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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BlogLovin Experiment

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

In an effort to increase my blogs presence in the “internet world” here’s my experimental writing to see if I can be picked up on the BlogLovin’ web engine. There should be a follow me on bloglovin icon on this post. I’ll be curious to see if it will now appear on all posts!

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Drawers Continued — Side Hung in the “Doghouse”

I’m not exactly sure when or why I began to refer to the 3 drawer section of the Armoire as a “doghouse”.  Since it is my original design I suppose it can be called anything I want!  In any case, these drawers need to be side hung with shop made wooden slides. This was  my first attempt at doing this with flush fit drawers.  With a 5 piece drawer that has an overlaid front it’s pretty simple since you can make the drawer narrower than the opening, make your wooden slides, and the drawer front will conceal them.  Hadn’t really thought this out completely so much of it is designed on the fly.

Obviously, the first step to this process was to assemble the drawers.  This began with cutting a 1/4″ x 5/8″ dado into each of the sides.  After sanding the inside surfaces of them they were assembled with Old Brown Glue, clamped and allowed to dry.

In the right hand picture you can see the cauls used to put pressure on the tails only.  I also use a piece of MDF sized to fit the bottom to help the drawer stay square.  The corners are cut off to prevent any glue from sticking to it plus the edges of that piece are waxed.  Now that I have the drawers assembled it’s time to begin making the runners.  They’re made from a piece of quarter sawn, White Oak which should prove to be stable over the years.  The middle upright is a panel and frame construction which means there are only two places to attach the right-hand side drawer runners, that’s easiest to understand by looking at the pictures.  These are slightly more than an inch wide with a mounting tab at each end which yields a runner of approximately 1/4″.

To ensure that the bottom of those tabs was square I remembered something from Fine Woodworking magazine called a speed tenon.  They removed all of the material by holding the board against the miter gauge and slowly advancing it while sliding it across the blade to the rip fence which was set for the tenon length.  There was some controversy about the safety of that operation so cutting the bulk of the wood by hand seemed like the prudent thing to do.

Positioning first right-hand drawer runner

Positioning first right-hand side drawer runner

Essentially, you only have one chance to get these in position correctly because of the way they are mounted.  After drilling and countersinking the mounting holes a spacer was made to install the runners.   The width of it was the distance of the bottom of the drawer to the bottom of the dado plus 1/16″ for clearance.  Since the dado runs the entire length of the side, the drawer front will act as the drawer stop — this is 1/4″.  After clamping the spacer to the right-hand side of the cabinet, that 1/4″ distance was set with a combination square, mounting holes pre-drilled and runner secured in place.  So far so good!

The drawer was then inserted from the front to fit the left-side runner.  This can only be accomplished from the rear of the cabinet.  To fine tune it, the backside of the runner is planed until there is a nice fit between it and the drawer.  Once I was satisfied with the fit it was attached the same way with spacer to establish the distance from the bottom and the square to measure the set back.

The same process was used to install the other two drawers.  Knowing that the dado is in the exact same location on all of the drawers it was a matter of placing the spacer on top of the installed drawer and repeat the process.  I purposely lowered the dovetail on the top of the upper drawer so it could be trimmed to fit the remaining space at the top, good pre-planning because it needed trimming!

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After all of this the shop was pretty messy as this panoramic shot shows so it’s time to clean it up, try to get organized, and call it a day!  I’m sure I’m not the only one that has tools, wood, screws, etc. strewn about the shop.  Don’t know about you but I have a hard time functioning when the shop looks like this, hate to waste time trying to find things.

Time to organize!

Time to organize!

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Drawers Continued — Bottoms and Sliding Dovetails

The previous posts on the drawer construction included the word sensible, notice it’s left it out this time?  I still think the approach is sensible but some may question that because of the way I’m going about making the bottoms.  It would of been much easier to use plywood for the bottoms of these drawers.  They’re all about 18″ deep and vary in width from 8″ to about 27″.  These will be Alder instead of plywood to keep a more traditional approach to the construction of the Armoire.

Towards the end of last year I did a weekend seminar on setting up and using planes at Woodworkers Emporium here in Las Vegas.  I purchased what I hoped would be enough 5/4 Alder for the students to use as they learned how to set up, sharpen, and use their planes.  Knowing they were destined for these drawer bottoms I selected boards that were at least 6″ wide.  After the seminar I took the boards home and stored them until needed for the drawer bottoms and that time has come.  Pretty straight forward process that began with planing a working edge, setting up the bandsaw to resaw before running them through the thickness planer to a uniform thickness.  Here’s where I’m glad to have a 15″ Powermatic rather than a bow saw and lots of hand planing!

