23
Nov 17

Finishing experiment

All the major work is done now, everything’s glued up (though the last of the oak boxes is still curing really) and the prep finishing is either done or in train…

The poplar boxes have all had a coat of sanding sealer here (again, just blonde shellac cut down from a 2# cut to a half-pound cut), and the outer box of one has been test-finished with red milk paint (more on that in a moment). The oak boxes have all been given a coat of the oak tea (with surfactant) and they got another early this morning. The poplar drawer front on the oak-and-poplar box got a coat of sanding sealer.
The oak-and-poplar pencil box, the sapele boxes and the ash boxes all got another coat of danish oil and after the excess was wiped off and it had had a while to set up, they all got a coat of shellac (blond 2# shellac for the ash boxes; garnet #2 shellac for the sapele and the oak&poplar boxes). Tonight they’ll get a quick light sanding from worn 240grit paper and we’ll see if they need another coat or if I’ll go straight to poly (I wouldn’t for furniture, but these are quickly-made trinkets…).

Milk paint is neat stuff, at least in how it’s made up – you buy the powder (this is Causeway Sunset by The Crafty Bird in case anyone’s interested, I’ve had it a while and wanted to use it on something but never had the chance till now), and then you make it up on the fly as you need it, just mixing it with an equal amount of water (or in this case, a little less water to powder for a thicker mix). Make it up in a paper cup, apply from that cup, discard that cup. No half-full small tins of latex with the painted-on lids and the dribbles clogging up the shed for years before you finally give in and throw them out.

The downside is that the colours aren’t as bright as you get with latex-based paints, but some people prefer pastels and earthy shades. And even if you don’t, they can still be kindof striking:

Haven’t messed with colour enhance filters here, I promise. There’s white balancing and that’s all (and the white wall and the parchment paper give a decent white sample for the filter to latch onto) so the colour’s pretty true – it really is that jarring when wet. It dries to a chalky light pink, but when you put a topcoat on it, it darkens up again. We’ll see how well it copes, it got a spray of poly this morning and I think it’ll need another tonight.

And the branding is done as well 😀
There’s still felt to glue on, but that’s the very last step, done over the finish. Not sure if this’ll make it for Friday morning, but it might for Friday afternoon…


22
Nov 17

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…


03
Nov 17

Flattening and boxes

So, started off flattening the apron. This went pretty well after I switched over to the #5 and sharpened it up a bit. The narrower blade means less pushing effort and that seemed to help a lot. And then it was time to thickness down from an inch to 3/4 of an inch.

This is not my favourite activity. And honestly, if they made an induction motor benchtop thicknesser I’d have bought one already, but unfortunately they’re all universal motor things — and lunchbox thicknessers, even if you fit them with helical blades and all the fancy doo-dads, are just too damn noisy to run in a housing estate. You’ll wind up triggering a torch-and-pitchfork party of your very own if you do that round here once too often. So until I have a larger shed and room for a larger, possibly older, floorstanding planer/thicknesser, I have to do this part by hand. At least Sid makes the task easier with his ridiculous level of camber…

Anyway, the board was a manageable size, so push hard and on we go. And switching over to the #5 for the last mm or so to arrive in a controlled manner and…

Flat and at thickness. I gauged out for the two aprons and set it aside and ripped down the middle a little later on with the bandsaw (using the new tuffsaws blade – makes a rather surprising difference, those things, much cleaner cut and less drift).

Then on to mucking about…

So the glue-up was messy and there are steps all over, but apparently that’s to be expected. Next step, sand the badgers off everything with my handy dandy disk sander. Which I don’t have one of. Bugger. Well…

Sod it, I started this thing on a bandsaw, might as well keep up the machine operator vibe…

Didn’t want to keep all of your fingers, did you?

