Jun 18

Can you tell what it is yet?

Well, that empty In Progress… list lasted a while, didn’t it?
Though I actually went back through my notebook…

Five euro or so in TK Maxx, the very height of bohemian luxury

Five euro or so in TK Maxx, the very height of bohemian luxury

…and every project in there bar this one is marked as Done or (in one or two cases) marked as Won’t Do, What Was I Thinking. This one will be a small bookshelf for Calum. Well, small to you and me, but not to him. The idea is this will have his books and toys and assorted child-related detritus now (he’s six and between kindergarten and vorschule so just learning to read and write at the moment) and we figure he really won’t have “homework” in the traditional I-need-a-proper-desk-and-I-still-don’t-want-to-do-it sense until he’s nine or ten, so off to the internet I go and I grab the UK90 based growth rate charts for boys aged 2 to 18, and find Calum’s centrile, so now I have his current height and his predicted height until he’s nine (it’s not that accurate, they change centriles faster than they change their socks if you don’t tell them to, but it’s better than pulling a number completely out of thin air.

Then I grab my copy of The Woodworker’s Guide to Furniture Design (thanks to a Richard Maguire recommendation and so far well worth buying) and dig out the bits on figuring out things like how high the underside of a table has to be from someone’s height and how high someone can reach given their height and so on and I spend a few minutes sketching stick figures and working out the height of the top of the very top shelf (which is to be the highest part of the build) and come up with 48″.

Then I dig out my copy of the bible…

And grab the tangential and radial expansion rates for poplar over the 30% relative humidity span you see in an Irish home in the average year (3.2% and 1.2% respectively), discover that my copy of the bibles is too old to have that data for american black walnut (7.8% and 5.5% respectively according to the woodbin’s online calculator but it lists 8.2% and 4.6% shrinkage rates for poplar respectively so I’m now doubting the bible, again).
Then to the sagulator to quickly see if the shelves would snap if Calum stood in the middle of them when he’s nine and no, should be fine – 0.05in deflection so that’s grand.

For the general design, I don’t yet have it nailed down. I’ve been looking carefully at Paul Seller’s leaning wallshelves because they have a lot of elements I want to steal:

But I don’t want the half-lap joints he uses because this is going to be abused by a six-year-old boy who likes hammers and those joints seemed to be giving up a lot of the strength of the boards. Plus I hate the little end bits off the sides of the bookshelf because anything you put there is just going to wind up on the floor. And I want the bottom shelf to come forward from the sides by a fair few inches and to have a curve across the front that’s echoed in the upper shelves; and I might want to put a cantilevered support element or two under the desk as well to add strength once the shelf is forward of the sides, but we’ll see – the sagulator is saying I don’t need it, but it might look better for it.

That gives me :

  • Top shelf at 48″
  • Bottom shelf at 17″ (it’ll double as a play surface/desk)
  • One intermediate shelf about 18″ above the bottom shelf
  • Poplar for everything bar the bottom shelf
  • Stringing on the bottom shelf to inlay things like a racing track for toy cars into the surface as well as things like letters and the like in various places
  • Curves everywhere instead of sharp edges and corners for little eyeballs
  • A serious set of problems with clamping curved bits into housing joints during construction.

So, time to think it over for a few days, do some sketches on paper, maybe a few SketchUp cad sketches, get a sense for it in my head, and ask a few construction-related question on the woodworking forums to see if I can steal more good ideas.

Until then though, the stock of poplar that I have needs to be dug out and looked at for stocktaking, and the stock of walnut…

It’s a mess back there and that’s after I extracted the boards and tidied it back up. Now, let’s see….

Right. We’re shy on wide long boards of poplar, but we have some just-about-9″ wide ones that would do for sides, a few 12″ wide boards that could be picked from for the intermediate shelf, and some choices for the top shelf as well, even if we didn’t get that from an offcut. I’ll have to leave them out in the sun for a day or so though, that green staining on the boards will dissipate into that yellow honey colour of the wider boards there in a few days with the 30C weather we’re getting at the moment here.

The bottom shelf though – if I want it to be 36″ wide, I pretty much have to cut into both my remaining walnut boards to make up the panel. Or I could settle for 30″ and hack one board in half and edge joint it to itself. Or if the sides splayed out from ~30″ at the back to ~36″ at the front of the shelf, I could probably get that from one board as well.

Decisions, decisions…

Jun 18

Belting up

A few hours in the shed today that felt productive (it’s a false positive; it was just that a few end stages happened at the same time). Started off with the final fettling of the carcass for the locker and then smoothed all the interior surfaces and rounded the corners I won’t be able to readily reach after glueup.

20 minutes with #04 and card scraper and we’re ready to glue up.

Prepped an mdf surface to assemble on…

Final dry run…

Okay, looks good, knock it apart and start the glue-up.

Mise en place is as important in woodworking as it is in the kitchen…

And that’s the carcass glued up and left to cure (the back’s not glued on yet).

