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Arts and crafts inspired bedside table

 

The intent of this blog will be to describe my progress towards amateur woodworking for my own enrichment. Sometimes I will post about small items that I build in my basement shop and sometimes I will share progress or completion of projects. For my first post I wanted to share a project I completed today.

This particular table is a result of a desire to build a small table to sit to the right of our bed. Most of the pieces of furniture that we started with in our household were built to fill a particular corner or as my skills improved, a piece for a major entertaining room. Our personal bedroom had long lacked in any furniture that I had made for us. Nearly two years ago I made a small bedside table for Leonie to go on her side of the bed. It came out nice and had a shaker / arts and crafts vibe. Shaker in that it was a bit more slender and had some tapered legs but i used my old standby favorite wood in white oak so it still fit in with the general theme of the rest of our furniture. I liked Leonie’s piece well enough that I made a nearly matching table for our oldest Eric and our daughter -in-law Helina’s first apartment.

The existing bedside table was early American goodwill. This bedside table is now relegated back to the guest room

But I was looking for something a bit more masculine for my side of the bed so I decided to delve through my collection of Stickley catalogues and books to look for something a bit more substantial. I was also interested in potentially trying my hand at fuming some white oak to get that really dark stain effect you see in the turn of the century style. As it turns out I’m happy with the result but ultimately I chose a gel stain after getting increasingly concerned about the safety of trying to fume the wood.

We are fortunate to live in Southern Indiana which is rich in hardwoods in general and especially in white oak which is one of my favorite woods. Hard and tough, it can be challenging to cut and shape and you need sharps tools, but I find it very forgiving to finish and I love the permanence of the finished piece. Something about white oak speaks to honesty and endurance.

I have a blessing of selection nearby to get my white oak. I know at least one great woodworking shop, a local mill and a co-worker with a WoodMizer and I’ve been satisfied with all of them. But for this piece i was fortune to visit Frank Miller lumber in NE Indiana who just so happens to be one of the worlds largest white oak suppliers and they do almost every board in quarter-sawn which is of course essential if you want to get the flecks so associated with the “tiger” stripes on the early arts and crafts or mission style oak furniture of the turn of the century. While at Frank Miller lumber I took advantage of going through their “shorts” or “seconds” piles which is amazing value and perfectly practical for me because the size of my basement shop more suits smaller pieces of lumber than long stock and I usually don’t build any especially large pieces of furniture anyway.

So about 4-5 weeks ago I started the project by selecting some 7/4 stock for the legs and some 4/4 stock for everything else. I am incredibly thrifty with my pieces and I can spend half of the first day of any project just going through my pile trying to find just the right sized piece to minimize the cuts and wastage.

The leg blanks were not quite wide enough so I took the remainder of the waste from the cut-out at the top and glued it to the bottom of each leg to give the appropriate width.

On this piece I found a board that was just the right length and just an inch shy of the right width to get all four legs out of a single board of 7/4 stock. Luckily because of the sweep and taper of the legs i knew I’d probably be able to shave the off-cut from the upper curve to glue it the same leg to form the lower curve. This amount of frugality may seem silly on hindsight, but it worked out and I after some careful layout I have four legs with the most dramatic fleck patterns all facing the front of the piece for maximum effect.

Hard to resist doing some dry fit to see the proportions take shape

The piece that I was trying to emulate had solid sides but was based on a desk that had larger proportions. At first i looked through my woodpile to see if I had any quarter-sawn white oak long enough and wide enough to do the same but i kept thinking to myself that it seemed an incredible waste of wood to fully enclose the sides and that on such a small piece it might ruin the proportions. So instead I elected to create an open side with three slats. I varied the width of the slats and put a cut-out detail in the center slat to add some whimsy. I was pleased with the results.

For the drawer I was fortunate enough to already have a few fully made drawers that were sold as surplus drawers from my local woodworking store. The owner Mike put 5-6 of these beautifully dovetailed drawers out a few years ago (before i was brave enough to start hand dovetailing myself) and while I have been practicing my dovetails and could have done these myself, I was also eager to finally use this drawer for something useful. So all i had to do was cut it to length and add a new back and glue a matching board of white oak for the front.

For the drawer pulls I did very strongly consider asking a local artist to fabricate one for me. I really like the idea of partnering with a small metalsmith who can custom forge some hardware for me someday but since I have no intention of going into production I could not justify the expense or time for something that was simply for me. I was able to find the hardware off of etsy of unknown origin. But I got 6 drawer pulls for $24 so I figure that was a steal.

The stain was the area that I took the longest time deliberating on. I have never fumed white oak and I really wanted to try. I’ve often read about the dangers of ammonia fuming but i figured this was a small enough piece that perhaps this was finally a piece that I could try my hand at fuming the oak. After many hours sitting in front of the TV watching re-runs of “Agents of Shield” after dinner with the kids where i do some of my best internet browsing I determined that it was risky and potentially toxic so i started looking for more reliably safe ways to get the same dark look. I heard good things about the General Finishes gel stain line and in particular the “Java” color for antique arts and crafts oak finish so I finally decided to give it a try. Here is what i learned.

Details of the sides with a closeup of the cutouts.
  • Do some test pieces. I did 3 test pieces and was satisfied on smaller samples ranging from 2-3 inches wide to 4-6 inches long
  • Sand to no more than 150-180 grit. This is fine for me as I usually don’t sand past 180 grit for white oak anyway. Apparently the gel stain doesn’t absorb as well on sanding greater than 180 because at about 220 and above you start burnishing the wood.
  • Make sure you sand with the grain – yes I know this is obvious, but I always thought i did anyway. But with gel stain – especially darker gel stains make absolutely sure you sand with the grain. I thought i did, but obviously i had a few errant strokes in a corner or on the edge of a piece here and there and the challenge is that the darker the gel stain the more likely it will absorb straight into that cross-grain scratch and show it off like a scar.
  • When you apply the gel stain do it in sections and be prepared to thin it slightly with mineral spirits – THIS IS IMPORTANT. And have plenty of wipes at hand. When I applied my gel stain it goes on like chocolate Nutella – thick and very, very dark. You can’t even see the grain at first.
  • The first two parts went on fine as all I was doing was the drawer front and then the top and they were easy to apply and wipe off quickly.
  • Here is where I had a mini-panic attack. I was getting a bit overconfident so i put the “Java” gel stain on the entire piece all at once instead of sections. Big mistake. As soon as I’d applied it all and started to wipe it off i realized that the extra time it took to apply to the entire piece gave the stain a bit more time to dry. So as i started to wipe I realized it took me a lot longer because the color was starting to set. And as i started wiping faster and faster I realized that i couldn’t wipe fast enough. In a moment of clarity i read the instructions and realized it cleaned up with mineral spirits. So after I started soaking the wipe up rags in a bit of mineral spirits and instantly it started getting much easier as the mineral spirits thinned and essentially re-liquefied it.
  • All’s well that ends well as they say
  • Final finish was with three coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal also thinned with approximately 10% mineral spirits and sanded lightly between coats.

