Screen Play (22)

Quick on the heels yesterday’s post, I continue on now with this account of the construction of a tsuitate, or freestanding Japanese partition.

If you want to shortcut back to the start, here is the link to the first post. Every post after that one has a link at the bottom taking you to the next post in the series.

During the rough cutting, jointing and planing of the bubinga, a had an unfortunate incident, with a little planer gouge taking place towards the bottom of one of the panel boards. Not sure how it happened, but it was a little too large of a divot to ignore, so I decided to patch it. Here’s the section of concern to me:

It’s a little hard to see how bad it is, but in the center of the outlined area with the word ‘snipe’ written on it, is a hole about 1mm deep. The Board on the left, the extra from the boards I sawed up, is the source for the patch, or ume-ki, marked out in pencil in the above photo.

This is a case where getting a precise match is well-nigh an impossibility, given the wavy figuring in the grain. I’ll just have to do the best I can.

Here, I’m just about finished cutting the plug:

I then used a router to thickness the plug down to around 0.15″. And here the plug sits side by side with the area to be plugged:

Next, the divoted area is trenched out with my trim router:

Then clean up to the line with a chisel or three:

After checking and re-checking the fit, here goes:

A while later I cleaned the glue off and planed it down:

Here it sits after the planing:

As you can see by the smear of glue still visible, I held off going right down to the surface with the plane. Out comes the card scraper now:

And I am soon reacquainted with my thumbs, which are braised like lamb chops as the scraper heats up.

It cleaned up pretty well:

I feel satisfied with the patch, given the difficulty of matching in figured curly wood like this. The seam between the two boards will be obscured by a vertical grill bar, so that certainly will help.

Once the scraping started, I figured I might as well keep going:

Anyway, the section of panel that I just patched has the considerable good fortune to be located at the bottom of the board near the ground (well, that’s as a result of my decision to place it there), and will not be quite so obvious to view I don’t think. Here’s what might be a normal viewing position of that board:

See the patch? How about if I zoom right in with the camera from the same vantage point?:

It helps that the bottom edge of the board sits in a 3/8″ dado, and the view is somewhat blocked by the grill bars which will be in front, so I am hopeful that the patched area will be fairly unobtrusive when all is said and done. I did the best I could.

There’s a lot of scraping ahead on these three panels, though one of them is pretty much done now. After the scrape-fest, I will be applying the oil, which I will wet-sand with 400 or 600 grit paper on a block of wood. I’m excited to see how the bubinga lights up when the oil goes on.

See you next time then. over to post 23

2 thoughts on “Screen Play (22)

  1. i am left wondering if the 1mm of snipe would be less visible from a few feet away than the patch? i ask because i wonder what i would do when faced with this problem.

  2. Gregore',

    yes that is the question. I think that ripples and divots in a surface, while not too bad to look at before the finish goes on, tend to become obvious once the surface is a bit glassier and reflective. And that is the direction those panels are headed.

    I did consider for a while just leaving the divot be in the hope that it might not be too noticeable, however I felt in the end that it was unacceptable from a craftsmanship perspective, at a minimum, to leave planer snipe like that. It seemed like it is a choice between a divot, which will likely be visible once the panel surface is polished up, and a patch, which may equally likely be visible. I chose the latter 'visible' thing. Even if the patch is not quite invisible, at least it shows that an effort was made to obtain a flat clean surface, and not that some sort of shortcut was attempted.

    As a similar example, when I visited the Biltmore House in Asheville NC a couple of years ago, I noticed several places in the oak panelling where small discrete patches had been done – I'm sure they are original to the installation, not later repairs. While the patches could be easily seen (though I suspect most lay-people would never notice), they bespoke of skilled, fastidious craftsmanship to me, and an unwillingness on the part of the finishing carpenter back then to let small defects in the material pass by, and not to simply throw putty in there as is otherwise ubiquitous. A lesson I take forward with me.


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