Hm. Not terrible for a first try. Slap some shellac on it…

And some felt for the inside lining and call it done:

Well, not absolutely awful. Okay, so it is if you look close – there’s no room in there, the edges aren’t parallel, the drawer’s a bit gappy, and so on. But it was fun to try it and I have some ideas for a nicer one. Need more practice though, I keep getting lost in the sequence of cuts on these things. Well, in that vein…

This one might be interesting, I used the new tuffsaws fine-tooth blade. Much smoother cut, but I don’t think the bandsaw will ever be a precision tool. Hell of a lot friendlier to the nose when you plug it into the dust collection though…


18
Jun 17

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.

 


09
Mar 17

Wristrest

So I’m still cleaning down the shed from the cot (finally got all the shavings under control…) but yesterday an officemate (hi Gary!) was looking at MassDrop (think “what to get for the rich geek who has everything” with a pricetag to match) and specifically at a wrist rest. For those who don’t type all day, it’s something to rest the wrist on while typing:

If you type all day every day like a lot of software engineers do, this is a pretty necessary thing or you wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve had that, it’s not fun (it’s why I’ve used kinesis ergonomic keyboards for twenty years).

So the specific one Gary was looking at was wooden, and nice enough if a bit simple:

I mean, it’s not some gel-filled cushion, it’s not articulated, it’s just a shaped plank of wood. Walnut maybe? Fourteen inches wide (the width of a MacBook Pro) and about three inches deep.

They’re charging $95 for it (or they were, it’s not for sale any longer). I nearly choked on my coffee. I told him that was insane, that it was a lump of wood and not worth it and that I could knock that up in my shed in twenty minutes from an offcut. So he said “prove it”.

That’s how I keep getting myself into these things. You’d think I’d have learned by now.

So I go home, I find a piece of walnut offcut (in this case it was a length intended to be part of the cot frame but a bad rip cut and a waney edge made it unusable for that), I cut out a 14″x3″ piece from it (I don’t even take the time to lay it out) and skim plane it to clean off the rough-cut furriness. Then I plane one face and edge to square, and shoot the ends square from that. I don’t bother with the other edge or face because they’re going to get shaped anyway. And I cut the corners curved on the front using my new toy that just arrived from Dictum today:

Well, I have a project or ten in mind that will involve dovetails and I want to try sawing out the waste on the pinboard instead of chopping it out because that took a bit longer than I thought it would on the cot drawer. I need a better place for it to live though…

I also need to finish tidying up, and one of the next shed projects is tool storage. But for now…

And from there, I get out the spokeshave and round over edges and I use the jack plane to cut a quick chamfer on the front edge and then go over everything with the spokeshave again to get it all nice and smooth, and I hit the ends with some sandpaper for a few seconds to get the last little bits around that knot on the left front side.

Total time from start to here was about 25 minutes or so (I was faffing about a bit with the new fretsaw). With machines, that’s two tablesaw cuts, two mitre saw cuts and a run-around on a router table, so maybe three minutes?

It needed a little finish and I had the dregs at the bottom of the shellac jar to hand so…

One coat on by brush, then in for a cup of tea and a bit of Richard Maguire’s latest sharpening video while it dried. Then out to the shed again, some steel wool to knock back the first coat of shellac and rag on a second. Back to the house for more tea and Maguire, and half an hour later I take the offcut piece of felt I had from lining the cot drawer and cut a small piece out of that and spread it and the underside of the rest with contact cement from the end of a tube left over from putting leather on the bench vice jaws.

Let that get tacky for ten minutes, then press the two together and trim the excess. And then a final coat of briwax on top for the shiny.

By this point I realise I’m foostering so I draw a line under it and wander back in from the shed. Total work time is about 30-35 minutes (with something like 90 minutes of waiting on finishes while watching videos and drinking tea in there too). And the test fit worked:

And it doesn’t just work on my laptop, it works in production*:

So $95 versus €2. Hell of an exchange rate, even when you count the three minutes it’d take to make with machines, labour, marketing and so on.

 

*That’s a joke for the other IT people btw. 


26
Feb 17

Foostering

Right, I just need one or two hours of calm dry weather and…

*sigh* Feck’s sakes. Fine.