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Once they were uniform in thickness I ripped them to the widest possible size and then chose boards to equal 18+”.  By the way, in case you’re wondering, the glue I use for all of my panels is Gorilla Glue.  I’ve never had a failure and I really like how easily it cleans up.  The drawer bottoms will be protected with shellac and need to be flattened by hand.  Probably a combination of a block plane to even the joints if needed and then a finish sander.  My concern with these is warping/cupping so made sure to alternate the growth rings rather than direction of the grain as I would if they were completely hand planed.  After all, they’re just drawer bottoms!

GarageDoorInsulation3Just an aside, living here in the desert I sometimes comment/complain about our weather extremes.  The shop isn’t climate controlled and although I’ve tried swamp coolers on more than one occasion, they take up valuable room I don’t have plus the noise and blowing dust make them less then desirable.  I took a break from the Armoire and insulated the door which should help things slightly.  We recently had a hot spell with temps hitting 110+ so I’m anxious to see how this will help.  Now we have a spell of unusually cool weather (for July) with temps staying below 100 and actually cooling down to the low 80’s at night!

SlidingDovetail-WoodworksbyJohn-RouterTable-FemaleA woodworking skill that’s on my list to learn to do by hand is cutting a sliding dovetail.  In Tage Frid’s’ book on joinery he even shows how to make the saw.  After all of the dovetail work on the fronts of the drawers I just didn’t feel up to using this project to learn that technique so reverted back to the tablesaw and router.  Before removing the dado head used for the drawer grooves from the saw, each side received a 1/4″ x 1/4″ groove for the back.  The dovetail bit I have is 14 degrees, this was then cut with the router table set up I made into the SawStop table board.  Here is a LINK to that post if you’re interested.  Although you should run the longest surface of the board against the fence I find that if you wax the table and apply pressure against it this is a safe process.  Once all of them were cut is was time to do cut the pin (male) part of the joint on the ends of  the drawer backs.  After making a few practice cuts to get the depth set right it was time to do the back boards.

My wife keeps asking me this: “what percentage of the Armoire have you completed?” I always have a tough time giving her a straight answer!  I have begun glueing up the bottoms and assembling drawers so I’ll blog that next.  Then there are two more tops to edge and finish, that’s not to mention the door, backs, shelves, and hardware —– so what do I say?  My best guesstimate is about 60%; this is a challenging project to say the least.

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Dovetailing Drawers — A Sensible Approach: Pin Boards

Before I get into the process used for the pin boards, let me show you how things turned out at the end of this phase.  lt’s always nice to see your work taking shape(click on picture for an enlarged view):

My previous post went through the tail procedure so now it’s time for the pin boards.  These are the drawer fronts and just like the side pieces they are cut to the required height but left longer than required just in case of a major problem.  In the slide show you’ll see the fixture that I use to correctly position the two boards together.  It’s a simple L-shape with a fence on on one side.  The rabbet cut on the drawer sides (Stanley 140 trick) registers against the drawer front and the fence holds them in alignment.  In Tage Frid’s book on joinery he recommends using a piece of a scraper blade to sever the fibers that the saw can’t reach on half blind dovetails.  This method is works quite well!

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The method for cutting these pieces begins with transferring tails to the pin board with a marking knife.  After sawing with a rip cut, dovetail saw I use a thin piece of metal as in picture #2.   Next, I’ll refine the shoulder cuts be removing a small chip on the scribe line.  When chopping the mortise I stay 1/32″ or so away from the scribed line.  Removing the bulk of the mortise for this Mahogany took about three passes to get close to the web line.  In picture #3, the shoulder is chopped squarely on the scribed line.  When I set the dimension for the web I use a piece of 1/4″ MDF as my guide.  In pictures #4 you can see how that supports the chisel and allows you to pare a flat surface.  If your scribed line is slightly off like mine was you can add shims under the MDF to fine tune it.  I needed to add a couple of pieces of paper to it but this certainly makes getting a uniform depth on the web easier.  The inaccuracy was probably caused by my marking gauge being somewhat worn out.  A number of years ago I made my own marking gauge that was featured in Highland Woodworking’s newsletter.  If you’re interested in seeing my blog on it, here is a LINK to it.  I’ve considered buying one of Hamiltons marking gauges but I really like the feel of the one I made and must admit it makes a good conversation starter and fits my hand just right.