 

New bedside table so much better than the old one and much closer to our style. Eventually i plan on making an arts and crafts style headboard.

 

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table (pt 3)

So this weekend I started the weekend a bit early by taking Friday off to do a bit of work around the house and to run some errands.

The housework was to spread 7 yards of playground mulch and the nice thing about this job is that it goes much faster than the mulch for the beds because you simply have to dump it under the swing set and with Leonie’s help it took less than 2 hours.

Following that Leonie and I took our 4 year pilgrimage to get new i-phones. I had a bit of a rant yesterday on facebook so I won’t repeat it all, and mostly my rant was in jest but I find it pathetic that so much of our society now is disposable. You have to replace the phones that should still be working, but the tech-gods have decreed that they will purposefully make a product that wears out or won’t accept any more updates so that you have to replace everything periodically.

So the short form version of our visit to the phone store is that Leonie my loving wife and I got to spend 3 hours of our lives entering endless passwords (I certainly forgot) and having to sit across the table from a guy who helped us transfer all my data and stuff over to my new phone. Not that the human part was horrible, nice team at T-mobile. But I do object to the whole process. Every single part of the process is designed to extract another $ out of you to buying the new phone (payments spread out to 24 months), then you need a protective sleeve, wait the sleeve doesn’t come with the screen protector, wait they just upgraded to a different kind of cord for this new I-phone version (for some reason their blaming COVID), then don’t forget the protection plan. You get the idea, $, $, $, ………$$$$.

Then when I get home I have to spend another 30 minutes with the University IT folks (again very helpful) to re-activate all my University apps and to migrate all my e-mail over. Whew – I think I’m done. So glad I took a whole vacation day off today to spend half of it getting a new convenience, that has somehow now become a ball and chain.

Luckily Leonie Stewart was there to talk me off the ledge a few times, send me to get some food and water when my blood sugar was low and then go get take-out dinner when we were all done.

I finished my Friday with a 14 year old scotch from 2007 that is old enough to just barely remember the very first iteration of the i-phone. Can we all go back to 2006 and take a pass on the whole “smart” phone thing. Wasn’t life a lot simpler then?

Before Friday was a complete write-off for woodworking I decided to embrace my inner Ludite and go back to tools that I understand. Tools that haven’t changed in 100+ years and still work without upgrades. I couldn’t resist cleaning up the epoxy pour of the checks in the Nakashima coffee table so I used a Stanley #4 plane to just clean up the epoxy. I did find a few pockets of resin that was not 100% hard so I added a bit more epoxy to seal in the soft pocket and I’ll let it dry another week before I sand it completely smooth.

On Saturday morning I started with my weekly hike with Jewel the dog. We went for a half-jog through the woods overlooking Griffey Lake. It’s fun watching spring starting to take over. A month ago we were in snow and now it is 60 degrees and the buds are coming out. Soon the entire groundcover will be back, but for now I could see the early ferns starting to create a blanket of green.

To create the base for the Nakashima coffee table I pulled out some nice thick cherry slabs I bought in the fall for this project. My local supplier has been air drying these two slabs for a couple of years and while they are relatively flat and very wide, one of them was pretty full of rot so I think I got it for free but I paid for the nicer slab. The slabs themselves were 15-16 inches wide which is pretty great.

But 16 inches wide is way too big for my planer and I find if I can break the pieces down closer to the component sizes I get flatter boards in the planer anyway. So I started by crosscutting the pieces down to get rid of the rotted sections and then I ripped down to approximate largest case widths. The rotted pieces nearly filled my scrap bin.

When I was ripping down the boards I had a few that started to grip the back of the blade and the riving knife behind the blade. This is caused by the boards releasing their pent up tension. Most of the time it is not severe, sometimes it opens up and sometimes it closes. It doesn’t always happen often but if the closing forces are sufficient it can cause the board to jam. Rather than try to keep pushing harder once it gets hard it’s usually best to simply turn the saw off for a moment. Then I grab a wedge and drive it in the crack just behind the riving knife to force the crack open just enough to release the tension.

After breaking down the planks to roughly the size of the finished parts I then planed them down to consistent thicknesses and to clean up the faces. I don’t own a jointer so I have to play a few tricks to get the boards completely flat. These planks were actually pretty flat so most of the pieces cleaned up without to many tricks in the planer. But I start by taking really shallow passes and if either side is concave I start with that side down. then Once it starts getting flat I start flipping the plank to expose both faces. And then I try checking flat on my benchtop which is flat.

If any of the boards are warped I then set it aside and use a trick by setting it on another board that is flat ( I use a piece of plywood) and then use wood wedges under any high spots and hot glue the wedges and the board together to the plywood. The whole purpose of the plywood and wedges is to create a reference surface that will not rock and then the blades of the planer create a good face on the top. Once you verify that the top face is flat you can release the board from the plywood and then flip the board over to plane the bottom face.

My last act for Saturday was to glue up the blank for the center post for the base.

On Sunday I went out to a local private sawmill to go through his walnut stock in preparation for a project I have this summer to make a mid-century modern lounge chair. His supply depends on what he has cut in the last couple years and what’s close to the top of the piles. But his prices are always fair. He had some fairly good thick stock in 8/4 (2 inches), but unfortunately his 4/4 (1 inch) stock was less great, but I still picked up the best of what he had to just to see how it would clean up.

When I got home I ran them all through the planer and as I suspected the 8/4 stock cleaned up real well, but the 4/4 stock was a bit of a miss.

Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table (pt2)

This weekend’s spring activity was to spread mulch. We get 8 yards of mulch every spring. It takes a few hours every day over the weekend, Leonie started with Isabelle and Rebecca on Friday afternoon and I helped for an hour after work. Saturday and Sunday it took about 2 hours each day. Hard work, but it’s like a fresh coat of paint for the yard and we always enjoy the look of the yard when it’s done.

This weekend’s woodworking task was to trim the Nakashima coffee table top down to final size and prepare the top. Last weekend I flattened it. This weekend I started by trimming off a pretty ugly end by skillsaw. I used a scrap piece of plywood as a straightedge.

The next step was to cut the dovetail keys to secure the large checks (cracks) to stabilize the top. Good dovetails in a plank can actually add a lot of beauty and stability. There are several ways to do this, you can of course do it the old fashioned way and hand cut them, I could do that in a future blog. For this one I decided to use a router inlay kit. The kit that I have is from Whiteside. It comes with a brass ring to secure the bushing collar to the center of the router base. It also has a centering bit to ensure the base is secured precisely over the center of the router arbor. The router bit that comes with the kit is a spiral up cut bit. Up cut bits do an incredible job of creating a clean cut and the spiral is oriented in a way that the chips are cut and ejected “upwards” and helps to clean the debris out.

The inlay kit will cut two mating pieces so that you can “inlay” one piece into the other. The shapes could be almost anything, but it is extremely helpful for dovetail keys. You start by making a template of the general shape of the inlay. You have to account for the fact that the bushing will ride inside the template and the router bit is therefore offset the width of the bushing into the template.

