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Versatile little tree shapes...mass produce with a table saw.

Versatile little tree shapes . . . mass produce with a table saw

Like slices of bread, tree shapes can be cut from a long "loaf' of precut wood. You can use the stylized trees as freestanding decorations, as pictured on page 70--or combine them to make snowflake-shaped trivets, picture frames, coasters, or candleholders. The mirror-image 45| angles of their branches let you arrange and glue them in intriguing patterns that obscure the basic form.

The accompanying sketches show how you can turn a length of 4-by-4 into the tree loaf, which you then slice into the 1/2-inch-thick shapes that are the building blocks for these projects.

Supplies are few: a 4-foot-long 4-by-4 (enough wood to make over 80 tree shapes); medium and fine grades of sandpaper; and wood sealer, stain, or paint for finishing. You'll need a table saw and a combination square for laying out the tree shape. We made our trees out of kilndried vertical-grain Douglas fir and sugar pine for their ease of sanding and tight grain patterning.

It takes 12 passes over the saw blade to make the tree loaf, but you only have to set your blade and saw fence for 6 cuts. That's because each setting makes two mirror-image cuts: you feed the board from one end, then turn it around and feed from the other end.

Start by looking at the end grain of your 4-by-4 and determining which way you'd like the grain to appear on your tree shapes. Find the midpoint and draw a line (indicated by color line) across the center of the end.

Angling the top. Screw a piece of scrap wood to the side of the table saw's fence. Set the blade at 45| and raise it so it is slightly higher than the midpoint line, then slide the fence so it just touches the blade. Feed the wood through as shown in sketch, using a scrap stick to push the bottom piece past the blade; turn over and cut again to make the angled top.

Cutting the branches. Starting at the pointed top, measure down one angled side and mark three points at 1/2-inch intervals; draw three lines from those points. They should parallel the other angled side. Mark and draw a fourth line 3/8 inch below the midpoint line.

Slide the fence away from the blade (still at 45|) until the blade aligns on the top side of the line drawn closest to the angled top. Next, lower the blade so it just touches the line paralleling the midpoint line. Make one pass over the blade, turn wood around, and repeat for opposite side.

Slide the fence so the blade aligns along the next line. Keeping the blade at the same height, make the next set of cuts the same way. Repeat for the third set of cuts.

Creating the trunk, trimming the tree. Return the blade to vertical for the final sets of cuts, which are made with the tree loaf's top pointed up. Position the fence so the blade aligns on the outside of the line paralleling the midpoint line and will just break through the bottom angled cut. When cutting, push the scrap piece clear with a stick. Turn the loaf around and repeat to make the trunk.

At this stage, the bottom branches of the tree will have squared-off tips. Make a vertical cut to trim the branch ends along the line shown in the diagram.

Now you're ready to slice the loaf into little trees. We cut ours into 1/2-inch-thick slices--any thinner and the branches tend to snap off. After cutting, sand tree shapes smooth. Fold the sandpaper to clean out between branches.

Now that you have this pile of tree shapes, it's fun to experiment with putting them together in different patterns before you do the final gluing.

Photo: Glued-together tree shapes make snowflake-design picture frame, mountain range of trees, and framework for a votive candle. At right, 3-inch-long piece of "tree loaf' has hole drilled in top to accept a simple metal candleholder

Photo: Slice the tree loaf into 1/2-inch-thick pieces using a table saw. A piece of tape on saw bed indicates width of slices
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1986
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