Monday, October 31, 2011

Woodworks by John: Diane's Studio -- Table's Done

     One of the more rewarding aspects of working with wood and designing/building projects is when they start to take their final form.  Now you see the vision that was once only on paper and in your mind take on that three dimensional form.  Think about it, last week at this time there was a pile of rough lumber that we had selected in the morning and now Diane's planning to paint her table in the morning -- doesn't get much better than that!
      A final detail was to figure out the easiest way to attach the runners for the drawers.  The final solution the joinery was to use two dowels on each side, this will provide plenty of strength and be considerably better than your typical butt joint and pins.  It'll also add a decorative element to the drawer.  My choice was to use shop made runners rather than metal ones.  These drawers are on either side of the table and will store scissors, bobbins, tape measure, etc.  Since Diane will have a machine at either side there is a drawer to service either one.

Drawer Runner
The drawers are a shallow 2" deep, 16" wide with a 9" inside depth. The runner is a piece of Poplar cut into an L-shape.  The piece of plywood in the middle of the runners serves two purposes.  First of all it will prevent the runners from any movement due to humidity changes and secondly, it serves as a drawer stop.  Although Diane will be painting the table tomorrow, the drawer sides and runners will be shellacked and waxed only.

Matched Grain on Apron
     This photo illustrates how the grain is continuous on the entire apron because of the technique I explained in an earlier post.  The edges were first ripped off of the piece and the drawer front was cut out.  After gluing the edge pieces back on you can't really see where the drawer is -- had to follow the tradition even though this piece will be painted.

     All that remained was to flatten the top.  It measures 28" x 48" and consists of three boards.  I had to establish a square edge so the first step was to rip it to width on the table saw.  I used this technique to cut one end square:
Squaring the first end
    A piece of plywood was screwed to the uneven end making sure that it was square to the edge.  This was done on the bottom of the table top and was used to guide the top against the fence.  Once the first end was sawn, the plywood piece was removed and the squared end guides the piece against the fence.  A little bit awkward but works well for a one man shop.  

     Once the ends were square and the top was it's final size it was flattened:

Flattening the top

This was accomplished with a smooth plane.  Thanks to the clamps I used that not only bring the edges together but also hold them flat this wasn't too hard of a process. Insuring that the grain runs the same way when these pieces were laminated together is key to relatively easy planing of the top.
Your other option would be using a wide planner or drum sander.  I suppose an orbital sander would do too but you'll be hard pressed to get it as smooth and flat as a hand plane and some effort on your part will.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Woodworks by John: First Look and an Offset Tenon

First Look!
     You know how when you go to the movies they play previews and trivia before you get to the feature? Well, in keeping with that theme here is the first look of the table.  It's just a dry-fit and already I've sat on it to check it's stability.  You can see how the drawer is off center, there's one on the opposite side as well.  The table will nestle between two cabinets (yet to be built) so that's why the drawer is off center.  Obviously, the top needs sizing and planing.
     A big concern for this table was to design it with stability to support sewing machines and handle their vibrations and also to allow full access underneath it.  That meant a center stretcher couldn't be used in its' design.  The apron is 4 1/4" wide which allowed using offset tenons.  Here's a picture of how they were designed:

Offset Tenons
The first thing to notice is the full, 1/2" deep mortise to prevent the apron from twisting.  To get the maximum depth on the tenon I chose to offset them rather than have them meet inside of the leg with a miter.  Wanted to have the maximum "meat" left in the leg and this solves that.  The leg is 1 3/4" square and the tenon is 1 1/4" long so I think we're good

Cleaning Mortise
After chopping out the mortise I wanted it to be a consistent depth in the entire haunched section.  Using a Stanley #271 router plane accomplished that.

Tenon Detail
     The tenon was pretty straight forward as well.  The first step was to draw a line 1/2" up from the shoulder.  I used a piece of plywood to set that.  After transferring the full tenon location it was simply cut out.  The only problem encountered here is that my dovetail saw's depth was limited by the back so I needed to finish the long cut with a flush cut saw.
     As of now, the two ends of the table are assembled so today will find me doing the drawer runners, drawers, and starting work on the top.  Happy to say that Diane will paint it, I have an aversion to painting wood!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Table Progress

