Finger Jointed Box Series

Now that I have the finger joint jig dialed in for the SawStop and the sliding table it’s time to make a series of boxes.  The only craft fair I’ve ever done was the Summerlin Craft Fair two years ago when Diane and I shared a booth.  It was an experience and although my passion is making furniture and carving frames, making one of a kind and custom boxes keeps me in the shop with some money in my pockets — there’s a combination that’s hard to beat!  Since I have quite a bit of the Radiata Pine from the last commission that’s what I’ll be using.  I’ve mentioned before about making more than one of a certain box series at a time, it’s much more time effective especially with finger joints that are cut by machine.

Sliding Table with Stops

Sliding Table with Stops

After deciding the sizes of the boxes, the first step was cutting the pieces.  I’m starting to get used to the sliding table for this operation although it still seems weird to me to have the shortest piece of a board supported by the “miter gauge” aka sliding table.  Unlike using that with a standard miter gauge there is absolutely no friction to overcome so the cutting action is extremely smooth.  I was able to use the stops which was easier than the method before where I used spacers.  As always, as the pieces are cut they are laid out in sequence and then marked so the grain flows around the box.

I had one of my woodworking friends give me the “thumbs up” for adding some YouTube video’s to my blog so I did this one showing the sliding table finger joint jig in action.  Don’t worry too much about hearing what I’m saying because the sound of the saw has taken all of that away!  The action of the sliding table on my SawStop is so much improved over other jigs I’ve made — love it!

You may notice that after cutting the two longer pieces of the box I use one as a spacer to cut the first joint on each side of the shorter piece.  Saves time that way in my opinion.  Also the boxes are all marked with the painter’s tape, numbers, and arrows to make sure they are assembled with the grain flowing continuously around the box.  Another note, if you read the first post about the jig I mentioned that the blade was cutting 1/64″ oversize well, guess what?  Today it was right on so just added a shim from a set of machinists shims so that solved that.

I generally cut the pieces a little bit wider than needed and trim them so they end right at the end of a finger (saw and plane).  Next I use this little box slot cutter bit that I love from Lee Valley.  I’ve mentioned it before but for a “mass-production” like this it’s so much simpler than making stopped dado’s for the top and bottom. Here’s a link to it from  Lee Valley.

It does create lots of chips so I’ll hold a vacuum inside, also make the cut in two passes; one without going to the bearing, followed by a full depth cut.  Keep in mind which way to feed the bit and if the joints are loose it’s wise to put a band clamp around the box.  The bit  leaves rounded corners so use a nickel, trace it on each corner, then file, sand, whatever works the radius.

All that remained was to rabbet the lids which are 3/4″ thick.  Rather than set up the dado head I made the rabbet in two passes on the table saw.  All that remained was to use the panel raising jig you see to chamfer the lid.  Luckily, all that was needed to modify this jig to fit the SawStop was to add a layer of laminate and it now rides snugly on the fence.

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Lids 0iled, 2 in front are distressed.

Lids 0iled, 2 in front are distressed.

 

At the end of the day there were two of the lids that were distressed, which is a nice way to say “beaten up” with some nuts and bolts attached to a wire.  I think this gives the Pine and the box a bit of character.  All that remained was to oil them prior to assembly in the morning.

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SawStop SlidingTable Finger Joint Jig

First Practice Joint

First Practice Joint

This will be a very brief post to show how I modified the finger joint jig that I used on the Jet cabinet saw to now work on the SawStop equipped with the Sliding Table.  It took a number of hours to do it but I must admit that this is such a vast improvement over the technique of cutting finger joints (aka: box joints) before I just had to post and share it!

 

A bit of history first, ever notice how magazine titles always seem to shout out at us that the current issue has the best way to ………. for whatever?  I can think of many at the grocery check out line that have nothing to do with woodwork whatsoever!  Well, that seems to be the case with these jigs and through the years I’ve probably made a dozen of them with mixed results.

