Utility Sink Progress

Love doing custom, one of a kind projects but you never quite know what you’re getting yourself into!  A concern with this project was being able to fit everything into the space available.  For that reason the stand for the utility sink has been kept to the minimum size possible.  After taking the washer and dryer out (still available on Craigslist as of now) I went to work removing the drywall.  The dryer outlet you see at the right has been repositioned to the area above the water.  See the brick exposed on the left side; that was the original house!  We couldn’t figure out why they hadn’t put an electrical outlet closer to the built-in ironing board (white cabinet on left), it was a hassle reaching over the washing machine to plug in the iron.  After missing the water pipe buried by that brick wall by inches I was able to fish a wire through and install a surface mounted outlet there — would have been a disaster had I hit that pipe.  We hired a plumber to do the rough plumbing behind the wall.

As for the sink stand it’s now complete.  Since the top and base were kept to the minimum size the challenge was how to mount the top and sink to the base.  The sink uses standard mounting with clips that attach it to the top.  It ended up that notches were needed for the clips to clear.  Quickly done with a Japanese razor saw and chisel.  The apron had been pre-drilled before the stand was put together, in the right hand picture I’m locating the holes for the attaching screws.

There is a grid work shelf at the bottom of the stand.  The location of it was determined by the height of the library type step stool needed so that we can access the dryer stacked on top of the washing machine.  This will make connecting the drain somewhat tricky due to limited space.  The grid is made of 3/8″ and 3/4″ pieces of Alder which were taped together and notched with a dado set on the tablesaw.

Finger Jointed Apron and SawStop Jig

The final step before the finishing was making the finger jointed apron that goes around the top of the stand.  Here’s where I really appreciate the sliding table on the SawStop and the jig I made for cutting the finger joints.  Here’s a LINK to that blog.  In keeping with the antique school desk inspiration, it’s attached with screws and then plugged.


The final step was applying the finish.  Although water and wood aren’t the best combination a laminate top wasn’t in the plans.  There are 5 coats of General Finishes semi-gloss exterior sprayed on  which should be sufficient to protect it especially since the sink has that built in drain board.  Just need to be conscientious about wiping off any spills as they happen.  So, what’s left? plumbing, drywall, paint, tile backsplash, new units installed and bada boom, bada bing — we can wash our clothes again!

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Utility Sink Progress

The Utility Sink project is one that really keeps with my “hybrid woodworking” philosophy.  In this project there are 8 sets of mortise and tenon joints, probably one of the most used joints in woodworking until  pocket hole joinery, biscuits,  and Festool Domino became the norm.  I prefer using this more traditional approach, years ago I discovered that many of the pieces built in the 50’s or thereabouts always failed if they had dowel construction.  My high school woodshop teacher (Ben Aiello)  taught that having a different kind of wood in a joint could lead to problems since the way it reacted to seasonal changes is likely different than the wood being joined.  Always made sense to me so that’s what I base my construction principles on.  For me, “hybrid woodwork” means letting my machines do the grunt work like an apprentice in days of old while I refine it with my hand tools.  Marc Spagnuolo aka the Wood Whisperer wrote a book titled Hybrid Woodworking.  When it came out I actually emailed him thinking that I had come up with that term; hybrid woodworking!  Enough of that, let me go over some of the work on this project to date.

After using the mortiser to chop out all of the 3/8″ wide mortises, a combination of the tenoning jig and hand work followed to refine the joints.  Haunched tenons can be tricky as far as measuring them goes so this time I cut the haunch in such a way that a set up block (Lee Valley) was just right to scribe its location and size.

Prior to that, I needed to cut the 9′ long piece of 12/4 to manageable pieces.  This piece would be used for the 2 1/2″ square legs as well as resawn and planed to various thicknesses for other pieces of the stand.  Too big to cut on a chop saw, too long for the tablesaw, so the best choice was the bowsaw.  I really love this bowsaw made by CME and available on Ebay!  Wasn’t sure how to support it as the cut was complete but found that after cutting as much as possible with the board extended over the table I could set it upright to complete the cut.

The Quite Time!

The Quite Time!

Although I appreciate the speed and ease power tool woodworking can bring, it can’t compare to the quietness and relaxation of following up with hand work.  Cutting the haunch is done with a dovetail saw and then the tenon is brought to exact thickness with a rabbet block plane.  Mortises are refined and cleaned out with chisels as needed.  Although I know I can cut these joints completely by hand and teach it to others, there are definitely times using power comes in handy!

