when I was 17 years old. But ever since I built the pantorouter, I have been thinking about using it to carve a chain.
I started by cutting out a cross-shape on the table saw. This removes much of the wood that won't be part of the chain.
I drew the chain in CAD (SketchUp) to work out the dimensions, then printed out a picture of the links shown face on at 2x size for making a pantorouter template. I stuck this on a scrap of plywood...
At right, making sure the 1/2" follower bearing fits in all the slots.
At right, installing the follower bearing in the pantorouter. With a 1/4" (6 mm) bit in the router, and the bit resting on the table, the bottom of the follower bearing should end up flush with the bottom edge of the template. I then mark the height I need for the mounting holes.
The workpiece is clamped down with a hold down clamp.
Using the template, I route a sideways "H" shape into the workpiece, with a long slot top and bottom, and a vertical slot in the middle.
But then I realized my mistake - 10 cm is actually two links. I should have moved it by 5 cm and rotated, and the cut 10 cm further should be at the original orientation. I had cut up half my workpiece by the time I realized. But I was still able to make three interlocking links with what was left.
Starting over with a new workpiece. I did most of the cutting by making a series of plunge cuts. Plunge cuts into side grain work much better than trying to slide the bit side-to-side (which would result in cutting end-grain). After making a series of holes, I clean it up by sweeping side-to-side.
I did this by mounting the workpiece diagonally on my slot mortiser and using a 1/4" bit to plunge in. I had to make two plunge cuts, separated vertically by 1/8" (3 mm), and another set of plunge cuts from the other diagonal to fully separate the pieces.
I don't have any support directly under the workpiece, so I have to hold it firmly to keep it from flipping down unexpectedly.
Then it's time for sanding, lots of sanding. The strip sander comes in very handy for this.
I clamped a strip of wood onto the table, so that I can better sand the edges of the interlocked links.
I'm also sanding a chamfer on all the outside edges.
Seeing that I only used power tools so far, I figured I might as well do that with a power tool as well.
But sanding with a Dremel is a tedious activity. A chip carving knife chamfers the edges quicker, quieter, and with less dust.
My intention was that the ends of the links would be more round than this. I cut away too much from the ends of the links when I freed them, or maybe I cut the slots inside a bit too long. At any rate, I didn't have enough length left at the ends to make a nice semicircular shape.
I rubbed some salad bowl finish onto the links for a varnish. I figure baby Harriet will probably put the chain in her mouth eventually, and that seems like a quick, safe and easy finish choice.
Tools and machines used:
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