Starting to finish

So time to take the shelf out of the clamps and see if it’s okay…

holds breath…

That’s not too bad from the front 🙂
Different story from the back mind…

Urgh those dovetails. There will have to be some remediation work there. At least the white inlay bits worked reasonably well (you just can’t do dovetails from end to edge like that if there’s more than one tail, the short grain on the pin means it always breaks off, so I deliberately broke off the pins and replaced them with some sycamore chunks).

Okay. Time to start finishing. I could keep trying to touch this up for ages and never finish 🙁

Going for a simple finish this time, just some thin coats of osmo and buffing it out.

Magic time 🙂

Little better at the back after some touching up.

That might be nice once the rest of the coats go on…


And then the surprise for the day – Custard over at the UK workshop forums offered to send me some thick sycamore veneer while I was trying to sort out a commercial vendor here for the stuff (the laminated 0.6mm stuff is workable but fiddly as feck and occasionally bits delaminate and you don’t know it till you expose the delamination while trimming off the excess and you now have a double thin white line instead of one slightly thicker line; and it’s hard to thickness properly as well). And the box arrived today. “I’ve thrown in one or two other bits” he said…

2.6kg. In veneer. What the hell is in that box?

Holy shit.

So that small sheaf at the front left over the vice? That’s all I was hoping for. Look at the rest!

Thick ebony and boxwood veneers – boxwood is bloody lovely stuff and with an interesting history and source. And rippled sycamore. Wow. That stuff is stunningly pretty. (If you’ve not seen it before, that plank is perfectly smooth – the lines are figuring, cellular anomalies in that particular part of that particular tree, we don’t quite know what causes it and it’s become very fashionable these days (in the 17th to 18th century it wasn’t so much because it’s not as strong as straight-grained wood, but when veneering was invented you could use stronger wood for the substrate and let the veneer of a figured wood be the final decorative layer).

And the walnut is even prettier when it’s figured like that. And the cherry is figured as well – I’ve not even seen cherry in the flesh before now, I can understand now why it’s so popular for furniture making. It doesn’t come across well in photos (well, in mine anyway) but it’s very very pretty up close.

Custard, the stuff is incredible, you’re a maniac. Thank you!




Oh, and the resawn beech still hasn’t pretzel’d on me…

Glue-up part two

The resawn beech from yesterday is holding up well…

But never mind that, time to focus on the glueup from yesterday. It went reasonably well despite the fiddliness of the clamping.

They don’t look even from that angle, but they are:

There’s some squeeze-out and the join needed some fettling to get it properly smooth, and I suspect I’ll be running round the piece with a chisel checking arises before finishing, but it’s not too bad.

It’ll be interesting to see it with finish on. But today’s task is the final glue-up so I did a dry-fit and some inevitable tweaking and then did a dry rehearsal and then prepped to glue up:

The final glue-up was almost calm right up until the end when I realised I needed to clamp the dovetails as well and I had nothing on the front to clamp against and had to rig something using a third sash clamp and some heath robinson nonsense…

We’ll see how that went tomorrow…

Wrapping up the stringing…

Finally some decent weather combined with a bank holiday this weekend and I wound up spending some time in the shed (and got the weber out so yay!).

Started off trimming and cleaning the lines put in on Thursday (Friday was a work do and I was done in by the time I got home so I just crashed, so this was all done Saturday evening).

Then I checked the feet to be sure I liked how my idea for how to do these looked. I quite like the idea, but we’ll see. And I took the new laminated stringing out of the clamps:

The – I don’t think it’s ebony, maybe dyed pearwood? – darker stringing is stunningly dark, but I cut a test bit and compared it with a test bit of the walnut and it was just too dark; jarring, in the piece. So I went with the walnut instead.

The front curve is almost vertical, but no, really, it’s a curve 😀

And that’s the feet done, the second circles on the bars done, the last of the string on that face of the sides done, and that got to dry overnight.

BTW, so much for credit card thickness plastic being a perfect pivot point 🙁

The next day, cleaning up and trimming the excess…

And laid in the last stringing line on that face of the sides…

And then after running a smoothing plane over the bars a bit and rounding over the arises, it was branding time.

Bit hot on the iron there; another pass with the smoothing plane needed to fix that.

Grand. And then on monday…

The last decorative element. I wanted to do these in different colours, but my plug cutters didn’t arrive on time (bet you they show up on Tuesday) and tempus fugit, so I cheated and used a dowel. An hour of curing time, then in with a flush-cut saw and some chisel cleanup…

Then a few passes with the smoothing plane and some scraping to get the surface smooth and the pencil marks gone, and then I started in on the glue-ups by putting on the feet first. At this point clamping got… complex because the feet are wider than the sides and that creates a twisting moment when you apply the clamps (and I need the bench to keep the feet and sides in the same plane so I can’t flip it over or anything).

