Tale of a tricky trivet
How many woodworking lessons can you learn from one project? I put that question to the test while making a gift for my brother-in-law.
My sister asked me if I could make her a round, 12″ trivet with magnets attached so it would stick to the bottom of hot pots and pans and protect the counter or tabletop from heat damage. It seemed like a simple enough idea so, like all good projects that seem simple, I procrastinated.
To be honest, this procrastination was at least partially earned. Last fall I hired a contractor to convert part of my garage into a woodworking shop, and the work was supposed to begin in October so I figured I’d wait until the conversion was complete before I got started.
But construction kept getting pushed back and before I knew it there were two weeks to go until my sister needed the gift, the garage wasn’t finished and I hadn’t even started the trivet.
I opted to complete the project in my dad’s workshop (something I probably should have done much earlier) and found a terrific white ash cookie we had cut more than a year earlier. I immediately got to work milling it down to a uniform thickness and shape.
The end grain cookie started out about 13″ in diameter and nearly 2″ thick, but I was aiming for a thickness of just under an inch. I drew a 12″ diameter circle on the top using a plastic bucket as a template, used the bandsaw to trim the excess, then sanded to the line using a belt sander to get it pretty close to a perfect circle.
After a couple hours of work getting it to the final dimensions, I took it home and planned to do the final sanding and magnet installation at home. This was where I made my first big mistake. I forgot to let the wood acclimate to the warm, dry air in the woodshop and my house before working with it.
I woke up the next morning to find the wood had cupped and developed a large crack about an 1/8″ wide at the edge of the wood, stretching about three-quarters of the way to the centre. I’d anticipated the wood would move a bit, but I wasn’t expecting this.
I planned to flatten the slab again using my planer, then use some epoxy tinted black to seal the crack, but this led to my second mistake. The first side went flat again without much trouble, so I flipped it over to flatten the other side.
But the chunk of ash that shot out of the planer and nearly put a hole in my new wall suggested I should have stabilized the crack first and maybe have taken an entirely different approach to dressing the cookie to final thickness in the first place. Let’s just say I’m lucky I wasn’t standing directly in front of the planer infeed area when the crack gave way and a large piece of the trivet came flying out of the machine.
Undeterred, I grabbed the piece (which now had a large gouge the shape of a planer blade) and attempted to fit the piece back together.
“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just epoxy this back together and use a ratchet clamp to hold it all together.”
So I taped up the bottom (or was it the top?) of the trivet in preparation for the epoxy, but the only epoxy I had was the five-minute stuff from the hardware store.
It was a poor choice.
I probably should have known it wouldn’t work when I started mixing it; it was way thicker than traditional, slower-setting epoxy. There was no way it would get all the way to the bottom of the crack before it hardened, a fact I learned only after I poured the entire contents of the cup into the crack and watched it harden before even getting halfway to the bottom. I’d ruined the piece just days before my sister needed this gift.
Fortunately, I still had a few days left and managed to rebuild the trivet, this time using properly dried and milled flat sawn oak from the lumber store. I glued up three boards and cut out the circle using a jigsaw with a bent blade.
It all came together in the end. It wasn’t the final product I’d envisioned, but the gift was delivered on time and I learned more than a few lessons along the way.