Linen Fold Panel Routing Project

How to create a linen fold pattern in timber and wood based material, using modern routing techniques.

The traditional linen fold pattern would have been a time consuming and skill demanding process to create using hand tools as in years gone by. Using the Trend 18/96 Linen Fold router cutter enables the pattern to be machined into timber with relative ease.

The pattern can be incorporated into a variety of joinery projects, such as cabinet doors, settles, panel work etc.

The Trend 18/96 Linen Fold Cutter needs to be used in a 1/2" capacity router, mounted in a router table or fixed head machine for accurate results. Strips should be mounted on a support block, so that hands are a safe distance from the cutter when profiling the material.

Step 1 - Getting Started and Preparing Timber

The Linen Fold cutter is used to rout the profile to the face of the material, which is made in two halves for each section required.

I used English Oak for this project, traditionally a popular choice of timber with the linen fold pattern. Several Linen Fold sections can be joined side by side of equal or varying lengths.

Selecting timber with a fleck pattern such as radial cut quarter-sawn oak can create an interesting appearance.

The cutter can also be used to scribe the ends of the pattern.

The full scroll effect can be applied to the strip ends using a bearing guided 4mm radius channel cutter (Trend Ref: 23/12). A template can be made to use in conjunction with this cutter, so that the scrolls can be machined to a consistent pattern, as shown later in this project. Alternatively, the scroll effect can be carved out by hand using carving chisels.

To be most productive, longer strips of the linen fold profile can be made and then cut down into several pieces, reducing machining time. This would depend on a long enough support block being available to mount the strips on to.

Strips were prepared to a finished size of 37mm x 9mm section. I would recommend preparing at least twenty percent more strip than the finished job requires, to allow for any wastage, test pieces and jig making.

If a planer thickness machine is not available to prepare the timber to the section required, timber could be purchased from a timber stockist and trimmed down to size. The 9mm thickness is not critical, therefore a slightly thinner size could be used.

The edges of the strips should be square and straight, to ensure that a tight joint can be made when the strips are joined together. A support block was prepared for the strips to be mounted to.

The Linen fold cutter was fitted to a table-mounted router, ensuring that the cutter was inserted sufficiently into the collet, to the K mark on the shank.

The height of the cutter was set so that the bottom of the lower bead nearest the shank end of the tool was level with the table surface. A fine height adjuster is useful if a compatible router is used. A strip of timber was offered up to the stationary cutter to assist with setting the cutter height.

The Trend T11 router has a built-in fine height adjuster that can be adjusted from the table surface, as shown in photograph 7.

The height was locked on the router.

The block should be a minimum of 50mm wide and 30mm thick with a square straight edge. The length of the block may depend on the length of strip that can safely be pushed through the router table, whilst staying flat on the table surface. Roller stands could be used to support longer pieces of timber.

Then, the back-fence needed to be set. To produce a better finish on the final cut and put less demand on the cutter, the full depth of the linen fold profile should be achieved in two cuts.

To avoid adjusting the table´s back-fence back and forth for two passes on a quantity of strips, I made a couple of boards that could be clamped one at a time to the back-fence for the first and second cut. One of the boards needed to be two millimetres thicker than the other for this. When set up correctly, the thicker board would allow half of the depth of the profile to be routed. The board could then be unclamped and the thinner one fitted, allowing the full depth of the profile to be routed.

I used boards of 6mm and 8mm in thickness and cut out openings for the cutter.

With the router disconnected, the cutter was rotated until one of the cutting tips was at its maximum cutting point to the timber. I clamped the 6mm board to the back-fence and set the board just beyond the deepest part of the linen fold cutter's profile. The back-fence should be set up squarely with the mitre fence, as this will help with scribing the ends of the strips, later in the project.

The fence was locked in position, the 6mm board removed and the 8mm board fitted, which allowed about half of the depth to be taken.

A strip was mounted to the prepared support block, using a sufficient amount of double sided tape and lightly pressed together with a clamp. The surfaces should be clean and dry to ensure best adhesion. This should be done on a flat surface to ensure that the bottom of the strip is mounted level with the bottom of the support block.

A finger pressure assembly can be used on compatible router tables, to apply downward pressure along the support block, and help prevent it from tipping off the table edge as the material is pushed through.

The first cut was routed to one of the strips.

Without unlocking the back-fence position, the 8mm board was removed from the back-fence and replaced with the 6mm board, to allow the full depth to be cut.

With the strip still mounted on the support block, the second cut was made.

Care was taken to keep the timber feeding through at a constant rate to achieve a consistent finish.

The strip was checked to ensure that the height of the cutter was correct and that the full depth had been reached before routing the remaining strips.

The strip was de-mounted from the support block, and stages 9-10 repeated for any remaining strips.

It is advisable to make trial cuts in a spare piece of strip before proceeding with the work-piece material, to check set-up is correct.

