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Glue-Up and Shaping

This is the glue I prefer, called Rhenocoll Propellerleim ("propeller glue"). The "3W 4B" etc. means that it fulfills certain standards in terms of water resistance.

I've also used Titebond III Ultimate successfully, although I experienced problems when working in cold conditions; the propeller glue seemed to be a little more forgiving in that respect. Furthermore, this glue is rather inexpensive (around 7 € for the 500 ml bottle).

In some rare cases, I have also used epoxy, but that stuff is ridiculously expensive and a huge mess to work with.

For the last time, I check that the joint is fitting and everything lines up nicely. I spread some glue on all faces of the joint and align the pieces. There should be just a little glue squeeze-out.

I clamp the boomerang down on the bench, supported by a piece of plastic-coated scrap so the glue won't stick. I use a block of scrap to spread the clamping pressure.

While it may be unwise, mechanically, to have the lead arm flapping in the wind like this, my joints usually are not flat enough on the back side of the boomerang to just clamp both wings to a flat surface and be done with it.

By supporting the dingle arm only, there is no problem if the shoulder of the lead arm stands a little bit proud on the back side. 

After the glue has started to get a rubbery consistency, I scrape away the excess and check if the glue line is nice and crisp (well, only if I'm really concerned about how a photo documentary will turn out on the Web ;-). This one looks good enough to me. Phew! There is not much you can do if the glue line looks messy at this point.

After the glue has dried, I can now trace my boomerang pattern on the blank. The shapes I use usually have flared wing tips and a dingle arm that is about 1-1.5 cm (1/2") longer than the lead arm.

From here, you can use whatever method you would use to make boomerangs from birch plywood. As we are working with solid wood, though, there are some options I would like to show which would not work so well with plywood, but are fast and easy with solid wood.

This is just my shape cut out with a fretsaw and after some minor clean-up of the outline with a spokeshave.

It turns out that yew is not particularly easy to work with edge tools; it is not very tough and this piece has a swirly grain, so there is always the risk of tearing out large chunks of wood when using any tool against the grain.

The first order of business now is to get the back side of the boomerang flat. I check frequently against the top of my workbench. If there are any gaps, like on the trailing edge of the lead arm shown here, I use the plane to fix it. I use my planing board to keep the boomerang from shifting around on the bench and carefully plane away the high spots.

This is a close-up view of the lap joint. It turned out so-so: there is a small gap and the glue line is not perfectly parallel to the back side.

I fill the gap with some sawdust mixed with glue. There is nothing to be done about the slightly skewed glue line, but never mind.

When the back of the boomerang is flat, I can mark out the final thickness. I use the marking gauge to scribe a line about 6.5 mm (1/4") from the back.

Using the planing board, I plane all of the front face of the boomerang to the final thickness. It is easy to go too far in the heat of the action, so take your time.

This is the boomerang blank at its final thickness. Note that the problem area from my sawing blooper has almost disappeared.

Clamping the boomerang to the table for shaping. Extra care should be taken to support the wood well at all times, at it is not quite as tough as the plywood we usually work with. 

I use a small spokeshave to shape most of the airfoil. Again, this particular piece of yew turned out to be quite nasty because of the swirly grain, so I need to work from different angles and be very careful not to produce deep tear-out as on the left hand side of this picture.

For the tips of the wings and the elbow area, I use a Japanese carving knife to get as close to the desired shape as possible. Be extra careful here; these knives are razor sharp, and you don't want to slash your fingers.

This is as good as it gets for me with the knife. From here, I'll continue with the card scraper.

With the card scraper, very smooth surfaces can be achieved. The only problem area where I find a card scraper does not work very well is the elbow, where two different grain directions meet.

Depending on the structure and species of the wood, it is possible to shape a whole boomerang using only a spokeshave, a carving knife and card scrapers. With this particular piece of wood, though, I decided to abandon my foolish pride at this point and resort to hand sanding to avoid tear-out, making sure to wear a face mask because of the sanding dust.

This is the boomerang sanded to 320 grit. I cheated a little for this picture and wiped the boomerang with some alcohol to highlight the figure.

There is no finish applied yet because firstly, I like to get some test throws before finishing, and secondly, I haven't decided yet if I will use tung oil or some clear spray paint.

My new friend in its natural habitat. Unfortunately, the wind turbines in the background were spinning quite fast that day; that is to say, it was way too windy to catch anything. On the other hand, the test throws I got looked promising enough to consider this rang finished.

[Some days and some test throws later...] This is how the finished rang looks after a couple of coats of tung oil and polished with a little beeswax.

More photos of this boomerang and some others can be found in this photo album.

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