To cut the inlay you simply need to remove the outer bushing from the kit (see left picture) and because the outer bushing thickness is exactly the same size as the router bit it will move the offset exactly the correct distance to create the “positive” or inlay shape. The technique I prefer is to cut the inlay from a piece that is thicker than the depth of the intended pocket so that there is remaining wood to hold the inlay from flying out during the cut.

One thing you will notice is that I always label the pieces and the direction of orientation that I cut the pocket and the inlay. The template and the resulting pocket and inlay will always have slight variations so it’s very important to ensure that they go in exactly as they were cut in the same orientation or they simply will not fit.

Because this table top has various sized cracks I decided to use three different template sizes.

To clean up the inlay it’s easiest to finish cutting out the inlay pieces with a band saw staying careful to cut almost up to the line, but not all the way. Then you clean up the edges with a very sharp chisel and a rasp. I make sure I stay as close to the exact same shape as I can, perhaps cutting a slight chamfer to ease the inlay in on installation.

To cut the pocket for the inlay you use the largest bushing. If you see the picture to the left you will see that there is two sizes to the bushing. The outer bushing fits over the inner bushing. The outer bushing is exactly the same size as the router bit. Using the larger bushing you rout out the inside of the template and remove all the waste starting in a clockwise direction. If the inlay will be deep you will take multiple passes to not overload the router or strain the bit. The resulting shape is the “negative” space of inlay pocket. The only challenge here is that the bushing and the round shape of the router bit will prevent getting perfectly into the corner, but that is easily cleaned up with a sharp chisel.

To place the inlay into the pocket you spread glue on both surfaces and then pound the inlay into the pocket. When the glue dries you remove the bulk of the protruding inlay with a sharp japanese saw with no set to the teeth. Then you clean up any high spots with a hand plane.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the number of dovetail keys I made. I used 14 on this table top to ensure I covered all the checks top and bottom. I’m not sure it was absolutely necessary to do two keys in some of the locations.

After I sanded back the top and bottom sides of the plank I then cleaned up the edges and dug out any included bark. After that I used a compressor to blow out any dust from the cracks before taping all of the cracks closed with packing tape before mixing the epoxy. You can use packing tape because in general epoxy does not stick to plastic tape. You use the tape to essentially create a dam or form for the epoxy.

I bought 2-part epoxy from Total Boat and they have kits for epoxy projects that come with powdered die colors that you can mix with the epoxy to add a pop to the final epoxy. The color packs come in some pretty bright colors, but I preferred understated black for this project.

The epoxy I bought is the thin-set or slow hardening formula because it’s great for penetrating into all the cracks. After you mix it you can simply pour the resin into the cracks. Once hardened the epoxy is super hard but it can take 5 days to fully cure. Depending on how deep the crack is it really soaks up the epoxy.

The downside is that packing tape does a decent but not a perfect job of sticking to wood, so it’s hard to get it perfect and anywhere the tape doesn’t create a perfect seal you do get some leakage of epoxy. You’ll notice that in the last photo I got a puddle of epoxy that seeped through the tape. At a certain point, when I realized that it was seeping through the tape I just decided to stop pouring epoxy into this one crack, all the others were ok. My thought was that even if some seeped through it starts to set up and even slowly it was probably pugging the gaps in the tape where it found a path so after a few hours it was tacky and no longer runny. I’ll mix up another small batch before I go to bed to see if all the holes in this crack are now plugged.

Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table (pt1)

This weekend marks the start of my Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table. The end result of the weekend’s work was that I was able to flatten the cherry slab to two coplanar faces and get a much better look at the the crotch pattern. More about that later.

Before I could get to woodworking I promised myself I would do one yard related project a week for the next couple of weeks to get ready for spring. This weeks project is to tear down and re-create a stacked brick retaining wall adjacent to the compost pile. The previous owners put in the wall, and it was in ok shape when we moved in 7 years ago, but over the years it has been progressively falling away as the soil pressure pushed it outwards.

First step was merely to remove the bricks. This took the form of digging down a few courses as the grass had grown up to cover the lowest course(s). I then flattened the earth a bit and filled in the gap with a course of #11 (up to but not greater than 3/16-1/2″) crushed stone as a base. Not having a pickup, or trailer we sometimes simply get small quantities of stone by the bucket. It’s usually right on the border of cheaper than renting a trailer if you have a small load. The stone creates a nice level base easy to spread and it helps with drainage to prevent hydraulic pressure against the back face of the retaining wall. With stacked bricks only a few courses high it will stand for a few years (perhaps 10-15), but then you get to do it again!

By the end of Saturday I’d been able to finish the wall and with pulling the courses out of the ground I was able to get four clear courses now back above ground. In a week or two we’ll mulch to fill the bed back up.

On Sunday I finally had the opportunity to flatten the cherry slab. Last week I made a slab flattening jig. This week I needed to make some homemade masonite router bases so I could cut a hole wide enough for my special slab flattening bit. The bit itself is huge and is designed specifically for this task but I’ve never used one previously. The face itself is over 2 inches across which is a huge face when the router is spinning at maximum rpms. A bit of a scary thought really. So after I used the bit to cut the groove in the router sled that will glide along the router jig I had second thoughts about using it initially on the actual cherry slab.

The slab itself started at close to 3 inches thick, but was warped a bit. Not bad, but a bit. So after some consideration of the idea of a huge flattening bit and the amount I may need to remove to get it close to flat I decided to take a more cautious approach and I switched to a 1/2 inch wide bit to do the bulk removal and save the flattening bit for a final pass if necessary. It took longer of course, but then the router was working a lot less hard.

In order to account for the initial warp you lay the slab flat and shim under the two high corners until it is stable. The slab was heavy enough to stay put by itself, but to make sure I used a bit of hot glue on the shims.

It took a series of about four 3/16-14 inch deep passes to get it flat. The pictures below show the intermediate steps. You can see the first few passes flatten from opposite corners, the low spots still below the cutting head.

Unfortunately with slabs of undetermined origin there is always the chance of finding random bits of metal. This slab really didn’t look like there was any fasteners or visible metal but unfortunately I did hit a screw. It looks like the previous owner of the slab may have placed a screw in at an angle to stop the split. A bad choice unfortunately, but I was lucky. The bit may have just grazed it. I’m sure there is a nick in the bit now, but it was still sharp enough to finish the job. In any case I cut it just below the surface and it’s close enough to the edge of the plank and this end of the plank is pretty rough already that I’ll likely just cut the last 4 inches off anyway.

By the end of the day I’d flattened both faces to coplanar and had a mountain of chips to prove it. To get here the slab was reduced from just under 3 inches to just under 2 inches, and the chips filled a large trash bag.

After flattening I took it inside to sand the largest router marks off. There will be a bit more flattening next week after I let it react a bit more to make sure it stays flat. It should, it’s been air drying for many years, but it’s always possible it could still move a bit more.