But at least I can put in the glue blocks to support the top panel. Yesterday I trued up a corner of a stick of walnut I had as an offcut from the drawer front and then cut it into four ~10cm lengths. Granted, this isn’t traditional, glue blocks are traditionally whatever cheap softwood was lying around, but I had this as an offcut so why not.

Then today I had a few minutes of trying to figure out how to clamp them in place because I didn’t know how this was done traditionally. One quick internet search later and yup, you just paint the glue face with glue (hide glue is traditional but apparently any wood glue works), rub it on the spot where you want the glue block to stick to ensure both sides have glue and there’s no air in the glue joint, then hold it in place for a few seconds and there it sticks.

Don’t give it a knock until the glue cures, and there you go, glue blocks.

But eventually there were two or three dry hours in the late afternoon, so I moved the cot outside for the last time and started fettling the drawer. Which it turns out was necessary – when I was assembling it yesterday I had to stop half-way through glue-up to shave down the width of the plywood base, but obviously I didn’t shave enough and it had pushed out the sides of the drawer at the base by a few mm, so now I had to shave back the outside with planes in order to fettle it.

But eventually I got it to fit smoothly, and I’d cleaned up the glue and joints as well. Then it was a case of pushing it in flush, finding it was hanging up on the drawer rails, trimming them to give a rounded ramp type profile at the start so the drawer would go flush, then marking off its position on the rails with a pencil, and gluing a stop block in place on the rails with a cushioning pad. I clamped those in place for a half-hour or so just to be sure, then took off the clamps and glued the rails in place. That was the last bit of construction on the crib.

Yay!

Well, okay, I have to screw on the drawer pull, but I’m not counting that because.

I SAID BECAUSE.

And then it was time to finish the drawer, and I’m just going to go with shellac. I had thought of using milk paint and osmo over the top of that, but the more I thought of it, the less I liked the idea of a red drawer, even though it would have been funny. So just shellac.

And that’s the last of my shellac as well, so the whole drawer got three coats (sanding back after coat #2), and the front gets a final fourth coat.

Dovetail money shot, right there.

And in the meantime the cot got moved into the kitchen.

…and the thing rocks. The torsion the mis-bent steambent upright put on the frame torqued it out of square by about 3mm over the length of the piece, but the MDF assembly platform had gotten wet and had smushed enough to hide that. Sod. So tomorrow (I have a day off), I’ll take the drawer, put the pull in place, maybe line it because the plywood’s a bit unpleasant looking, put that into the frame and mount the mattress platform and basically put it all together, see how bad the rocking is and trim the feet to stabilise it.

And that’ll be it. It’ll finally be done.

 

 

Shit, this thing won’t fit in the car, how the hell do I deliver it?

To-Do List:

  • Make a drawer
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish drawer with shellac.
  • Glue the drawer supports into the frame.
  • Even more last minute fettling and foostering (panel support blocks, drawer stop blocks)
  • EVEN MORE last minute fettling (levelling the legs, screwing on the drawer pull, lining the drawer)
  • Close door of shed, lock it, walk away and never do another project with a deadline ever again.

19
Feb 17

Drying day.

My original plan was to make the drawer today, but that plan didn’t take into account things like drying time on glues given the current low temperatures. Titebond PVA glue would be grand, but hide glue is something I’m still figuring out, so I’m giving it lots of margin for error. Especially as I found today that I almost had a major error during the glue-up; the use of a mallet to drive the top crossbar and back support into the mortice put torsion stress on the two end joints, as I knew it would (stupid mis-steam-bent upright) but I thought it’d be safe enough.

Nope. Small (1.5cm long) crack right there. Not critical; the wood is now stabilised by the glue and it’s holding well; but enough to give me a moment of thinking “wow, that nearly destroyed a week or so of work without the raw material available to do it over…”

I might just try to get a little glue in there and clamp it closed tomorrow, just to be safe.

Meanwhile, the rest of today went on getting the frame out of the shed onto the assembly table in the late afternoon, getting all the clamps off and holding my breath to see if the glue had cured (it had), and doing the last bits of trimming on drawbore pegs and the like. And then the last coat of shellac got touched on in a few places to cover some scratches and once that had dried (it dries fast outdoors), I moved it back into the shed as it was dark outside by now, and got the first coat of osmo going.