Having the difficulties with the marking gauge resulted in using my caliper to set and check the markings.  In a recent magazine article about them I learned something I never knew before so thought I’d pass it on.  They even referred to it as a “secret measuring technique”!  You can see in these pictures that there is a step on the backside which can be placed against a rabbet and then the jaw is used to make your measurements.  I’ve been using calipers for many years and never knew this:

Cutting the dovetails took somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-9 hours and I’m pleased with most of them.  I think this is probably the most drawers I’ve created for one project.  Nine drawers all told.  I still need to put in the backs, these will have sliding dovetails cut with machines rather than the traditional method of through dovetails.  I also need to resaw, surface, and laminate the 5/4 Alder for the drawer bottoms so even though the pictures I put at the top of the blog have this project starting to look like something — there’s a way to go.  Oh yeah, forgot the tops, door, and shelves.

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Dovetailing Drawers — A Sensible Approach: Tails First

I must admit that my Armoire project is quite a challenging one — I see that as a good thing!  Those of you following my blog know that it was started last year but a couple of paying jobs put it on hold for quite a while — also a good thing!  In any case, I’m now working on the drawers, there are nine of them.  My “sensible approach” is due to my frugal, Dutch nature plus I’ve run out of Mahogany, at least not enough for another drawer front so mistakes cannot be made.

Drawer Beginnings

Drawer Beginnings

I didn’t want this to become a mass production process but did want to be as efficient as possible.  For me, this begins with cutting all of the drawer sides (soft Maple) to the required height for each opening. They had previously been surfaced to 1/2″ thickness. At the same time the drawer fronts were cut as well.  My “sensible approach” is to leave everything longer than needed just in case I totally blow the joinery on the end of the board.  The next step was to cut the 1/4″ groove for the drawer bottom on all boards.  That’s what’s shown in the picture here.

The drawer sizes vary from the three in the center section that are about 5″ tall, then one at 6 1/4″ next to them.  The other drawers are 7 1/4″ for the three and the bottom two measure 8 1/4″.  Arbitrary measurements determined by the overall size of the Armoire and the available material.  To make sure the plan I had in mind was sound I used the single 6 1/4″ drawer as my test subject.  Layout of the dovetails can be done in so many ways, I just wanted a fairly uniform look to all of the drawers that was sure to be seen as hand cut.  A reason to cut the grooves for the drawer bottom first is so you can lay out a tail to conceal it.  That meant I started the first tail at 1/4″ from the edge which was then duplicated at the top of the board.  Whatever was left between those measurements was divided by 3 and set off with dividers.  The only exception was the smaller drawers, they have one less tail.  Here’s a slide show of the process, sorry about the quality; I changed the settings for some other work and forgot to change back.

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Ready for Pin Boards

Ready for Pin Boards

If you’re not familiar with the Stanley 140 trick shown in the first picture allow me to explain it.  I’ve found that cutting a step on the inside of each drawer piece results in a much cleaner joint.  Traditionally this was accomplished with a pair of skewed, rabbet planes.  Stanley made these and they were designated as #140. Although not OSHA approved I use either a rip blade or in this case the dado set to accomplish the same thing.  I wax the fence and saw table to reduce friction and hold tight.  That being said, I wouldn’t allow a student to do it free hand like this but it is an effective way to accomplish this without spending a small fortune on a set of planes, although the Lie-Nielsen  could be on my wish list!  At the end of this step things looked like the picture at the right.  The top drawer is complete and the others are ready to go.

At this point each drawer side has their tails cut so next up are the pin boards.

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Colonial Williamsburg & Woodworking

As a woodworker Williamsburg, Virginia is a place I’ve always wanted to visit to see how woodworking was done “back in the day”.  If you read my blog you know that I consider myself a hybrid woodworker type but have mentioned the possibility of going to all hand tools.  Needless to say, my recent purchase of the SawStop that replaced the aging Jet cabinet saw may negate that!  My wife and I spent all of last week in the Williamsburg area and visited Jamestown, Yorktown, Washington D.C., and also a couple of plantations for good measure.  Coming from the Las Vegas area where there’s nothing older than the late 1800’s we were in for quite an historical treat.  Diane and I are like minded in our interests so it was a fantastic week.  Among all of the historical things we did I was able to check out the woodwork and she has hundreds of photographs to use for reference material for her paintings.  That only scratched the surface of the history in that area, we also toured several plantations and other museums.

