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Building a Wooden Dummy - To Laminate or Not
If you've shopped around enough, you will have found that you can purchase a wooden dummy (using a conventional design) with either a laminated main body, or a solid main body built from a solid log. Assuming that you want your wooden dummy to last your lifetime (at least), the decision between each method could become quite important. Each of the two wooden dummy manufacturing methods have their advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of the solid log dummy are:
Faster and easier to make.
Starting with a solid log easily eliminates a significant amount of extra work. The laminating process is significant and if not performed correctly will result in your dummy splitting and potentially breaking.
This is actually down to personal preference - some people like the joins and sudden breaks in grain structure, and some people don't.
To some, a solid log dummy is what might be considered "authentic", as there was likely no reliable laminating method or adhesives many years ago, or obtaining a large solid log was not very difficult.
Disadvantages of the solid log dummy are:
Difficult to source timber.
Much more difficult to source timber of a suitable type and dimensions. Many people use old telephone poles, but care should be taken when using any treated timber - the chemicals used on the wood to prevent rot were not intended for repeated frequent contact with human skin.
Potentially quite expensive to purchase materials due to the rarity of a suitable timber of adequate size.
Prone to cracking if not dried correctly.
The solid log should be correctly kiln dried to a suitable moisture content. This moisture content will vary slightly depending on your climate. Also consider the room in which your wooden dummy will live - if there are large fluctuations in humidity, your dummy may develop cracks due to the timber absorbing and dissipating moisture.
Advantages of the laminated dummy are:
Potentially cheaper to make, as smaller sections of timber are going to cost less to purchase. This cost may be offset by the process of laminating it all together.
The vertical join lines and sudden changes in grain can make for an interesting look. You might like it.
Easy to source timber.
Not only will it be much easier to source your timber, but you will have many more options of timber type available.
Disadvantages of the laminated dummy are:
Time and difficulty.
A laminated wooden dummy body will require much greater skill, time, and effort to create a final product which will not fail by falling apart.
Some people don't like the vertical join lines and sudden changes in grain.
Prone to cracking if not laminated properly.
Correctly laminating a dummy body will require excellent timber preparation and sizing (such as planning for a flat surface), adhesive selection, clamping, and section configuration. This becomes especially important around the upper arm and leg hole areas where the dummy limbs act like a lever, trying to pry the body apart.
If you're purchasing a pre-made wing chun dummy, it may be worth checking whether the supplier provides any sort of warranty on their laminated wooden dummies. If you're going to be making your own dummy, it may be that you don't have any choice but to laminate (due to non-availability of suitable timber, or due to cost), so you could enlist the expertise of a boat-builder for suitable help or advice with the laminating. Also ensure you have a great set of wooden dummy plans!
Laminating Your Wooden Dummy
The video below shows a basic process of lamination which you could apply when building your wooden dummy: