The Short Story on Book-Matched Panels
Book-matched panels add visual interest and a mark of fine craftsmanship to a project. What is book-matching? It's a simple process. Just resaw stock; open it like a book to expose to nearly identical mirror-image surfaces; and edge-glue the pieces together in the same "open-book" orientation.
The key to creating an attention-grabbing panel lies in careful stock selection. Look for wood with unusual grain, a knot, or color variation that will form an interesting pattern when mirrored. The eyes or swirling grain in burls and the decay-induced lines in spalted wood make excellent choices. With your selection in hand, here's how to quickly transform it into a beautiful panel.
Resaw the workpiece
To make a 1⁄4 "-thick panel, start with a surfaced piece of 3⁄4 "-thick stock. This allows 1⁄4 " of waste material for the saw kerf, removal of the saw blade marks, and planing and sanding to final thickness. Then draw a centerline along one edge of the piece. Using your bandsaw with a 1⁄2 " blade with 4 teeth per inch, resaw the piece, finishing your cut with a pushstick.
Plane and glue the panel
Plane the resawn faces of the pieces only enough to remove the saw marks and establish a uniform thickness greater than the finished 1⁄4 " thickness. (You'll plane the panel to final thickness after glue-up.) Avoid excessive planing of the resawn faces that can expose new grain patterns or characteristics that may not match up well.
Edge-glue and clamp the pieces together, as shown, being careful to align the grain pattern as closely as possible. To keep the panel flat, clamp cauls across it made from scrap 3⁄4 " stock. Apply easy-release painter's tape to the cauls to prevent them from sticking to the glue squeeze-out.
Finish-sand and plane
Lightly sand the resawn face of the panel to 220 grit using a random orbit sander or a horizontal drum sander. Then, with the resawn side facedown, plane the panel to the finished 1⁄4 " thickness to fit the mating grooves in your project.
Be aware that because of the reversed grain direction in the panel halves, it is possible for the panel to fracture when you plane it. This happened to us while planing the cherry panel. To help prevent this, use a sharp set of blades in your planer and take very light cuts, or avoid the problem altogether by using a drum sander. Also, if your planer has a speed-control selector, set it for the maximum cuts per inch (typically the finishing position).
Trim the panel
To help you select the most interesting area on the panel, make a paper mask with an opening cut to the finished size of the panel. Move the mask around on the panel and, when you've framed the most appealing character, outline it with a pencil. Now crosscut and rip the panel to the marked lines, and you're ready to incorporate this beautiful, one-of-a-kind feature in your project.