Finished the last of the crossbars today, checked the fit and fettled a bit, and then thought I’d try test-assembling the base…

That’s the bending jig; it was MDF so I considered it disposable (I must recover the screws from it now that I think about it). And the light was just going, hence the odd lighting. This really is too large to assemble on the bench; I’ll have to assemble it on this. It’s worse for wear thanks to moisture, but pffft. It’s MDF. It’s for the bin anyways.

Mental note, next time do this in daylight; can you see the deliberate error? 😀 I put the top bar at the end closest to the camera in upside down by mistake and got almost an inch of misalignment at the top, which gave me a moment’s pause until I figured out what I’d done.

When I put the end crossbar in the right way up, it’s nice and flush. Next job will be to cut the grooves for the top panel (and then cut the top panel to size, it’s quite a bit wider than the base because I didn’t rip the boards down; why bother until I had the final width determined?).

That nearest steambent upright is actually perfect, annoyingly. The end (the one floating in mid-air there) is at a perfect 90 degrees to the vertical. It’s making the other one look bad.

So, what’s left?

  • Rip the top panel to width.
  • Add the rebate and bevel to the top panel.
  • Cut grooves for top panel in long stretchers.
  • Cut mortice for back support.
  • Cut back support to length and cut tenon on bottom end.
  • Figure out joint at the top of the back support for the top crossrail.
  • Figure out joints at the tops of the two steambent uprights.
  • Fit top crossrail to back support and steambent uprights.
  • Cut back slats to length and cut tenons.
  • Measure off side slats (because they’re going into a curve, this is going to be fiddly) and cut tenons.
  • Cut mortices for slats.
  • Joint drawer runners into the bottom end crosspieces.
  • Thickness the boards for the drawer.
  • Cut the drawer front to size.
  • Cut the drawer back and sides to size.
  • Cut dovetails for drawer.
  • Groove drawer with #43 for plywood base.
  • Assemble drawer.
  • Drill for drawboring on the M&T joints that I’ll be drawboring (the long rail to upright ones and probably the back support and top crossbar joints).
  • Make drawbore pegs.
  • Finish plane all parts.
  • Finish walnut pieces with a few coats of shellac.
  • Paint drawer with milk paint.
  • Assemble and glue-up and drawboring of everything.
  • Finish entire assembly with several coats of Osmo wood wax.
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.


In the shed, nobody can hear you scream

So, job one, get the end crossbars in place. Time to chop some mortices with damn near no margin for error at all…

The new mortices for the end panel are within a millimeter of the other mortices for the side panels. In one case, there’s an actual small breakthrough.

But it held and that’s one down. Then on to chopping mortices in the steambent upright, which is equally stressful because if you stuff it up, it’s a lot of repair work.

Awkward to chop too. There was a bit of spokeshave work before this, I figured do that before cutting holes in the thing…

The holdfasts really do make this a lot easier.

Then assembly and fettling…

Ah, feck. Can you see the problem?

Yeah, I’m going to have to rethink how the crossbar at the top attaches here. Poop. The earlier idea of the tenons being on the crossbar and going in from the side probably won’t work. Tenons on the uprights and mortices in the crossbar I suppose.

Then get on with the panel as I can do that now. Squared up the end grain, then marked off the right width, ripped off about 2cm of material to get to final planed width. Took out a rebate with the #778:

And then flip the board over and push it in from the edge a bit and use the jack to plane a small bevel on the panel. Then it’s fitting and fettling and…

Not bad so far. That’s the three side panels done now, leaving only the top panel to be set in place, I’ll wait to get the crossbar idea sorted first, then I’ll rip that panel to width, do the rebates and bevel, and use either the #44 or the #43 to cut a groove for it, bearing in mind that the bars getting that groove already have one groove on the bottom for the side panels and will have mortices for the slats as well. It’ll all be grand when it’s all glued up, but during construction it’s going to be a bit fragile…


Back’s finally better enough to tackle the now ridiculous buildup of wood shavings in the shed…

Three bags full of the stuff in total, stuffed behind the bench, under the bench, all over the floor, in between the boards, everywhere. Of course, just because you get rid of the rubbish doesn’t mean that things stop being awkward…

Job one was to cut that plywood down to size so I could at least get into the shed again 😀 It’s to be the base for the drawer – I realised that the cedar of lebanon I had for that was not cedar of lebanon but western red cedar. Whoops. Oh well, better to find out now…

Then on to the front panel, which went quite quickly (so much faster doing this stuff with a template).