A tree crotch is a pocket located at the bottom of a point of connection, between two or more tree limbs or tree trunks. This one is closer to a “V”-shaped crotch as opposed to a “U” shaped crotch. Based on the size and relative symmetry of the sizes of the two members that came from the crotch I would suppose that this would be a crotch where the single trunk branched upwards to two secondary trunks as opposed to a limb crotch. Often the crotch creates very difficult but beautiful grain as a result of all the reaction (compression and tension) forces and interlocking grain. In this case, as with many crotch pieces it creates a spectacular “feathering” or “flame” pattern.

Signs of spring and starting my next project

Is our long winter wait finally over? Perhaps.

Today was the first day of spring and true to form the weather was in the 50s F and we had clear blue skies and evidence that the buds are coming out and the daffodils are near peak. We can finally go outside and perhaps not wear a coat or maybe go for a run in shorts instead of 3 layers.

But one of the clearest signs of spring is Leonie can finally hang our clothes outside on the line instead of hung on racks in the guest bedroom.

And now that Leonie’s Jewelry Cabinet on Stand is now complete I can start dreaming about my next project. I have about 4 projects lined up for priorities in my loose-leaf folder in my brain. The one thing I do like to do is alternate styles and difficulty of projects. Or so that’s what I tell myself. Sometimes the easy looking projects turn out hard. The next project is one I’ve long wanted to do but I was waiting for the right piece of wood to come along. I have often been curious about making a few select pieces of furniture with live (or natural) edges. But more than 1-2 pieces can overwhelm the house pretty fast. When they are done right they can be striking. But done wrong and they can look like something from the “primitives” store. I found a reasonably priced (cheap) Walnut slab a few years ago that was too thin to save for anything else but it was interesting. And I made that into an outdoor coffee table with steel pipe legs. Not fancy, but interesting in that thrown together urban chic look. It’s taking a lot of abuse, and it’s not completely level, but I just oil it every year and let it go. This time I wanted to do something a bit more proper to the midcentury modern feel.

We were visiting the shop of a fellow Brown County Woodworker last fall and he had a few smaller length but still quite thick cherry crotch (where the tree forks) slabs that had some interest and they were quite reasonably priced so I picked one up on a whim. It’s roughly 5 feet long and the width varies from 18 inches to 27 inches wide. It’s also nearly 3 inches thick so there is still plenty of material to flatten it properly. I knew this would be a slab I could experiment with.

The green aluminum ruler is there for scale. The ruler is 4 feet long.

The style of furniture that uses live edges was made very popular in the US and elsewhere in the mid-century period. One of the greatest proponents and craftsperson’s of that period was George Nakashima who used huge slabs of timber dried for years at his shop and then lovingly flattened and stabilized. He made everything from coffee tables, desks, kitchen tables to conference tables out of huge slabs. Two of his more prolific and popular lines were called “conoid” and/or “minguren” coffee tables. I particularly liked his “conoid” styles.

Below is an image from one of George Nakashima’s coffee tables

The style has been heavily copied and one of the variants that has sprung out of this is to accentuate a cantilever where possible. But as you may understand a cantilever can cause other challenges of stability at the extreme end like wobbling etc…… so it is a delicate balance of not going too thin or too extreme on the cantilever. The two examples above are not George Nakashima pieces but they clearly are influenced by his style.

One of the more recent and better done examples of this style is being done by a woodworker by the name of Taeho Kwon who makes a very beautiful rendition of a cantilevered table. Please visit Taeho’s website for examples of his work.

https://www.tkwoodartstudio.com/live-edge-cantilever-sitting-bench

So this week I didn’t have time to dive too deep into the new project and I still want to sketch it out. But I did know that I needed to create a slab flattening jig to put the two faces of the slab co-planar. Obviously you could do this with hand planes, but you might give yourself a heart attack. The popular way to do this nowadays is with a flattening jig and use a router in a flattening sled to take shallow passes off of one face until it is flat and then flip the slab over to do the other side.

They sell fancy rigs for this, but I think most people who are doing this rarely just make their own. I had two pieces of 2×4 that I ganged together with some screws and then I ripped a shade off each edge to get them roughly square before running them ganged together through the planer. The two 2×4’s create the “rails” that the flattening sled will ride on.

Creating the routing sled was just a matter of ripping a sheet of scrap plywood down to width that is exactly the width of the router base plate + 2 times the width of whatever wood fence/rails/stiffeners that will hold the base plate captured between the sled rails so the router bit stays centered in the slot. Then you simply add pieces of scrap wood for fences perpendicular to the sled length that hold the sled from sliding off the 2×4 rails. Add a tiny bit of wax on the parts that touch and the whole sled slides smoothly above the cherry slab.

That’s all I did on this project this weekend since I spent most of the weekend finishing Leonie’s Jewelry Cabinet on Stand. Next weekend I’ll pull out the special flattening / milling router bit, create the slot and slowly flatten the slab. It takes numerous shallow passes all across the slab to bring it into a flat plane.

There will be many chips in my future next weekend.

A jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie (pt 12) “finished” ……..for now

The jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie is now finally complete. And I’m really excited about how it came out. For those of you who recall when I started this journey back in December I wanted this to be similar to the work of James Krenov who established the College of the Redwoods (Now the Krenov School).

When I say “finished” I mean at least as complete as I will make it for a few more months. All of the finishing is done, I’m still waiting on a bit more velvet for drawer bottoms and I haven’t yet 100% decided on how I will display Leonie’s favorite necklaces in the large cabinet opening behind the veneer panel (but I have a good idea) but I need to get onto other things and let my brain settle back onto this again in a few months. That will also give Leonie a chance to live with this so we can make adjustments depending on her taste.

It is now living comfortably to the left of Leonie’s dresser next to the window in our bedroom. And I must say it’s quite handsome if I do say so..

This week after work I set up the basement assembly line style to put two coats of “Watco” danish oil “Natural” followed by 1 coat of Minwax paste finishing wax. The natural is not meant to add any color, but of course walnut just soaks it all in and turns a b-e-a-utiful shade of dark brown immediately. The wax helps give it a luster and is easy to repair. It feels silky smooth to the touch.

I decided on a whim to count out all the pieces I had to cut for this piece and I came up with over 160 different pieces of wood joined together for this entire cabinet to come together.

I almost hate to hide the back. The back panel was made of six pieces of walnut book matched and oriented so the sap wood would show in the center of the large and smaller openings. The panel itself floats in a dado to allow for wood movement, and even though I love the details they will now forever be pushed against a wall where they won’t be seen regularly.

I then proceeded to cut self adhesive velvet to line the drawer bottoms. So far the velvet eventually lies flat so I haven’t adhered them yet. I want to make sure I prefer the bottoms lined. But if I don’t adhere them I keep my options open. The interior dividers hold them down anyway. I didn’t buy enough so now I have to wait to do the final 4 drawers.

All in all, I am really happy with this piece. It is by far my most ambitious piece so far and I really feel like I challenged myself and hit on all the elements I was hoping to achieve. Good enough for the piece to get my signature stamp and date so 50 years from now the kids remember this is one of the pieces their dad made.

The cabinet is a bit top heavy so I anchored it to the wall with drywall anchors and a metal bracket that attaches hidden to the underside of the cabinet and holds it away from the wall but the weight of the cabinet still rests on the stand. The bracket simply anchors the top to the wall so it won’t tip forward if a cat, dog or clumsy husband knocks into it. It’s now rock solid.

