Sliding Door: Joinery

Tripod Support

The last blog was all about preparing the stock for this sliding door which is followed by the joinery.  All joints are mortise and tenon and vary from 2″ to 1 1/2″ in length.  Following the 1/3 customary rule they are 3/8″ wide which is as close to that I can get since the stock is a full inch in thickness.  I anticipated that since the members of this frame are all around 5″ wide there was the potential for fitting issues so they have full haunches to curb that as much as possible.  With the longest piece measuring 85″ the camera tripod was used to support the end, probably not the sturdiest but it did the job!

Before the mortise and tenon process began a 3/8″ deep by 1/4″ wide groove was cut in all inside edges on the tablesaw.  The bottom of the door will have plywood panels while the top will have tempered glass.  My plan is to remove one side of the groove at glass area with a 3/8″ rabbeting bit after the door is fully assembled.  After that a glass stop will be milled that will secure the glass in the opening.  Since the dado head was set up in the saw and some of the tenons needed were on the end of an almost 7′ board it seemed best to rough them out using the dado rather than a tenoning jig which I prefer.

Someone said on their blog that they never tire of the steps needed to do joinery, whether it’s dovetails, mortise & tenons, laps, etc.  Even though you may do them time and time again it’s always a challenge.  Here’s a montage of how I go about it, the twin tenons are on the bottom piece which is 6″ wide.

The first pieces to be assembled are the top and bottom horizontal ones with the center vertical one.  With the tendency for a 10′ pipe clamp and the wood to begin to flex under pressure my aim to center act that was by clamping the pipe between two old Black and Decker Benchmates; remember those?  This helped keep the pipe stabilized and then as the board started flexing it was clamped to the Benchmate.  Also made come longer cauls to help spread the clamping pressure.  Looks as if it worked, we’ll know tomorrow when it’s all unclamped.

Before going any further the 1/4″ plywood has to come in.  It will need to be prefinished prior to glue up and then it looks as if the glue up will take place in two stages.  At 56″ wide and 85″ tall there is no choice other than gluing up on the floor or maybe on the Benchmates as shown in that picture above.  Have my idea of how to go about it and will let you know how that works!



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New Commission: Sliding Door

Sliding Door Plans

We have a new neighbor across the street and I’ve been commissioned to build a door.   It will be made of Cherry with tempered glass in the upper section.  With an over-all the size of 56″ wide and 85″ tall this is not your standard sized door!  It will be a sliding door that provides privacy between the kitchen/dining area and the living/entry area of his house.  Looking at my drawing I’m beginning to wonder if it would be better to increase the bottom wooden panel by 5″ or so so the division isn’t so symmetrical — appreciate any comments from my woodworking readers.  In any case, I picked up about 30 board feet of 6/4 Cherry from Woodworkers Source here in Phoenix.  For the size of this door 4/4 stock that’ll finish out at perhaps 3/4″ wouldn’t be right, unfortunately going to the 6/4 to get a full 1″ thickness is wasteful and adds expense to the project.  It used to be fairly common to find 5/4 stock but now even 6/4 is difficult to find, lucky for me Woodworkers Source had a great selection of it and I came home with enough 10′ long boards that were around 6″ wide to do this project.  I have them do the straight line rip for me, 10′ boards and a #7 Stanley jointer plane is possible but in keeping with the hybrid woodworking philosophy they can sweeten one edge for me!

Once they were in my shop the first step was to carefully layout the the boards and cut to rough length.  This began with checking (and double checking) the plan and is done with chalk.  Since they will all be surfaced the finish size and use for each board is written on the end with a black sharpie.  I need all the hints I can think of to keep myself straight!

The pictures above are kind of a before and after representation of the days work.  The process is to first sweeten up the edge that had been straight line ripped with the #7 Stanley Jointer plane; I love this tool! It probably dates to the 1920’s and originally had a Sweetheart Laminated blade which I’ve replaced with a blade and chip breaker from Hock tools.  With its’ corrugated sole and a little bit of beeswax and it’s smooth sailing!  There were two boards that had a bit of twist to them which was taken care of with a scrub plane, you can get the view of the over the winding sticks in this picture.  Once all the boards had a working edge and were flattened they were all run through the planer to 1″ thickness.

Boards were then ripped to the required width and the second edge is planed to remove the marks left by the tablesaw.  With boards that were over 7′ in length planing from both ends was needed one some to follow the grain direction but all doable.  Here’s a little montage of that process, hand planing is such a relaxing process — the turmoil of the world gets relieved shaving by shaving!