Then spent a while checking the mattress support platform for fit (it needs a millimetre shaved off one side, which is fine), getting the side rails cut to length and marked out for tenons; I had to stop to go collect turkeys and do last minute xmas dinner related shopping, so no mortices got cut today; might get one or two tomorrow but I doubt it, xmas eve is going to be busy with cooking, travelling to get food to where the clan is gathering (we think; my sister decided not to wait for the cot and niece #1 was born yesterday morning, everyone’s doing well, but this project now needs finishing fast 😀 and xmas plans just got made fluid), and then there are presents to wrap…

Meanwhile, I was looking at the idea of drawboring the frame mortice&tenon joints again, and knocked up a test peg.

And of course when I went to drill the drawbore holes, the battery on my drill let me down so it was back to the cordless drill.

I’m surprised at how well that drill works actually. Then pointed the peg and drove it home.

Cut it flush, and trimmed by chisel.

It’s a lot stronger than I thought it’d be; I was afraid of joint failure. And I love the contrasting appearance of the wood. I haven’t tested it to destruction (the tenon and mortice walls are much smaller than in the frame so I’m not sure what I’d learn). I did test the shellac finish on it to see if the contrast in the wood held up under successive coats…

I quite like that. And I think the frame could use the extra strength, I expect some tension on the slats. And I think I need to use a wedged through tenon on the top of the rear centre support as well. That could be interesting.

Meanwhile, the shed’s relatively tidy, all the components are in there, nothing more is needed but the time to get it done…


Getting technical

So this:

is a shooting board (this one’s from Popular Woodworking, mine’s not as neat). Idea’s simple – for thinish boards (once you get up to an inch thick, you start just holding it in the vice and running a block or bench plane across it), you feed the board into the plane which is on its side and it will true up the end so it’s exactly 90 degrees to both faces and edges. Which is handy for making things that don’t look like they were drawn by Escher while drunk. Problem is, most of my planes don’t have big sides – they’re the traditional bailey pattern and have rounded cheeks:

Which works, but it is a bit tippy. And the sides aren’t quite 90 degrees to the sole either, they’re a degree or so off. No problem most of the time, but for shooting board use, it’s a pain. Plus you have to use the lateral adjuster to get the blade exactly vertical and then use it again when you finish using the shooting board and so on. There are specialist planes made for this sort of thing, like the Veritas one:

But that’s about three hundred euro, so no 😀

However, Record did make a plane that was intended for use in schools, called the T5 (for Technical apparently):

(that photo from recordhandplanes.com btw, which is an excellent reference for these things)

So I’d been keeping an eye out for a T5 in decent nick on ebay and recently saw one and won the auction for it (by about 51 pence, cheekily) for a sixth the price of the veritas, and today it arrived:

It’s in marvellous condition, perfect paint job, perfect varnish on the handles, shiny brass, damn near ready to use out of the box (the blade needs sharpening, but that’s normal). It’s probably in better shape than any of my other planes, except a #4 that’s also immaculate (I don’t think anyone ever used that #4, it just got displayed and then sold 60 years later). If you’re looking for this sort of stuff, I’d recommend the ebay seller I bought this from, lovely chap to deal with and excellent quality stuff.

But enough on the new toy (which will be getting a workout with the slats for the crib I suspect), on to the day’s work, and today was to finish fettling the back panel. This proved fiddly, eventually turning out to be off-square because of an unevenness in the groove for the panel in the bottom rail because the fence of the #44 plane was riding on the benchtop. But I got it square and most of the gaps were gone or down to less than half a millimetre. The idea of drawboring these grows more and more attractive (that block of white wood behind the T5 above in those photos is an offcut I got a while back which is a lovely contrasting colour and is perfectly straight-grained, perfect for making small dowel pins with. I’ll test it on some walnut off-cuts and see how it goes.

With that done, I cut the front panel using the back panel as a template, cut the rebate in the back and the bevel on the front, making the rebate a bit deeper on this one because I’d like the center of the panel to be lower than the rails or at least level with them as it’ll be butted up against the side of the bed.

Then on to the frames, again cutting the long rails using the back rails as a template and then marking the mortices onto the curved front rails from the back legs. More mortice chopping and tenon cutting and cleanup and fettling followed.

By the way, when cleaning up tenons with a chisel, don’t blink…

Those things are just plain unpleasant…

Anyway, some fitting and checking and fettling later, with a lot more stress this time because a mistake with the curved rails would be difficult to repair, and the front frame was done… okay, minus the grooves for the panel so it’s not fully assembled but here we are….