     Techniques used to build furniture can vary depending on the shop that's making it.  I used to tell my students that "there's more than one way to skin a cat", an expression that needed explanation to the younger set!  For this table, there will be a shallow drawer on either side for sewing supplies.  The design calls for space on both sides of the table, one side is for the sewing machine and the other side is for the serger.  Since the table will be against the wall the drawers will need to be in line with one and other.
     The customary way to do this is to take your apron piece, rip off the top and bottom pieces, then glue them back together after cutting out the drawer area.  This picture will help illustrate that:
Drawer Apron
     I mentioned that the 6/4 Poplar was pretty picked over and one of these pieces has quite a wind in it which I'll need to plane out before surfacing the entire assembly to 7/8".  Even though this table will be painted, when you construct a drawer apron this way you are able to keep the wood grain continuous, even the grain on the drawer front will match, giving the appearance of one solid piece of wood.  Once these are surfaced they will be cut to the required size and tenons will be cut on the ends.
Taper Jig

 While this was drying work started on the legs.  The plans Diane gave show a short taper on one side to lighten the over-all appearance of them.  Using my shop made taper jig simplifies this process, all that's needed now is a bit of hand planing to make them all uniform.


      I prefer to use a good, solid, mortise and tenon joint to build table aprons.  This is a time proven joint and although dowels, biscuits, pocket screws, and other methods are quicker they won't compare to the strength of the mortise and tenon.  If you've ever seen a serger in action, strength and stability are a must!

Cutting Mortises, note depth block

I use a hollow chisel mortiser to cut my mortises.  I started out years ago doing them all by hand the same way my junior high school students were taught.  Then I graduated to getting a drill press, then a bench top mortiser, and now finally a dedicated hollow chisel mortiser.  It's nice to know I have the ability to cut them by hand but this sure makes it easier.  They still require some clean up work with chisels but all in all, this is the best method for me.
     The apron will be 4 1/4" wide.  For maximum strength I chose to stagger a 1 1/2" wide tenon in a full haunch that will be 1/2" deep.  Lots of technical stuff here but the purpose of the full haunch is to prevent the aprons from twisting.  I decided to stagger the tenons rather than having them meet inside the leg to increase the strength.  The technique I use is illustrated by this picture; at the rear of the mortiser there is a black rod which is the depth stop.  See the little block of reddish colored wood? It's 3/4" thick so when you cut the haunch, that is put onto the stop which limits the depth to 1/2".  For cutting the full depth mortise, you remove the block and cut the full 1 1/4".  Simple little trick but works quite well.
     Well, the sun's coming up so that means I can make noise out in the shop.  Glad to say our weather has cooled down considerably so working conditions are much improved!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Woodworks by John: Diane's Studio Make-Over

     During my trip and drive back from the east coast I was able to talk to Diane using FaceTime on our Apple MacBooks.  Wow, this was pretty cool just using the internet through the Wi-Fi at the hotels and being able to see each other while we were talking.  One of the things we talked about is a make over of her studio so I told her to draw out some plans and we'll call it a project!  Well, in one of our FaceTime conversations I could see that she was at my drafting table and when I came home the plans were ready.
     She's really good at designing to get the maximum use of the limited space we have available.  The over-all look will be one of shabby chic with a contemporary twist.  It's centered around a table (28 x 48) that will extend out from the wall.  This will be flanked by a pair of tall cabinets which will have shelves at the top, a bank of two drawers, and then a pair of glass fronted doors at the bottom.  Since everything will be painted by her, Poplar and shop grade Birch plywood will be used.  We went to Peterman lumber Monday to buy material and ordered hardware on line.
     The first project will be the table.  Since this will have a sewing machine on either side, her design calls for a drawer on each side as well.  I was able to find a decent piece of 6/4 Poplar that was 10+ inches wide.  After surfacing all three pieces it was time to joint the edges prior to glue up.

Checking Edges

Once the edge has been cut on the table saw my method is to use a #7 Jointer plane to true it up.  After laying out the pieces according to the grain direction you can check them by laying the matching pieces on edge as shown in this picture.

