Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Definite Learning Curve

      In the photo at the right you can see both ends of the crib as you're looking across one of the gates.  At this point you should be able to notice the chatoyance I keep talking about in the middle panel on the ends.  The top caps of these is even more spectacular.
      Although I'm admittedly "computer resistant"  I do find that doing this blog is making me less so.  Another wonderful thing the computer has allowed is access to an unlimited amount of information.  This is the first project that I've attempted shellac on other than the insides of drawers and cabinets.  In that application I'd just buy Zinser Bullseye, thin it somewhat with denatured alcohol and use a pad to apply several coats.  Easy enough and it accomplished what I wanted -- no odors and a degree of protection and finish.  Well, I must say that doing a project like this is completely different.  Not sure if an important project like this was a wise choice to learn on but I'm inspired and don't give up on much of anything!
     After reading in a couple of books and getting advice from Ron at Shellac.net I was ready.  The process is to brush a light coat on, flow is the word most often used, and not back brush.  The denatured alcohol evaporates quickly so if your timing is off and you brush back, the shellac will pull up and leave a mess.  I thought I'd done alright until I turned the gates over and had all of these little runs on most of the 56 slats.
No other choice at that point but to sand and scrape to remove all of the blemishes.  I called Ron and asked for a little more advice and basically he told me you can't treat shellac like you would treat paint.  It simply cannot be brushed out and if needed I could reduce to a 1 pound cut.  It's like painting with water.  I took that into consideration and did a couple of more searches.  Some things stood out more than others but the one that really hit home was this quote: "until you rub it out, a shellac finish will look like crap!".  Who ever wrote that must of been in the shop, looking over my shoulder.  Armed with that information and resolve I've since applied three coats and it's looking much better.  The best method seems to be to have an almost dry brush, the beauty of the shellac is that the new coat will redissolve the prior coat.  Ways to rub it out range from a 400 grit sandpaper, 4/0 steel wool, or the traditional way of rottenstone and mineral oil.  Looking at all of the slats and nooks and crannies I'm going for the steel wool with Liberon wax for the final finish.  The plan is to apply at least 4 more coats before the rub out.
      This way of finishing is going to add to my list of stuff I can do.  The majority of my furniture work is with Watco Danish Oil and a three part top coat that is hand sanded and rubbed into the piece.  Shellac is quite a change from that and after 30 years or so of doing what I've been doing; this "old dog" is going to learn a new trick!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

First Shellac

      Yesterday I applied the first coat of shellac and just as I thought -- lots of time will be spent here getting all of the nooks and crannies! I also signed the piece for posterity.  It was really nice working with shellac that I made myself from flakes.  It's a very light one called Platina and really brings out the grain, especially on the caps.  Speaking of the caps let me share what trick I used to attach them to the crib ends.

As usual, picture needs some explanation but you're looking at the top of one of the ends.  The Walnut is screwed/glued to the crib end but then the plans called for simply gluing and clamping the cap piece on.  Well, trying to clamp and position one piece on top of another precisely is like trying to catch one of the carp at the Lake Mead Marina with your bare hands.  Jennifer and I used to go feed them popcorn and you may be able to touch them but control them and put them where you want  --- no way!  What I did was to clamp the two pieces together dry and drill two 1/4" holes.  The hole goes completely through the walnut but only partially through the maple.  After the walnut cap was securely glued/screwed to the end it was easy to apply glue, line up the maple and clamp it down tight.

Well, it's back to the shop to lightly sand the first coat of shellac and get ready to apply the next 5 or 6.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stanley # 80

     There are many times that I think some of the older, traditional tools will out perform the modern ones.  Working on the crib and the Hard Maple has provided many opportunities to test my theory! The legs were a perfect example of this.  They measure 1 1/2" x 2 1/4" and it seems that each one had a bit of grain reversing somewhere in their 40+" length.  Even using a smooth plane pulled the grain up so chose the Stanley.  It's hard to tell but the shavings you can achieve with this thing are so fine and delicate.  I'd much rather use it creating fine shavings and a smooth surface than sanding and creating dust and noise.  Getting pretty close to starting to do the finish work, all that remains is attaching the caps to the tops of each end.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Making Progress -- Gates are Done

