This past weekend, I completed the work on the folding screens. I found little time to blog about the process, so I will describe it here.
I wanted a finished product that would provide us with about 4 and 1/2 feet of blockage to the outside world through the one double window which reaches near the floor. Our neighbors are slightly lower than us, so this shields all but our heads from their vantage point. I leaves the dusky light and the morning light visible and we can see the woods behind us.
I also wanted to be able to fold the entire screen up and put it away in the corner when it was not needed. The panels are attached to one another by piano hinges. The entire screen folds up like an accordion, but the panels are not the same widths. The two outer panels are the same, and the next two are the same, and the middle one is wider yet. The result is that when folded up, it is not a tidy unit, but has a layered feel to it.
Lastly, I wished to use some of the great curly maple I bought over a year ago and wrap it with walnut to tie it to the walnut trim of the windows and room.
On those three desires, I was successful. However, I will report that I found flaws in my design. First, the entire set of 5 panels is very heavy — too heavy really for the wife to pick up and move around as I envisioned. That makes them less useful than I imagined, since I need to be sure that I set it up and put it away. I placed a handle opening in the center panel, but it actually serves little function since it is way too heavy to pick it up by the handle.
Because of the way the panels are hinged together, it folds up easily, but it does not really allow for many configurations when unfolding and using it. I discovered that on carpet, it is a bit shaky and to prevent little ones from becoming victims of it’s lack of stability, it cannot be unfolded to the extent that I envisioned. It is necessary to make sure that the end panels are set at a near 90 degree angle to the next panel which makes them less visible and useful for obscuring the window.
I am considering re-hinging the panels, but then it won’t fold up nicely.
I also found that the walnut proved easy to finish. I used only a clear lacquer and wax for a finish, so that part was easy. However, the walnut shows few scratches or related issues since it is darker and more porous. The maple however, shows every scratch and blemish. Trying to finish them together is a challenge. Using a plane was out because of the different directions of wood, so I used a hand scraper to take out the larger issues, and then an orbital sander to sand down to 320 grit. Even then, I found it challenging to finish out that last layer of lacquer by hand. I used a brushing lacquer for the first coat and then a spray can for the other coats. Under intense light (even to these old eyes), I could see tiny scratches on the maple.
Of course wood movement is always an issue, and since I began the project during the winter, there are slight differences already showing where the top piece joins with the side pieces. It is slight, but the hand notices them for certain.
They look great though and feel smooth as silk to the hand when you touch the panels. I would just have to rethink the bulk for one thing. Changing that would impact some of the other items too. Perhaps some cutouts…