HOW TO MAKE LAMINATED “WIGGLE CANES” with a Woodmaster Drum Sander

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Here's retired engineer and dedicated woodworker, Dennis Westphal, with his Woodmaster Drum Sander. Thanks, Dennis, for sharing your secrets for creating your exceptional "Wiggle Canes!"

Here’s retired engineer and dedicated woodworker, Dennis Westphal, with his Woodmaster Drum Sander. Thanks, Dennis, for sharing your secrets for creating your exceptional “Wiggle Canes!”

Dennis Westphal is a woodworker who loves a challenge. Maybe his decades in engineering inspire him to take on highly complex projects. He certainly has a knack for merging two exacting disciplines — woodworking and engineering — in the production of his extraordinary “Wiggle Canes.”

Dennis has been kind enough to share specific “how-to” detail on his entire production procedure and we’re happy to pass it all along to you. Note he stresses the importance of the precision it takes to produce his 15-layer, laminated Wiggle Canes — the kind of precision he achieves with his Woodmaster Drum Sander.

 “I like to make unique woodworking projects, things that are a little different, things not a lot of people make. That’s why I make what I call ‘Wiggle Canes,’ functional walking canes with a definite wiggle in them. I like making them and I just like the way they look.

I’ve made Wiggle Canes as gift for people who need walking assistance, people we know who’ve moved into assisted living homes. People wouldn’t want to pay me for the time it takes — maybe 25 hours apiece between sawing, sanding, soaking, gluing, and finishing.

I like this 2675 Woodmster Drum Sander. I use it almost every day. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have it. I guess I’d have to get another one! Thanks for the opportunity to show some of my projects to other woodworkers.

Precision Sanding is ESSENTIAL

002I got the Woodmaster Drum Sander because I wanted a machine that would give me precision and speed for the kind of work I do. I knew the precision this Drum Sander would give me. I did a lot of online research and read comments from Woodmaster owners. I asked questions and got pretty positive results. I chose the 26” 2675 because it’s big enough to handle any project I’d want to make.

Each cane is made of 15 layers of wood, each layer 1/16 of an inch thick. I glue up strips in five sections, with three layers in each section, and then glue the sections together.

I make them with different patterns. Some have layers of walnut on the outer layers and maple in the middle. Some have maple outer layers and walnut middle layers. I’ve made them of all walnut, and all oak. I build them extra long so they can be cut to the right length for the person who’s using them.

Dennis reveals how he does it…so you can make Wiggle Canes, too!

Ripping Strips

007Here’s how I cut the strips on my table saw. The curved fixture behind the blade allows the strip to curve away from the stock piece to avoid binding.

Precision Thickness Control

010To control the thickness of the strips being cut, I use this dial indicator set-up. It is mounted on a magnetic base that sits on the top face of the saw on the right side of the fence. The plunger on this indicator moves in or out 0.100” per one full turn of the indicator pointer. This works well for what I need for the strips.

I make an initial skim cut on the stock to make sure the two edges of the stock are parallel, and to set up the cutting of the strip. After the skim cut is complete, without moving the fence, I place the indicator fixture in place by putting the indicator plunger against the right side of the fence and pushing it toward the fence for most of the available travel of the plunger. I stop the fixture with the indicator pointer at zero on the gauge. This zeros the gauge.

Next I move the fence toward the blade two full turns of the indicator pointer, stopping again at zero. Since this indicator moves 0.100” per turn, I have moved the fence 0.200”. This also moves the stock the same 0.200” from its zeroed position after the skim cut. Since I am using a 1/8” (0.125”) kerf ripping blade, the stock is now 0.075” (0.200” – 0.125”) to the left of the blade resulting in a nominal thickness of 0.075” for strip as it is cut.

Due to the blade not cutting exactly 0.125” and possibly some slight side-to-side movement of the stock as it is being pushed through, the actual stock thickness comes out in the 0.065” to 0.070” range.

This makes it ideal for one or two passes through the Woodmaster, with a very small amount being removed per pass. I end up with the desired 0.062” (1/16”) thickness. I always use scrap stock to cut some strips, both to confirm the thickness of the strip coming off the saw and to set the Woodmaster to the proper height and to know when that proper height is set, and if one or two passes are required.