Then it was time to fix the bandsaw. I got some 120XL037 belts from RS (they didn’t have 124XL037, but the motor’s on an adjustable mount so I should be able to get away with it…)

Found there’s a tool I could use…

Circlips are a bit of a pain without the appropriate pliers. Bit fiddly. But managed not to break it which was good.

Then found these on the floor with all the sawdust and the teeth from the last belt. Took me a minute to recognise the lower thrust bearing from the bandsaw…

Must have come off during the resawing. That’s not exactly reassuring. Remounted them, and added it to the list of things to check.

Fitted the belt, put the wheel back on and tensioned the belt and locked the motor in place, put the blade back on and tensioned that and got everything all set up, then ripped down about five feet of beech from 150mm wide to half that (I’m planning on making a few small boxes and things with that), planed edges on all of the ripped sections (1×1′, 2×2′) so I could resaw them (hence the 73mm width, it’s the max for the saw), set up the fence for one board to resaw it to 1/4″ and 3/4″ pieces and resawed that down to size. The japanese toolbox idea I was playing with needed to have new edge pieces cut. I had tried to cut housing joints by saw and, well…

Yeah, don’t do that. Left a massive gap I couldn’t have hidden. I’ll probably slice off the bits with the joints and use the center section for the lid components or the handles.

First, cut new housing joints on the new pieces (after planing, of course). Usual procedure – knifewall, chop down, pare to wall, chop, pare, chop, pare until we’re to depth, then mark off the other side off the piece to fit, and repeat.

Went faster than before; I’m getting used to working in beech (and enjoying it). And I might have figured out how to do a reasonable housing joint.

And it wasn’t too late, so I cut the joints on the far side as well.

Right. I’ll fettle it tomorrow (just to get the reference faces all coplanar) and glue it up, then maybe drill for the dowel pins (won’t use nails on this one), and make some pegs for them from some walnut scraps I have handy that are too short for any other use.

Definitely enough material there for the lid and handle pieces.

Last job for the evening, glue on the back panel for the locker.

Fiddly but not too bad, it was so fettled that I really could have let the glue hold it in place. But if you have the clamps, might as well cinch it up (the C-clamps aren’t actually tightened down very much at all here, just snugged up to hold the back panel in while the f-clamps get tightened to get the edges in contact).

It’s not looking terrible, even if I’m saying so myself. Still need to level the legs, but that’ll do for later on. And I still haven’t the door sorted out yet, I’m thinking about how to decorate the piece of beech I have planed and set aside for the job.


I mean, what’s the point of practicing stringing if you don’t do any? 😀


Also, how the hell do you finish beech so it looks good?
To the forums!


Jun 18

Locker progress

So with the bandsaw down, my plans for the box are on hold and I moved back to the locker. I started off by planing the roughcut pieces I was going to use to get them flat and smooth, then I cut the dovetails for the main carcass, and of course, that means sharpening time 😀

And marking up time…

And sawing time…

No, I didn’t do all the sawing with the fretsaw, I just used that to get the bulk of the waste out. Then it was chopping and paring time.

Incidentally, that chisel mallet is a nice find from lidl. I’d say I spotted it, but credit for that goes to Calum…

Different faces of different colour-coded hardness from white (hardest) to black to red to yellow to blue (softest), so you can have one hammer with one face for thwacking the chisel and the other face for beating the joint together or apart without either losing energy on the former or marring the work on the latter. Not bad for €14. I mean, it’s not better than the sculptors mallets for carving, but it holds its own against the deadblow hammer, at least in beech. Maybe in a harder wood it wouldn’t manage it, but we’ll see. I don’t have to give up one for the other 😀 That case has to go though, it’s daft.

It won’t make the dovetails less gappy for you though… alas.
Then this evening I chopped the housing joints for the shelf in the locker.

I know I’m using more chisels than I need, but I don’t care, I love the japanese one for the vertical chopping and hate it for the angled chopping, so I swap back and forth. It’s still remarkably fast, especially on a shallow housing like this. Knife the first line, chop down, chop in, brush off the chips, repeat till you’re at depth, bring in the piece of wood to be fitted and tap it up to the new wall of the joint and nick the other side with the knife, then scribe that line with the straight edge and repeat the entire process until both knife walls are at depth and there’s a ridge of waste between them, then pare most of that out with the chisel and refine it with the router plane until it’s all nice and smooth on the inside of the joint. Then pound the shelf home with the mallet to check for fit, and then do the other side…

It’s gappy on the dovetails, but the housing joints are fine (that small gap on the left there is something I’ll fettle out, there’s too much width on the shelf yet by about a half-mm or so).

One more housing joint to do and that’ll be the carcass roughed out. Then I have to decide how to attach the back panel and figure out the door (that shelf and the bottom of the locker will have to be recessed for it on the front slightly, but should I rabbet the back to fit the back panel and avoid nails? And I have to figure out the legs as well…