Heh. Elephant-y. Lets stand it up…

Er. Hm. This was a problem I had not considered. That is literally touching the ceiling on both sides and sitting flat on the bench. The foam isn’t holding it up – it’s actually in compression like a spring between bench and table. Assembly… may be challenging. I may need to do it outside the shed, and the weather is not forecast to be great (as in, driving rain and gale force winds and freezing temperatures, none of which react well with hide glue, walnut, ash or humans).

Gonna need a bigger shed.

That whooshing noise…

…is a rapidly approaching deadline 😀 So there’s been a lot of work and not a lot of photos and typing.

I’ve been testing some finishes…

So there’s shellac on the walnut, I’m testing both shellac and osmo wax on the ash, and milk paint on the poplar. The latter is very vibrant going on…

…but after it’s dried the next day, it’s faded a bit…

…which is disappointing, because I’m not a fan of this modern shabby chic chalk paint nonsense. But if you put a layer or two of osmo over the top of it, it picks back up somewhat. Well, it’ll have to do.

Meanwhile, all the panels are now planed (holy carp but kiln-dried ash is god-awful stuff to work with even if it does look nice, especially long heavy pieces), all the frame pieces are cut to length and we’re into the joinery and fitting stage.

And sharpening. Soooooo much sharpening. Stupid kiln-dried ash.

I really need more storage space. And yes, the floor’s a right mess. It normally wouldn’t be, but I managed to pull something in the small of my back two days ago doing the shopping for the xmas dinner (lifting heavy things into and out of deep shopping trolleys in a rush at the checkout must do in more backs than any gym). When I can lift my left knee more than two inches without the stabbing pain in my back again, I’ll clean the floor up.

Meanwhile, I can work while standing.

Trying out a slightly less fancy morticing method (a lot faster too, I’m becoming quite a fan of holdfasts) and it works quite well. The mortices for the slats will have to be quite a bit smaller than the ones for the frame though, there’s so many of them to do. Mind you, those slats don’t have to hold the thing together, so smaller mortices will be fine.

Sawed out the tenons on the waste side of the line and then snuck up on the fit with chisel work. This was a bit slow – need to saw to the line next time. The fit might be less tight, but there’s enough meat there to drawbore if needed…

And then there’s the grooves for the panel. This was easy enough once I had the piece secured in the vice, it’s only got a grip on the bottom few millimetres of the rail so that the fence on the #44 doesn’t snag on the bench. I’d like to have the fence on the outside of the piece (but the vice chops would catch it then), but the configuration of the piece means that can’t be done. Oh well.

Fettling the panel was a bit of a foostering. Actually shaping it was not too shabby (though it’s not completely finished there), but getting the width perfect and the joints all closed up… yeesh. And that’s still not perfect yet, I have to trim a millimetre or so yet, that could be another half-hour tomorrow. But for now, the back panel is done…

Tomorrow I’ll finish fettling this, give the ash panel another skim with the smoothing plane to deal with the little bits of tear-out and add the bevel on the ends of the panel as well, and once it’s all perfect, I’ll take it apart again and use the pieces to mark off the various mortices and so on on the other frame and panel pieces and try to get the front panel done; then it’ll be the end frames and the end panel and the drawer front, then take it all apart again and cut the mortices for the slats; then make up the drawer and then it’s finishing and assembly.

By Christmas day? Er… hmmm… suuuuuure, no worries…

Tool night

Holidays started, and a couple of new tools showed up in the post (well, rutlands was having a black friday sale and some nice things popped up on ebay for decent prices).

A few fairly cheap rasps. Machine-made, no hand-stitched french rasps in my budget for a while (these cost about twenty euro for the set, a single hand-stitched one would cost a little over a hundred euro more than that). Might be useful for the curved parts of the crib when I’m finishing them.

One of these dividers is new; one of these is older than the modern state of Ireland. And they both work pretty damn well. (They’re for laying out the dovetails in the drawer of the crib).

I kept having to set and reset my existing veritas gauge using scraps of wood with the gauge lines in them (which works great until you drop the scrap down behind the workbench where it’s bloody awkward to get to), then I noticed that other people got round this by having a small army of the things and using different ones for different measurements during a project (no you can’t set them off a ruler, you’ll inevitably get parallax error setting it and make a mistake that shows up glaringly later on). I might be getting a few more of these over the next while. The built-in ruler is kindof nice, as is the microadjustment feature.

