Thursday, February 23, 2023

A Wooden Wreath

Several weeks ago I saw a picture of a wooden wreath that looked really interesting.  So I studied the picture and tried out a couple things and eventually figured out how to make one.

About 12" outside diameter, this wreath is made up of 66 pieces

While this project was very repetitive, it was a great way to use up some scrap wood.  I've got 6 or 7 species in there, softwoods and hardwoods.

Each piece interlocks with the next.  The total number of pieces needs to be a multiple of 3 for the last piece to align properly and interlock with the first piece.  Getting the last piece to interlock with the first piece was a head-scratcher.  I'll address that later.

Each piece looks like this

I was only guessing about the sizes of the pieces based on the photo that I saw.  My pieces are about 3" long, just under 1" wide, the fatter end is 3/8" thick and the thinner end is 1/4" thick.  The mortise is roughly centered, about 5/16" wide and 1 5/16" long.  The mortise length needs to be a bit more than the width of a piece plus the thickness of the thinner end.  The mortise width needs to be larger than the thin end of a piece, but a little smaller than the fatter portion of a piece.  I intended for the mortises to be centered lengthwise, but after making several pieces, I had to change the dimensions so that the wreath would have a tighter radius.

After making about 40 pieces, the radius was too large.
This is an 18" ruler, so if I kept going the wreath would have been about 20" diameter
(and probably about 150 pieces!).

Here's where I made changes to the mortise dimensions.  If I wanted the wreath to have a tighter radius, the pieces would have to fit together more loosely.  And that meant longer and wider mortises.

This project was an exercise in batch production.  At first, I was making the pieces individually.  Then I found ways to get more pieces out of a stick of wood.  The first 40 or 50 mortises were cut with a chisel.  Later I switched to drilling starter holes, removing most waste with a coping saw and cleaning up the walls with chisels.  This was a much better idea, especially with wood where the grain was uncooperative.

Used chisels and router plane to remove thickness in middle,
then gauged mortise lines

Drilled a couple of holes big enough for a coping saw blade to fit through

Sawed close to the lines ...

... and cleaned up with chisels

Because I did this over 4-5 weeks and changed the mortise dimensions after several pieces were done, not all parts were exactly the same.  So I mixed them up in a bin and randomly took them out to assemble the wreath.  This way, one part of the wreath would not have more curvature than the rest.

Nice bowl of pieces

When all pieces were assembled, I needed a way to get the last piece to connect to the first piece.  The way these are connected, that would seem to be an impossibility without cutting one apart and gluing back together in place.  But the piece with blue tape in the above photo was planed so that the thicker end would just barely fit through the mortise of the last piece.  I used it as the first piece in the chain.  Thanks to the curvature of the wreath, the first and last pieces are not going to come apart unintentionally.

I used four marking or mortising gauges for this project.  It sure is nice having them.

Left to right: homemade gauge set to just under 1" for part width, 
Worth gauge set to 1/4" gifted to me by a guy I met on a plane,
Marples mortising gauge set to 5/16" and centered in the width of a piece,
Veritas wheel-type marking gauge, set to 3/8" for thickness

That's it.  Hopefully this gets me out of the woodworking funk I've been in.  I've got some projects to do soon that will keep the hands busy.  I just love using my tools and the last couple of months I haven't gotten much done.