Done…

Next year, we’re rescheduling christmas. End of discussion.

This year, Christmas Eve started with a quick run to woodies for small brass hinges. Then to the shed and…

Awkward planing setup needed to plane the outside of the carcass (the inside was planed before glue-up). I know it doesn’t look too awkward, but that’s because we need to zoom out a little and let you see where you’re standing when working…

The spot is that one there behind that small green case on the floor, between the bench and the tumbledrier but not past the leg of the bench because there’s a lot of small boards there that didn’t go in the main wood store. The joy of a small shed…

The downside is that you can’t really move when planing, so it’s all armwork rather than legwork. Also, the battery on the camera died so those are from the cameraphone hence the odd colors. Once the outside was planed, the carcass went back onto the benchtop on top of that scrap of leather and the face got planed until it was all coplanar and then the faceframes were glued and nailed on. I just wanted one nail top and bottom (the proportions of the cupboard don’t really work unless you drag the eye to the top and bottom, otherwise it looks overly wide), so after nailing and gluing, the faceframes had to be clamped for awhile, so it was on to the door frame.

Had to thickness and square up the rails and stiles for the door, and then the #043 made short work of grooving them for the central panel with a 3/16ths cutter and then it was morticing time.

First time using a pigsticker for this; they’re a lot more controllable than the bevel-edged chisels and a bit more than the firmer chisels (and a lot more so than the 3/16ths firmer chisel because it’s got a round handle and isn’t quite so easy to keep a grip on). I still think the half-inch sized one is a railway spike passing itself off as a chisel, but the smaller sizes are a definite improvement on things. Definitely taking the smaller ones out of the box and putting them in the rack.

By this point the face frame is done with clamping. I cut the haunched tenons and test-fitted the rails to the stiles and when I was happy all was square, drilled through to pin the joints with a 6mm dowel (through a 5.5mm hole to keep things nice and tight). Glued and pinned the stiles to one rail ready to cut the panel, and I moved on to the backing boards, while the glue cured. The backing boards just got a quick skim-planing — they had been resawn down from one-inch to half-inch boards so one side of each was already flattened and planed and that face was facing into the cupboard, while the bandsawn side was going to face the wall so I just took the worst of the fuzz off. The #778 gave a quick shiplap to mate the boards up.

Then I installed the shelf (no glue required, nice tight fit) and resawed the top and bottom panels, rough-planed the inner surfaces and rounded over the exposed edges with a bullnose profile and at that point everything went to sit in the staging area and I moved onto bookshelves, cutting them to shape (hooray for french curves) and starting into cutting dados and dovetails (ah, Sapele, nature’s way of making you ask “why am I doing this to myself?”) and gluing up the bookshelf which got left to cure.

Then on to prepping and rounding over a presentation plate for a truncheon and cutting the mounts and gluing them in place, and then finally doing some finishing and adding hinges to bandsaw boxes.

At that point I knocked off the shed for the evening and went to bake a pecan mud pie for tomorrow’s christmas dinner and lay out mince pies and a glass of tequila for santa and so on, and finally got to bed around 0200.

The next morning (Xmas day) saw the traditional 0600 five-year-old wakeup and perimeter search for fat men in red suits or their spoor, then there was unwrapping and five hours of listening to and singing along to the Transformers:RescueBots theme tune (thank you so much Nicole Dubuc).

After that, back out to the shed, trimmed the backing boards for the cupboard to length and nailed them on, cut a 3mm perspex panel to size on the bandsaw (I don’t have glass-cutting facilities and really don’t want them because cleaning up broken glass in the shed would be a nightmare), fitted it and glued and pinned the other rail on the door, then fitted it to the cupboard opening (the pinned joints mean you don’t need to wait for the glue to cure). Then the top and bottom panels got fitted to the carcass and glued and nailed in place (after filing down the nail sizes because even the smallest cut nails I had would have punched through into the carcass interior and I just don’t like the look of clenched nails because the look like what I used to do to nails when I was five…). The presentation plate and the bookshelf feet got some CA glue and felt.

At that point, everything got a quick spray of matt or gloss lacquer depending on the project (gloss for sapele and walnut, matt for the cupboard) and left to dry for an hour or so.