Seven of the nine drawers now have dividers in them of various sizes so Leonie can organize all of her jewelry anyway she wants. Some are very small squares, some are longer and more rectangular. One has a ring bar, although Leonie wears almost all of her rings every day anyway so she only has a few for the cabinet. The two square shaped drawers are just open and deep for things like bracelets and bangles.

Next I will take what I hope is a slightly easier piece in a Nakashima inspired coffee table for the basement made of a slab of cherry. But sometimes making things look easy and elegant is a challenge in itself.

And with that – I guess I will sign off……………

A jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie (pt 11)

I’m getting close to finishing the cabinet on stand. This weekend I was focusing on the door panel and the drawer dividers. If you don’t remember, I made this panel in a Marc Adams veneering class this last summer of 2020 as a test panel. It was my favorite panel of the week so I saved it specifically for a special project.

I started by running the door frame pieces through the planer. It’s really nice to see the maple inlay strips pop against the walnut. In the final frame of the door panel they will help to accent the veneer panel.

Next I needed to prepare the maple strips for the dividers. I ripped the pieces to rough width last weekend and a fellow woodworker with a drum sander helped me to sand them down to a consistent thickness. The one thing with drum sanders is they do a great job but they are not a final sand. It still helps to run a random orbital sander to smooth them all out.

One technique when sanding a bunch of small pieces is to gang them all together to create a single surface. It helps to not let the sander round over the edges. I use blue tape to help hold all the pieces together. It also speeds up the process significantly and it helps keep the thickness consistent.

I didn’t ask, but I suspect the drum sander stopped at 100 grit. I then used my random orbital sander from 100, 120, 150 and then 180 grit to make them as consistent as possible. One cool tool that is worth mentioning is to get a sanding eraser. They are made as a stick of natural rubber usually sold as a belt sander eraser. You’d be really surprised how well these rubber sticks work. You simply run the sander at normal speed and then rub the rubber across the sanding surface. They work on virtually any sandpaper and the clean out the dust so they cut faster and last much longer.

Next I trimmed the strips down to length and then cut half-lap slots to create the dividers.

Leonie helped me to decide how we wanted to distribute the dividers. After creating the dividers for half of the drawers we decided to leave the other smallest drawers without dividers for now. That will give Leonie an opportunity to decide how she wants to use the drawers before we go final or we could leave the smallest drawers with an open plan.

Next I cut down the mitered bridle joints. You start by cutting half of the bridle joints, but you leave one of the sides thick so you can cut the miters by hand.

Cutting by hand takes a lot of patience and a little bit of clean up with hand planes and rasps. When they fit together the create a lot of glue surface and on the face side the miters have a very clean look.

After gluing the frame and panel together I used a filling compound made of 2 part epoxy and very finely ground walnut sawdust flour to create a fine paste that I smeared into any remaining gaps.

It took a few attempts at applying the epoxy / saw dust flour paste to get it just right. The first time you do it and after you scrape it and sand it back you invariably find a few missed spots or small voids so I usually plan on doing it twice.

Then it was time to start doing some final surface preparation work. I had to do some glue cleanup on the legs of the stand and I found using a scraper helped cut right through any glue that got into the pores of the wood and left a nice smooth surface, then I ran a fine grit piece of sandpaper and finally a scotch brite pad.

For years I have been trying to get the hang of using a card scraper in lieu of just sandpaper and I never had any luck getting a consistent approach to sharpening (putting a burr) on the edge of the card scraper. This is not unusual. Most woodworkers can get the concept of how to sharpen their chisels, then it’s not a huge step up from chisels to plane blades, but for some reason there is a lot of confusion about sharpening card scrapers. But that’s because it’s not intuitively obvious. I won’t try and describe it here, but once you get the hang of it try and do it frequently so that you stay in practice. There are many you tube tutorials and sometimes the contradict each other. Whatever method you find works for you, I suggest you stick with it. For what it’s worth I took a class with Marc Adams and his method is the only method that works consistently for me. If you want to see his technique go to the following youtube link:

After I sanded everything down I couldn’t resist rubbing the face of the door panel down with some mineral spirits to make the figure really pop.

Next I want to show you a few cheap tools that I picked up recently that I think I’m going to get a lot of use out of. The first thing is I finally got myself a set of metal punch and die set of basic letters and numbers. This is great for marking part numbers permanently into the wood. Now if you do this, it won’t sand out unless you remove a lot of wood, so you need to make sure it’s in a location you don’t care if someone finds it. But for parts like drawers I really like it because I can use the die punches to number the drawer boxes and bottoms sequentially and that helps me in two ways. I can now disassemble the pieces for staining and I know what pieces go where. I can also use the numbers to remember what drawer goes in what hole.

The next technique worth mentioning is the use of fasteners to attach the cabinet to the stand. All of the rest of the joinery of the two pieces use either dovetails, mortice and tenons or other wood on wood joints augmented with wood glue. When wood is joined to other wood you always have to accommodate wood movement. Wood moves most dramatically across the grain face perpendicular to the grain. Parallel to the grain wood moves very little. So anytime you join wood with grains that run perpendicular to each other you need to accommodate for dissimilar wood movement. When you attach a base to a table top or any surface with a wide board it is common to use mechanical fasteners that will allow some marginal movement. Since the primary force of the case will be downwards into the stands legs, the mechanical joint merely needs to hold the cabinet from sliding off the stand. There are several commercial fasteners available, but one of the simplest ones is a figure – eight (8) fastener. You drill a pocket for one end of the figure-eight with a flat bottomed drill bit like a forstner bit. Then you fasten one end into the stretchers of the stand allowing the other end to protrude. Because the fastener is circular, if the wood moves the faster can move with it.

I am partial to magnets for keeping doors closed. Small neodymium magnets are easy to drill and set with 2 part epoxy. These tiny magnets pack a big punch and are often just strong enough to hold the door closed, but not so strong that it takes more than a very small tug to pull them open. The one thing that is tricky is that you only get one shot to glue them into place. You have to remember that all magnets are polarized. So make sure you mark the positive and negative sides. If you glue them in backwards the magnets will repulse each other rather than attract.

The next tool worth mentioning is something that makes driving the small brass screws into the door and case easier. I have often heard that dipping them in soft wax works well. Some people use wax toilet rings as a place to hold the screws until you use them. I hear that works well, but last time I was at Menard’s I found a small jar of wax specifically for this purpose. This worked great and it saves the strain on the screws which can either strip the heads or occasionally snap off the head.

It’s always nice to get close to the finish line. It’s when I get to brand the piece for posterity. My hope is that someday the kids will remember me by the furniture I made, who I made the piece for and the years the furniture was made.

After everything was assembled I couldn’t resist wiping everything down with mineral spirits one more time to make the grain stand out.

I am now done with all the joinery for this project. Next week I will start staining it. This is one of my most challenging pieces yet. I counted 2 bent laminations, sixty-eight (68) dovetails, 28 mortice and tenons, 34 dadoes, 4 mitered bridle joints, 4 inlays, 10 turned knobs (with inlay stripes), 8 way veneer matched panel, and a 24 piece veneer compass rose.