Sand to precise thickness with the Woodmaster Drum Sander

004Here’s an MDF board with double stick tape that’ll hold the strips as I run them through my Woodmaster Drum Sander.

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Gang-Sand Several Wood Strips for Uniform Thickness

002I’ve attached six strips to the MDF board with double stick tape. This photo shows them feeding through my Woodmaster.

Soak Strips in Water for 24 Hours

005I soak strips in water for 24 hours after I sand them to the required thickness (1/16” or .062) in this water-filled PVC pipe fixture. I place small pieces of scraps between the strips to allow better contact between the water and strips. Then I hold the bundle together with rubber bands

Clamp Strips in a Drying Rack to Shape Them & Form the “Wiggle”

Drying Rack - 2After the strips are soaked in water for 24 hours, all fifteen strips are placed in the clamping/gluing fixture, clamped to form the Wiggle and the curved handle. They’re allowed to dry for a minimum of 24 hours. They are then removed and placed (in proper order) into this drying rack to fully dry. The way it is made, it holds the curves as the strips dry because, if the strips were to just dry loose, they would lose most of the curves — they’d tend to go back to their initial flat shape. As noted above, since only five strips are glued at one time, this holds the remaining pieces in the proper shape until they can be glued.

Apply Glue to Strips Mounted on a Gluing Fixture

Glue Fixture 1This fixture holds each strip as I add the glue using a roller. Due to the shape of the strips, it is very difficult to roll on the glue with one hand while trying to hold it with the other hand, so I came up with this.

Glue Strips & Clamp Tightly

Fixture 1 - smallThis photo shows an overhead view of my clamping/gluing fixture in place with the first five strips in place. Due to the complexity of putting the glue on the strips, putting them together, putting them into the fixture, properly aligning everything, and adding the clamps, you only have time for five strips before the glue starts to set up. To hold everything in place, a spacer equal to the thickness of the other 10 strips is added. After 24 hours, the spacer and the five glued up strips are removed from the fixture. The spacer is replaced by a thinner one that is equal to the thickness of five strips. Next, the second five strips are glued to the first five and placed back into the fixture with the thinner spacer, clamped and allowed to sit again for 24 hours. This is repeated a third time with the final five strips and no spacer, again for 24 hours. Then sand and apply a finish.

Notes from Dennis…

I’m a retired engineer and I enjoy making Wiggle Canes because they’re a blend of engineering and woodworking. I’ve got a CAD application on my computer and I lay out everything with it. I figure out all the ‘what ifs’ and see what each can would look like. I make half a dozen drawings then draw the individual pieces and parts.

Giving credit where it’s due, the concept of the Wiggle Cane is not mine. I picked up the idea from a woodworking site from a woodworker who goes by the name “Nimrod.” The fixtures and procedures noted above are all mine but Nimrod gave me the idea to develop them and make the canes. Nimrod’s canes were the curved handle version, but the “Gentleman’s” cane with the different handle that is added to the Wiggle portion is my idea and development.”

— Dennis Westphal, Woodmaster Drum Sander owner, Galva, Kansas

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TRUE PRECISION ARTISTRY IN WOOD — He makes extraordinary 1,000-piece end grain cutting boards with his Woodmaster Drum Sander

Dennis gave this creation the name "Impossible" because it's impossible for 3-D forms to do what he's made them do. In our view, doing the precision work Dennis does is darn near impossible!

Dennis gave this creation the name “Impossible” because it’s impossible for 3-D forms to do what he’s made them do. In our view, doing the precision work Dennis does is darn near impossible!

Here's Dennis in his show with his 2675 Woodmaster Drum Sander. That's where you'll often find him — some of his creations take 200 hours of shop time. Design time not included!

Here’s Dennis in his show with his 2675 Woodmaster Drum Sander. That’s where you’ll often find him — some of his creations take 200 hours of shop time. Design time not included!

A lot of retired folks just while the days away watching TV. That would never do for dedicated do-it-yourselfers like Woodmaster Owner, Dennis Westphal. “I’d go nuts just sitting around,” he says. Once he made all the furniture his home could hold, he started making his amazing end grain cutting boards. Some are for use in the kitchen but others are made for display. Dennis calls them “decorative cutting boards.” We call them true artistry in wood.

“I’m a retired engineer who’s been doing woodworking for close to 60 years. I spend a lot of time in my shop. I use my Woodmaster Drum Sander almost every day.