Already had both of these (and a #50 that I need to add a fence to as well at some point), but had to add the wooden fences to them, finally got round to doing that this evening. And then there was the blades, which were horribly manky. They went into white vinegar for a few days, then they were rinsed off and soaked in water and baking soda for a half-hour to neutralise the acid, and then wrapped in kitchen paper and a cloth to dry off (that’s them on the workbench in front of the planes above).

Then it was time for the luthier’s trick. Out with my MDF board that I use for this (it has a small cleat underneath that goes into the vice, and it just keeps the worst of the muck off my bench.

Down with the masking tape.

Tear off a bit of 120 grit sandpaper from the roll and dribble some superglue on the masking tape.

Then flatten the sandpaper down on the masking tape, give a little wiggle to spread the superglue, and hold down for 10-15 seconds while it sets.

And now I can apply as much shear force to that sandpaper as I like, it’s not going anywhere. And I take the set of blades for the #50 and the #40 and get going. Drag both edges along the sandpaper twice, then both faces, then pull back on the bevel once or twice, then rub the bevel back and forth a few times to get the first stage of the sharpening process done (I’ll do the stones later) and flatten the back of the blade for a few seconds as well. Then on to the next blade.

Once done, just lift the masking tape (that’s why I left an inch or so over on the ends, to be able to grab it. Lift vertically and only the masking tape’s adhesive is acting against you and that’s very weak and the whole thing lifts off easily and without damaging the surface.

And the #50 blades are clean again and ready to be properly sharpened (but I won’t be using them for this project I think, unless the groove size I need isn’t in the set of the #40).

I can see that T&G blade being damn useful in the future though. And the #40 blades come up nicely as well.

I also found and dropped the semi-scrub blade into the #5½ plane; the next job on the list is planing the last ash panel from rough to smooth. And I am learning that Richard Maguire was right about kiln-dried ash. It looks nice, but it’s a pain in the arse to work, it’s like trying to plane a Jacobs cream cracker. I’ll be glad when that last bit is done. I still have more boards to plane, but they’re walnut and poplar and those are so much easier, I can probably get them all done in a day, and then I’ll have all the component’s stock prepped and it’s on to cutting joints.

I am having to contemplate the mortices for the slats though. Given the timetable, I may need to use the router for them instead of cutting them by hand with the chisel. I’ll give it a try, but the clock is going to be the final decider on that one.

Depressing weekend results…

So the weekend started off well. Popped the steambent upright from last weekend out of the drying form:

And the results were very good, the only crack I could find is barely there at all:

And there’s some marks from the compression strap:

And a small defect in one spot on one edge: But those are a swipe from the spokeshave to remove and apart from them it was nearly a perfect bend.
The problem is that the first upright isn’t a perfect match…

The twist I could take care of with planing, I don’t need the full thickness on those sections, but the difference in curvature could introduce stresses I don’t need in the piece, so the idea was to steambend another upright this weekend using the last of the plastic tubing I had and pick the best two of the three.

But the compression strap slipped mid-bend and it ended badly 🙁

Utterly unusable scrap, and I didn’t even bother putting it on the drying frame.
My solstice holidays start at 1700h on Wednesday evening so I might have time to try one more time, if I could get the polythene tubing fast enough, but for now I have to assume I have to make what I have work. It’s not the worst job in the world, it’s just that if you have a 100% and a 90%, the 90% is always going to look bad by comparison 😀

But it was a pretty crummy result for a weekend, so I just marked out the last of the boards to cut and plane and left it at that, and spent the rest of the time sharpening tools in prep for stock prep come Monday evening…

One short rip, one long rip, a few crosscuts and some planing on walnut – that’ll be pretty easy, walnut is lovely to work with.

The panels need their final crosscutting to length and then I need to figure out how to do the grooving for the frame-and-panel construction (my #40 got the cleanup-from-ebay purchase treatment finally this weekend with the wire wheel for the worst of the corrosion and the blades are still in the vinegar awaiting their cleaning and sharpening).

And then there’s the poplar for the drawer and runners, and another short walnut board for the back support. Not expecting much trouble here either, though there might be a long rip cut on the poplar depending on how things work out. There is also another side panel and an end panel of ash however, and that kiln-dried ash is proving a bit of a bugger to plane. Sid got a workout getting the larger panel to just be free from twist, I’m just glad there’s no major cupping or bowing going on there.

