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Straighten Nodes with an Alcohol Lamp

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Straighten Nodes with an Alcohol Lamp

By: Tom Smithwick

Straighten with Alcohol Lamp 01Photo 1 shows a split node in a tip strip. It looks fairly straight, but looks are deceiving. The fibers actually curve as they enter the node, and would make for tricky planing.

Straighten with Alcohol Lamp 02Photo 2 shows the same node after I have straightened the incoming fibers. The true amount of crook can now be seen. No wonder they are hard to plane.

Straighten with Alcohol Lamp 03Photo 3 shows a side view of the node. The charred areas at the bottom show where I heated the incoming fibers to straighten them. The charred area will be planed away very quickly during rough planing. I would normally use the overnight soak method to prevent the charring, and recommend it to beginners. In this case, I wanted the charring to illustrate where I was applying heat.

Straighten with Alcohol Lamp 04Photo 4 shows the finished node, now straight enough to plane well. I got to this point by straightening the node itself. Sometimes the fibers bend in the center of the node, and sometimes they bend at either end of the node. You just have to look. The goal is straight fibers right through the node.

Straighten with Alcohol Lamp 05Photo 5 is a side view of the finished node, showing how I heated the center to complete the straightening process. Note the the nodal ridge is still there. Normally, I would have filed it off at the splitting stage. When I do file it off, the strip will be ready for rough planing. There is a slight hump at the node, which would probably plane OK, but I will probably heat the node again and get rid of it. It takes a bit of feel to know how much curvature you can live with in a strip. My advise to beginners is to err on the side of straightness.

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