On the front of the counter and also the bottom stretcher I decided to add some hand beading with a Lie-Nielsen #66.  There’s an interesting “back story” on how I acquired this tool and a 4 part blog on my previous Blogger website, here’s a LINK to that if you’re interested.  Once you get a handle on using this really cool tool you’ll like it better than a shop made scratch stock.  In any case, by pulling the tool at a slight angle to start the process and slowly and controllably increasing your depth the results are quite nice.  In my opinion, the results are nicer then using routers or shapers plus the added enjoyment of quiet, dust free work — took less then 5 minutes to create this 30″ bead.

Another step of the  “hybrid” work I’ll put into this blog is the process of tapering the bottoms of each leg.  Customarily this is done on the inside surfaces and with these 2 1/2″ square legs it was a process I felt was needed.  After double and triple checking to ensure the proper surfaces were laid out (yes, I have goofed this up!) the process began on the bandsaw.  Just have to remember that those tapers are on the inside of  each leg so the little voice in my head repeatedly says “cut on mortise side”!  After making one cut, the cut off piece is taped back on to support the leg while cutting the other taper.


In keeping with my “hybrid woodworking” methodology, after using the bandsaw to cut the initial taper a jack plane was used to refine that cut.  Thought I’d make a video of that for you.  It’s a bit hard to hear the audio but the process began by first smoothing out the transition at the top of the cut and ended by planing until all of the bandsaw marks were removed.  Although it’s mentioned in the video you may not hear it but my habit has always been to smooth plane every surface of the boards just prior to glue up.  Here’s the video:

Hand planed surfaces are a constant in my work.  To my eye, a surface created by a sharpened blade has a crispness not found on a sanded surface.  Once you get into it you recognize the different sounds and shavings each plane makes as it does its work.  Hard to see in the picture but wanted to share that. The left side shavings are from a Jack Plane while the right side is from the Smooth plane.  Might as well throw in the results of a block plane from chamfering the bottoms of each leg too.

Posted in Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Utility Sink, YouTubeVideo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Project: Utility Sink

If you’ve ever had a utility sink where you can wash out those things you didn’t want to use your kitchen sink for you’ll understand Diane’s desire for one where she can clean out her paint brushes after her daily studio sessions.  Her studio has an attached bathroom but granite, porcelain, and solvents are not a good combination!  I too have the habit of washing the brushes I use with soap and water after cleaning them with paint thinner and have been using the kitchen for that.  Enter that old saying: “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”.  After checking out our possibilities we decided the only place for a utility sink would be the laundry room, now that seems like a “no duh” moment but there isn’t enough space without some restructuring.

Let’s go through the design process for this project, this is before:

This is what I’ve started with.  Shortly before we moved from Las Vegas we purchased new washer/dryers which were pretty hi-tech to replace the ones we’ve had for over 20 years. Unfortunately those stayed with the house but come to think of it, if we’d taken them here we probably wouldn’t replace them with stackable units!  The ones in the house are okay but we were spoiled by the efficiency of the newer ones.  We’ve decided to buy a new set that can be stacked, they will be stacked on the left side.  I love sinks with a built in drain board so we found one that will just fit in the space to the right.  Timber Woodwork in Mesa had the 12/4 Alder needed for the legs of the new laundry stand so that’s where that stack of lumber came from —- great lumber and machinery place by the way!  Now for the inspiration and design of our new sink.  My cousin who lives in Holland posted the picture you see on the right, somewhat as a challenge, on Facebook.  It’s an antique school desk and I really like the finger jointed apron around it.  In the meantime, Diane had found this picture of a utility sink on Houz and sent it to me as a possibility.  That’s the picture in the middle.  On the right is my quick sketch and notes combining the two — now it’s time to produce!

Many considerations for this project.  First off the space is limited, electrical for the dryer needs to be re-located, and obviously the plumbing needs to be moved to service the sink.  To get as much working space as possible we decided to wall mount the faucet.  I can handle the electricity but I’ve found a plumber who’ll move the drain and supply as needed.  Currently the stand is under construction and I’ll share those details later.  Once that’s close to being completed the existing washer/dryer will be moved out and hopefully sold quickly on CraigsList.  I’ll need the room to demo the drywall and do the work required back there.  Once done all that’s left will be new drywall, paint, tile, etc. and we can schedule delivery — sounds easy enough right?  The washer/dryer have been ordered from Home Depot, luckily we bought them on the last day of their sale and they’re holding them for us.  Okay, time for me to get to the shop!