For this project I’ve decided to use a different type of finish recently written up in Fine Woodworking Magazine.  It’s called Osmo Polyx Hard Oil and the distributor was good enough to send me a sample of it.  After experimenting on a piece of Alder I’m really liking the finish.  As some of you may know, the finish I’ve used since the 70’s is one I learned about at San Francisco State from Art Espenet Carpenter.  Basically it was Watco Danish Oil and then a 3 part mixture that was wet sanded into the wood.  Watco has changed drastically over the years (not for the better!) to meet EPA requirements and just isn’t the same — so, this old dog is trying to learn a new trick.

Now that the wood is prepped the next step is the joinery.  All mortise and tenons, 2″ long for strength.  Since the door is over 7′ tall I need to get a 10′ piece of 3/4″ black pipe and pony clamps.  I had several 10′ lengths of pipe but when we moved here from Las Vegas a year ago decided they weren’t worth the weight or hassle of moving so sold them at our garage sale — off to Home Depot!





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Patio Table is Done!

Happy to say that the table is done and with the help of a neighbor it’s on the patio ready for the first outdoor meal!  Always rewarding to see anything you “conjured” up in your mind, then put on paper, actually come to life and have it look just as you imagined.

In the last blog the trestle was complete and there was an issue with the Watco Exterior Oil. Although this finish has mixed reviews I’m willing to give it a try since I really do not care for surface coatings that inevitably crack and peel resulting in lots of sanding prior to refinishing.  Since this table will be under cover most of the day the plan is to refresh the finish every 6 months or so with the Watco thinned down to help penetration — I’ll try to keep you up to date as to whether or not this will work.  Assembling the top went as I hoped, after assembling the two ends and center pieces to one side work began on the infill pieces.  Since the Alder was random width it took some math calculations to determine their sizes.  Worked out that with the 1/4″ gap between they ranged from 5″ to 5 1/4″  so the variation is barely noticeable.

Cutting Tongues

These tongues were cut on the tablesaw with a dado head.  The goal was to have a snug fit in the groove but still allow them to expand/contract with seasonal changes.  Everything got two coats of the Watco, it wouldn’t have been possible to get the oil into the grooves and on the tongues if the finish was applied after the top was assembled.  Care was taken to avoid getting any of the finish on the joints.  You can see the tongue cutting process in this picture.

Now it was time to see if the calculations were right; as the dry-fit began my concern was that the ends could splay outward if they were pinned before assembling  the opposite.  After all of the pieces were slid into the grooves loose I saw that was not a concern.  Everything was dissassembled and given two coats of the Watco Exterior oil.  I used Titebond III Ultimate on this project.   After drying overnight, the clamps were removed and two #16 brads were centered to secure each infill piece.  To keep the gaps uniform spacers were made out of some 1/4″ MDF and a guide for pinning completed the operation.  My thought is that this is similar to breadboard end construction and will prevent too much cupping on the top — any opinions from you other woodworkers reading this blog?, love to hear them.

The last step was drilling and counterboring the holes in the legs to attach the top.  Sounds simple enough but it’s a three step process which began by drilling an oval counterbore with a 3/4″ forstner bit followed by a slotted 1/4″ hole for the screws.  A fence set up on the drill press kept things aligned.  The slot is so the top can expand/contract during those seasonal changes without fear of splitting apart.

Some friends and neighbors have mentioned that the table top reminds them of an entry door.  This design and way of making a top is not one I’ve seen before (although sure it’s been done) so I’d appreciate any comments from you other woodworkers that read this blog.  My thoughts are that only does the gap between the infill pieces add a style feature but also that as the years go by, the table won’t do like outdoor tables tend to do which is cup and warp all over.




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Patio Table: Phase 2

In the last blog the table base was in progress.  Fine Woodworking had a video series by Gary Rogowski showing the way he built a trestle table which I used for inspiration.  As you’ll see, I don’t like to build from someone else’s plan so designed my own table.  The video showing how the wedge was made was of great help.  You may need to be a member to have that link open for you.  Anyway, here’s the assembled trestle of my design:

The wedges were cut at 9° and are made of Sapele.  My first instinct was that the mortise in the stretcher would need to be tapered at one end and square on the other but the video from Rogowski showed how that wasn’t the case.  It’s 3/8″ and was cut on a hollow chisel mortiser after tilting the table.  I only have one mortise chisel, a 1/4″ wide so I was able to refine the cuts made on the mortiser.  Rogowski also showed making this simple jig for the bandsaw to cut the wedge.  It was cut over-sized then hand planed to fit.


Working Drawing

Next step is creating the top, let me let you in on my plan and we’ll see if it works out!  On paper it looks good but the logistics of it are new to me.  You can see that the base came out as drawn, now for the top.  The length of my clamps (3′ +) dictate that the table is 3′ wide.  Since  6’6″ is the total length and I sold my 10′ pipes before we moved here the end pieces need to be mortised into the sides.  After cutting all of the mortise and tenon joints to assemble the perimeter, ends, and inner pieces that will be glued up — but wait, there’s more!  On the inside of the end and center pieces there is a 1/2″ x 1/2″ groove.  The goal is to cut tongues on the pieces that will infill the table.  To accomplish that I plan to glue the ends and center piece to one side only.