About twenty years ago I was going through a rough stretch in my life and saw an advertisement in Fine Woodworking Magazine for an apprenticeship at Williamsburg.  The position advertised was for a cooper.  I thought long and hard about that but decided not to since my daughter was in Las Vegas and I did have a secure job teaching.  I always wondered what that life would have been like so here’s a glimpse at how things may have turned out had I pursued that!

Drawing of a chair they are building

Drawing of a chair they are building

What was so fascinating about the Williamsburg experience is that it is truly a working village.  All of the shops; whether they’re working with wood, fabric, food, etc. actually sell their wares.  Many of them are used to furnish the buildings but it is possible to buy them too.  As an example, one of the guys in the cabinet shop showed this drawing they were using to  build a chair for one of the buildings.  They will build the framework and then it will be upholstered in another shop.  He has been there for about 10 years and mentioned that if they were a “money making” shop there is no way they’d stay in business!  Their primary function is to educate visitors and they do a great job at that.

Since we weren’t the only ones in the shop it was very interesting to hear the questions other people had and the response.  First off, the shop is pretty crowded and what struck me right away was how dark the working conditions are. I watched a video recently showing how to make secret miter dovetails that was filmed in this shop and actually saw the man working there during our visit.  His name is Kaare Loftheim and he’s the gray haired gentleman in my pictures.  We’re always told to work in the light and sure enough, their main work areas are located underneath the windows.  A question that always comes up when people view your work is “how long did that take you to build?”  Our presenter held up a nicely dovetailed drawer and explained that it takes him less than an hour for the actual dovetails but preparing the lumber takes 2-3 hours — makes me reconsider selling off my power tools!  Rather than bore you with all of the details of the trip I’ll leave you with this slideshow of the interior of the shop.  I’d also encourage you to plan a visit to Williamsburg and the surrounding area if you’re interested in our historical roots.  You won’t be disappointed!

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I gained a lot of knowledge about the life people led in those days.  I was somewhat surprised to see some of the furniture styles but then reminded myself that they all came from Europe so that’s what influenced them.  As they became settled in the New World they developed their own styles.  Only the well-to-do would have the fancier furniture while the commoners would likely design and build their own as time and needs dictated.  My own preference leans more towards the simpler style of the Shakers with some added Asian influence.  The fancier and more elaborate furniture of the Colonial period was a way to show off your position and wealth.




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What’s It All About and a Stopped Dado!

When I went out to the shop this morning the thermometer told me that the inside and outside temperatures where equal — 91 degrees and it’s just 7:30am.  This morning, like every other one, began with breakfast, reading the newspaper, and checking emails and FaceBook.  A good friend of mine and fellow woodworker had this post on Jamie’s blog and it was a really good read.  Lupe has built some really fantastic pieces of furniture in her relatively short time as a woodworker.  What really got me thinking is how she embraces all of the new woodworking techniques to accomplish her work.  On the other hand, I pursue more traditional practices and consequently, spend a lot more time trying to accomplish what I do.  For example, if you read Jamie’s Blog you’ll see that she used a tool called the DowelMax.  This dowel jig allowed her to make an 8 drawer chest in a relatively short amount of time.  Walking into the shop and being hit by that temperature and then seeing a stack of 1/2″ Soft Maple waiting to be dovetailed for the 9 drawers got me thinking.  I do enjoy the process and challenge of hand tool woodworking, matter of fact the process of getting to the final project is probably more exciting to me than seeing it completed.  I’ve used the label of Hybrid Woodworker to define my techniques where I’ll use power tools to do the rough work but refine (or try to!) everything by utilizing traditional hand tools and methods.

To illustrate that, for the drawers I needed to surface close to 60 feet of 8+” wide Maple for the sides and back.  I’m more than happy to use the Powermatic planer rather than a hand plane to make those pieces a uniform 1/2″ thick.  Then the router table was much easier than a block plane to put a slight radius on the bottoms of each piece.