You can tell I’m right-handed – right hand has three or four small cuts, while my left hand has 23. That’s because you hold the chisel in your right hand and stab it into the left one 😀

An hour and some tea later, the cupboard door got hinges and a latch and I then realised I didn’t have a handle for it even though I’d been standing beside shelves of the things yesterday in woodies… so we left some gift ribbon wrapped around the door to let it get pulled open. Oh well, screwing on a handle isn’t that hard…

And that was it. Time up and we’re off to xmas dinner at my parent’s place and delivery.

For my sister and her husband, a wall cupboard in some nice clean poplar:

The dovetails weren’t terrible

And the cut nails and the top plate worked well, I thought, especially with the bronze finish finials of the hinges and the perspex panel isn’t that terribly kitsch. There is a branded makers mark, but it’s on the bottom and I forgot to take a photo of it.

For mom, a sapele and ash bookshelf (the ash was part of the original batch of slats for her granddaughter’s cot, so she liked that feature):

For my brother who’s now training for the Gardai…

Irish Yew for the truncheon, which was the super-top-secret-squirrel commission that Tom Murphy did for me (he’s got a bit of form with turning); American black walnut for the presentation plate).

For dad, a large bottle of good single malt 😀

And for Claire, some chocolates:

And some nice earrings…

Getting slightly better at grain matching, not so much at coping with bandsaw kerf in internal plugs. There is also a nice walnut desk shelf with bookmatched back rails but it’s not finished yet (some projects got extended deadlines in favour of family time). But the next few days have no shed time planned and the next shed project will be cleaning down from the last few days while we eat all the selection boxes and stay in pyjamas drinking tea and I watch Peter Follansbee build a 17th century chest and all of the woodworking videos on youtube 😀

Happy Solstice everyone…

Nyaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh….

Seriously, who timed this christmas lark? It’s supposed to be January 6 for feck’s sakes…

Getting better at these. Only three of the four joints look like a blind boy scout attacked them with a dull beaver…

But they go together…

And the carcass is square. Grand. Only sixty more steps to go. Hide glue, btw. Set aside to cure for most of the day. then planed the face side so it was all in plane and with no twist. Then went to nail on the face frames and discovered I’d resawn them down to use as back boards. For feck’s sakes…

And no, it won’t work when the face frames are thinner than the door because then the hinges won’t work (and there’s not enough thickness to even attach them anyways)
I did find another poplar stick I can use, so it’s recoverable but I’m not loving when this happens.

Some of the bandsaw boxes are coming along nicely. But I definitely need more room…

And got a coat of oil on the walnut boxes – the poplar ones get different coats and I got a test stick done to see which I want to use.

This box is definitely going for the most-awkward-glue-up award…

And still a bunch of things to do. Oh, and I just realised at the end there that I didn’t have the small hinges I thought I did so I have to do a run to Woodies tomorrow. Nyaaaarrrggghhhh…..

Kneedeep in shavings and carrying on

So, I’ll start with the end of something. Made as a gift for a friend of Claire’s:

Walnut offcut from the cot, some brass and pewter hardware and felt and viola, a small necklace box. Or key box I suppose. Didn’t come out too badly.

Then it was time to start pushing.

The problem with making a lot of rough-cut component parts is that then you have to turn them into planed non-rough component parts. At least it’s just poplar. And I did stop for forty minutes or so at the start to take the irons from my #04, #04½, #05 and #05½ planes to the diamond plates. It would have been less time, but I discovered the #05’s iron was skewed quite badly (one side was almost 2mm longer than the other). No wonder my lateral adjuster was always canted right over. Cue a lot of time on the 300grit plate because for some reason I thought that’d be faster than turning through 180 degrees and taking the bench grinder down off the wall. I don’t know, ask your mom.

I’m finding that this is pretty nice poplar by the way, I’d be tempted to oil this stuff. I know it gets a bad rap with woodworkers who think timber is NFG if it wasn’t all riven by hand from a single tree that grew in a tropical rainforest on the southern slope of a hill in Fiji before being cut down by hand using dental floss, but this has some nice grain and surface appearance. I might do this project over again in beech later, but I’m not regretting using the poplar here.