Using straight edge to check for square
I also like to take a straight edge to them.  Theoretically, if there isn't any light when you sight down the joint both edges are square and the panel should glue up just fine.  That's always a concern but as of now, I've had very few panel failures so my methods must be working okay

     The final step is to glue up the panel.  I've found that Gorilla Glue is great for this mostly because of how easily it cleans up.  The way it foams as it cures doesn't seem to penetrate into the wood which can become a problem during the finishing process.  In the picture you can see some clamps that I found at a cabinet shop that was going out of business.  You don't see these around too much but I really like them because they help keep the panel flat while bringing the edges together.  When I bought them I was told they were a pain in the neck because, being wood, glue sticks to them and they may get stuck to your panel --- not good!  I solved this by ripping down pieces of UHMW polyethylene and screwing that to the wood, nothing sticks to them.  They're at wooden pieces at the ends and center of this picture:

Glued up Table top
       I'll find out soon how much work it'll take to make this smooth and flat.  As you know, I tend to shun power tools for things like this preferring the quiet process of hand planing this to get there.  I was talking to a friend of mine who has a shop with a wide belt sander and many time people come to her and ask what it'll cost to sand a wide panel.  Let you know how sore my arms may be after I get this flat!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Woodworks by John: Custom Work vs. Mass Production

     Now that my hiatus from the table project brought about by visiting family and doing the entertainment doors is over, I can get back to work on them.  I installed the doors this morning and; as suspected, it wasn't a quick process.  Between using some pretty old and dried out material to make them and then installing them in an opening that wasn't  100% square it took some time.  Add to that they were inset doors and you can understand why it was difficult.  But -- bottom line is that they were happy with the results and could see the efforts I went through to make things right.  Ended up using the cardboard off some of their writing pads to shim a filler piece!
     To attach the legs to the tables I'm using a through mortise and tenon, splined to add strength and a decorative element to the top as well.  Going through the process I couldn't help but contrast this to the quicker way of pocket screw joinery which might be used if these were mass-produced.  I thought it would be a good time to share the process with you, it may get complicated!  Let's start with this picture:

Splined Mortise & Tenon 
     What you see here is the table top frame with the leg inserted from the bottom side.  The two white pieces of wood are the splines that will wedge the tenon tightly into the mortise.  Before I got to this point it was necessary to first drill two holes near the base of the tenon and then saw a kerf to those holes.  I put an extra leg in the picture to illustrate that.  Here's what happens when the joint is assembled, the leg is inserted from the bottom with glue, when it comes through the mortise the wedges are inserted and hammered tight.  It's difficult to see, but the wedges are tapered towards the outside of the mortise and the mortise is slightly tapered as well.  As the wedge is hammered home, the hole drilled in the tenon will let the outside splay out tightly against the tapered mortise side.  It's important to put the tapered side of the wedge to the outside e of the joint.  Once the glue has dried the tenon will be cut off and planed flush.
     Time consuming --- yes, worth it --- yes again.  That's the beauty of working this way and personally I can't think of too many other ways I'd like to spend the day.  Sure, it gets a bit tedious at times like when I used a paring chisel to cut the taper on all 18 wedges:

Shaping Wedges
Next up will be the final shaping of the legs.  They will have a double bevel from the center and then be tapered from top to bottom to add a sense of lightness to them.  Like any design process, you're never quite sure how things will end up even after making drawings and several mockups.  I'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Update on Entertainment Center Doors

     After a week in Spokane visiting my grandson and celebrating his first birthday it's back to the shop.  Actually had withdrawal symptoms from not spending time working the wood but the time spent with him, Jennifer, Rich and that side of the family was priceless.  It's too bad it's a bit more than a "drive across town" but what can you do?  Just relish the time together and keep it up.
     So, the doors hit that production stage.  Since I'm using Eurostyle, 35mm cup hinges it was a matter of setting up the drill press and boring each hole:

35 mm for CupHinge
     I always like to reference them from the center and in this case, each hole was drilled 4" from the center of the door.  A fence marked with the center line of the bit and located 4mm from the edge of the door made this pretty straight forward.
      Next was the mockup for the hinge bases.  This is a full inset application so I needed to make another jig to locate the holes for the base.  You can see that on the angled section of the mdf scrap I used for making the mockup.

Door Mockup
     In theory, it should be a pretty straight forward installation.  I need to add some filler pieces to the center plus a door stop to put between the two sets of doors.  The plan is to use a 2" wide piece of painters tape on the inside of the cabinet, mark the center line, then draw a line 4" each way.  If you look at the jig in the picture, you can just barely see a line scratched into the plastic between the two mounting holes.  By lining that up with the line drawn on the tape things should be good.  The nice thing about this type of hinge is that it's pretty simple to adjust, much easier than mortising in a butt hinge!  Once that's done the client will stain and finish then simply snap them back into position and we're good to go.
     Not to sure what the next project will be but I am still working on the tables and have a picture frame idea brewing in my head --- yeah, I know; another hair brained scheme!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Woodworks by John: Connor's B-Day Present

I'll have to put any of Connor's relatives who do Facebook on a code of honor that they won't tell him, or Jennifer, or Rich that this is now visible.  We're leaving tomorrow morning but I wanted to get these posted before we left.  First off, Diane's been making these really cool dolls and selling them on her Etsy store.  Well, here's Biff -- one of the first boy dolls:

Notice his stylish "man bag" and custom made Maple and African Paduak skateboard!

