Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Do I Always Pick the Hard Stuff??

     I guess I can answer that: "if it was easy then everybody would do it!".  I'm finding out that the African Mahogany is quite a difficult and unpredictable wood to work with.  Whenever I select lumber I like to find the widest stock so that the wood will be as close to the same color, texture, and grain patterns as possible.  I do this for the visual continuity it gives and also since I prefer to use clear finishes rather than stain, the color will usually be a good match.  When I began ripping the wide board to the sizes I needed it was like ripping wet Redwood when I worked at Silvera Lumber in Antioch!  You could see the wood curl and move as the tension within the board was released by the cutting action.  I've already had to get some more of it because several pieces were just beyond salvaging.
     At this point, I'm concerned about the success of these wine cupboards.  I've cut the door pieces to rough size and brought them into the house just to see how they will react in a warmer, drier environment.  In the meantime, I've decided to continue but I'm prepared to scrap the whole thing if needed.  If the quality and craftsmanship isn't there they won't leave the shop and I'll chalk it up to experience.  Sometimes it's better to push on even if the outcome is uncertain, you can always learn something.
     The interior of these cupboards is somewhat complicated.  Because of that they were shellacked before assembly.  Since shellac is an easy finish to touch up I decided to go this route, here's the pieces laid out with three coats of shellac:

All Shellacked

     You can see the square pieces that will support the bottles, then the sides, top, and bottom, and the back pieces laying on the tablesaw.  That propane tank you see in the background is my only heat source out there.  It's mounted on a furniture dolly so I can put it wherever I want.  After applying the third coat I went to work on roughing out the stock for the doors and made the T-molding that will hold the wine glasses.

     Towards the end of the day I decided to go ahead and assemble the two cases and that's where things got tricky!

Assembled, Clamped, and Ready 
     The tricky part here was that the bottom, dovetailed piece had to be glued and clamped into place but at the same time; I needed to insert the 6 rods that will hold the bottles and slide the back into the dado.  To add to the difficulty, the unstable nature of the African Mahogany meant that some of those rods had a bit of a twist to them.  I followed all of the recommended procedures, dry fit first, have clamps ready, have mallet ready, take a couple of deep breaths, then glue and work like the dickens!  Thankfully it wasn't too bad but glue-ups always stress me out anyway.  The final step to the assembly of this case is the shelf that goes up about 1/3 of the way.  This will fit into the sliding dovetails and help to keep this unstable wood from getting too crazy!  That will be finished before it's glued and slid into place.
     I'll let them dry over-night, keep my fingers crossed that the door pieces won't go crazy, and grab a glass of wine before dinner.

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