Step 2 - Scribing the Ends and Routing the Scroll Effect

The strips were cut down to a shaving longer than the finished lengths, to allow for a light skim beyond the deepest part of the cutter's profile at each end.

Alternatively one end could be scribed before cutting the strip down to size. A chop saw fitted with a negative hook blade is suitable for cutting the strips down to length.

The linen fold pattern was scribed to the ends of the strips with the assistance of a mitre fence on the router table. The router table settings should not need to be adjusted for this stage if the fence has been set up squarely to the back-fence.

The full scribe cut should be routed in at least two passes to achieve the best finish. The 8mm and 6mm boards used for the profiling can be used to align the timber for the first and second cuts of each end respectively.
As a precaution, the gap of the opening on the board should not be more than 3mm around the cutter for this stage.

The 8mm board was clamped to the back-fence. If the table settings have not been changed from the profiling stage, this should still allow half the depth of the profile to be routed.

A spelch block should be fitted behind the work-piece to minimize any break-out. Each strip was aligned with the back-fence board and the first cut routed to both ends. The strip must be orientated correctly so that the groove in the profile face corresponds with the cutter profile.

The strip must be held firmly and clamped to the mitre fence if possible, to help prevent it from moving during routing. Alternatively, Trend Product PUSHBLOCK/4 could be used for the scribing, but the cutter height will need to be adjusted to accommodate it.

The 8mm board was removed and the 6mm one fitted.Each strip was re-aligned with the back-fence board and the second cut routed to each end.

When the strip profile was faced out from the spelch block, a piece of anti-slip material and packing piece was put between the clamp and the profiled timber to prevent it from getting damaged.

It was now time to apply the scroll effects to the end of each strip. A jig was made that could be clamped to each end, for the bearing-guided channel cutter to follow (Ref:23/12).

Alternatively, suitable carving chisels could be used to create the scrolls for those who feel adequately equipped to do so.

The jig could be made by copying the pattern supplied with the 19/96 Linen Fold Cutter (DIAG/LFSCROLL). To create the same scroll at each end of the jig, I made the jig in two halves, so that both ends of the jig could be cut together.

I cut two pieces of 111mm x 111mm x 15mm plywood and stuck them one on top of the other with several small tabs of double sided tape. The template was cut in half and attached to the square using mounting spray.

The profile was cut fractionally oversize, using a fret saw, then shaped to a smooth finish using a small sanding drum or oval file.

The two pieces were then separated and the opposite ends glued together. Each end of the strip could be given the scroll effect using the appropriate end of the jig.

Two parallel spelch blocks were attached to the underside of the jig between where the Linen Fold strip would be positioned.

The strip was positioned 5mm in from one end of the jig, and orientated so that the appropriate end lined up with the groove on the strip. The jig was held to the workbench with two clamps.
If the spelch blocks are thicker than the work-piece strip, some packing will need to be placed underneath for the clamps to secure the work-piece down. The work-piece was checked to see that it was securely held before routing commenced.

The 23/12 bearing guided channel cutter was fitted to a small router. A Trend T5 router was ideal for this as it is lightweight and has a small base. The low positioning of the handles enable it to be easily maneuvered around small template jigs such as the scroll effect Jig.

The cutter was set to rout 3mm for the first cut. Making sure that the bearing was in line with the template, the router was gently fed in to the scroll aperture.

The turret stop was rotated to allow a further 3mm to be routed. Material was removed until the full scroll effect was reached.
Care was taken not crush the delicate pointed area of the template by forcing the router into it, as this will effect the pattern in further use.
Repeat for all of the ends.

Any feather-edges left behind were removed with a piece of rolled-up fine grit sandpaper.

I made the total depth of the scrolls 6mm, routed in two passes. Setting a couple of the routers turret stops 3mm apart ensured that the same depths could be returned to. Light cuts were taken, whilst keeping the router moving to prevent burning.

Step 3 - Finishing Touches

For this project, I have set the Linen Fold Pattern into a framed panel. For more details on making panels and frames, a video covering Profile Scriber and Panel Cutters be viewed on the Trend website.

The strips were glued on, starting from a line marked on the centre of the panel, working outwards. Where necessary, the strips were lightly clamped in place until the glue had set, to prevent them from lifting. I found it easier to allow the first strip to dry in place, so that the remaining ones could be held firmly.

The work-piece was given a light sanding and wiped clean.

For this traditional pattern, I wanted to achieve a subtle sheen finish. A coat of Boiled Linseed Oil was applied, allowing it to penetrate the natural timber. 

Once dry, the work-piece was lightly buffed with a clean cloth, removing any residue.

The finished Linen Fold Panel.

Special Note: Safety guard on the Router Table pictures have been removed for clarity only.

Written by Derek Greig - Technical Advisor at Trend Machinery Ltd.

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