Sunday, February 04, 2007

Trimming Bulkheads to Exact Size

Another power tool I use extensively in my woodworking is a small belt sander. It's incredibly handy for trimming parts for a precise fit in joiner work and in this case it's great for trimming cut plywood parts exactly to the line. When cutting the parts I cut to within a blade's width outside the marked lines and then use the belt sander to quickly and accurately finish the edges to the line. For this kind of trimming I use 50-grit belts for fast removal of material. This method does require care, however, as a belt sander is a powerful tool that can quickly ruin a piece of work if you let it slip or get out of control. That's why I prefer the smallest size belt sander, one that uses 3 x 18" belts. These are lightweight enough for one-hand use and for getting into tight spots a larger belt sander could not reach. I also frequently use it to shape small parts by holding or clamping it upside down to a work bench.

In the photo above, I'm using the belt sander to get an exact match on the bulkheads for each hull. First, I cut out and trimmed the one that was lofted from the plans, then used it to mark its counterpart in the second hull, and after cutting the second one, I clamped the two together along the centerlines and used belt sander to trim the second one to the exact size of the first. This only takes a few minutes for each bulkhead, and the result is six bulkheads for each hull, perfectly matched.

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