I finally made a stand


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I got a call the other day from Mary Madison - Florida's buttonwood queen. She needed a stand for one of the trees she planed on taking to the National Bonsai Exhibition. She sent me a photo of the tree and the size of the pot and basically left me alone to decide all of the details (potentially a bad idea...) on the stand.

It was a rush job. The soonest I could start on was October 1st, she needed it by October 5th. Not much time to plan or get supplies. I dug around and found some mahogany in my loft and decided to use what I had. I have a good amount of finishing supplies on hand or at least enough to cover such a small item.

Here's my photo essay on the building of this stand. I must say it was pretty fun. I think I now have plans for the rest of the odd hardwood scrap in my loft. I look to be pretty slow for the next month or so and I figure I can build a bunch of stands for myself and club members. Just need inspiration.

Here is the photo of the tree.


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Here I am gluing up a couple of boards to make up the missing piece of thicker mahogany I needed for the perimeter frame. If all goes well you wil never see the glue line as it will be located where a edge profile will hide it.

Next I ripped the boards roughly to width and face jointed them on a jointer. They were edge joined and then planed to thickness and finally ripped to width.

I decided to cut a tongue and groove on the edges so the glue up would be quicker. I then applied the glue and clamped the entire top panel so it could dry.


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Once the top was drying I started on the legs. I wanted to do a two edge curved leg. I thought it would be simple and graceful. I selected some 2" mahogany stock and dressed it square and cut it to length. I made a simple template of a curve I liked and created this jig that holds the leg after it has been roughed out on the band saw. I simply hold the leg in place and run it past a drum sander with a phenolic bearing on the bottom. The bearing rubs on the template and follows the shape allowing me to sand the legs to the same profile. Pretty quick and accurate.


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After the legs were roughed to shape I checked the glue up of the last piece of wood for the top frame. It was dry (enough) so I surfaced it to match the other sections and cut a groove in one edge to receive the tongue on the panel. You can see the board that was glued up in the first shot - it's on the right.

I let the panel dry overnight before removing the clamps and cutting it to size. I also cut grooves in the three sides without a tongue. I also cut loose stock to act as a tongue in those three sides.

I measured for the frame sections cutting them to size and fitting them to the panel before moving on to the next one. Here's where you need patience, a sharp saw blade and an accurate saw. It's important to get these cuts right.


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Continuing to cut the top frame. I clamp sections in place to get accurate marks for the next cut. I never measure this type of cut, just make a mark a cut. Checking for square is important.

The corners are assembled with biscuits for added strength.

Last photo is the completed fit up before it is glued.


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I decided to add a shadow line between the top frame and panel. No need to set up a router, just grabbed a hand plane. I have a nice little one that has a block attached for chamfering edges. No need to be perfect, just a few passes on each edge will do fine. It's a small detail but it adds some definition. Last shot shows the detail.


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Time to glue up the top frame with the panel. This is a job that makes me wish I had six arms. I try to be clean and fast with the glue and get the clamps on fast and tight but not too tight to rack it out of square.

After the top glue up I moved on to sanding the legs. The drum sander leaves a rough surface so I sanded with 5 grits up to 180 in all faces. After that I added the chamfer to the bottom edge of the leg, another little detail that looks great and just takes a second.

I drilled each leg for a dowel on the top that will be used to secure it to the frame. Quick and easy. A bit of glue and they are ready to go.


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Next up was to sand the top assembly after it had dried. I also cut it to size (I left it large so I would not be concerned about dinging the edges with the clamps during glue up). I also decided on a bottom edge detail and routed it as well as rounded over the top edge.

Now I move on to mounting the legs. I made a simple marking jig and drilled holed for the legs with the dowels.


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After the legs were located I added dowels as stretchers on the legs. I hated to do this with oak dowels but time did not allow me to order mahogany dowels. I doubt many people would have noticed but I am sure Al would have called me on it!

Back to the drill press to drill holes for the stretchers. No need to build a jig, just shim up level and drill.

Final glue up of the legs and stretchers. Six hands needed again.


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After this was dry I sanded the entire unit one last time in preparation for the finish. I needed to get the stain applied to allow for dry time. First 2 shots are stain applied but not wiped back. I was too messy after wipe to shot a photo. This was the end of day 2.

The following morning I applied the sealer and sanded between coats. After that I applied a couple coats of top coat ad let it dry.

Not bad for a rush job. I see plenty of flaws but all in all I was plenty happy with the outcome.


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I gave it a couple hours to dry and headed down to deliver it to Mary.

Unfortunately I made a huge mistake - it was sunny and as I drove the sun baked out some of the trapped solvent in the finish. When I arrived at Mary's house the top had many little bubbles (d-oh! as Homer Simpson would say). I should have put it inside the truck and dealt with the lacquer smell. I rubbed them out as best as I could and waxed the top but I am going to have to finish the top again when she gets back from the show.

We worked out a deal and I traded the stand for a great piece of material - a buttonwood of course! But that will have to wait for another time and another thread. I may be able to carve a bit on the dead wood over this winter but by then it will be ready to pot and wire some branches.

Kind of cool - my first stand is going to America's first national show and I got my first buttonwood in the deal.
Good work Graydon, and good trade as well. Thanks for the step by step, it was informative.

I'll check out your stand at the Exihibut this weekend ;)


My compliments on the stand you built. You did a great job with the time you were given. I think the stand will add to a great display.

Thanks guys!

I was not able to shoot a photo of the tree on the stand when I delivered it. As usual it was raining in the afternoon so I just held it up in front of the tree to make sure it would fit! It appears it will. Mary wil try to shoot a photo for me on site before the show but with the no camera restrictions I may not see it until the photo book comes out.
Dude, youdaman
Awesome job with the stand and photos, I see you
wanted to show us just how shallow a depth of field
you could create.
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I hope you didn't glue that panel to the frames!

I hope you didn't glue that panel to the frames!

Negative - it's a floater. Thanks for pointing that out. I neglected to mention that point in the write up.
Nice stand Graydon.
I'm sure Marys tree will look great on it!

Maybe you should make another and see if you can get Ellen to use it on her set for something.
Talk about advertising!!

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