End and center pieces glued to one side

This proved to be quite a hassle since the clamps only open to 3′ plus about 1/2″.  I had to beat the heck out of it before the clamps could get on it with the most important consideration being that the glue up was square.  Here’s a picture of the results, I think so far so good — whew!  Now, the infill pieces need to be cut to slide into the grooves.  It’s a puzzle calculating the width based on the material I have but it looks as if 5 pieces will do it.  Notice there’s a 3/8″ gap between the center pieces and the infill pieces will have a 1/4″ gap.  The nice thing about this is that these can all be pre-finished before glue up. They will slide into the grooves and center of each board will be pinned from the bottom allowing them to expand and contract with the seasonal changes.

Everything else was pretty straight forward.  To cut the haunch on the 2 1/2″ long tenons I needed to use a Japanese joinery saw.  Clearing out the haunch which will be visible at the ends was done with an antique Stanley #271.  I can see where the improved ones from Lie-Nielsen and Veritas are easier to adjust but this one’s paid for!  When ever there are a lot of joints to keep straight I like to use metal marking stamps.

Since I don’t care for surface coatings my choice to finish this is Watco’s Exterior natural oil.  It’s a product I’ve used for my furniture for over 40 years and even though Min-Wax screwed up the formula trying to meet EPA standards I understand that now that Rustoleum makes it is almost back to what it was before environmental standards messed it up.  That being said, the quart purchased to experiment had some problems where an orangish color came in — I now need to sand the trestle part down which means it’ll still be lighter than the top but at least Rustoleum is sending me a refund to the quart.

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Patio Table

Thankfully, there’s always another project to keep me occupied — as you know; I don’t relax well.  Our house here is Phoenix has a large, covered back patio where Diane and I find ourselves having lunch daily.  What better project than a table to dine at!  Diane found some nice patio chairs (6 of them) so we purchased those at Pier One.  It was another good excuse to explore Phoenix since we went to 3 different locations to pick up 2 chairs at each!  Over the fourth of July we went to Las Vegas for some family time with the kids.  While there, Adam was showing me how he is designing his portable work bench which holds all of his tools in one compact and moveable table.  He showed me how he designed it using SketchUp, amazing!  Then I showed him my old school way of design — he laughed!

Jointing the Edge

This table will be my own trestle design utilizing wedged through tenons.  Sized at 3′ wide and 6′ 6″ long it’ll be made of Alder.  Not being one who likes to build from someone else’s plans I prefer to make my own.  After purchasing 8/4 and 6/4 Alder from Woodworkers Source here in Phoenix it was time to start prepping the wood.  The procedure is the same, I’ll have them straight line rip one edge then my work begins by refining that with a #7 Stanley jointer plane and going on from there to rip boards to the required width.  This is followed by planing to thickness after flattening one face if needed with a scrub plane.  The first part to be made for the table will be the legs.  These began from the 8/4 stock and are mortised and tenoned with 1/2″ wide and 1 1/2″ long tenons.

The top stretcher was cut thinner at the ends on the bandsaw.  To remove the bandsaw marks I found that a spokeshave was just the thing.  Paring chisel did the trick on the angled cut that the spokeshave couldn’t get.

Machine work is done, time for quiet hand work to refine and fit.

As a hybrid woodworker, in other words someone that uses machines to do the grunt work; the tablesaw, bandsaw, planer, and mortiser rough out the wood to dimensions that are close but then need to be refined and fitted with backsaws, chisels, and hand planes.  For a project of this size it only makes sense to me to work this way.  For example, the through mortise for the trestle are 1″ wide x 2″ tall and go through a piece approximately 1 5/8″ thick.  Using the hollow chisel mortiser with the widest chisel I have (5/8″) made fairly quick work of this process.  I worked from both sides and almost to the line, fine tuning will be accomplished with chisels.  Before this method I’d lay it out carefully on both sides and chop halfway planning to meet in the middle.  This method worked well.

All the tenons were cut slightly oversize, here’s my bench set up for bringing them to fit:

Tenon Set-Up

Mortise & Tenon marked

At the left the tenon is cut to width and the end chamfered with chisel. At the far right I’ll use a rabbet block plane to carefully fit it to the corresponding mortise.  Since there are eight joints to keep track of letter stamps are used to help keep me organized.  This method works for me.  At this point both of the legs are glued up and drying.  The next step will be the stretcher with its angled mortise to accept the wedge and hold it all together — something I’ve not attempted before!