Woodsmith Jig

Woodsmith Jig

The one that seemed to work best was found in a ShopNotes publication titled Best Tips, Tools, & Techniques for the Tablesaw.  Mine is an older copy but I did find this LINK to the current edition you may want to check out.  The jig is pictured here and what made it one of my favorites is that it rides in both of the miter gauge slots of the tablesaw.  It allowed you to make interchangeable carriages for different size finger joints.  Also the insert behind the blade is replaceable which helps prevent tear out.  The only drawback was feeding the wood through the blade, difficult to get the right angle and keep the jig firm in the slots.

What I did for the SawStop was to only use the carriage from this jig.  In this blog I went into detail explaining how to make an auxiliary fence/jig that will slide into the slots of the sliding table.  Briefly, you drill a 1/4″ hole 1  3/32″ up from the bottom of the jig after making a 1/2″ counter bore that will accommodate a M6-1.00 x 25 mm button head cap screw and washer.  This can now slide into the arm as shown below:

Jig attached to sliding arm

Jig attached to sliding arm

Fine Tuning Location

Fine Tuning Location

Notice I penciled in 8 3/8″ fence?  After putting both of the nuts into the slot the fence was slid to the right against the jig which was tightened when the indicator read 8 3/8″.  This located it “in the ballpark”, fine tuning was done with a spacer the exact size of the slot made by the Freud box cutter set.  Actually, this set cuts 1/64″ oversize.  The first thing I did was run a set with some 1/4″ MDF and surprisingly enough — they seemed to be right on!  Next up was some pieces of Pine and the fit was perfect — my lucky day!

The bottom line is that the action of cutting these finger joints with the sliding arm is so smooth and controlled there is no comparison with any other method I’ve used over the years.  For the upcoming craft show in October I need to build up my inventory of boxes and this should make that process go smoothly.  For safety there is a block of wood glued to the back of the jig directly above the blade.  Not sure where I learned about that but it’s a good way to tell your hands not to go below it!  After making the slight adjustment the fence indicator reads 8  7/16″ so when I’m ready to cut the joints I’ll just need to slide the jig into the arm, push it and the fence to that measurement, and tighten it in place.  Small adjustments may be needed but that’ll be easy enough to accomplish.  If you have the sliding table for your SawStop you just may want to give this a try.

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Custom Pine Box Complete & Delivered

I’m  a bit behind because this latest Etsy order is already packed up, shipped, and delivered.  Matter of fact, the client gave me a great review which is really what it’s all about.  When I taught I would tell my students that the money for a project was really secondary because that is soon spent on bills, tools, going out, etc.  On the other hand, the satisfaction of knowing you did a good job will last forever.  As you may imagine, that was a hard sell to teenaged students!

Here is a picture of the three boxes.  It’s always interesting to see the differences in the same species of wood, these are all Radiata Pine.  The one on the right is the original box that was sold.  My client wanted another similar one and that’s the one on the left.  As is my habit, I made another one of a similar size for the store and that’s in the center.  Really illustrates why I prefer to buy all of the lumber for a furniture piece at the same time and try to get related pieces out of the same board.

Three Dovetailed Boxes

Three Dovetailed Boxes

Both of the boxes that went out had a sliding tray for added storage.  These have mitered corners with a bottom set in a groove.  I recently upgraded my saw to a SawStop with a sliding table so here’s how that is set up for making a mitered box:

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I went into more details about making this jig to fit the sliding table arm.  If you’re interested you can find that information on this BLOG.  The next jig I plan to make for the SawStop is one to do finger joints.  That should be coming up soon as I need to increase my inventory for the upcoming Summerlin Craft Fair this October.

The final details for these boxes had to do with attaching the handles to the lid.  Since I recently gave a demonstration for our Sin City Woodworkers group on hand cutting mortise and tenon joints I thought I’d try to make a video of it for the blog.  It came out okay but I’ll apologize for the quality in advance — like to think I’m a better woodworker than videographer!