The other thing I've been working on is a coat rack.  I saw these coat hooks in a Lee Valley catalog and knew they were just the thing for him.  The rack is Maple and Walnut and the pyramids on the ends are the same as the ones on his crib.

 Can't wait to see them all tomorrow!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Woodworks by John: A Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear?

     I've started a rather interesting project, one that on the surface seemed to be fairly quick but then; when I got into it found it wasn't quite so -- hence the title of this blog.  Ah, what's life without a challenge or two.  I was contacted by a man who had an unfinished, built-in entertainment center.  Nice looking piece but the doors hadn't been completed on the bottom section.  He had managed to find various pieces of Cherry that were already dadoed out and (I thought!) just needed to be cut, tenoned, and joined.

Parts is Parts

Here's the collection of parts I came home with after measuring the opening for the doors.  Well, the desert climate is pretty rough on wood.  Something that became pretty apparent when I started cutting them to size and adding the tenons on the ends of the crosspieces.  The first step to any project is to make every piece of material the exact same thickness -- these varied quite a bit!

In any case, this is what I had to work with so I proceeded cautiously.  As I started to form the tenons I could tell that depending on the piece of wood I tried to match it with, it may or may not fit.  Spent a lot of time with 16 pieces of material, turning them every which way to make the door frames.

     This was quite a challenge, I needed to find adjoining parts that were somewhat snug and then use the rabbet plane in the photo to get they fit needed.  As part of custom work it's always done so that the grain patterns of the wood make a continuous flow all the way across the piece.  To illustrate that, let's suppose you had door members that needed to be 3" wide. You would select a 6" wide piece and rip it in half, then; when the doors were glued up the grain would align and appear to be one piece.  Well, with the collection of wood that I had that wasn't a possibility but I believe that by the time the doors are sanded and stained it won't be an issue.  I know that I tend to be overly particular but that's what I enjoy about custom work.

End of the Day
     The important thing is that we were able to salvage the materials my client had and we have the four doors required.  Next will be boring the holes for the hinges and sanding them prior to installation.  My client has the same stain that was used on the rest of the unit and will stain and finish them to match.  We're using European style cup hinges so it'll be an easy process to remove and re-install after the finish is applied.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Woodworks by John: Design Process

     Another commission came my way but I was pretty much all set up to begin work on the tenons so wanted to get that done.  This will be more of a photo how to than anything else.  You may recall that I prefer to use machines to do the grunt work and then hand work to refine and fit everything "just so".  After cutting both sides of the tenon cheeks at a 10 degree angle they needed to be individually fit into their corresponding mortise.  The mortise length varied a bit so the first step was to cut 1/2" off of one side:
Rough Size Tenon

This became somewhat of a mass production process to do the 9 legs plus a spare.  Basically, use a knife to locate 1/2", then the dovetail saw to remove it -- next!

     Each mortise and tenon is marked with a metal working stamp in an inconspicuous place to keep things organized.  You measure the width of the mortise, mark it with the double square and knife, then cut with the dovetail saw as before.  The shoulders always need a little paring to get them perfect and in this case, the angle needed to be 10 degrees to allow the legs to splay out a bit.  The small sliding bevel is used to check that.

Trimming Tenon Thickness

     The tenons were cut slightly thicker than 3/8" so that they could be trimmed to fit each individual mortise.  When you use a table saw and tenoning jig the blade can be slightly inconsistent so the width may vary a little.  This is especially true when cutting angled tenons.  This is a definite case of having the proper tool for the job.  In the past I've used chisels to pare tenons and also router planes.  This rabbet block plane is ideal as far as I'm concerned.  Feels great in my hand and look at those shavings!  Just nice to use for this operation.  This model has nickers which leave a tell-tale mark.  By making my initial cuts towards the outside, the nicker leaves a scratch.  Once I remove the scratch I know I've planed the entire surface evenly.