Complex clamping arrangements are a bit suboptimal – they’re fiddly and prone to slipping and so on, but shikata ga nai. We’ll see how it turns out tomorrow. If all goes well, I’ll cleanup the squeeze-out and then do the final glue-up step. And after that, it’s osmo time…

Stringing continues…

Bit fiddly in one place this evening where the groove was slightly thinner than the stringing. A bit of work on the stringing with a scraper sorted that out. I’ll leave this dry overnight and clean it up tomorrow, and then add the remaining pieces. I still have other elements beyond the border stringing that I want to add though, but my plug cutters haven’t arrived yet…

The feet are a different wood to the shelf, so I wanted some contrasting stringing there; the “variety pack” of veneers I bought an age back had some possibilities, but again, 0.6mm so I’ve laminated two sheets together and they’re gluing up between two sheets of MDF there. Not sure about my cauls mind you. But it shouldn’t require *that* much pressure… we’ll see how it turns out tomorrow.

I do need a better way to stash the syringe when there’s still glue in it. It’s a pain if it hardens into the needle itself. I’ve buried it in a small puddle here to try to keep the air from it, but there has to be a better way. I’ve seen how Steve Latta does it, but I don’t have the same glue bottle design he has, I’ve got the normal titebond ones while his is more of a traditional nozzle design and he just sticks the syringe into the nozzle like it was the cork:

More thought required…

Cleaned up

Trimmed off the excess from the weekend’s work, and it doesn’t look too terrible:


There’s some more outline left to do (for which I will need to bring the heatgun out to the shed from the electronics bench) and there are some more decorative elements I want to add, but not bad so far.

I also need to think about decoration for the rest of the piece:

I have some ideas, but they’re not settled yet…

Back to the shed

First day in a few weeks where it’s not been I-don’t-wanna-go-out-there weather and my teeth haven’t been broken, so I wandered out to the shed to continue the current stringing project and try to make some progress on it. I got the joinery for the desk shelf mostly finished yesterday evening, though I borked the dovetails and I’ll have to do something decorative to cover that up (one of these days I’ll learn you can’t do fine dovetails as an end-grain-to-edge joint) but other than that it’s not terrible. So I skimmed it up to get ready for stringing and started cutting a nice basic outline with the shed-made cutter and occasional use of the lie-neilsen radius cutter.

The card’s not an advertisement btw, it’s just that you need somewhere for the pivot point of the radius cutter and if you don’t want to dig a hole in the middle of your project, double-sided tape holding down a plastic card like that makes a good surface to anchor to. In other cases though, you can put the pivot point in a groove and so it gets hidden when you put the stringing in:

Those pivot points will just go away when I put in the bottom line’s stringing. So, time to cut some:

I still haven’t found a good supplier of thick (~1mm) veneer so this is the lamination of two 0.6mm thick sheets of horse chestnut. And the glorified pizza cutter makes short work of it with no tracking off the line following the grain, it’s neat that way. Just don’t leave your finger hang over the edge of the ruler because it’ll take that off too. Tungsten carbide blade. Next, put glue in the slot…

Handy things these, but you don’t half get a few odd looks when a box of them arrives for you at the office…

And the pivot points are hidden. I was able to coax the stringing round those corners by rubbing it a few times to heat it through friction but I really must get a bending iron off ebay.

Now let the glue set a while and then trim back with a chisel (I’ll take a smoothing plane or a scraper to the whole surface when it’s all done, but cutting off the excess now makes it a bit easier to work with).

Not a fantastic job on the endpoints, but okay for a first try I guess. Now to cut the line that cuts through that curve (funny thing, I’d have thought you’d cut all the lines first then glue in all the stringing, but no, if they overlap like this you cut through the stringing as well for a cleaner result).

And now glue in the other curve and the other straight line, covering that pivot point again…

And leave that set a bit, trim back the excess and then glue up the last long straight-ish bit:

I knocked off there, I’ll come back to it tomorrow evening for a while and clean it up, but for now that’ll do. I really want to find a way to heat the stringing for that last remaining segment and I need a plug cutter set (which is on its way) for the last decorative bit I had planned for that corner.

Not too bad so far I think. Mind you, so far this has been rather simple…

More stringing tests…

Hmmm. Well, the veneer I cut myself was a total failure, but then I could guess that as it came off the bandsaw – that thing is just not up to fine work.