Today I decided it was time to do a practice dovetailed piece on the soft Maple and you know what? it’s not all that soft!  The drawers are three different heights, from 5 1/2″ to 8 1/4″ and the plan is to have the layout similar for each drawer.  Starting  from the center there will be two smallish tails (about 1/2″) then a 1/2″ space leading to another tail that will begin 1/4″ from the top and bottom of the board.  Still undecided on how to treat the backs of the drawers.  My first thought was to through dovetail them but after the practice session in 95+ degree heat I’m rethinking that one!  Maybe a machine cut sliding dovetail or maybe a pegged tongue and groove joint.  Any suggestions?

The Doghouse

The Doghouse

The center section of the Armoire has a bank of 3 small drawers that are about 5″ x 9″.  Don’t know why, but I have called this the Doghouse!  These drawers will not be full depth and hung on side mounted wooden slides.  Where the top of it meets the upright there is a long, stopped dado to position it.  This will probably also have a cleat and screws for reinforcement.  I could have pulled out the router to do this but I wanted the challenge of doing it by hand — just like I talked about at the beginning of the blog.  It may have taken a bit more time but the trade off of no noise, dust, and added heat of the tool was worth it.  Only tools needed were a marking knife, straightedge, chisels, and a Stanley #271 router plane.  I find more uses for this little plane, from dados to hinge mortises.  If you don’t have one I think it’s worth finding it to add to your tool kit.  Here’s how I went about this long, stopped dado — it’s about 18″ in length:

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What seemed to work best was to use the chisel for about 4″ and eyeball the depth as in slide #3.  Then the router plane brought it to the correct depth.  When the router plane became difficult to push I knew it was time to go back to the chisel, you can see that in slide #4.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!  You probably recall the problems with the Veritas Small Plow Plane so will need to cut the drawer grooves with a dado head instead.  That’s another minor roadblock, I’m waiting for the throat plate for the SawStop so I can install the dado head!  It may be time to begin the finish procedure on the case, UPS tells me the throat plate is scheduled for delivery mid-week.  Relax man, it’s the process right?

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Major Hurdle Passed Today

When I was a carpenter there was an expression that went something like this: “with every nail you drive, you’re driving yourself out of work”.  Well, that may be true but it sure is nice to see the progress you make based on the work you’ve done.  With that in mind I’m ecstatic to know that a major hurdle has been passed  for the Armoire, it is now assembled.  Such a great feeling to go from a drawing to seeing the actual piece take shape right before your eyes.

I knew going in that this would be a very complicated assembly process but based on the pegged mortise and tenon construction of the front and rear pieces I just couldn’t come up with any other way to go about it.  That meant there were 20 mortise and tenon joints that needed to go together at one time with a total of 7 panels in between them.  These had to be glued.  Add to that the 12 drawer runners with tenons at each end that also needed to placed into their proper mortise!  I doubt that I’m the only woodworker out there that gets stressed when it’s time to glue up and go through the process in their mind time and time again!  I arranged to have some help this morning, they arrived at 7:00 am and the temps were in the mid-80’s.  To make sure my mental plan would work I carefully labeled all of the parts and did a dry fit the day before by myself.  I figured that if I could manage it alone without glue then with the help it was a doable process!

Diane handed us clamps and a mallet when needed but also took a bunch of pictures I’ll share as a slide show:

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As you can see there was a lot to this process.  I used my favorite glue for this type of work, Old Brown Glue.  It has a long open time and is easy to clean up which is why I use it.  Once we had the top frame part way onto the tenons, we stood it up.  Now everyone of those drawer runners needed to be positioned.  As we got closer and things lined up it was time to start clamping them home.  The panels were a bit of a hassle but with the three of us coaxing it we succeeded. We hustled knowing the heat would cause the glue to gel so like they say “time is of the essence”.  Since there were three of us I bought two more bottles of glue.  With our time crunch, sharing one bottle between the three of us just didn’t seem like a good option!

Drawer Runner Closeup

Drawer Runner Closeup

The glue will dry over-night before removing the clamps.  In the meantime, a 2×4 screwed to a furniture dolly will allow me to move it around.  The drawer sides and back will be dovetailed and made of soft Maple.  You can see that the Alder runners are slightly proud of the case members to give a uniform reveal.  Years ago I read a woodworking article that suggested sizing each drawer side prior to dovetailing them so now I’ll have the chance to try this.  As near as I can tell, the runners are pretty square.  If needed there is a bit of movement and I may pin them from the bottom.  Next up will be adding the enclosure for the three smaller, side hung drawers located in the top center section.  Still have a long way to go before this piece is upstairs but we’re making progress!

Posted in Johns Armoire | Tagged | 3 Comments