Salvaging Recycled Oak
Sometime back, I laid the oak floor in our conservatory and gifted the leftover wood to a fellow DIY enthusiast. His intention was to use the oak to make a spice rack for his kitchen.
He got as far as cutting the oak floorboards into four thin strips, plus the offcut (one wider strip), but he didn’t complete the project because he then decided to renovate his kitchen, and the oak spice rack wouldn’t fit into his new kitchen design.
Therefore, rather than let good wood go to waste, he offered the oak back to me—the thin strips he cut to size for the rack, with a bag of offcuts, and two planks that he stuck together.
The offcuts I can’t do much with, other than to keep them for perhaps shelf supports or thin strips of beading, but the two planks he stuck together could be a useful panel of oak in some future project e.g. table top, cupboard doors or shelving, etc.
However, in contemplating it over a cup of coffee, I decided the thin strips cut to make the spice rack would be more useful if I joined them to make a second oak panel, giving me two similar-sized oak planks that could be cut to size when required.
So this project is to salvage the recycled oak strips by joining them together to make an oak panel.
Making Straight Edges Ready for Joining
In order to join planks together the edges need to be straight so that the planks butt against each other without any gaps.
In using a spirit level as a straight edge I discovered that each of the five strips had one straight side and one wavy side; I later learnt from my friend who returned to wood to me after cutting it into strips with the intention of making a spice rack, that the saw fence on his bench saw was wobbly, causing a wavy cut.
Therefore, to rectify the problem, I used my bench saw, feeding the one straight edge against the saw fence so that the other side would be cut straight.
Using a Dowel Jig
In order to join the planks together, I used a dowel jig as a guide to drill equally spaced holes in the sides of the planks, just slightly wider than the dowels and with a depth of a little over half-length.
To ensure a consistent depth, I fitted the dowel to stop the drill bit.
In using the dowel jig, it’s unlikely that the holes will be dead centre of the thickness of the wood; therefore, it’s important to have the same side upper-facing for each plank; in this respect, I placed the underside of each plank up.
Step by step guide:
- Position the depth gauge on the dowel jig to as close to the centre of the wood depth as possible, and secure with the wing nuts on the depth gauge.
- Place one of the planks on the edge of the workbench, and place the dowel jig on top, aligning one end of the dowel jig with one end of the wood and secure to the workbench with clamps.
- Locate the drill-hole-guide on the dowel jig to the first position for drilling the first hole.
- Drill the first hole.
- Move the drill-hole-guide to the next location. You could select each hole location, or just do one hole in x number; on this occasion, I choice to use every other hole e.g. drill hole marked 2, then hole marked 4, and 6, and so on.
- As the wood is longer than the jig, when you get to the other end of the jig, unclamp it and realign it at the other end of the wood, making sure before you re-clamp it to the workbench that where it overlaps in the middle the existing holes you’ve drilled line up with the drill-holes in the jig.=
- Then when realigned and re-clamped, drill the rest of the holes.=
- Repeat the same process for all the other planks.
Joining the Oak Strips Together
Having used the dowel jig to make the holes, the next task is to join and glue the strips together:
- When all the holes are drilled, place the first plank in a wood vice, and then put a generous drop of wood glue in each hole and along the whole length of the wood.
- Gently tap a dowel into each hole.
- Take the second plank; apply wood glue to each hole and along its length and push the second plank onto the first plank, ensuring all the dowels engage in the holes.
- Repeat the process until all the planks are joined.
Clamping and Leaving for the Glue to Dry
- Place the joined planks on the workbench with several sash clamps underneath, and several on top. It’s essential to have sash clamps on top as well to reduce the risk of the panels from bowing as you tighten the clamps.
- Gently tighten each clamp a little, in turn, to provide even pressure across the board; and keeping an eye on the board to ensure that it stays flat as you continue tightening the clamps. The tighter the clamps the better, and if using softwood, place wooden blocks between the clamp grips and the wood to prevent the wood from being crushed as you tighten the clamps.
- Then leave overnight for the glue to set.
Planing the Surface Flat
Invariably, it doesn’t matter how good you make the joints, it will need a good planing to make the surface level and smooth. So the following day, with the wood glue dry, I secured the wood to the workbench with clamps and used my belt sander on both surfaces to give a smooth level surface.
To finish off, before putting the wood panel in store for a future project, I just wanted to square the two ends off.
To do this, I used a large T-square and pencil to mark a straight edge cut line on both ends, and then used my circular saw to cut along the pencil lines.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Arthur Russ