Mitered Waterfall Grain Matching – Wow Your Neighbors

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mitered waterfall grain matchingSo, you think you’re cool enough for Mitered Waterfall Grain Matching? Yeah? Then listen up: Start with the proper materials. Veneer core sheet goods suck for this kind of work. The layers of glued veneer in plywood move around too much to create a good joint, so you won’t get a good result. Particle board is even worse. Rule number 1: if you want to create a project that comes out clean, professional, and cool, don’t start with $%/# materials. Start with the good stuff – wood veneer with an MDF core. MDF (medium density fibreboard) core is uniform and homogeneous and will allow you to cut and glue with precision. Your project will end up making you look like a woodworking rockstar.

What IS Waterfall Grain Matching?
For you weekend warriors out there who don’t know what waterfall grain matching is, click on the picture above and prepare to lust. The grain of the wood flows continuously around a corner, like a – um – waterfall, and the grain is displayed just as Mother Nature made it, as it travels over the cuts and turns of your project. When you look at the whole finished project, you see the grain flowing uninterrupted (except for the saw cuts, of course) around corners and over shelf and countertop edges. Vertical or horizontal, this unreal contemporary look is awesome, and master craftsmen charge the big bucks for it. If you create a project anything close to this, you’ll be the envy of all your neighbors and you might start getting lucrative and glamorous custom cabinetry job offers.

But waterfall grain matching takes the right tools to do it right. A sliding table saw and a solid fence are a must so every cut is exactly the same, while at the same time keeping the profanity police at bay.

How To Make a Waterfall Grain-Matched Project:
Let’s say you’re going to make a square column with horizontal waterfall grain matching, and you’re going to use ¾ inch MDF and create a box 18 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 24 inches tall.

Here’s What You Do:
Cut four pieces the width and height of the box, with the grain running horizontally from side to side. Each piece should be cut in sequence, with each cut forming the right and left edges of two adjoining pieces, respectively.

Now set the blade of your table saw at a 45 degree angle. (A hair over 45 degrees is okay – a hair under is no bueno.) Eyeball the fence so it looks like the blade will begin contact right at the edge of your material. The fence is set up in front of the blade, which is why a sliding table saw works best for this cut. On a conventional saw, once your piece leaves the safety of the fence, you are left finishing the cut holding your material in place by hand, a dangerous and foolhardy move that should be attempted only by your local IRS agent.

Go the Extra Mile:
Here’s that point in your woodworking project where you need to Go The Extra Mile in order to take your project from OK to GREAT. Do not rely on the fence gauge for position. Why? Because we’re dealing in reality here, not a perfect world. In the world of woodworking, every piece of material varies a little bit from its stated dimensions. A ¾-inch piece of MDF with veneer on both sides may be ¾ inches plus 1/32 inch, or if it’s from China it may measure only ½ inch. You get the picture. If you simply set your fence at what it mathematically should be using the gauge on the table, chances are you won’t get an exact cut that leaves a sharp edge. Your box won’t fit together properly, your trash can will start to overflow, and your finished project will not look as great as you can make it.

So run a test piece first. (Note: Everything run on the table saw is done veneer side up.) See if the cut starts just at the edge of the veneer, leaving a sharp edge. If a little piece with a right angle is left before the 45-degree cut begins, then adjust the fence a little closer to the zero point and test again. On the other hand, if the saw cuts some of the veneer away, adjust the fence a little farther away from the zero point. Keep adjusting and testing with scrap pieces until the cut starts just at the edge of the veneer.

Finishing Your Project:
Now make your 45-degree cuts on the sides of all 4 pieces.
Lay your pieces out, veneer side up, side to side in the same order you originally cut them. Tape them securely together about every 6 inches.

Now carefully turn the array of taped pieces over, veneer side down. Apply wood glue to all the V-grooves. A small continuous bead is all that is needed. Less glue, less mess. Don’t forget to apply glue to the sides that will eventually come together to finish your box.

Fold one outside piece straight up, and then fold the other outside piece straight up, and then yell and scream for someone to help you fold the pieces the rest of the way to form your 4-sided contraption. Tape that last joint.

Finally, wipe off excess glue and go have a beer while allowing your project to dry.

Photo of author

About Brad

Brad Baker is Vice President of Operations at Miller Woodworking in the Los Angeles area, designers and builders of custom cabinetry and interior millwork for the rich and famous. They make the impossible, and their work has been featured in fancy schmantsy architectural glossies more than a few times. All that high end creative stuff aside, he maintains a strong spiritual belief that the real sign of a good woodworker is all 10 fingers. He and his wife Ann Baker co-write for HomeFixated. Ann is CEO of Publicity Pros, a firm that provides “All Things Publicity” services and training for small businesses. She’s a hopeless nerd who revels in anything and everything having to do with the technology of attracting attention. And, no joke, she loves to bake.

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