I mean, maybe if you just needed a wavering line that left gaps in some places and was full width in others, but that’s kindof a specialist sort of need 😀

The doubled-up sheets of 0.6mm veneer were… okay, but a little fiddly. The result was okay though.

(That’s the single sheet on the left and the two-sheets-glued-together on the right)
Looks even better from a small remove:

Still though. Would rather get the thicker veneer. The search continues….


Oh, and some more photos of the record frog from the new and old #04, it seems to be an oddity apparently.

Hiding from the sunshine

Fairly ugly weather here for the last month or so, and between that and a broken tooth that developed an abscess and needed a root canal, I’ve just not been in the mood for the shed. But today was sunny for the first time in about five hundred years, and I’d bitten through the second temporary filling the dentist had fitted for the period between “drilling all the pulp out of the tooth” and “finishing off the root canal”, so I figured I’d go hide in the shed and play for a while.

Also, a new toy had arrived:

Nice early version of a Record #04, bought to be used as a scrub plane. I already have Sid:

Sid was made from a cheap-as-chips €12 #4 and for rough work it was grand, but the casting isn’t great and it digs into my hands until they bleed and the front tote keeps unscrewing, so I figured a Record #04 would be a good idea. Wouldn’t cost that much (and it didn’t, it came to about €30 with shipping) and it’d fit better (it does). I can keep Sid for really heavy work and use the new #04 as the workaday scrub instead. It was in much better condition than I thought it’d be mind you.

Needs to have the cosmoline gunk taken off the frog and the blade reground to give it a camber, and I might need to file the mouth a bit wider but other than that it should be grand.

It’s a bit shorter than Sid, but oddly, it’s also a bit shorter than my other #04, which is from the same vintage as far as I can tell from blade and frog and adjustment levers and so forth:

That’s a little weird. But okay. And as a bonus, I can finally clear out the interloper from my plane till…

…and just go full Record 😀


Anyway, on to veneers. I thought I’d found a source for constructional veneer…

Colour’s excellent; but the thickness is still 0.6mm 🙁 I’ve glued up two layers between two clamped sheets of MDF to see if I can build up a thicker veneer. In the meantime the search for better veneers goes on.

Mind you, it doesn’t look *terrible*….

The single thickness isn’t great as there’s a very visible gap beside it:

A double thickness isn’t too bad, but still not perfect.

And I need something to actually put stringing into, so…

Simple housing joints for the shelf, I’ll dovetail the back rails in tomorrow, and that’ll give me some large areas to try stringing on.


Groovin’ tools

So the last try to make a straight line cutter for stringing didn’t work so well, the fence mortice was too sloppy. So today I cut a new one. Simple process; pick a scrap of wood from the bin (in this case a piece of walnut because I’m not averse to cheating when it comes to mortices 😀 ). I’ll reuse the beam so I mark off a line on the fence with a square, drop one edge of the beam into it and then mark the width off on the fence and carry the line around with a square; mark top and bottom of the beam with a wheel gauge using the same reference face you used for the square, and that gives you the outline of the beam on the front and back of the fence and aligned. Then drill out the middle to get rid of most of the waste:

I know it looks off-vertical, that’s because I let go to take the photo 😀
Once the hole is drilled (and from both sides, no blowout involved), it’s chopping time.

Quick touch-up on the strop first, that little dog being useful to keep the strop from dancing much, and I use the japanese chisel to chop out the mortice from both sides roughly, leaving just a small half-millimeter or so of material between the lines and the mortice. Then pare the last bit using the narex butt chisel. But I wanted a guide so the paring chisel was done at right angles and it just so happens I bought some 1-2-3 blocks recently, so…

Make sure the back of the chisel runs flat on the 1-2-3 block. You could just use a wooden block for this if you have one that’s square, but I had the 1-2-3 blocks so why not.

And when you’ve trimmed to the line, it’s time to start test fitting and fettling. The beam doesn’t initially fit; once I’m satisfied (using a square) that the inside of the mortice is square and the corners are clean, I’ll take a fine-set #4 and take a swipe off the beam, test fit it again, and then another swipe and so on. It takes a while because you’re sneaking up on a snug fit, but eventually…

It’s not bad. It’s not perfect – the beam still has more play than I’d like when it’s out at full extension, but since this cutter won’t really be asked to reach more than an inch or two in from an edge, that’s no major worry. At some point I expect it’ll loosen up due to wear and tear, and when/if that happens, I’ll cut a slot in there for a wedge like in a traditional english marking gauge and fit it with a wedge.

Not too shabby. Time for some testing.