Just ragging on a thickish first coat here, in two parts (you can see the contrast here between the untreated side panel and the just-treated top panel). The plan was, on with the first ragging, leave for 30 minutes, rag off the excess and immediately on with another ragging, wait 30 more minutes, then rag off the excess again and leave to cure until tomorrow evening. Then tomorrow, I’ll take 400grit paper or wire wool to it, and rag on a thinner coat, leave for 30 minutes, then rag off the excess, then leave to dry until the next day, and we’ll do at least four coats of that.

In the meantime, I’ve a drawer to make up as well.

Also, this is WAY TOO BIG to be doing in this shed…

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Make a drawer
    • 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.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • Last minute fettling and foostering.
  • 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.

16
Feb 17

Complaning

Y’see this happy chap? It’s from startwoodworking.com btw, it’s surprisingly hard to find a good side-on photo of how you use a hand plane. You’ll notice that he’s pushing the hand plane along the wood using his leg muscles more than his arm muscles, by leaning into the plane as he pushes it. This is normal, natural movement that you do any time you push an object that isn’t sliding round like a greased pig in a swimming pool.

Do you see what else he’s go there?

FECKING ROOM TO MOVE.

This is the shed at the moment.

Lean into the plane? I’m doing well if I can reach the shagging thing at the moment.

*sigh*. And I have to thickness drawer sides, which means taking off wood, half a millimetre at a time in a 2cm-wide strip. Over a whole board. Evenly. By about eight millimetres. Gah. See this thing?

This is a dewalt 735 planer thicknesser. It costs nearly €700 if you’re silly enough to buy it in a shop in Dublin where the prices are usually 50% too high. And if I had the room to store it, I would have bought two of them by now. I mean, finish planing, that’s one thing. It’s awkward, but even on the largest panel in the crib it was doable.

Granted, you need the card scraper in places and it’s a pain having nowhere to stand at times.

But thicknessing, that’s a whole other story. There’s no finesse in that, it’s just lots of pushing through wood and hoping it ends soon. Christopher Schwartz was right, the first power tool you should get is a planer thicknesser. It’s just that they’re also bloody loud. This is not a machine that endears you to the neighbours if you use it at 2200h on a worknight. It’s about as loud as your wife finding you feeding the neighbourhood cat. To the blender.

I mean, ideally, I’d resaw the boards to thickness, but honestly, I’ve had enough of that. The ryoba is just not up to the job if the plank is more than two or three inches wide, and I’m still waiting for saw files to sharpen the western saws I have but so far they’ve just not made the task any easier. A bandsaw might, but (a) where the hell would I put it, and (b) bandsaws that can resaw an eight-inch-wide board are not like bandsaws that are just used for cutting curves; they are not small things. You have to use wider blades for reasons that involve clearing a kerf, physics and metallurgy, and those wider blades need larger wheels in the bandsaw to cope with bending radii, and that leads to a big freestanding monster of a machine.

So basically, I’m stuck inside the limits of the 8’x6′ shed. At least for now. But every so often, it’s helpful to complane (see what I did there?) about it.

At least the top panel is finish planed and one of the drawer sides is now thicknessed.

And the final coat of shellac is on the mattress platform and on the rear upright.

 

So not a totally wasted hour or two in the shed.

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Finish plane top panel
  • Make a drawer
    • 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.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • 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.

15
Feb 17

Getting wedged

So after the ten-hour out-of-hours callout over the weekend, I had a day’s time in lieu on tuesday, and I had great plans to get almost everything done.

These plans did not allow for the day being composed of 70% being inside a cloud and 20% horizontal freezing rain.

However, I did manage to get an all-up dry fit assembly, so I was able to get the holes and slots cut for the mattress platform’s rear support, so that’s done at least. I did discover that the mattress support platform didn’t want to fit; I knew there was some interference with the rear upright, but I thought it was 1-2mm and a few swipes of a plane would fix it.

