Salt Cedar Panels

WOOD WORKING BY DESIGN

First Sliding Salt Cedar Door

Research, Research
Like most woodworkers, before we begin a project we do some reasearch that will help us get started on the right foot. I did just that and found absolutely nothing on this subject. Oh, I did find a few cabinet doors done in salt cedar by cabinet manufacturers, but that was it. And, of course, there were no close ups that would have revealed their technique(s) or the quality of their work.

That said, I hope that others who take on a salt cedar project such as this will find the following information helpful.

salt cedar door layout
Photo 1. This photo shows the door with the upper panels inset with salt cedar.

Now that you know what this project is all about, lets get to the details.

Finding The Salt Cedar Sticks
Building the door is the easy part. Finding the salt cedar is a whole other story. In my case, I live close to the Rio Grande river - so called, but in fact there really is no water in the Rio Grande river, at least not around here because all the water is damned far upstream and when the water is released it goes into ditches which water the crops in the Mesilla valley. However, salt cedar bushes abound along the dry river banks and are there for the taking. If you do not have a supply of salt cedar, then be smart and move on to another project because you cannot just go out and buy salt cedar sticks.

For the sake of clarity, lets talk a bit about design and then we'll jump back to collecting the salt cedar. I think it will all make more sense if we do this.

Design Smarts
The smaller your salt cedar panels the better off you will be. The problem, you will soon become aware of, is that long, straight salt cedar sticks are very hard to come by. Add to this the fact that you may want to make all of your sticks to match in thickness in each panel. The bitter truth is that salt cedar sticks taper from the base of the stick to its tip. Somewhere in between these two extremities lays the part of the stick that you are interested in laying in your insets. Now, mulitply this by the number of sticks with those spec's and you will begin to appreciate the task ahead of you.

To be clear, if your panels are not too long then this will be much less a problem for you because the shorter the sticks you need the straighter you will find them to be or so it will seem to you.

Back To Finding Salt Cedar
So now you know you need straight sticks of a certain lenght to match your panel insets. I have found that the straightest sticks do not come from large bushes. They come from small bushes about 8'-10'in height. The good sticks grow like sugar cane and most are very smooth and striaght from the ground up. I use either a small saw or short-handled sharp sheers to cut them off right at ground level. If you know your stick diameter spec is say 1/2"-5/8" then there is no need to cut the stick where it is 1" in diameter. Knowing what you need can save you a lot of work.

chisels
Photo 2. Fitting the salt cedar to their respective panel insets.

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Photo 3. Napkin ring rig.

Let’s take my personal experience with the hand plane for instance. My first hand plane was a simple block plane that I bought years ago. I just could not get it to do what I wanted, so I put it aside and forgot about it. But, there was always that little voice in my head that kept telling me that I was missing out on something that would really make a difference in my work.

Long story short: I began making wooden hand planes based on a design originated by James Krenov, whom I have always considered to be my mentor. Again skipping over a lot of detail to keep us on track (the details are covered in the wooden planes section) the making and use of these wonderful tools taught me everything I know about putting ‘my mark’ on my projects. The learning process definitely took some effort on my part. No pain, no gain, as they say. It could be argued that I doubled the difficulty of becoming proficient with hand planes by wanting to learn how to make them first and then secondly, learning to use them. I won’t argue that. But I am very happy that I took the time to do all of that because the ultra-smooth surfaces of my work reflect the sweat and time I spent in developing my wooden hand plane skills. Again, it took practice, practice, practice!

chisels
Photo 4. Napkin ring rig.

Let’s take my personal experience with the hand plane for instance. My first hand plane was a simple block plane that I bought years ago. I just could not get it to do what I wanted, so I put it aside and forgot about it. But, there was always that little voice in my head that kept telling me that I was missing out on something that would really make a difference in my work.

Long story short: I began making wooden hand planes based on a design originated by James Krenov, whom I have always considered to be my mentor. Again skipping over a lot of detail to keep us on track (the details are covered in the wooden planes section) the making and use of these wonderful tools taught me everything I know about putting ‘my mark’ on my projects. The learning process definitely took some effort on my part. No pain, no gain, as they say. It could be argued that I doubled the difficulty of becoming proficient with hand planes by wanting to learn how to make them first and then secondly, learning to use them. I won’t argue that. But I am very happy that I took the time to do all of that because the ultra-smooth surfaces of my work reflect the sweat and time I spent in developing my wooden hand plane skills. Again, it took practice, practice, practice!

chisels
Photo 5. Napkin ring rig.

Let’s take my personal experience with the hand plane for instance. My first hand plane was a simple block plane that I bought years ago. I just could not get it to do what I wanted, so I put it aside and forgot about it. But, there was always that little voice in my head that kept telling me that I was missing out on something that would really make a difference in my work.

Long story short: I began making wooden hand planes based on a design originated by James Krenov, whom I have always considered to be my mentor. Again skipping over a lot of detail to keep us on track (the details are covered in the wooden planes section) the making and use of these wonderful tools taught me everything I know about putting ‘my mark’ on my projects. The learning process definitely took some effort on my part. No pain, no gain, as they say. It could be argued that I doubled the difficulty of becoming proficient with hand planes by wanting to learn how to make them first and then secondly, learning to use them. I won’t argue that. But I am very happy that I took the time to do all of that because the ultra-smooth surfaces of my work reflect the sweat and time I spent in developing my wooden hand plane skills. Again, it took practice, practice, practice!

Second Sliding Salt Cedar Door

I will be applying all of the lessons I learned in fabricating the first door to this one so things should go a lot smoother this time around. At least I hope they will.

There has been one very significant change since I made the fiest door - I used the Festool Domino to join this door.

salt cedar door layout
SCD-2 Photo 1. This photo is of the unfinished poplar door.
salt cedar door layout
SCD-2 Photo 2. This photo is of the same door with a coat of stain.

salt cedar door layout
SCD-2 Photo 2. This is the same door with two coats of shellac.