That chunk of plywood and the dowel on the left will become a new Japanese saw benchhook:

I was going to use that small piece of sapele the dowel is resting on as the stop but it’s a bit short and a short stop is a bit of a pain so I planed, halved and glued up a scrap piece of walnut there on the right. Yes, scrap walnut exists. Hush.

I don’t know why I’m keeping those little pine arrow shapes and the walnut scrap they’re on. Every time I go to chuck them I just find myself stopping for some reason. Presumably my subconscious has an idea it’s not ready to tell me about yet. We’ll see.

Four boards to thickness down by a quarter inch and an eight-inch wide board to resaw. Well, that’ll get you procrastinating in a hurry. I’m annoyed as well, I bought a frame saw just for this job and it’s still in Germany. What’s the holdup…

Huzzah! It might be here by tomorrow so. Right, ditch the resawing/thicknessing work and let’s park that project until the saw gets here on the bet that a frame saw makes resawing as easy as everyone says it does.

On to other things. I have a few bandsaw blanks; time to stare at them for a while and think of what to do with them…

We’ll see if they turn out the way I hope. I don’t like using machinery at the best of times but that late in the evening it felt like it’d be unsocial so nix that and I’ll do it tomorrow.

Sapele. Lovely to look at but a complete PITA to work with by hand. The toothing plane was needed to flatten that board (hence the grooved dull appearance of the board on the right) and to then smooth the surface I resorted to my #04½ because I ground that thing with a higher angle a while back and put a back bevel on the iron. And even with it set to a whisper thin cut and skewing the iron and having the chipbreaker set within a glint of the cutting edge, it’s not quite perfect. Scrapers will be needed… but I’ll leave that till after joinery is done.

Meanwhile, I need to do some cleaning up. If only I knew someone who had a wood stove in the middle of the kilkenny countryside I could get to burn this lot…

And it’ll probably get done sometime next week, but I have another commission. That’s the word for when your wife orders you to make something for junior, right? 😀 He needs a shelf for his bedtime story book, but it should go on the floor because that’s the easiest place to keep them if you’re sitting by the bed reading to him. So…

Smells like respiratory irritants…

I seriously need a better sanding arrangement. Roll on black friday.

Not to mention, the goggles could be more comfortable.

But at least the boxes have seen progress…

About a third were done with shaping-level sanding, about another third just had to have drawer pulls fitted, and the remaining third were still being assembled or needed serious shaping (meaning another belt sander session).

Some sorting, some test fitting, and some glueing up later and then I left everything overnight to cure. The following day I found that one of the oak boxes had had a side slip during glue-up, so it needs more shaping on the belt sander, and two of the other boxes are in the same boat; the dremel came out to do some tweaking whereupon I discovered that my sanding mandrel was missing, presumed lost 🙁 Need to go pay five times the fair price for one now on the way home from work today. Gah.

But the rest of the glueups went well, several of the boxes were hand-sanded up to 240 grit and then I started on the finishing for some of them with danish oil for the ash and sapele boxes:

Gotta love the way that colour comes out…

The oak and poplar pencilbox got the danish oil as well; this one would be too hard to ebonise the oak part for so we’ll just go with the oil I think.

The small sapele box got finished while waiting on its drawer. Too little time to wait and do it all at once.

The ash is nice, but it really can’t hold up to the sapele. After the danish oil, I’ll be giving this a few coats of shellac and then some poly over the top for toughness and some paste wax and buffing for shine. The sapele and the oak&poplar will get something similar (but the ash and sapele get blond shellac while the oak&polar gets garnet or button shellac).

The other poplar boxes will just get a sanding sealer coat (aka blond shellac mixed down from a 2-pound cut to a 1/2-pound cut), then a light sanding with fine paper and then milk paint over that and then poly varnish and a wax buffing.

The oak boxes (including this oak and poplar one) will see the oak ebonised as before, with one small change – that foam in the oak shavings tea is washing-up liquid acting as a surfactant to spread the tea deeper into the wood grain (and I’ll do the same for the iron solution). Nice tip from custard on the UK woodworking forum, that.

That oak and poplar box might turn out interesting – the “drawer pull” is a flush extension of the box, and it’ll get the sanding sealer + milk paint treatment of the other poplar boxes; the contrast between the black of the ebonised oak and the colour of the milk paint might be interesting.