Since I’m not sure how to splice two video’s together, the first part is only about laying the joint out using a two pin mortising gauge:

This part shows the actual cutting of the joint.  To gauge the depth of the mortise I’ll put a piece of tape on the mortise chisel, 3/8″ in this case.  Many woodworkers would be tempted to use a plunge router and fence but honestly the hand process took about 5 minutes and, in my opinion; is much more enjoyable.  No loud, screaming router and flying dust that needed to be cleaned up afterwards either.

There you have it, the work is done and the boxes have been sent to their new owner.  I think it must just about be wine time!

Posted in Hand Cut Dovetails, Mitered Box, Mortise and Tenon Joint, SawStop Sliding Table, Uncategorized, YouTubeVideo | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Custom Order: Dovetailed Pine Box

In a previous post I mentioned that I have a custom order request from the Etsy store and the client was very understanding about my vacation and Armoire plans.  It’s now coming to the final stages and my goal for today was to finish the handle and have it glued in place so the first coat of finish can be applied tomorrow — I made that goal!

It’s always interesting to have a conversation about how to price your work with other woodworkers.  This came up at the meeting of Sin City Woodworkers last Wednesday.  Calculating the price of materials is pretty straight forward.  Calculating a final price is a tough call; do you charge time and materials only, do you go over your past sales and try to calculate the amount of time it may take, what’s the best approach?  What works for me is to make multiple of the same project in maybe different sizes and/or materials whenever I get a custom order.

Handle Profile

Handle Profile

For example, let’s look at the handle I came up with for this box.  It took almost an hour to create the profile out of a piece of Australian Lacewood.  It involved some tablesaw work to create the tongue and then some router work for the profile. I made enough for 5-6 boxes so now it’s essentially free the next time I use it.  Sometimes the pricing game I play is to decide how much would I enjoy the challenge of a requested project?  If it’s one that really intrigues me I may make a lower bid.  On the other hand, one place I used to work part time told me if he had a custom request for something he really didn’t want to do he’d make a high bid thinking that if they accepted it at least it’d be worth his while!  Not sure I want to follow that philosophy, rather just be honest with the client.

Process for Cutting Tails part of the Joint

I’m a tails first dovetailer so this is my method.  I like to utilize the Stanley 140 trick even though I don’t own a pair of skewed, rabbet block planes.  Instead I cut a rabbet on the insides of the tail boards on the tablesaw.  After deciding on the layout it’s time to begin the process, I cut both sides of the box at the same time with a rip-cut dovetail saw.

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What works well for me is to take an initial chip out, laying the chisel right into the scribed line.  The next cuts are made slightly proud of the scribed line which I then pare to after the material is removed. You can see the rabbet created on the tablesaw in picture #4.

Scribing and Cutting the Pins part of the Joint

I use a fixture to help line up the pieces which you’ll see in the first picture of the slide show.  When taking out the waste between tails I again start on the show side of the board.  I found that this Radiata Pine is what I refer to as punky — in other words it doesn’t cut very cleanly.  Rather than trying to remove chips during this process, a wedge cut was made to the shoulder line (picture #5).  This left a bit of wood for support when the board was turned over.  You’ll notice in the last picture how the shoulder is rough due to the punkiness of the wood.

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Flushing the Dovetail

Flushing the Dovetail

After the box was assembled and allowed to dry overnight the joint was planed smooth.  Always a good idea to leave them slightly proud.  I use a block plane for this, you can see the difference in this picture, the corner near the bottom has been planed.  I feel that planing leaves a cleaner finish on end grain than sanding does.  In the next post I’ll be showing how to make the small, mitered tray the will fit inside of this box.  I played around trying to make a YouTube video of  the mortising process which is uploading as we speak — probably put in on the next post as well.

 

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John’s Armoire: It is Finished!