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Keepsake Box Final Details

Let me start this out by showing off the completed box and then boring you with the details later,  I’ve often said “it’s all about the wood” and in my mind this project exemplifies that!

After glue up it was time to trim the excess tail material.  More than your usual 1/32″ or so due to the angles that were cut on the side pieces of Wenge.  Spalted Maple is difficult to cut cleanly, even with a freshly sharpened paring chisel with a 20° bevel.  It tends to “chunk out” so after cutting as closely as I dared it was time to do some sanding — happy to report that all went well.  Mortises were cut for the stop hinges as well as the lid lift which was actually a cut-off from the sides.  I used every bit of the wood I could for this project.

Another request from the client was for a tray, this was made from the last piece of Spalted Maple I had and you can see the grain is much more pronounced.  Just enough to make a square tray for it using mitered joinery and the packaging tape assembly method.  A 3/16″ piece of plywood for the bottom sits in a groove made with the plow plane.  The tray and the bottom of the main box were lined with burgundy velvet.

Counter bored hole for silicone pad, notice the cathedral grain on the Wenge caused by cutting the angle — like it!

The only request that wasn’t met was an engraved nameplate of sterling silver.  After checking numerous local trophy shops, on line jewelers, and Etsy shops I was unable to find someone capable of engraving it.  My client settled for a standard, silver (aluminum) plaque from a local shop.  Apparently sterling is difficult to engrave but can be sand blasted or cut with a laser.  Seems it just doesn’t do well with automated processes.  The finish on this project is platinum shellac and wax.  The process used to attach the silicone feet was changed for this box.  Rather than just stick them on and run the risk of them being knocked off a flat bottomed hole was drilled into the bottom first and then a spot of crazy glue added to help keep it in place.  It also lowers the box a bit which I like.

So, thanks to USPS Priority mail this project arrived safely three days after being brought  to  the Post Office.  My client was very happy with this project and really, isn’t that what creating these things is all about?


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Keepsake Box: Wenge & Spalted Maple

It’s been over a month since my latest blog and that’s partially due to our summer schedule but also my latest Etsy commission is one that my client didn’t want to see until it was complete.  Here’s a picture of the completed box, let me share the backstory and creation of this piece.  I connected with a friend of mine from high school (50 years back!) on Facebook.  He likes my work so asked me about creating a keepsake box for him and his wife to replace a sterling silver one they lost in a fire, along with pretty much all of their other worldly possessions.  He gave me approximate size and a few things he’s like to have but then gave me artistic license to create something suitable.  This has happened a few times before and in a way, it puts a bit more pressure on my design and esthetics.  I knew I wanted to use hand cut dovetails since they are a benchmark of woodworking and something I incorporate in much of my work.

Re-Sawing Spalted Maple

I looked around through the meager wood supply I had (much was given away prior to our move) and found a choice piece of Spalted Maple and also some Wenge.  The size of these pieces determined the size of the box but also added some stress to the project knowing that if I made a mistake or the wood decided to crack or show some flaws there was no extra material or back up plan.  The Spalted Maple yielded enough 5/8″ thick pieces for the sides and top — awesome seeing that figure appear with each slice!  After running it through the planer the surface was finished off with a smooth plane.  The Wenge was then cut in half and; you may notice, a slight chamfered cut was made on the outside of each piece.  This created a little bit of cathedral grain on the sides of the box.  That wood tends to splinter and not plane cleanly no matter how sharp the blade was or how tight the mouth of the plane was adjusted to — sanding required on this piece of wood.

Plowing the bottom groove, notice the lipped area for the dovetails

Once the pieces were prepared and sized it was time to begin the joinery.  As is my habit, I employ the Stanley 140 trick for the sides, that was cut with the skewed rabbet plane.  Then a groove was made for the bottom with the plow plane.  Planing a wood like Spalted Maple is different since the “splatedness” is really fungous so no real grain direction to be had.  Luckily on these pieces a groove was formed.

Now it’s time to cut the dovetails, since I’m a “tails first” person that was the first step after figuring out how the layout should be.  The challenge was knowing the areas that had a lot of that “spaltedness” weren’t the strongest the layout had to be designed with that in mind.  Too much trial fitting could lead to failure of the joint which encouraged me to be as accurate as possible.  Cutting the pins on the Wenge was tough, needless to say the chisels all needed to be sharpened after this project.

After preparing all of the joinery it was time for glue up — always stressful right fellow woodworkers?  I believe it was Tage Frid who said a dovetail should only go together completely once and that was during final assembly.  Fitting bottoms usually finds me completely assembling a project more than once but due to the fragile nature of the Spalted Maple I controlled myself on this project.  My glue of choice is generally Old Brown Glue which is a liquid hide product.  Due to the oily nature of the Wenge, Gorilla glue was used instead.  Glue up was successful so I’ll leave the final details for my next blog.





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