   The weather cooperated with us and it was cool enough this morning to get the 30 joints glued, clamped, squared, and ready to go.  Weatherman says we're going to drop from a high of 82 or so today to 62 or so tomorrow -- playing with us now.
Anyway, thought I'd show how this all went together.  Diane took one side and I took the other and applied glue into the mortises only, the last thing I want is a lot of squeeze out to clean up.  Then we started at one end and partially inserted the tenon (3/4" long) and worked from one side to the other.  As we progressed I took one of those "play" clamps, you know the kind where you squeeze the handle but they really don't get that tight, and held things together temporarily.  As we got tho the farthest end, I used the "real" clamps to apply some serious pressure.  Once four of them were in place and the tenons about 2/3 of the way in I slid a pipe clamp diagonally to square the whole assembly up -- worked great!!  In the background you can see one of the end pieces with the Walnut pyramids glued and clamped into place.
    Tomorrow is the meeting of the Sin City Woodworkers and I volunteered to do a demonstration on gilding.  Spent about 3 hours typing out my notes and getting the samples ready.  Even after 31 years in the classroom I still tend to get a little nervous about doing presentations but with the notes and a little less caffeine am confident it will go well.  I enjoy teaching/sharing what I know and am willing to give the members individual help if they want it on the oil gilding techniques.  Water gilding with 22kt. gold is a different story because it's much more involved.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Memories Jennifer? Making Good Progress

Hey Jennifer, want to come to the shop and create some cool bag people?  Now there's a fun memory, used to really love having you in the shop pasting on the shavings to make those people on paper bags.  Darn environmentalists now you'd have to try and stick them on plastic!  Not too bad really 'cuz we saved the tree.  Anyway the crib is coming along well.  The very thing that makes the interesting and interlocking grain texture on the maple also makes it difficult to work.  My plane is a much improved model from when you were at the bench (so to speak) but even so it's challenging. Some of the grain will only respond to a properly sharpened card scraper but my goal is to only use abrasives between coats of shellac.  There's something special about hand planed/scraped surfaces vs. a sanded one -- just a sheen you can't get any other way.

This is the exciting part of any project, the time you start to glue all the parts and pieces together.  This morning I assembled both end pieces before the temperature got too warm.  It's up to 82 degrees in there this afternoon so I wouldn't have enough open time or hands to do more.  We're supposed to have a cooling trend early this week so then Diane and I will tackle the gates together.  Since there are 15 slats that means 30 mortise and tenon joints to glue and clamp.  I'll use liquid hide glue which has an open time of about ten minutes.  Another advantage to that type of glue is that, should your little one kick through one of the slats, liquid hide glue can be wetted and disassembled to replace one.  Whew, I've never done that but I'm sure the breaking won't happen!  Looking forward to delivering your guys crib and a long overdue visit.  Do I need to bring any other tools for other projects?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hardware Arrived !!

    The hardware for the crib arrived yesterday afternoon -- thanks UPS.  I'm really glad I didn't go ahead and drill the holes for the inserts.  The plans called for a 13/32" hole but when I tried them on a scrap piece there was no way that would work.  Next I tried 7/16" and was able to start the insert but it tore up the face of the board as I inserted it.  Went to a 1/2" which was too big so settled on the last option of 15/32" which will work.  One thing I will say though is that the instructions for the hardware installation are sketchy at best.  I called Rockler tech support which emailed me an additional sheet and also called the company that makes the hardware.  Between the phone calls I think I've got it dialed in right. There are also a number of pilot holes to drill and even though the plans called for a 3/32" I found that in the hard Maple I'm using 1/8" is a better choice.
    This morning was spent doing the last of the machine work and happy to say, the dusty and noisy aspect is done.  After lunch it's time to use a smooth plane to give each surface it's final surfacing before assembly.  Also need to dissolve the shellac flakes in preparation for the finish.  Putting all of the slats into the top and bottom rails will take more than my two hands to accomplish -- thank goodness Diane is good at helping me when needed.  It'll have to be an early morning job because it's starting to warm up and I'll need all of the open glue time that I can get.  I've also begun carving a new frame so I don't get too rusty on gilding.  The plan is to work on it between coats of shellac.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time to Blog

     Seems as if its been a while since I blogged about the crib project.  I've hit the stage where the work has almost taken on an assembly line process which is not my favorite part of any project but one that inevitably comes up.  Take into account that there are many duplicate parts (the slats) with many duplicate operations needed.  I've made 56 slats to allow for some extras just in case; my experience is that when I make extra parts as a back up plan I never need them but should I decide to take a chance that's when they are needed.  I guess it's like taking an umbrella with you in case it starts to rain and then it doesn't ( unless you live in Seattle!).  Anyway, each slat has two tenons and four edges that needed to be shaped.  Here is how I cut the tenon on each one:

I used a dado head and a clamp to act as a stop block.  This worked out well, since the mortises where cut "by eye" and are not all exactly 7/8" each tenon will probably need to be adjusted slightly.  I also used this setup for the leg to rail tenons but left them slightly oversize so that I can plane those to the exact size.  Usually I cut tenons with a tenoning jig rather than a dado head because it leaves a smoother surface, my shoulder plane will take care of  smoothing and accurately sizing the cheeks of the tenons.
     Currently I'm sanding all of the pieces before assembly.  I'll have to drill all of the holes in the legs to accept the threaded inserts which support the mattress and the rest of the hardware.  I'm a bit reluctant to drill the holes because I don't physically have the hardware yet.  Common woodworking convention is that you should have the hardware in hand before you drill holes for it but in this case I'll have to trust the plans that Rockler Woodworking provided.
     Can't leave without trying to show how awesome the curly/birds eye  Maple is:

The picture doesn't begin to do it justice.  The final finishing choice is a very blonde shellac that I'm buying from www.shellac.net   located in Napa, California.  I've talked to Ron who is the owner and he has been more than helpful. Based on my short experience with him so far I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him for anyone who's looking for quality  shellac.  I've always wanted to make my own and now that I have -- wish I'd done it sooner.  Nothing against the ready made canned stuff but this adds another step to the creative process.  I tried a darker shade of shellac called Jethwa but I felt I lost the chatoyance of this piece -- it's drop dead gorgeous!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Parts is Parts!

     Well, here's the day I've been waiting for -- almost all of the parts for Jennifer and Rich's crib are cut out and about half of the joinery is done.  Starting from the left there are the slats for the gates and the end panels, next are two wider slats that I plan to put in the middle of each end panel as a decorative element.  It's hard to appreciate from this photo but those pieces as well as the top caps that go on the ends, are cut from an absolutely gorgeous, drop dead, piece of maple that I found at Peterman's.  I wanted to get some curly maple for an accent and as I was going through the pile found this piece that besides having a nice, curly grain pattern was also loaded with birds eye -- I have never seen both of these features in one board, stunning!  Anyway I digressed, after the birds eye panels are the 4 pieces that make up the ends, then the walnut pyramids, then the curly/birds eye maple pieces for the top caps, next are the pieces that make up the top and bottom of the gates, followed by the walnut for the middle section of the top caps and finally the four legs.
    If you count them, there are 96 mortises and I still need to mortise the legs.  Of course, with 96 mortises you have to cut 96 tenons to fit into them.  The planer is set up to 3/8" to match the mortises so the next major step is planing all of the slats to the finished thickness, then to length, and finally cut the tenons.  I have the shaper set to radius all four edges of those so that's the next major step.  Sure glad I now have a hollow chisel mortiser, used to cut all of these joints by hand.
    Tomorrow being Easter I think I'll honor the One who gave me the talents and means to do the woodworking I love so much.  Monday morning Richard and I are planning a little hike but wouldn't you know it -- the weatherman's predicting a 40% chance of rain.

Crib Progress

     The last couple of days have been spent selecting and then cutting the majority of the pieces for the crib to their rough sizes.  Boy, there's lots of slats and just like the directions say, they're easiest to cut if you do it on the bandsaw and (in their words) cut it like a slab of bacon.  The plans called for a total of 46 so at this point I have about 60 of them roughed out.  Before I make them the final thickness I need to set up a test piece to get the exact thickness to fir the mortise -- sharpen that chisel set first to make it through the 100 mortises or so.

   One of the techniques the plan called for was this way to cut the required recesses for the Walnut pyramids.  I wasn't too sure about the technique but decided to "follow the directions", it's been a while since I've built something the had directions!  To sum it up, you take your board and cut it into 3 pieces.  Then you cut the recesses with a dado blade installed in the table saw.  Thank goodness for my antique router plane because it was definitely needed to smooth out the bottom of the recesses.  The part I wasn't too crazy about is the next step where you take the center strip and rip it to the exact width of the pyramids.  You can see that this involved removing a good 5/16".  My concern was that once the piece was glued back together the grain pattern wouldn't match up again.  I realize that I'm pretty picky and it wasn't as noticeable as I feared.  This picture shows the pieces after I made it the required size and then planed it smooth.  Hey Jennifer, should I save the shavings for hair on one of the paper bag people?