Today was the first day I worked in the shop without the Armoire in it and to be honest, it felt kind of empty.  It’s been in the shop for such a long time but I’m glad that it’s now upstairs, waiting for me to figure out how to organize and fill the drawers.  Last Wednesday, the Sin City Woodworkers group held our monthly meeting in my garage/shop.  Partially as a one of our field trips to visit other members shops but also to share the designing and building of this piece.  Must admit I’m pretty proud of it!  Over-all it measures 74″ tall by 19″ deep and 48.5″ wide.  I really wanted to take some good photographs of it before bringing it into the house.  After checking it out Diane decided she could sew together the drop clothes we used for our craft fair to create a backdrop.  Since it had grommets already it was a matter of suspending it from a rope through the hooks in the ceiling that used to hold my kayak.  Here are the results, Diane took the pictures with the same camera she uses for her art work and they came out great!

Now, getting this thing up the stairs was a totally different experience.  Luckily, Adam and Kim were coming over for dinner last night and Adam agreed to give me a hand.  After taking out all of the drawers and shelves we began the journey up the spiral staircase.  As you can see by the pictures Diane took with her phone, it was pretty exciting — her and Kim both thought we’d have it crashing down over the railing but Adam and I had the situation well under control!

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Now to concentrate on the upcoming Summerlin Craft show (October) and two smaller commissions in progress.

 

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Vacation Fun & Back to the Shop

Beginning of HiawathaIt was great to take a week off and go to the cool northwest — Spokane, Washington plus time in Rossland, British Columbia and a fantastic bike ride that was in both Montana and Idaho!   The bike ride was on a portion of the Hiawatha trail that is part of the rails to trails program.  This is a picture of me at the start of it which features a 2 mile long railroad tunnel.  After 12 more miles of trail which included numerous tunnels and trestle bridges we reached the terminous where old school busses took us on a winding, rough road back to the first tunnel. This meant we had two more miles of wet, dark tunnel to go.  Great experience with my daughter and two grandsons.  She had them hooked to her bike the entire time in an off road carriage!  The only negative to the whole trip were the numerous forest fires currently ravaging the entire northwest.  The smell and sight of smoke was a constant reminder of the fires that are all over that area.  After celebrating the boys birthdays it was time to fly home and get back to work.

A few days before our vacation I received a convo from my Etsy store.  There was (sold now!) one of the hand cut dovetailed Pine box and they wanted to know if I had another like it or how long it would take to make another box just like it.  She was very understanding about the vacation plans and went ahead to order the additional box even though I couldn’t make her initial time frame.  Work began on it the day after our return from the vacation starting with the preparation of the Radiata Pine.  That’s the only machine process for the box and I’m always happy to get into the quiet, hand working phase of the projects.  The Pine has some very interesting grain pattern and like the link says, a faint, resinous odor — I like it!

Stanley 140 Trick

Stanley 140 Trick

Those of you that have read my blog before know I employ my “Stanley 140 Trick” whenever dovetails are called for.  It’s done on the tablesaw and creates a rabbet on the tail edge of the joint.  I find that it leaves a cleaner junction on the inside of the corners.

Once that rabbet is established the tails were laid out and cut using the original box as a guide for their layout.

I left it at that point last night as it was getting late and 101 degrees in the shop.  Better to chop out the waste in the relative coolness of the morning; 89 degrees!

Tonight I’m hosting our monthly Sin City Woodworkers meeting.  We take field trips to other members shops so that is part of the purpose but also I’ll be discussing the design process I use in my work.  That meant the Armoire needed to be 100% complete and ready for its debut.  All that remained was installing the back panels and bottom dust panel.  They are the only pieces of plywood used in the otherwise traditionally constructed piece.  I chose to use small, brass escutcheon pins to hold the pieces for the drawers.  Each area has a 1/4″ x 1/4″ rabbet so they are flush with the back.  The bottom panels were attached with brass screws and finish washers.  All that remains is getting it upstairs — can’t wait for that.

There is some variation in the Mahogany plywood used for the backs which adds interest I can live with since it won’t be seen.

It is Finished!!

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The End is Closer!

Tired but happy is the best way to describe how I’m feeling at the end of this long day. You can see in these two pictures that the Armoire is virtually complete, all that remains is the back and bottom dust panel.

