Introduction: Wooden Comb
Many years ago, my wife bought a wooden comb in Petrozavodsk in Russia. Unfortunately, it broke quickly, but she always loved that comb, so the other day she gave me a challenge: To make her a new wooden comb. After having looked around here and other places, I learned a bit about wooden combs and understood why hers had broken. In a wooden comb, the fibres needs to run along the teeth of the comb to make them as strong as possible, then the 'spine' of the comb will be easy to break. Therefore many wooden combs are made of two or three pieces of wood - one for the teeth and one to strengthen the spine.
I used one piece of birch, approximately 1,2 x 16 x 6.5 cm (7/16 x 6 1/4 x 2 1/2") and two pieces of cherry, each 0.3 x 3 x 25cm (1/8 x 1 x 10 ") It is crucial that in the birch piece, the grains of the wood runs along the 6.5 cm side, on the cherry pieces it should run along the 25 cm side.
Most types of hard wood should do, I cut the pieces from some of my firewood and I'll talk about them as birch and cherry, if you use other types of wood, adjust as needed.
I am using metric, when converting to inches, I do a simplified conversion to something that is close enough, in some cases the important parts are the ratios, then I leave the conversion to the reader.
I also used some pieces of scrap wood, some screws and some discs
The main tools I used was
- Band saw
- Table saw
- Handheld orbital sander (a band sander would probably have been better)
- Drill press
- Router table with a 20mm straight cutting bit
- Sanding paper 40, 80, 180 and 240
Step 1: Making of Jigs
After having made my first attempt, I found out that I needed three jigs. One to cut the fine teeth, one to cut the coarce teeth and one to hold the comb in my drill press.
The fine teeth jig is a piece of metal approximately as wide as (but not wider than) the blade of my band saw. This is fastened to a piece of wood which in turn is put on a track on the top of the table of my band saw. When using it, it should be positioned approximately 4.5 mm (5/16") from the blade of the band saw as flush as possible with the end of the teeth - definately not protruding as that will make each groove shorter than the previous - unless you want to make it that way. The piece of wood to become the comb should fit underneath the piece of wood.
The coarce teeth jig is made of a piece of wood 7.5 x 1,1 cm cut so that one side is 8 mm longer than the other (ie approx 1:10) (in my case 18 and 17.2 mm - the length does not matter as long as it is possible to rest the comb stable along the edged side and it is easy to hold stable) On each side I have put two discs that is protruding so that I can turn it around and hold it against the grove in the band saw table.
The third jig is a standard jig to stabilize the comb in the drill press.
Step 2: Routing and Glueing
Having cut the wood to the sizes I needed on the table saw (feel free to use other tools if you have better things available), using my routing table with a straight bit, I cut out 4,5 mm on each side for 2,5 cm (1") - as I wanted the comb to end up as 9 mm, there should be three layers each of 3 mm, So from the initial 12 mm, I had a "spine" of 3 mm left in the middle. Sanding a bit, I made sure the edge was as straight as possible before gluing on the pices of cherry wood on the sides as tight as possible. Since the pieces of cherry are longer than the piece of birch, the comb will have a long "handle" on one side - that will make in much easier and safer to handle during some of the later work. Use a strong preferably water resistant glue, make sure the entire surface is covered. Use some clamps and leave it to dry
Step 3: Cutting, Drilling and More Cutting
Make a line along the piece of birch approximately 3.5 cm (1 3/8 ") from what is going to be the points of the teeth. Mark the middle of the piece of wood and make a stop-mark approximately 5mm (3/16") from the middle. On the band saw, make a cut from the end wood to the long line approximately 1 cm (3/8") from the end to the line on the side of the stop mark. Then set up the fine-teeth jig so that it is approximately 4.5mm (7/64") from the blade. Make cuts until the stop mark is reached (the picture is from an earlier attempt, so there is no stop mark on the wood, but it should have been just after the last cut). Afterwards, use a compass or ruler to make marks along the long line from the last cut to the end with the spacing of two cuts. Then use the coarse tooth jig to draw lines making points from the edge of the birch to each mark. The cuts should end in a point at each mark but not meet at the edge. (This is impossible to describe in words, see photo).
Using a 5mm (3/8") drill, make a hole at each mark (again, see photo).
Using the coarse teeth jig as a support, cut along the lines, but cut outside the lines to make sure there is wood to sand away.
Step 4: Sanding - and Lots More of Sanding
Fold a 40 sanding paper, sand between each of the fine teeth until it runs smooth and the distance between the teeth is approximately the same as the width of the teeth. (this reminds me a lot of something my dentist occasionally is doing...) Sand on the sides of the comb to get the right profile (I used an orbital sander, I guess a band sander would be the best tool for this, but there is (still) not one in my shop)
Use a knife or a chisel to round of the coarse teeth a bit. Then sand them till they are smooth. Sand of the ends of the fine teeth until they are a bit pointed. Until you have learned what works, test the comb. It is very noticeable if it just skids over the hairs or if it works. Make sure that the teeth are not too sharp either.
If there is room between the pieces of wood, push in some glue and fill with sanding dust. Let it dry and sand a bit more.
Go gradually to finer sanding papers, through 180 to 240. When the comb feels smooth, wet it a little bit, let it dry and give it a new round with 240, Repeat until it feels smooth when dried.
Step 5: Finishing Words
After trying a few times, this starts to work well. The upper comb is my first attempt, made without any jigs and trying to make the entire distance between the fine teeth with the band saw. On the second one, I used the jigs, but I made the ends of the coarse teeth to narrow, so I lost too much length when I sanded them down. The last one starts to be a copy of the initial Russian comb.