Sep 18

Short day’s shaping

Not much time in the shed today, but enough to make a start. First, new toys!

So some catches to help with the mod to the Dewalt extraction hood (I think I have everything I need for that now, I’ll get to it soon), an incredibly cheap handplane ($4.30 from Aliexpress delivered) which is more to play with and laugh at than to seriously try to use as a tool, and two interesting tape measures. Both of those are small (1m and 2m) which is handy for using in the shed, and I’ve just wanted to play with them for a while now ever since seeing them in action.

They’re a bit gimmicky and I’m not throwing away my stanley tape measures, but they’re fun to play with and that’s the point.

Anyway, that done, on to the sides. I wanted to get a start on these today. One’s developed some twist since I milled them. Not a huge amount, but noticeable – 3-4mm at the worst point. A lot of that twisted portion might be cut away so I don’t know if it’s something I need to get out of the board yet (or even if the shelf joinery will pull it back to straight). But I’m starting on the untwisted one and I’ll see how we go.

Marked up the cuts for the foot and the wall rest sections using the bevel, and the front curve by bending a long piece of dowel stock (didn’t have anything else that was long enough and thin enough to act as a batten). And then started making a reference edge from the back edge. The sides are long enough to make this awkward…

There’s barely enough room to do this. Really, there isn’t enough, but by being fiddly enough about it you can just about get away with it. Then, with the reference edge established, out with the bevel and the marking knife and time to mark off the final line to cut to for the feet and wall rest. First though, need to take off the last half-inch or so of board, give me another reference edge square to the back edge.

And cut off and then plane to flat.

This is where having an apprentice can help (incidentally, for anyone who was wondering, this is why I have a Record #03).

Once we’ve passed QA, it’s time to mark out the wall rest with the knife and bevel and then cut it (using a short batten to help guide the saw because the cut’s awkward due to the lack of space).

And then a few swipes with the #04 to clean up the cut surface when done. Do the same on the other end for the foot and now it’s time to check. I don’t have a five-foot-tall try square, so I’m just using the door frame of the shed.

So-so. There’s a gap at the wall rest.

Thing is, I’m pretty sure my door frame is as square as a rhombus, so I’ll check this with the bevel and might tune it slightly, but I don’t believe the door frame is a reference surface you’d trust too much ūüėÄ

Yup, bevel says the wall rest is slightly out. A few swipes with the #05 will sort that, but I’ll check against the actual wall it’s going up against before I do that.

Had to stop there, but tomorrow there’s a few more hours and the next step may be to cut the curved section at the top. Maybe. I’m not 100% certain if I want to do that yet, the parallel sides might make workholding easier. Have to think about that one…



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…