Here are the remaining items on my “pick-up” list that were accomplished Saturday:

Drawers and Drawer Bottoms:  This began with the classic “wax in, wax out” as the shellac was rubbed out.  After sanding between coats, shellac usually still looks kind of rough.  My technique is to use Liberon Black Bison wax with a super fine, white scotch pad.  I like the finish it leaves behind and the smell of that particular brand of wax.

Once that was complete it was time to fit and install the drawer bottoms.  They are made of glued up panels of Alder.  First step was running a piece of 1/4″ MDF through the groove to make sure there weren’t any rough spots or glue.  Some adjustments were needed and easily done with a Stanley #78 rabbet plane.  The hole for the screw used to secure the bottom was made with a gimlet and the screw is tightened just enough to where the washer can spin freely.

Top Panels:  Both of these are secured to the cabinet through over-sized holes using brass screws and washers.  The front screws are fairly tight while the back ones are loose enough to allow for any seasonal movement.  Pretty straight forward but when it came time to locate the holes for the upper one the distance was too much between the bracket and the top to be accurate with a scratch awl.  Here’s a new marking tool I recently found during the AWFS convention here in Las Vegas.  It’s called a Pica Dry pencil and is available from Lee Valley.  A sales rep for Festool was using it and since it’s the same color green as their tools thought is was one of theirs.  He told me what it was so I added it to my hardware order.  What I like about it is that the lead is water soluble and also comes in colors.  It also has a built in sharpener.  The only thing I need to get used to is using less pressure as the lead is pretty soft.  It’s always been a problem erasing pencil marks but with this being water soluble that problem is gone!  They also have red and yellow colored leads which should be more visible on darker woods.

Thankfully my mind was working and I didn’t attach the top yet — I’ll explain later on in this post.

Drawer Pulls:  The hardware I chose for this piece was ordered from Lee Valley and it is their Blackrock series.  I like the somewhat Asian flare it gives to the otherwise Shaker inspired Armoire.   I know there are any number of hardware installation jigs available but the Dutch in me always has me making my own.  Really pretty simple, I use a piece of 1/4″ MDF centered between two other 3/4″ pieces that have been grooved to accept it.  There are 4 different sized drawers but with this set up you simply flip it over to mark the two sides of the drawers, the picture below should clarify what I mean.  Does take some math work but that’s easy enough!

Armoire-WoodworksbyJohn-CustomFurniture-Door

Hinge installing tools

Hanging the Door:  I covered this in my previous blog post so won’t go into too much detail.  I was very careful and ended up using all the tools you see in this picture.  Horton Brass supplies you with steel screws to fit the hinge and then brass screws for the final installation.  To keep a period look to the Armoire I specified slotted screws.  I needed to first locate them carefully with a Vix bit, then drill the hole deeper with another bit, finally beeswax to make things go without breaking the tiny brass screw.  One screw at a time, then check to make sure the door swings freely.  Definitely not a mass production process!

Double Ball Catch:  I really like to use these, again; these were ordered from Lee Valley.  Remember I was going to put the top on earlier but thankfully, my brain was still engaged and I stopped myself.  I’ve used these on double doors where you can get into the interior of the cabinet to position them — hmm; only one door here!  What I did was install the top catch first since I could get in and mark the locations.  Once installed a small combination square was used to transfer that location to the lower latch.  Also used the technique illustrated on page 94 of Taunton’s book on installing hardware.  They used  double back tape to position the catch on the door.

That’s it for now, all that remains is the backs and bottom dust panel.  I think it’s now officially wine time!!

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Is the End in Sight?

John's Armoire Plan

John’s Armoire Plan

It does seem as if I’ve been working on the Armoire for a very long time.  It has most definitely come a long way from the drawing but when I add two large projects for clients, a couple of Etsy custom orders, and a picture frame or two to the equation it has been a long process!  I’m reminded of when I built my house in Boulder City in the early 80’s.  At that time there wasn’t such a thing as a blog and since I thought only girls wrote diaries I chronicled the process thinking of possibly turning that into a book.  I carefully kept track of the number of hours I spent on each phase of construction and there was one category; Pick-Up that took a lot of hours.  Basically it was taking care of the little odds and ends needed to complete the house — that’s where I feel I’m at on the Armoire now.  Here are the ones I can check off of the list now.