And that’s where I left it. After work today, there’s some shaping sanding to do on the belt sander, some finer hand sanding and then we’re into nothing but finishing because these have to be ready by Friday morning…

And then on Friday, it’s off to the timber yard to get some more oak and walnut (and maybe something else if they have anything interesting to hand). And after that, black friday sales and after talking to the guys using them, I think I won’t be getting one of the Record BDS150 sanders:

Which looked okay but which apparently have a disk that’s unusably small (and a faff to change the paper on), and a table that’s just a bit dodgy to use and set up. Instead, it looks more like getting one of the Triton oscillating belt/bobbin sanders:

It’s a clone of the original Rigid:

But the clones are smaller in footprint (several other makers from Grizzly to Rutlands to Clarke all make the same thing in different colours). You lose the mitre slot, but on the plus side, the clones would actually fit through the door of the shed, which is a positive. I’ll have to build a quick 2×4 storage stand to put the bandsaw on and the sander under though, there’s no room otherwise.

But on the other hand, it’s about 26dBA quieter than the belt-sander-and-holdfasts approach I’m stuck with now, and it actually *has* dust extraction. Which is kindof a good thing if you like, you know, breathing…

Masochism…

…is deciding to make a batch of bandsaw boxes for your son’s school’s xmas bazaar thingy, while in a shed that’s too small, with a bandsaw that’s not really up to the task, and a sanding arrangement that… well, more on that in a moment.

I mean, I don’t even keep anything other than 4/4 material on hand, thicknessing anything else down to the normal 3/4 width you see in furniture is just too much work by hand (though I do need to get some 8/4 stuff soon for a piece’s legs). So it’s lamination city…

Something is missing….

Ah, there they are. Literally every clamp I have (bar the 5′ cast iron ones that are slowly rusting away outside, accusingly. I’ll get to them this xmas and sort them out, honest).

I even ran out of space to put clamped pieces. Yikes. And then overnight curing, and in the meantime it was off to the sister’s for a not-a-toddler-any-more’s birthday party, and I took along the oak test piece to give away as well, after having given it another coat of poly, a light sanding, a coat of renaissance wax and a buff, and a felt base:

It didn’t turn out too bad in the end, so I’ll make three more for the batch of boxes.

Sunday morning started with planning the boxes, starting with trimming cuts (on the 3/8ths blade) and then on to the curved cuts on the 1/8ths blade:

Errands interrupted for a while (but let me restock on 240grit sandpaper and danish oil) and then it was two straight hours on the bandsaw. My spine felt like I’d cut it into funny shapes by the end. But…

15 on the bench with all the cuts done (though some need some heavy shaping sanding and one needs shaping by hand). Excuse the blue tape, it’s just keeping all the pieces for each box together because it’s a pain to mix them up…

The oak ones are a pain to tape together 😀

Mind you, they were a lot more of a faff to glue together…

And I ran out of clamps before I ran out of work 🙁

Tomorrow will see more sanding, some shaping, more gluing, hand sanding and then on to finishing. The oak gets ebonised, the ash gets blonde shellac, the poplar will get milk paint, and I have no idea what the sapele will get. Danish oil maybe. And then probably a spray coat of poly over everything just for hard-wearing-ness.

About that sanding…

This will do its absolute damnedest to remove your fingers and/or burn your bench. It’s a pain to use. But it’s the only thing I have that will do the job… for now. The Black Friday Sales approach and soon, there will be an addition to the stable…

Because I’m sick of a piece embedding itself into the wall of the shed and having to go search for it after a quick count of my fingers.

On the hand tool front, I finally got to test my new scratch stock…

It’s very comfortable to use and I’ll definitely be using it to put a few details into an upcoming project.

But for the immediate future… it’s all power tools and sand and dust and unpleasantness.

/sigh

Off the shelf…

So fathers day was coming up and dad’s just finished the first year of a law course so lots of desk time and books involved. And then I noticed this on accidental woodworker:

Well, a desktop shelf that’d fit in the corner and leave room to hide pens and such underneath should be about right, and I had a nice piece of sapele…

…yeah, no. Turns out sapele is a total pain to plane with a normal handplane because of interlocking grain. By the time I’d resawn it from 6/4 down to just under 3/4inch thick and then flattened the resulting planks I’m down to just a shade over a half-inch thick and that just doesn’t look right for a shelf. So I abandoned the sapele to future box-making duties, and ordered a toothed plane iron to deal with the remaining sapele in my store.

