I have a friend who requested a plaque for mounting a deer head. He wants it to match others that he has, so he gave me a template and requested that it be made out of walnut, preferably with just a little bit of character. I picked the walnut up from a friend of mine, that cuts and air dries his own. His wood is usually fairly prime, lacking a lot of knots, so for character, I combed through to find a piece with some sap wood. It is sometimes hard to know what is hiding under the rough cut exterior, but I have been working with walnut for a while.
After a couple of passes through the planer, the sap wood really popped out.
I ran both edges through the table saw to clean and parallel them.
Next, I used the template to identify the required length, then added a little extra.
Since the board is 10″ wide and the plaque will need to be 15″ wide, I trimmed a couple of inches off of one side. I prefer to have one long scrap of walnut rather than two smaller pieces. I can always use scrap walnut…
I cut the two pieces, that I need, to length, then checked to see if they were flat enough to join up.
One board had a 1/16″ bow in the middle, so I adjusted some of the screws, on my planer sled, to support the bow.
I also screwed down a cleat at the end, I have found that the board will sometimes slip, moving my high point and causing more problems. Once the high point was supported and the board locked in place, I made two quick passes through the planer, to flatten that side. Then I removed the sled and ran the board through the planer on the flat side to flatten the opposite side. I also planed down the other board to match the new thickness.
I applied a bit of wood glue to the edges that I wanted joined and clamped them up. Having the contrasting sap wood in the middle gives me a nearly book matched look. It is not a true book match from a re-sawn piece, but once the ellipse is cut, you won’t be able to tell.
After I pulled the clamps, about an hour later, I scraped off the glue squeeze-out with a 2″ wide chisel. This is best accomplished before the glue fully cures. I also clamped down the board and ran a card scraper along the glue joint to smooth out anything that might have shifted in the glue-up.
I laid the template on the board, lining the center line up with the glue joint, and taped the template down. I set my compass in the center, then pressed hard to establish the center point. Once I adjusted it to match the required radius, I peeled up the paper, located my compass in the established center point, then laid out the circle.
I then traced the edge of the template, and removed the template.
Most people prefer to rout using a template, but I prefer to free-hand cut with the routers, when I can. I used a 1/4″ spiral up-cut bit to cut the pocket. I set the bit down about 3/16″ and carefully cut the outline along the pencil line. Next I routed the center, and then dropped the bit down to 3/8″ deep and repeated the process.
My friend wanted a 1/8″ round-over on the edge of the circle, but my bit with bearing and screw was longer than the 3/8″ deep pocket. I opted to cut another 3/32″ deeper around the perimeter to allow the screw clearance. This should still leave plenty of surface at 3/8″ deep for the medallion, that will be installed later.
I ran the 1/8″ round-over bit around and that pocket was complete.
I flipped the board over and lined the template up with the glue-joint again. I poked holes at the end of each straight line that made up the rectangular pocket. Then I removed the template and traced the dots to recreate the rectangle. The rectangular pocket will be used to mount the deer head from the rear.
I set the 1/4″ spiral up-cut back in the router at the required 3/8″ depth and free-hand cut this pocket as well. I went ahead and cut it at full depth because the spiral bit was designed to handle deeper cuts, as long as you take your time.
With the pockets complete, I cut out the elliptical outline out on the band saw, making sure to stay just outside the line. Then I moved over to the spindle sander and sanded down to the line, all the way around.
I used the orbital sander, with 120 grit paper to smooth out any bumpy parts, left by the spindle sander.
To finish things up, I routed a 1/4″ round-over on the face and gave everything a final sanding.
Since I will be passing the board on to my friend to finish, I wiped down the surface with Naphtha to see what the final product would look like. Not bad, and with just a little character.
The whole project only took about two or three hours counting an hour for glue-up. If I had to do a bunch of these, I would have made up some templates, but it turned out pretty nice free-hand as well.