Door Panel, Flattening with Scrub Plane

Door Panel, Flattening with Scrub Plane

Door Panels:  There were a few pieces of the Mahogany that had some birdseye characteristics to them so they were reserved for the door.  Initially they had a thickness of 5/8″+ but during storage in the bathtub one developed a bit of a cup.  I needed to bring it flat and then re-surface both panels to roughly 7/16″ thick.  By now they are finished and assembled into the door.

Corner Brackets:  A seemingly minor item you don’t think about until you need it.  If you refer to the drawing you’ll see that the section with the door has a top.  I needed to make angled brackets with over-sized holes to attach the top to the cabinet.  Seems like it should be a quick process but first comes sizing the lumber, then cutting the angles, then going to the drill press to drill and countersink the screw holes.  One more large hole for attaching the top and finally climbing up on the ladder with drill, screws, beeswax, screwdriver, etc. to get them installed.

Planing and checking top bevel

Planing and checking top bevel

 

Top Edge Detail:  The bottom edge of each top is beveled slightly to create a small shadow line and give a sense of uplift.  These were done with hand planes and much of it involved end grain since the grain on the top runs from side to side, not front to back.

 

Molding:  My first design concept was to not have any moldings between the cabinet sides and the top.  Since there are some inconsistencies with the flatness of them, I could see that a molding was needed to disguise that.  I choose to make a very simple,  5/16″ x 1/2″ molding with a bevel on one side.  Trying to hold that thin of a piece while planing an angle on it was difficult to say the least.  It’s so flexible the pressure of the plane moved it every which way!  Here’s how I solved that problem.  I clamped a planing stop in the vise, laid the molding next to it and then planed the edge by using the stop edge as a guide for the plane.  By tilting the plane on the bench I could get a consistent angle.  Once the cut began, it was easier to hold the plane stationary and pull the molding under it.

Jig and tools used for Hinges

Jig and tools used for Hinges

Door Installation:  This is an area where all of your work can go down the tubes.  This is my first piece that has three, mortised in butt hinges so I was pretty cautious.  First off, decided to go with Horton Brass since their quality is well worth the expense.  It took the better part of the morning to install them starting with making a jig to insure the depth would be consistent.  For many of my boxes I’ll do this operation without a jig, just chisel and marking gauge but for this project I wanted to eliminate any inconsistencies.

Practice hinge installation

Practice hinge installation

The jig is made of a piece of MDF and Poplar and I’m using a 1/2″ pattern bit with a top mounted ball bearing.  The  picture  at the left shows the hinge installed in some practice material.  I really like the looks of this hinge and the Horton quality can’t be beat.  There’s just no comparison to hinges made of rolled brass at one fourth the price of these.

 

Door hinge installation

Door hinge installation

Now that the practice was done it was time to take a deep breath, put the door in the vise and do the real thing.  They were located at the inner edges of the top and bottom stile and centered on the center stile.  The door was done first.  After the router removed the bulk of the material I carefully chiseled the corners square and mounted each hinge with the center screw only.

The next problem to solve was how to route the cabinet side, at this point the cabinet is upright on the dollies.  I figured that trying to work sideways with the chisel and routers would be precarious to say the least so padded two sawhorses and Diane and I were able to lay it on its side.  To set the reveal around the door I used nickels.  The top and bottom hinges were installed first (center screw only) then the center hinge.  I hope it doesn’t come back to bite me but I did need to apply some pressure to the center of the door to get the hinge to seat properly in its mortise.

Adjusting strike edge of door

Adjusting strike edge of door

Now came time to establish the reveal on the strike edge of the door.  This was a trial and error process where the door was installed, reveal eyeballed and marked, door uninstalled, and then planing the edge.  Once the reveal seemed correct I planed about a 5 degree angle on the strike edge of the door.  So far so good, hopefully things won’t change too much as we have some monsoon moisture coming in.  I’m learning there is quite a bit of movement with the Mahogany when our humidity levels swing from the usual 8-10% up to 50-55% when the monsoons hit.  Since the Armoire will be in the house with the central air conditioning the humidity levels should stabilize.  Hey, it’s always a learning experience!