Just cutting a groove here in a scrap piece of pine. The pizza-cutter thing and the dental pick are for cutting a slice off the veneer to test with and to clean out the groove, respectively.

Groove looks clean and parallel to the edge, feeler gauge says the width is 0.8mm as expected, and it’s not too ragged. I think that’s good.

And looking at the professionally-made radius cutter, the groove appears to be solidly comparable. I’m happy with that for now.

I’m not happy with the veneer I have though – it’s 0.6mm, or at least it claims it is (the calipers says it’s closer to 0.5), so if I test on a small scrap of walnut…

The groove is too large for one thickness of veneer and even if I put in two layers of veneer, you can still make out the hairline (and ragged) line caused by the gap between them.

I need to find a source of constructional veneer that doesn’t expect me to buy an entire tree’s worth…

Ah for feck’s sakes…

I only just finished digging that sodding thing out!


And I’ve not been getting much done in there thanks to subzero temperatures and public transport making the work commute into anything up to a six-hour-a-day nightmare (yes, a foot of snow won’t slow down Canada, but Canada spends more on their snow clearing hardware and people than we spend on Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Spin Unit…). Mostly I’ve been putting together new tools for some things I’d like to try, namely stringing and carved arcading. So for the stringing, I already have the dead fancy radius cutter from lie nielson (probably the most bling tool I own), and a small perspex scrap to give it a pivot point when working on some of the usual designs:

But I haven’t got a straight line cutter because I figured I should be able to make one, they’re basically a marking gauge, see the lie nielson one:

Fancy, but basically just a marking gauge. So I ordered a spare blade from the lie nielson cutter to skip the whole metalworking bit because hell, learn one thing at a time. Then I laminated two scraps of white oak, cut and squared a stem from another scrap and chopped a mortice (and a rabbit on the base). Some test fitting, adding the blade in a little recess and…

Mind you, it doesn’t work. The mortice isn’t good enough so the beam isn’t at right angles to the fence, so the blade gets dragged along while skewed so you don’t get a nice thin cut line, you get a wider scratched mess. I think I’ll take out the beam, add a brass strip inlaid on it for a bearing surface and use the brass thumbscrews I have here as a lock. And I’ll remake the fence from a single thickness scrap piece of something; it’s too thick to cut a mortice accurately through (at least for me). Some guide blocks when morticing will probably help too. It’s not hard, but it does take a mite more care than I used on the first try.

Also, I’ll need to cut strips off the veneer to make the stringing, and I was finding my marking knife wasn’t up to it and neither was my heavier stanley boxcutter, both would be fine for a few inches and then wander off the line following the grain. So I got this:

Think pizza cutter. But with a tungsten carbide blade. It’s normally used for cutting cloth for quilting. Doesn’t get dragged off to either side by the grain as much as a normal knife that’s embedded in the grain would because with the wheel, the cutting surface is constantly coming out of the wood so the material hasn’t as solid a grip on the blade (which is precisely why we use these for pizzas and the like). Tested it already and it works like a charm. My veneer on the other hand, is too thin; I need to source better material, which I’ve had some pointers on from the UK forum.

And for cleaning out the stringing lines before gluing in the stringing, a dental pick is a pretty decent tool and dirt cheap on ebay. You get the oddest looks in the office when it’s delivered, mind you…

….but the looks you get when you order the syringes for putting glue in the stringing grooves surpass anything I’ve seen so far 😀

I also had to restock on glue and got a bunch of liquid hide glue in a sale on ebay so that should be all the glue I need for the next year or three (it’ll go off before I get through all of it I’m guessing). So I think I’m set right now for everything but the veneer for stringing; I’ll sort that out while I fix the straight line cutter and then start experimenting.

Meanwhile, Peter Follansbee did a nice blog writing up how he does carved arcading; I’d like to give this a go myself, it looks like fun:

It’s just damn pretty in walnut. And it looks terribly complex when finished, but like a lot of this period’s carving, it’s all geometric and done by leveraging the characteristics of tools rather than being some kind of sculpture that relies on twenty years of experience (which would be harder to try).

I do need to get one or two gouges that are larger than what I currently have so I got a nice three-quarter-inch one for a few euro off ebay again:

And between that and one that was a present from an old friend, had a go at the basic core elements to see if it was even possible (here in an oak scrap rather than walnut):

It’s somewhat easier than the v-tool work that I’ve been practicing (and not getting hugely better at, though having better sharpening kit is making a difference):

Something else to get back to, when I dig the shed out again…. this whole thing of letting the north pole melt and turning off the north atlantic current and ruining the climate is playing absolute hell with my shed time…

It’s not even for the birds!

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