Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beginnings of a new Project

Where most projects begin
     My recent series of blogs where I talked about my design process didn't really address where many things have to go before work begins.  If I'm doing a project for myself I'll often make some rough sketches and then "fly by the seat of my pants"!  When it's done for a client I seldom have the freedom to do that.  They generally want a fairly definite idea before they write a check for the deposit.  I've heard it said that if you can draw it you can build it and that's pretty accurate assessment of how to start a project.  That's the approach I'm taking on this Wine Cupboard.  One will be for myself, the other will go to the gallery as a speculation piece.  It's designed to fit in a someones' home and will hold four glasses and three bottles of wine.  After making preliminary sketches and some quick mock-ups out of wood I stood in front of my stand up drafting table and finalized the design.  Some will argue that using a computer to create drawings is quicker but I find that I can build it in my mind better if I actually put pencil to paper.
     When a project is designed as a speculation piece, its' design and construction has to stand out from the ordinary things people can buy elsewhere.  The trick is to provide enough special details to set it apart without pricing it completely out of the market -- a tall order in these economic times!  My forte is my emphasis on old world craftsmanship and hand cut joinery so dovetails were in order.  The one area of dovetails that causes me the most grief is maintaining an even edge where the two pieces come together.  I decided to try a technique I've read about where you cut a relief on the inside of the tailboard like this:
Tailboard Relief
     This technique is named after a certain Stanley plane but I can't recall the number -- really doesn't matter but to achieve this I used the table saw with the blade set slightly higher than the thickness of the board and a depth of about a 1/16" of an inch.  This is more obvious in this picture:

Chisel the Shoulder Line

     It's easy to see that initial cut that will give a sharp, finished edge to the inside of the cabinet.
     Something else I'd like to point out here as well.  First, the board was scribed to the required thickness and angled tails were cut.  Now, before using the saw to cut the shoulders I chiseled out a wedge of wood just as you'd do to remove area between the tails.  Finally, I cut about a 1/16th. of an inch from the shoulder line.  Why go to all of that?  Let me show you:

Paring the Shoulder

     Those initial cuts with the chisel give a great visual reference.  Notice the different appearance of the wood where it's been sliced with the chisel (darker & smoother) compared to where it was cut with the dovetail saw which appears cloudy and fuzzy.  By slicing diagonally it's fairly easy to achieve a smooth shoulder.  Actually it would be better to undercut this than leave it high.

     Another advantage to cutting that initial piece of the edge of the board is that it's much easier to line it up when you lay out your pin board:

Transferring Tails to Pin Board
     That ledge you create with that initial cut is butted right up against the edge of the pin board so alignment of them is simplified and more secure.  To cut out the waste between the pins you should follow the same procedure.  First of all, set your chisel right on the scribed line and remove a small wedge.  By doing this it's easier to keep your shoulder square.  If you don't remove that wedge first the chisel will have the tendency to cut inward resulting is a poor shoulder line.  Here you can see what I mean by the wedge better:

Removing waste from the Pin Board

     Now that the bottoms of the cases are dovetailed, the next step will be to cut a sliding dovetail for the center shelf.  This will be done with a router using the same technique that Dennis Patchett showed at one of the Sin City Woodworkers meetings.

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