Day's End

Day’s End

At the end of the day, we’re looking like this picture in the shop.  All of the drawer sides (in and out) now have two coats of blonde shellac on them.  That goes for the pile of drawer bottoms you see on the assembly table as well.  I make my own shellac with flakes purchased from Shellac.net which is in California.  I’ve been dealing with Ron there for many years and he’s always available for advice and shipping from him is quick.  Just a side note here, I’ve found that a good way to clean brushes used for shellac is after you’ve used denatured alcohol to clean them, follow that with a bit of Murphy’s Oil Soap and warm water and your brush will be soft and clean for the next time.

Time to call this a blog so you don’t get bored.  Drawer bottoms, wax, and installation seems to be all that remains — Alleluia!

 

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Drawers One More Time and a Door Too!

I’m just about done working on and talking about drawers for this project.  I’ve learned a lot which is always a good thing!  The first thing on the list was to clean up and level the dovetail pins.  Here’s where using the Old Brown Glue has an advantage as far as I’m concerned.  You can see in these pictures that even after drying for a day or so, all it took was a wet, paper towel to get rid of the dried glue:

Set up to plane drawers

Set up to plane drawers

By attaching a piece of MDF between the bench dogs plus the bench hold down screw I was able to secure the drawer to level the sides and front.  This method works well for me.

After they were all cleaned up it was time to fit them to the openings.  If you recall, the drawer runners were built so they were slightly proud of the frame.  This was to provide a bit of clearance and achieve (hopefully) an even reveal around the drawer front.  These are inset drawers.  Although not perfect, I’m pleased with how they fit.  The runners were adjusted as needed by using a rabbet block plane:

One side note  though, the desert with it’s usual single digit humidity can cause a furniture maker forget about the effects of humidity on wood.  The two bottom drawers, which I thought fit well; now need to be planed due to our week of monsoonal humidity!  The bottom reveal is good but they are snug at the top.  I may wait a day or two to see if they will stabilize on their own.

Drawer bottom expansion slot

Drawer bottom expansion slot

That means all that’s left are the drawer bottoms.  These were made by laminating 3-4 pieces of Alder together that were resawn from material previously used for teaching a plane seminar.  Appoximately 3/8″ thick, they were rabbeted on the router table to fit the 1/4″ dado in the drawer bottom.  To cut the expansion slot at the back I found another benefit of the sliding table as the picture on the right shows. Don’t think I’d try this with a standard miter gauge for sure!  This has been done using a shop made tablesaw sled but this felt pretty safe and secure.  The drawers have now been oiled, bottoms shellacked, and it’s time to move on to the door.

Cutting tenon with sliding table & dado head

Cutting tenon with sliding table & dado head

When I picked out the Mahogany at Woodworkers Source in Phoenix there was one board that had what appeared to be some birds eye figure in it.  This was set aside for the panels in the door.  They have been planed and rabbeted so they will fit into the mortised and tenoned door.  Like the rest of the piece, they are draw-bored using 3/16″ Walnut dowels.  Since I had a 1/4″ dado head set up in the saw for cutting the grooves in the door stiles and rails, thought might as well try using it for making the tenons.  Usually I do this with a tenon jig.  Once again, the sliding table proved to be an advantage over a standard miter gauge and also a shop made tablesaw sled.  The action is unbelievably smooth!  The dado head cuts slightly more than 1/4″ so some minor fitting was required to make a good fitting joint.  To draw bore it I use my customized punch — a piece of 3/16″ brass rod fit into a golf ball that works great to locate the center of the hole.  I decided to try using a Japanese razor saw to fit the haunches for the tenons too.

Clamp just fits between pegs!

Clamp just fits between pegs!