The final test is to see how my favorite customer Leonie likes her new jewelry cabinet. I think the smile shows she is ready for this to come up to our bedroom.

A jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie (pt 10)

Back to working on the jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie. I’m tired of looking at the blue tape on the drawers as temporary drawer pulls.

Saturday was all about creating my own drawer pulls. I tried some techniques last weekend that helped me decide the profile and technique that I wanted for the cabinet. It’s a contemporary design so I went for a minimalist drawer pull profile. I don’t know exactly what to call what I came up with, but it’s borderline mid-century modern.

The basic process is to cut 1/2 inch squares of walnut and then drill a hole in the end grain and glue a 1.5 inch dowel into the square to create a lollipop style turning blank. For the dowel I found that 3/16 inch thick bamboo skewers make good dowels for this purpose and they are just slightly thinner than 3/16th so it made it easy to glue them into the cubes.

Then we decided after a few trials that the basic profile was a bit boring without a bit of color. So I tried to add a stripe of lighter wood to mimic the maple in the laminated portion of the base. Having a contrasting light stripe through the pull seemed appealing. The easiest way to do it was to create a small jig to cut a grove in the top of the cube and then glue in a small strip of maple veneer.

To create the profile of the pull in a consistent manner I cut a groove in a piece of scrap lumber and put a 10 degree bevel on the end and then chucked the turning cube into drill press and by using the bevel edge at 10 degrees and a series of rasps and files I slowly ground down the cube to a partial conical shape. It was still difficult to get it 100% consistent. But I found that by using a 7/16th inch box wrench as a gauge I was able to stop using the rasps just at the point that I got to 7/16th and then I switched to a file and various grades of sandpaper all the way up to 320 grit until they were smooth.

The pulls came out very nice, but I was hoping that they would be consistent so I made 16 copies on the hopes I could select the 10 best based on size and how well the maple stripe turned out. Sometimes the stripe came in perfectly centered, but sometime it was slightly off-center. What was fascinating is that as consistent as I could get them they averaged about 13/32nds but the variations were as great as 3/8th to 7/16th. I then sorted the pulls according to size so that if there were any small variations it was hardly noticeable by placing the very smallest ones on the smallest drawers and the largest pulls on the larger drawers. Since they are never going to be next to each other it’s barely noticeable.

Before I took the plunge and started drilling the holes for the pulls I wanted to mock up the rough locations and a few options. I used super glue on the blue tape to temp glue some scrap pulls at various heights from centered on the drawer face to slightly higher than center. I decided in the end to go slightly higher than 1/3 down from the top of each drawer except on the smallest drawers that are closer to the center.

One very clear advantage of using a mock up was that I was able to catch that the long drawers are just barely off center from the vertical divider on the right side. It’s only about 3/8th of an inch off center, but having the opportunity to do it as a mock up first helped me to catch this and decide what I wanted to do. Ultimately I decided to center the pulls on the vertical divider.

I had personally decided to do the pulls in an exotic bit of wood I got at the woodworking store called “African black wood”. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a cheaper alternative to ebony but I got a few small scraps and I have used it for small accents like pulls previously. But Leonie decided that she preferred the pulls to be made from the same walnut as the case. She pointed out that since the door will have a very decorative veneer panel and since the pulls already have a stripe of maple we want to avoid too many details that would distract. So we went with walnut.

To get accurate drill holes I made some jigs from some scrap plywood.

To get an accurate length for the tenons I drilled a hole in a piece of scrap at the same thickness as the depth of the hole and cut it flush on the back side..

Then just a quick drop of glue in the hole and sink the pull in taking care to orient the stripe to the horizontal position on each drawer.

Then it was time to make the cross stretchers that support the cabinet above the stand. I wanted this to give the illusion that the cabinet is “floating” above the stand so I measured the height of the finished stretchers to be 3/4 inch but I started with 1 inch thick material so I could cut a dado so that when it rests on the stand it will be captured on top of and between the rails. In the finished stand these will be glued and doweled into permanent place. Then the ends of the cross stretchers get a bevel to reduce the visual thickness of the stretchers from the front and rear.

The end result makes the cabinet appear to “float” above the stand and between the legs.

To close out the weekend I did some stock preparation to make ready for the final phase of the cabinetmaking (I hope) before sanding and finishing. I ripped down a lot of scrap maple stock to 1/8 inch thick for the dividers inside the small drawers so that all the jewelry can be partitioned. I also ripped down the final door stiles and rails to rough dimension and I used some of the ripped maple to create an inlay that will accent the veneer panel that will go in the door.

Always cut slightly tight and then tune the pieces with a block plane until they just fit. A bead of glue and a dead blow hammer sets the inlay home into the grove and then I set it aside to dry.

Temperatures are starting to warm up. This morning I went for a hike with just a t-shirt and wool flannel shirt. This week Indiana will be in the 60s for a few days. Hopefully spring is here, but that also means that yard work starts to cut into the woodworking.

The girls and I did the final paint of the owl-box we made last weekend and will hang it as soon as the paint dries.

On a final note, one of the perks of being a woodworker is that occasionally you get given old tools or wood from people no longer woodworking. I was called this week by a fellow woodworker who wanted to know if I wanted to complete a nice replica Stickley style Morris chair that another woodworker never finished. It was delivered on Sunday in pieces, ready for a few more bits of joinery and then final assembly. I am truly humbled, it’s a beautiful design, and the previous owner has months of work into it I’m sure, but he could no longer finish it and wanted it to go to a good home where it will eventually be finished. I have probably a few other projects in line before I get to this, but as soon as I do don’t be surprised when it looks like I suddenly jumped 8 weeks ahead on a project, because someone else did a lot of work and I simply have to finish.

Some side work – an owl house, a stool and some pulls

This weekends woodworking was a bit of a diversion from the jewelry cabinet on stand for several reasons. The weather started to turn so I felt like a change, the girls and I usually try and do a father – daughter bird house ahead of spring and my Mom just got a new motorized bed that is much higher than her previous bed so I wanted to make her a small step stool.

This week we had a bit of a warm up to the high 40’s and low 50’s so Friday night I started with a quick backyard fire to have a beer with Leonie and to burn up my scrap bin. But the weather wasn’t quite warm enough to melt all the snow in the valleys as Jewel the dog and I found on our Saturday morning hike where the small lake at the trailhead was still frozen.

Isabelle, Rebecca and I try and make a birdhouse every spring, and what started as a simple thing is now on three years in a row. We had an amazing experience with a small screech owl a few months ago in my parent’s back yard where he let us get quite close for several minutes so we decided we wanted to make a screech owl box this time which is a little bigger.

First I started with some scrap cedar that I had in the shop. Some was already painted, some was not. I started by edge gluing some strips up into panels for the pieces. After cutting the basic shapes out I invited the girls down for the assembly.