And a new lighter mallet for finer work (the lignum vitae mallet is great but was a bit heavy for working on things like half-blind dovetails).

And then I hauled out one of the last planks of walnut I had to hand, skimmed it and rough-cut it from 9×48 to 9×23 and 8×24, losing an inch of length to kerf and clipping off a rough end on the board and losing an inch of width to a bit of live edge on one half of the board. I also grabbed some oak I had and crosscut it in half, then laminated the two halves together to one 3×3 block; and then cut a diagonal line across the width of the board to give me the two feet – the thing you stand on, not the archaic unit of measurement – roughly 3×2 at the front and 3×1 at the back for a nice gentle slope so that the spines of the books are visible when sitting or standing at the desk.

Then on to the sides. I took the 8×24, cut that in half after I had it flattened and thicknessed down to about ¾”, marked off which corners I’d cut off for that sloped look and then marked out both for a stopped dado for the shelf (which would act as a sort-of-half-lap joint as the shelf would have two shallow rebates on either end to fit). I was planning on using the cut nails I got from Dictum a while back as a design feature so I didn’t make it a sliding dovetail, the nails would hold well enough.

I cut down the walls of the dado as much as I could with the saw and then cut out the waste and the rest of the dado with a chisel, and used a router plane to tidy it all up.

Didn’t turn out too shabbily.


Even got some nice grain alignment between the sapwood and the front of the uprights.

Next though, have to attach the feet to the uprights. Ralph used biscuits for his, but I don’t have a biscuit joiner (or room to use one or store one) so I just cut mortice and tenon joints, complicated slightly by the joint being sloped – the mortice is deeper at one end than the other and the tenon is trimmed as well to avoid chopping through the feet when making the mortice. This gives even more rake to the uprights – it’s not a huge amount, but it does give that slightly steeper angle without needing either the joint or the angle of the feet to take the full angle. It’s a little nicer and it means the spines of the books are at an angle that makes reading the titles easier if you’re sitting or standing at the desk (Dad’s desk is one of those electric standing/sitting desk things).

Not as hard to cut as the curved tenons in the cot a while back. And I did think of using my new morticing chisels but the one in the size I wanted to use has a handle that is literally falling off, and it weighs two pounds and looks like a railway spike. It’s more for deep morticing through a few inches of oak. For a blind mortice like this that’s barely an inch at the most, the firmer chisels are the better choice. Also, holdfasts. Best morticing workholding ever.

And with those fitted, time to sort the back rails, also from some oak I had.
They’re a bit thin, but that’s okay, this is for a desktop so “brick shithouse” isn’t really the design aesthetic I’m looking for here. I was thinking of doing mortice and wedged tenons here, but the walnut was a bit narrower than the sapele board I started with (so pushing the rails back means being able to hold wider books), and walnut’s far easier to carve, so I switched to the idea of using half-blind dovetails so the sides were kept fairly clean-looking. Those went very smoothly (it’s walnut, you’re basically cheating using it for dovetails), the only difficult part being the layout (because you basically need the whole thing assembled to get the final shoulder lines for the last two joints). But you’re only cutting four dovetails in total so it’s fast work.

With that done, that was the last of the joinery, and all that was left was shaping, small touches and fettling and finishing. I took the front corners off with the small ryoba and planed them ganged together to keep the sides matching, then took a small gouge and did some end-grain detail stolen again from Brian Halcombe:

Getting a little better, but still nowhere good as his are. I think I need to practice sharpening my gouges more 😀

I also took the fretsaw and my new preston spokeshave to the shelf to do some shaping work on the two ends (and got out the gouges here as well for the little bit of remaining endgrain). The shelf is a bit thick to avoid (a) sagging in the middle from the 60kg design weight (books weigh more than most people think, the standard loading is about 30kg/ft or so); and (b) thicknessing the board down too much because it turned out one side had the corner of a horrible knot in it and it was a complete pita to plane. But by planing a slope into the underside of the shelf in the last inch or two before you see it, it looks a lot thinner at first glance than it actually is – neat trick learnt from Richard Maguire’s end table videos.