Nope.

Well, that’s disappointing. But at least it’ll be at the back and under a mattress and there’s still enough strength there to hold (there’s a wide support right under that when this is in use). Still not getting much love for round-bottomed spokeshaves btw, that tight radius was what I thought would be perfect for them, but nope, still no joy. Used a rasp and chisels and sandpaper instead, then reapplied shellac (that’s coat #2).

I also noticed that all my working clamps are about a centimeter too short to use for the crossrail glue-up, so I decided to go with wedged tenons there. So today was prepping for that.

First off, a quick jig – take one piece of walnut with a square end that’s 50mm long, and plane down to a line going from the square corner to a point 2.5mm in from the adjacent corner. That gives you a 87 degree angle. Now slide the chisel down that angled face, and that’s how far to pare the mortice walls to flare them out on the face side.

(For those who don’t know, a wedged tenon has to have room to expand as you drive in the wedges, otherwise you’d just pop the top of the mortice clean out of the wood by shearing along the grain lines).

Next, make wedges. Rive out more of that lovely white sycamore stock, cut about 2-3mm thick and the width of the tenon wide, then put the end of the rived piece into the bench hook’s block and pare it to a point with a wide chisel.

Do that about twenty times or so and you’ve enough wedges even allowing for breakage. Grand.

Next, take a 3mm drill bit, and drill two strain relieve holes in each tenon, about 6mm in from the edge and up from the shoulder. Now cut down a line from the end of the tenon to meet the inside tangent of each circle and you have a tenon with two end pieces that can flex outwards slightly.

And now when you go to glue up for final assembly, put the joint together, (glued up and everything) then take two wedges, paint with a light coating of glue, and tap them just home into each cut.

And now take your hammer and drive them home. They may not go down all the way, they might bottom out before that; but either way you now have a wedged tenon M&T joint that doesn’t need clamps to hold for glue-up and which has a mechanical aspect to lock the joint as well as the glue. And with the contrasting woods, they’ll be decorative as well, hopefully.

With that all done, I sanded down the back support and the mattress platform and its rear support and gave them coat #3 of shellac…

Tomorrow it’s time to sharpen the scrub plane and get that drawer side thicknessing finished so I can get on with making the drawer. I’ll get the last coat of shellac on things as well, and that’ll let me do the final assembly of the frame as soon as I complete finish planing the top panel.

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Finish plane top panel
  • Make a drawer
    • 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.
    • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
    • Finish plane drawer front
    • Finish drawer front with shellac.
    • Paint drawer sides with milk paint.
    • Assemble drawer.
  • 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.

12
Feb 17

Sous vide woodworking

I *had* hoped to get everything done this weekend. However, I’m on-call this week and something went sideways on saturday evening and took ten hours to fix, so no dice there. But I’ll get some time in lieu and that’ll let me get the assembly finished this week (I hope) and the crib should be completed by next weekend (or over next weekend). It depends on what goes wrong and how many coats of wax I put on it.

That was the beautiful carved mattress platform support. Then I did a dry-fit test to see where to carve slots in it for the bolts and discovered that that lovely curved bit would be inside the top panel. Well. Drat. I had to rip the board down the middle, cutting off that lovely profile. Oh well.

Once I had it ripped down and planed and rounded over, I had to cut the slots for the bolts. And I tried to think of a way to do this without using power tools, but nothing came to mind that would do the job very well (drilling lots of holes in a straight line being harder than you think with an eggbeater or a brace and bit). So out with the router, some faffing about with adding a wooden fence to the metal fence attachment because it was guiding along three inches of endgrain and the metal fence bit for some reason has an inch-sized hole in the middle, and then even more faffing about with workholding.

I get that a lot of people like these things but they mostly just annoy me. Maybe they’re more fun when mounted in a table. Or the smaller laminate hand-held ones, this one is a bit bulky to haul around lightly. And it’s so fecking loud, especially in an enclosed small space. And the dust, it’s basically fines it’s so small. You wind up wearing a metric buttload of protective gear.