Rebecca is the resident artist so I asked her to draw an owl sized hole with an owl silhouette. Isabelle has used the scroll saw before so I asked her to cut out the silhouette entrance hole.

Then they each took turns assembling the various sides. And in less than an hour we had a new owl box.

Now they just need to paint the whole box and we’ll hang it next to the back of the house. Rebecca has already suggested we set up a trail camera. We’ll see how that goes.

For the stool for my mother I had a couple of pieces of hickory that I was gifted from a friend Dan in the Brown County Woodworkers. I don’t typically use hickory much in furniture partly because it’s not super traditional, but it’s also wicked hard. But I figured it might be perfect for a small piece of furniture that will be stood on.

Given that Hickory is hard, comes with some sap wood defects (that add character) I wanted to stay with a simple form.

I’ve enjoyed reading Chris Schwarz blog on Lost Art Press and his books, especially in the Anarchists Design Book series. I even took a class with Chris two years ago to learn how to make a shop stool using staked furniture techniques. I really like Chris’s focus on form over fancy and how he advocates for vernacular furniture forms like Irish, Welsh and Scottish functional furniture or as Chris describes it ‘furniture of necessity’.

I didn’t have hickory in 1.5 inch thick so I started by gluing up blanks by ripping relatively straight stock in 1.5 inch strips.

After the glue was dry I cleaned up the edges and cut the blanks into octagons.

With the octagons set I then had to taper the octagons while maintaining the shape. I found the easiest way was to start by roughing out the basic taper on the shave horse with a drawknife and a spoke shave. Using a drawknife or spoke shave on dry hickory is no joke, and the lines while roughly octagonal were not perfectly planar. So I then cleaned up the final few passes with a #4 plane which helped re-establish the octagonal planes and now following the taper. Then I used the 5/8 inch tapered tenon cutter to put the final profile on the top of each leg.

I then cut a slot in the top of each leg for a wedge and pulled out my best 5/8 inch “wood owl” bit and a tapered reamer. Both of these are precision tools and razor sharp. It’s best to use a bit brace on these rather than a power drill.

Now a bit about geometry. I write this partly in case I ever want to re-create this stool and partly for your education. If you read Chris Schwarz books you’ll son find that you only need two angles to set the correct splay on your staked legs. This basic geometry applies to all staked furniture like Windsor chairs etc…. It takes a lot of trial and error to get to the angles and Chris is a proponent of wire leg mock-ups. I just used a sliding bevel to try out a few angles and then I just wrote them down. What I ended up with was a 42 degree sightline from the long axis of the stool and a 17 degree resultant angle. You simply strike the sightline on the bottom of the stool and then you set a sliding bevel to 17 degrees and sight down both as you use the bit and brace to cut the 5/8 inch mortice. Then you follow up with the reamer. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but you have to slowly “tweak” the reamer by trial and error until the rake and splay of each leg visually matches. It took me about 2 tries to get it correct.

After gluing and staking the legs I wedged the top of each leg. And then I leveled the top and marked the distance to the bottom of each leg at 6 inches and cleaned them up with a hand saw.

It’s a nice, neat little stool. I like the symmetrical and angular look of the stool and the octagonal legs.

The final bit of woodworking I worked on this weekend was related to Leonie’s cabinet on stand. But I’m stuck with writers block on the drawer pulls. I want them to be simple and clean, but I can’t find any that I really like, so I tried some practice turning. I practiced with an old pine blank I had from a previous project but I’m not great turning spindles. It’s super hard getting consistent shapes.

So then I remembered I’ve seen a lot of internet videos showing how you can turn your own simple knobs and pulls on the drill press. One of the advantages here is that you can cut accurate blanks from square stock, glue them to a dowel, place the chuck in the drill press and gently shape the piece to a pull.

I started by ripping some 1/2 and 5/8 inch square strips and then I cut a 2×4 into a set of jigs to hold the strips on the drill press. Then I used the crosscut sled to cut squares.

The jigs will hold the squares steady while I drill a hole for a dowel.

Then I simply drilled holes for the dowels and glued them up.

You then use a series of rasps, files and sandpaper to create different pull shapes. I am not decided yet, but it’s good practice to make a bunch of different shapes and after I make 10 or so I’ll have a better idea what I want to use.

That’s all for this weekend. Lots of small things, but it’s keeping me busy. Always learning.

A jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie (pt 9)

This week I created the base stand for the cabinet that I mocked-up last weekend. I was super excited by the way the mock up turned out last weekend but I wanted to add a bit more splay so that it was more noticeable but it’s a delicate balance to make it dramatic but not overdone. By the time I was done I was really happy with how it’s going. so far..

This is probably my most ambitious project yet and at the end of the day I’m not sure if it’s from one influence or another. I started with the hope that it would evoke James Krenov, but over time I’ve added a lot of my own details. Its’ starting to look a bit mid-century modern or like a studio design. But I hope Leonie likes it. It’s fun when the design I started with looks a lot like the end product, only it evolved a bit along the way.

The stand needs to be simple enough that it doesn’t clash with the cabinet, but I can have some fun. The primary design elements are the arched wishbone stretcher of the front and back, and then I wanted to do something interesting with the legs so they have three elements that make them interesting. The legs are splayed and tapered, the tops of the legs go above the base of the cabinet, and each leg is a multi-faceted. In order to cut a multi-faceted leg and keep the joinery manageable you have to start with something predictable to cut the joinery from. It’s much easer to start with two faces that have a 90 degree angle. But from there you can play around. By the end the legs start at the top as a pentagon or 5 facets, then in the middle at the thickest portion of the leg there are actually 7 facets with two facets remaining from the original parallel faces. and at the bottom the leg terminates in a trapezoid or 4 facets.

I started with the same process I used last week but this time the primary wood is walnut and the complementary wood is maple. I started by slicing the walnut into 3/16 inch strips and added one strip of maple in the middle.

The strips were laminated together in the arch form to create two arches. I also did similar laminations for the two straight pieces.

After the glue had set I ran them through the planer to clean them up

Then I used the table saw jig to cut one flat at the top of the arch so that I could glue them to the straight pieces to create the wishbone shape.

I changed the angle of the legs from the mockup to splay out a bit more. I went from about 2 degrees to 4 degrees to get the legs to splay almost 2 inches out from the vertical or 4 inches front and back. I created a jig to capture the legs to the exact angle and set the blade to 45 degrees each way to create a 90 degree reference face sloping at an angle set at 4 degrees.

After setting the jig up I cut two test pieces from pine to check the splay. You can see that the bottom of the legs when combined increase the splay at the bottom by 4 inches.

Now it was time to transfer the template to the actual 1.5 inch thick walnut. I had some 6/4 stock that I have been saving that has an amazingly rich color and a gentle curly figure. I traced the template onto the walnut with a sharpie since walnut is such a dark wood and you need something that stands out. Then I cut to the line on the bandsaw.

The four legs blanks are cut and ready to true up and clean up the two reference faces. One of the keys to this piece is that there will be a lot facets on the legs and it will progressively get harder and harder to clean up the facets as each one cuts a different angle that progressively shrinks the reference facets. So it’s important to clean up each facet when the plane is as large as possible.

