Thinking in Eights

ScrapsI began practicing making octagonal structures out of one-foot lengths of scrap plywood. Making the joint was harder than I thought. I tried tilting the saw table. I tried cutting both sides to 67.5°, then tried cutting just one side to 45°. I tried with ¼, ½, and ¾ inch plywood. I gave up on plywood and tried solid wood. I bought a so-called birds-beak router bit. I tried using it in a jury-rigged table. I tried using it upright with a homemade fence. I tried twine, rubberbands, tape, and bungy cords to hold the eight pieces together.I tried using glue as I “rolled” the pieces together; I tried arranging the pieces “dry” and then gluing them.

During an especially frustrating period in my experimentation, one of the helpful experts remarked that vibration and heat-wave distortion were two significant disadvantages of the open-tube design (such as the used in the Highe system, my ideal model). This made me return to the idea of a single solid tube, though I hadn’t given up on the octagon. 

Then a enormous piece of beginner’s luck: I stumbled across a ruined old wooden desk/counter in a dumpster that was in no condition to be refurbished as a desk but from which I could extract a panel of wood that I could trim down to 3’x4’ and has subsequently turned out, according to more expert eyes than mine, to be oak. I cut the wood into 8 48”-long, 3”-wide slats and sanded these down to bare wood, roughly ¼” thick. I cut one long edge of each plank to 45° and left the other side at a right angle to its broader surfaces.

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