I showed how to make the punch in this previous POST.  One thing that I didn’t consider was that on the door, the pegs are fairly close together, about 5/8″ center to center.  Since they are driven completely through the joint that means, obviously; that they exit on the other side!  When I hammered the second one in the sound told me that I had hit something hard — yep, the clamp.  Luckily the clamps are about 1/2″ wide so by driving in the two top pegs, loosening the clamp and moving it against those pegs, I then had enough clearance to drive the second set of pegs through.  Technically I probably don’t need the clamps since the offset hole will pull the joint tight anyway but I’ve been known to use overkill.

This project has been, and continues to be a great learning process.  Very glad this is for my personal use as some of the things I’ve done to get to this point have been questionable, we used to refer to it as “jury rigging” in the Corps.  The next challenge is hanging the door with three hinges, something I’ve only done on house sized doors where a couple of whacks with a hammer can make all things right — that’s on the list for next week plus the tops and shelves.  Wish me luck!

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Drawers Yet Again! — Sliding Dovetail Dilemma

Some of you that are following the construction of the drawers have left me comments and likes which I really appreciate. Not having made a unit with this many drawers in quite some time makes me cautious so I enjoy sharing this process with you. Nine drawers of four different sizes is keeping me on my toes and it’s helpful putting my thoughts down on paper. Earlier I mentioned that I would use a sliding dovetail for the back piece on the drawers. The assembly worked well on the smallest drawers that go into the dog house but I had some concerns about the larger ones. I noticed that cutting the pin board (male ends on back pieces) that there was some inconsistencies due to some minor cupping. Lesson learned, minor cupping equals a major problem!  I decided to take the piece used to set up the dovetail bit in the router table and use it as a guide to make sure things fit all the way.

Well, good idea in theory but I found out the hard way that it wasn’t quite good enough!  Let’s just say that one drawer now has a two piece back and leave it at that!  Although things went together well for the first couple of inches it soon became apparent that no amount of pounding with the dead blow mallet or using a clamp was going to get the drawer back all the way in position.  To make a long story short, the solution was to let it dry then cut off the part that didn’t fit off carefully on the tablesaw.  Next that surface was planed smooth and flush with the drawer sides.  The part cut off had some trimming done to the dovetails so that I could insert it from the bottom and re-attach.  I was able to bring the two pieces together and edge glue so that it’s barely noticeable.  Whew, not wanting to do that again I came up with a solution: taper the sliding dovetails — something I probably should have done in the first place!

You know I consider myself a hybrid woodworker so I just may have come up with a hybrid version of a tapered, sliding dovetail.  Tapering can be done on either the socket or the pin board, I chose to use the pin board technique since the inconsistencies were apparent on them.  Here’s how I went about it:

The glue used is Old Brown Glue which I talk about all the time, long open time, and easy clean-up.  For this application the most important feature of  liquid hide glue is that it does not swell the wood fibers like PVA glues do.  If you’ve ever struggled to clamp up dovetails or finger joints with PVA glue you’ll appreciate that property for sure.

To aid the clamping I always make customized cauls to put pressure on the tails and fully seat them into their corresponding socket.  I’ve read and tried using soft pine scraps that will give way (usually) to the harder pins when clamped but honestly; I don’t have many pine scraps laying around so resort to the MDF method.  This begins by laying out the tail locations on a piece of scrap MDF.  I’ll usually cut this area out with a series of passes on the table saw but still had a 5/8 bit in the router table from the previous drawer work so used that.  Anything to remove about an eighth of an inch or so.  After that, packaging tape keeps the glue from sticking.

One of Nine

One of Nine

As of now, 7 of the 9 drawers have been assembled.  Work has proceeded on those pieces of Alder that will be used for the drawer bottoms.  Hardware has been ordered; hinges from Horton and knobs from Lee Valley.  The to do list is getting shorter!  Door still needs to be built, shelves need to be glued up, drawers need to be fine tuned to achieve a uniform revel all around and then,  top and moldings need to be formed, and of course comes finishing.  It’ll be done soon and then Diane says I’ll need to buy a new wardrobe to put into all of the new storage space we’ll have!

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