You’ll notice I’ve also drilled pilot holes for the cut nails here. I bought a few boxes of those from Dictum a while back and haven’t had a chance to use them yet. They look quite nice:

For those who don’t see what the fuss is about and haven’t spent sixty hours listening to Christopher Schwarz, Roy Underhill and every youtuber with a table saw ranting about these things, they’re what nails used to look like for thousands of years until someone invented the cut wire nail a hundred years or so ago and found he could make nails that were objectively worse than the existing product in every single way and yet still be successful, so long as they were cheap. The race to the bottom is a very, very old game…

Anyway, these things look decorative and hold things together much more securely than the round nails we use today, but more than that, when the wood swells or shrinks and moves with the seasons, the nails flex with the wood which screws can’t do. This stuff lasts so long they’re still finding shipwrecks from the roman empire where the nails are holding them together.

Anyway, that’s my story about why it was okay to pay six quid for a hundred nails and I’m sticking to it 😛

And then I knocked the arises off the other edges with the preston spokeshave (that thing is rapidly taking over as my favorite tool), and with that done and everything suitably handleable (and the front of the feet turned from blocks to a less aggressive shape), it was time to do the final fitting and fettling of joints. 

It was fairly painless this time. That shelf doesn’t rock or tilt 🙂 I’m a bit pleased by that, the layout was a bit hard because the wood’s not perfectly flattened (that stupid knot on the underside looks pretty but was a pain to work). And then final finish planing before the shellac. At which point I made the happy discovery that not only do we get some lovely colour to the walnut and some lovely medullary rays in the oak, but the walnut is also lightly figured. Which was a nice unexpected surprise, but is unfortunately most prevalent on the underside. Doh.

Well, only one last thing to do before applying finish…

Fire! 😀

Turns out, a real blowtorch versus a chef’s blowtorch isn’t even a contest. A chef’s blowtorch will do creme brulee, whereas one of these weapons of mass destruction will just burn through the sugar, the creme, the dish and most of the table. They’re excellent 😀

I did nearly burn the wood though. Mental note; branding irons only need to be that hot for flesh, for wood you want them less hot. Had to take the block plane to the endgrain to clean it up a little in the end. But that was that, and now on to the shellac. First a quick test…

And we’ll go with garnet for the walnut and lemon for the oak, with maybe a last coat of blonde? Brush on the first coat, then wipe on the next three, knocking back with 0000 steel wool in between each coat.

See what I mean about that walnut? Shame that’s the underside really.
And after a few days (I just did a coat every evening after I got home):

And then it was time for assembly and glue-up. That was a lot more straightforward than I expected too because the nails effectively acted as clamps. So out with the hide glue and I didn’t even need the hot water this time to warm it because today was around 26C in the shed, the warmest day of the year so far. Glue into the stopped dados, then seat the shelf in the dado and knock it firmly home with the deadblow hammer, then drive the three nails to within 2-3mm of being fully seated; turn it over and do the other upright. Then glue in the back rails because the uprights slope inward slightly and the tension holds everything in place. Drive home the nails fully, glue the mortice and tenon joint for the feet together, stand it up and clamp the lower back rails (the upper rails couldn’t be clamped because of the slope on the far side of the upright at their level, doh. Maybe I should have drilled the dovetails for smaller decorative nails, it’s certainly a historical thing to do that).

Left everything to cure for a few hours, then painted the bottom of the feet with titebond over the shellac, and sat them down onto some nice green felt (don’t want to scratch the desk) and let that set up for a few hours before trimming off the excess with a sharp knife. And that was it, all done.

The brand looks nice actually. I was afraid it’d be a bit out of place, but it seems to blend in discretely.

Kicking myself that that figure is on the underneath of the shelf…

But those nails do just look the part, don’t they?

Obviously I need to buy more Lost Art Press books 😀

And yup, there’s the original sketches and notes as well. Not an Ikea design 😀

Thanks again to Ralph at the Accidental Woodworker blog for the idea, it worked out pretty well.

 

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