It’s a total pain is what I’m saying. And all that faffing about for two of these:

Gah. But at least it’s done. Then I dry-fitted the slot to the hole through the front upright…

Yeah, M8x50s just ain’t cutting it. Had to get some M8x60s at woodie’s later on.

Then I set up to start shellac’ing the uprights and the platform support now that I had the last of the cutting done on those; and this is where the phone rang and I had to abandon things for the rest of the night. I did manage to rag on the first coat of shellac before legging it so at least that got done. Then at the end of the night (somewhere around 2am) I took a break while debugging stuff to clear my head and I got the second coat of shellac on.

I used up the last of the shellac I had on hand for that coat, so that large jar on the right there is the last of the shellac buttons I had (need to order more flakes soon) and some isopropyl alcohol (it’s a 2lb cut, or in metric, a 24g per 100ml cut, or in a more useful form, a 24g per 80g cut 😀 ).

The problem is, when I made up the last batch, it took the guts of a week to dissolve and that was during the summer; at -1C, this was going to take a fortnight to fully dissolve and I really wanted shellac tomorrow. And I didn’t want to go buy a different shade of ready-made shellac in woodies or something equally desperate. A few of the finishing forums online talked about putting the jar somewhere warm in the house to speed it along but not to heat it (ever boiled isopropyl alcohol on a gas hob? Think crêpe suzette only you’re probably the one on fire and there’s burning resin everwhere). And then I had a thought…

Sous vide shellac. Eat your heart out chefsteps 😀

And the next morning it had worked! 🙂

First though, time to finish the slats. They all needed to be finish planed, and the side slats needed to be rounded over, and all the edges got a light sanding as well (because kiln-dried ash is a bit like planing a cream cracker and the only way to get it really smooth was sandpaper). And three of the slats had somehow not had their tenons cut so that got done as well. And then I stacked them all on a bit of scrap MDF to protect them, wrapped them in a bungee cord and set them to one side until I need them later, along with the finished cross-rails.

Next up, gluing in the alignment pins on the mattress support.

These get glued into the support, but not into the platform itself; that can be removed if required.

It was much prettier with the curve. Oh well. Time to get on with assembling the front part of the cot now.

This proved… awkward. Hide glue and drawbores, so no clamps needed, but the roof and the walls were getting in the way. That’s a sign your shed’s not big enough 😀

Drawboring went reasonably well; no unpleasant snapping noises, though more gaps on one side than I’d like.

It was awkward enough with one rail in place, with two it was downright difficult. But managed it, then lowered the whole thing to the floor, slid in the panel, glued on the other upright, wrestled it back onto the table and drawbored those joints and viola!

It’s not bad really. Not perfect though – there are gaps at the joints 🙁

Not so bad on the left; not so hot on the right. Oh well. Next up, I figured I’d put the mattress platform on the support.

You’ll notice there’s a gap in the middle there between the two. That’s deliberate (well, to be more honest, when I saw it I went with it instead of getting rid of it). The idea is to have a little spring in the build for when you put a load (or a baby) on the crib’s mattress.

I mean, that much is probably overkill, but still.

Trimmed off the pegs flush with the platform (again, they’re not glued in, so the platform can freely flex). And that was about all I could do for now. The glue on the front half has to cure before I can do the next step, which is to assemble everything and get the level for the rear support for the mattress platform. Then I can drill the holes for the rear bolts and cut their corresponding slots, and then shellac the last two pieces of the frame and do the final assembly.
And then build the drawer of course. The back and sides of that are currently roughly cut to size and halfway through thicknessing, and the front is also roughly cut to size but won’t need thicknessing. I do need to have the whole thing assembled before cutting it to size though, which is why I’ve not done it ahead of time.

Still. Nearly there now…

To-Do List (stuff in progress in blue:

  • Cut grooves in platform supports and matching holes for bolts in the curved uprights and the rear support upright
  • Finish plane the curved uprights
  • Shellac the supports and the curved uprights
  • 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.
  • Maybe add runners underneath the drawer?
  • Assemble drawer.
  • 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.

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