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Carpenter, Joiner, Builder, Project Manager - Somerset, Bath and the South West


Ropala circleLaying an engineered ash floor in a spacious flat presents little difficulty, but when the customer asked me to build a circular, ropala lacewood, panel and  set it into the floor as a base plate for his new spiral staircase, things became a little more complicated. Ropala is a beautiful African hardwood with an unusual grain structure. Unfortunately it has one drawback - in some pieces fine shakes run down the grain. These hairline fractures are all but invisible until you begin to work the wood, but if not spotted they can ruin hours of hard work.


Ropala lacewoodRopala lacewood

The timber merchant didn't want the responsibility of cutting the ropala into 20mm thick boards and so this had to be done on site. I'm not really geared up for ripping down large sections of timber but a couple of cuts on a table saw followed by some exertion with a hand saw soon provided me with the eleven boards neccesary to form the circle.

Ropala lacewoodRopala lacewood

Using a biscuit cutter I next ran a 4mm groove down each side of the boards. I then cut a series of 4mm ropala strips, glued them into the grooves, and glued and clamped the boards together. The diameter of the finished circle was too great to clamp up in its entirety and so the outside boards had to be fitted later and clamped in place using folding wedges.

Ropala lacewoodRopala lacewoodRopala lacewoodRopala lacewood

Once the glue had dried the panel was sanded flat. Sanding with a belt sander is quite a brutal process. Although it produces a flat finish it simultaneously obscures the grain. After sanding the grain can be restored with the use of a scraper, in this case a sharp plane blade, using this blade. A fine layer of wood is removed and a beautiful finish obtained.

Ropala lacewoodRopala lacewoodJigsaw

Once the panel was finished the circumference of the circle could be marked out and the circle cut using a jigsaw. Finally the finished circle was given another going over with the scraper followed by a coat of shellac.

Ropala lacewood Ropala circle

What they say:

Richard Southwell QC

Andy built our large conservatory to a rather complex one-off architectural design, unfortunately there were errors in the design of the roof and Andy had to change the details in order to remedy the problem. The result is a conservatory which is a great success and has become the centre of our home life. We are very grateful to Andy for all the care and hard work he put into the project.

Carol Denley Trustee

Andy co-ordinated everyone on site, ensuring that every trade worked efficiently and safely. With Andy in charge the building of our children's centre progressed at an incredible rate.  Any problems that arose were dealt with professionally and efficiently, construction became the easiest stage of the project.