The longest facets will be the outside face of each leg. I clamped them all together and cleaned them up progressively with a #62 Lie Nielsen low angle bench plane, then I ran them through the random orbital bit sander from 100, 120 and 180 and finally a card scraper.

The resulting clean faces were amazing. There is a real vibrant curl if you catch it just right.

The inner face of the legs are the next longest facets, but they have a scalloped curve about 2/3 the way up. After cleaning them up the same way with the #62 low angle bench plane, random orbital sander and card scraper I finished with an oscillating drum sander on the drill press on the scallop curve.

Next I took the legs to the tapering and 45 degree jig. This jig not only cuts the compound angle in two passes, but it eliminates the tapering pass.

The resulting top profile of each leg is a monopoly house shaped pentagon. After I get towards the end of the leg preparation I’ll soften the two bottom 90 degree angles to make them a bit more like a balanced pentagon. But the top angle needs to remain at 90 degrees.

Again with the shoe in the bottom of the frame. Gott love the Adidas Sambas.

To ensure I know exactly where the two wishbone tenons front and back will go I need to clean up the tenons first. To accurately cut the tenons I set up a stop block at the full length to create the full length. Then I adjusted the stop blocks to just under 1 inch and reduced the depth of cut so that in two passes flipped I had a slightly oversized 1/2 inch thick tenon. Then I cleaned up the shoulders. with a backsaw and chisel.

After laying out the location of the mortices I used the jig I created last week to hold the leg accurately while I cut the mortices with the plunge router with a fence and a 1/2 inch bit.

Don’t panic. This picture is just for show and the router was off. I always operate the router with two hands.

The four completed legs.

Gratuitous glamour shot of the way these legs will look from below. I love the way the facets and the scallop interplay with each other. This piece is mostly right angles so it’s nice to put a few different elements in there to create a bit of interest and tension while still keeping the overall form clean and simple.

Lot’s of notes ensure that I don’t get confused during glue-up.

On Sunday I chopped out the sixteen (16) mortices.

I wanted to add a detail to the top of each leg so that it doesn’t just terminate in a 90 degree angle. So I decided to put a 15 degree slant that slopes into the center of the cabinet. I screwed a board down to the radial arms saw table at 15 degrees and a stop block so they all came out consistently.

In order to add some some feature to the legs so that they weren’t just a plain rectangular profile I wanted to make the pentagon a little more symmetrical and less like a monopoly house in profile. To do this I set the table saw to 13 degrees and gently ran the legs through in progressively narrower passes until the edges just touched to create the pentagon.

To clean up the saw marks I reverted to progressively finer sandpaper from 100, 120 and finely 150 grit in a human powered stroke sander glued to blocks of MDF. Then it was time to glue up the legs. I started with the longer front and back faces. I do love the arch and splay of the legs in profile.

And then after the first two front and back faces were dry I cut the simpler side stretchers and completed the glue up. I laid out the leg placement on a piece of MDF so that everything would come up completely square once the clamps were all in place.

The end result turned out exactly how I was hoping.

Next week I’ll go back to the cabinet and work on the door and hopefully the handles.

A jewelry cabinet on stand for Leonie (pt 8)

This weeks progress is all about creating a mock-up for the stand. I wanted to create a mock-up because although I had a general idea of what I wanted to do I knew that i needed to practice on the legs and the joinery to make them both sturdy and delicate. I have a bad habit of making my designs too sturdy and then they look a bit chunky. So I spent the whole weekend working up a practice stand in big-box pine 2×4’s

The drawing and picture below give a rough idea of the proportions of the stand.

I have read before that with design you need to focus on a few items and not to go overboard on lots of details. You need to stick with 2-3 major elements. For the cabinet the major elements are going to be the veneer panel and the asymmetric layout of the drawers. For the stand the major elements are the delicate arched front and I wanted to try legs with a five sided or pentagon cross-section. I also wanted to experiment with the possibility of sending the legs higher than the sides.

I started by laminating the arch and then created a jig to slice a flat spot on the top of the arch to glue to the mating horizontal. The resulting wishbone shape creates two points of tenons for the mating legs.

The jig holds the arch in a predictable position so that the table saw blade can take one pass at the top of the arch which creates a clean glue-line.

Then I used the crosscut sled to cut the tenons to length.

Next I ripped matching 45 degree angles on the edge of a 2×4 to create the mortice faces for the legs. At this point I was not 100% sure where the leg shape was going to end up so all I really needed was the 90 degree angle for the two mortice faces. I then had to create a jig so that I could hold the leg blank with the 45 degree mortice face at parallel to the floor so that I could route the mortices with a 1/2 inch plunge bit and an auxiliary fence on the router.

Then I dry fit the face arch to the leg blanks. This is where the design effort took a lot of thought. I had to determine how hard I wanted to do a gently curved leg or if it was going to be very hard to replicate. I was hoping to have a leg that would splay outwards slightly to increase the stability but I also knew that the more challenging I made the shapes the harder it was going to be to replicate with precision. I used blue tape to mark off the general idea of the shapes I was considering. Eventually I settled on the simpler straight leg shapes on the right.

I then used the bandsaw to cut out the general shape of each leg. Then I cut a piece of MDF to create a template with the idea that I would use a pattern bit and the table mounter router to clean up all of the legs to a consistent shape.

I used a trick of blue tape where you put tape on both mating surfaces and then use super glue and an super glue accelerant to act as double faced tape to stick the template to the mating piece. The technique works great.

The patternmakers bit is an absolute beast that runs on a bearing. In theory this should work great but in practice it’s a bit terrifying to see this huge bit spinning at over 3000 rpm inches from your fingers. I got it done, but it’s not my favorite way of repeating patterns. I think I have another technique for this shape and I may simplify it even more in the final piece.

Next I need to reduce the 5 sided face to something that looks more symmetrical. So I softened the two parallel faces by 15 degrees each side to create a more symmetrical pentagon. It still has one 90 degree face but it looks better.

Trying to glue legs with 5 sides together is a challenge with parallel faces on the bar clams. To create a gluing block that compensates for this I cut 30 degree angles so that when I used the same blue tape and super glue trick I had some temporary gluing blocks.

This made it possible to apply pressure predictably.

I was satisfied with the general shape of the stand. Delicate and still strong. But the base is pretty spindly so it will be top heavy. I have an idea of how to secure this to the wall so that the cabinet won’t be tipsy.

I do like the general look of the stand under the cabinet. Other than a few tweaks I like the design and the look. Making a mock up took the whole weekend in this case, but now I have practiced the many different ways I can achieve this and I have some ideas to simplify some of the details even further in the finished piece. I even like the way the end of the stand extends taller than the bottom of the cabinet. In the finished piece the cabinet will appear to float about 3/4 inch off the top of the stand.

It has a strong resemblance to the Krenov piece that I drew inspiration from for the stand.

Just a small bit of the shavings and scraps created this weekend. The one advantage of pine is how easy it works. The shavings come off silky smooth.

One small excursion I took was to purchase a set of punches to allow me to mark my pieces in the future.