Expansion%201[3]

Dennis’s “Expansion” cutting board seems to expand from the center outward but it’s an illusion — it’s actually perfectly flat.

Contraction%202[3]

Dennis’s “Contraction” cutting board appears to bulge in the center and contract at the edges. But this is a clever illusion, too!

Over the years, I’ve built a lot of furniture for our home — china cabinets, tables, TV stands, and more. After awhile, there was no more room. So I started making end grain cutting boards made up of precisely made little pieces of solid wood, all standing on end with the end grain running right straight through from top to bottom.

Thousands of individual pieces — true artistry in wood

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I give them as gifts — Christmas, weddings, and so on. I make a lot of them, both functional and decorative. The decorative ones are artworks rather than ‘working’ cutting boards. I make all of them with my 26″ Woodmaster Drum Sander.

All are made from end grain cherry, maple, and walnut. Some have over 1,000 individual pieces of wood, some as small as one-quarter inch square.

“Here’s how I make them.”

Here’s how I make them. First, I dream up some kind of pattern. I have a picture in my head of what I want to do, then I lay it out using a CAD program on my computer so I can see what they’re going to look like. The nice thing about CAD drawings is I can modify them easily. Sometimes I make a dozen versions. Then I print out dimension drawings.

Tolerances to ten-thousandths of an inch

I rough-cut wood on my table saw, then put it through my Woodmaster Drum Sander. I can get the wood down to a few thousandths of an inch with my Woodmaster. I can control the thickness to 0.010, that’s ten thousandths of an inch! I really enjoy the Woodmaster Drum Sander for the precision it gives me.

A curved-line design creates the illusion of an undulating surface in one of Mr. Westphal's creations. But it's an illusion -- the surface is flat as a board.

A curved-line design creates the illusion of an undulating surface in one of Mr. Westphal’s creations. But it’s an illusion — the surface is flat as a board.

When the pieces are particularly small, I use double stick tape to attach them to a piece of MDF and I run that through the sander. I tape down and sand as many pieces at one time as I can. When I sand the pieces to size, I take them off.

Then I glue up the pieces. I use Tightbond 3 because it has a long ‘open’ or setup time. I can’t glue very many pieces together at once so I make a series of separate glued-up subsets of maybe 10 blocks at a time, then glue the subsets together.

Projected Cross[2]

Here’s a CAD drawing Dennis sent us – his precision plan for one of his decorative cutting boards…

Westphal finished cross

…and here’s the finished cutting board. Guess Dennis believes in the old saying, “Plan the work and work the plan!” Sure works for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

200 hours work — “And I love doing it.”

Some of my decorative cutting boards take 200 hours of shop time, and that’s not counting design time. And I love doing it. I’m retired, but my brain doesn’t shut off. I’d go nuts if I all I did was sit and watch TV.

“I wanted a machine that would give me the speed and precision I need.”

I got the Woodmaster Drum Sander because I wanted a machine that would give me precision and speed for the kind of work I do. I knew the precision this Drum Sander would give me, and it handles end grain wood more safely than other machines. I did a lot of online research and read reviews and comments from Woodmaster owners. I asked questions and got pretty positive results. I chose the 26” 2675 because it’s big enough to handle any project I’d want to make. After all, I’m not making full-size doors.

Here's Dennis's workshop, neat as a pin with his Woodmaster front and center. He told us his biggest project recently was, "getting my shop cleaned up so I could take photos!"

Here’s Dennis’s workshop, neat as a pin with his Woodmaster front and center. He told us his biggest project recently was, “getting my shop cleaned up so I could take photos!”

That’s what I tell people who ask me about Woodmaster. Think of what you want to use your sander for, what you want to make. Get a machine that’s big enough to handle it. But remember a big drum sander will sand small things but a small drum sander won’t do big things.

I like this Woodmaster Drum Sander. I use it almost every day. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have it. I guess I’d have to get another one! Thanks for the opportunity to show some of my projects to other woodworkers.”

— Dennis Westphal, Woodmaster Drum Sander Owner, Galva, Kansas

SAVE BIG NOW on Woodmaster Drum Sanders – sale prices, online specials

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QUESTIONS? COMMENTS?

3 WAYS we can help you!