And then there’s the drawer front. I was thinking ash initially, but a while working with the kiln-dried stuff is giving me second thoughts about doing it in that because carving blind dovetails in that strikes me as being challenging. I could do it in walnut, but I’m not sure which board I’d use; and then there’s a sapele board of the perfect width sitting right there. But it’d be the only piece of sapele in the whole thing and I’m not sure how it’d look. Decisions, decisions. Meanwhile, tick-tock, the delivery date looms…



edit: At least I’m not the only one having bending issues

Properly bent

Right, Saturday morning so on with steambending the second upright.


Mise en place all done. Now, on with the polythene tube…


And now put the compression strap in place, clamp it at one end and get the “start bend here” line matched up with the initial straight part of the jig.


I’ve just clamped the end block here temporarily, I’ll remove those before steaming and reclamp them before bending (I want the excess water to be able to drain out of the tube readily, and it can’t do that when the end is pinched by the clamps).


The idea here is to prevent that end block from twisting out and away from the piece because if it does, the compression strap won’t be in compression and the outside of the piece will splinter.


And steam on!

img_0047aUnder covers, though, because it’s bloody cold out and that’ll suck the heat right out of the piece which is not going to help things.

Now, while that steams for two hours, on to the next job, the large top panel in the bottom box part of the crib.

img_0049a img_0050a

Four feet by one foot of rough-sawn ash with a bit of twist in the second board. That’s rather a good lesson in “why we invented powered planer/thicknessers”

Two hours (and some tea) later, it’s time to bend…


The handy thing (well, amongst several things) about this method is that the bend doesn’t have to be done in under 20 seconds. This took nearly 20 minutes in total. First off, ensure the two end blocks are all clamped firmly in place.


And then it’s just musclepower to grab the piece and pull it to the form, adding the clamps as they fit (and towards the end, you pull the piece in using the clamps, just slowly turning the handle to crank the piece in). img_0055a

And make sure the interim points are pulled in as well.img_0059a

And note that the steam’s still going during all of this. And you leave it going for a while longer (and you put the covers back over it when it’s bent fully too). In this case, it got another half hour or so before the water ran out and then everything stayed on the jig cooling off (under covers so that it didn’t cool too fast) for another two hours, and then all the clamps come off and the piece comes out of the poly tube.


This is annoyingly good. Annoying because there were no splinters or cracking, which means I now have one upright that was perfectly bent and another that was imperfectly bent. Do I match the two or do I bend a third and use #2 and #3? It’d cost another week…

No splintering but some deformation of the surface because I forgot to put the leather between the compression strap and the piece. There’s always something. Well, we’ll let it dry for a week and do some spokeshave work and decide then I guess. Meanwhile, time to take it from the overbent 105 degrees to the final 90 degrees on the drying form.


One clamp to start, crank it in a bit and let the two ends slide as needed, then add more clamps to tighten everything up.


It’s a pretty good fit to the curve so far. Only minor gaps.


And the form isn’t 100% perfect itself, so this is good enough. And the measurements of the piece match within a few mm to the earlier piece.


Now I guess we just wait for the new piece to finish drying and then do proper comparisons and see if we can get these two to match and use them. They’re both tall enough at least. Now, back to finishing off the top panel…


Okay, that’s way too large and too much work to do for planing. Time to rough-cut it down to closer to the final size.



And that’s a bit more manageable. I’ll finish this off tomorrow. And then there’ll just be another three ash panels and one drawer front to do. Yeesh.
And then there’s the frames to put them into as well, but I can’t really tackle those until I have the uprights as they form two of the four vertical frame pieces (there’s a fifth but it’s not involved in the panel layout).

I was reading through Schwartz’s The Anarchist’s Toolchest over the last few weeks, there’s a neat trick he does for frames and panels in the toolchest that I might steal for here, which is to cut two grooves in the frame and the panel pieces instead of one groove and one tongue – then you offset the panel towards the outside of the box and the side wall of the panel’s groove acts as the tongue to the frame’s groove; and the other side wall of the panel stands proud of the frame. And in this case, I’d plane a bevel around the edges of the panels to give a 3-D effect. Have to get the #40 plane up and running for that though, and it’s currently got some corrosion issues…


Platform and salvage

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d get this done by today, but I seem to be getting faster at chopping mortices, if not actually at marking them up. And it fits. There’s a small amount of twist here and there, I think I can straighten it out for the final assembly and then pin the tenons to help keep them flat (and it’ll look cool as well, little white ash pin dots along the walnut frame). The two long front and back rails are tilted with respect to each other, that will have to be planed away on the bottom but I’ll keep it on top as it gives a kind of lip to help keep the mattress centered which is nice.



And then it was time to take the frame out of the drying form and see how bad the springback would be and how bad the splintering was and if it was salvageable…img_0010a

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