Posted in Artist Furniture, Home Remodel, Mortise and Tenon Joint, Utility Sink | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

More Handwork: Dovetail Box

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been a long time since I’ve done much in the way of hand woodworking and joinery.  Didn’t realize how much I’ve missed it and how relaxing it is to be in the shop doing it!  I heard someone say recently that the less electricity he uses while working the better he feels about it — something I can relate to.  Now that the box has been assembled it’s time to tackle the lid.  The tricky part will be angling it to fit into the box.  I’m decided to do it somewhat backwards by cutting the rabbets and angles first and then follow up with the planer to achieve the approximate thickness required.

After planing the piece to width the rabbets were cut with a #78, Stanley Rabbet plane.  I’d forgotten how rewarding it is to use this and thought maybe I should make a video for the blog, whoops; one of those senior moments — I’d already done it so here they are.  Pretty short so it won’t take up a lot of your time!  The technique is to make a pass or two drawing the plane backwards so that the knicker scores the wood.

Smooth Plane the top

Smooth Plane the top

I did use a chop saw to cut the lid to length since they needed to be angled at 15 degrees to drop down into the box.  The lid was too thick, it was brought down to almost size with my power planer followed by hand planing to fine tune the fit.  I’ve always heard the term “striking light” as one you should have to see the results of your smooth planing.  First time I’ve ever had it and now I see what it means!  The workbench is placed under west facing windows and it’s now apparent what still needs smoothing.  Hard to see in this picture but it’s the bottom and middle left that haven’t been surfaced yet.  If you look real close, that part of the wood is a bit darker — nothing like a hand planed surface!

I forgot to mention that after using the rabbet plane it was necessary to fine tune and smooth the rabbets out with a block plane (rabbet) to get a good fit.

Last step of the day was cutting a mortise for the lid handle.  I have a box of random box handles made over the years, I’ll make a foot or two of an interesting shape when I’m in the mood!  Found a nice piece of Australian Lacewood that has about the same coloration as the Mahogany so think it’ll work well.  Here’s a pictorial collage of the technique:

The day was finished off by gluing the handle into the mortise.  Making boxes is a great way to utilize left over wood and maintain my skills.  It’s also a lot of fun especially when you sell these things, I heard that wonderful “cha-ching” sound of an Etsy sale this morning and found that one person bought both of these boxes!

The sides were from a piece of Brazilian Satinwood while the box on the left has a Black Limba lid, the other box is Monkeypod wood.  It’s all about the wood!!

Posted in Etsy Store, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Slanted Dovetail Box, Tutorial, YouTubeVideo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Hand-cut Dovetails in Over a Year!

Hard to believe isn’t it?  It sure was for me when I calculated the time.  The last big dovetailed project was my Armoire, then Diane and I did our 6 month Scottsdale adventure where my focus was carving and gilding of picture frames.  Then came selling the Las Vegas house, moving to Phoenix, and then setting up the shop plus all of the other projects associated with re-locating.  All that being said, I decided it was time to see if my muscle memory was better than my brain memory!

I found a piece of big box lumber that the former owner of our house left, it was proudly labeled to be Premium Pine.  Then, I had some Mahogany so decided to make up a box of some kind or another.  If you’re familiar with my boxes, I enjoy playing around with dovetails and angles.  They seem to do pretty well on my Etsy store so it makes my passion and experimentation almost “self-funded”.

Assembled Box

Assembled Box

Since there are a number of ways to cut dovetails I’ll give a brief tutorial in my tails first approach.  The box design has the edges of the end pieces cut at 15 degrees.  The Mahogany is roughly 7/8″ thick and the Pine sides are 3″ wide and 1/2″ thick.  It’ll be easier to explain if I show this picture of it assembled first.  I always like the play of angles on this exposed joinery, part of the tail is a standard 1:6 angle but the other side is 110 degrees.  Once I figured out the angles the shoulder lines were scribed in and I was ready to go.  I’ve seen a couple of articles or references to “shouldered dovetail” in Fine Woodworking magazine.  This is nothing more than the old Stanley 140 trick that has been used by furniture makers forever!  Kind of annoying to me that someone is trying to say it’s their idea.  For background info, Stanley made a set of skewed rabbet block planes — the 140.  They were perfect for cutting a rabbet on the inner side of drawer pieces to hide any imperfections of the joint and also to aid the layout process.  Matter of fact, Lie-Nielsen makes a pair of skewed rabbet block planes for this very purpose.  At $225.00 a piece it’s a bit rich for my pocketbook but I’ve been using the tablesaw to perform this step for years, a shoulder plane or in my case, rabbet block plane will true up the shoulder.

Removing the Waste

Removing the Waste

Once the shoulders were true it was time to lay things out.  After scribing the shoulder line and cut the tail, the next step is to remove a small chip which minimizes the tendency of the bevel on the chisel moving that shoulder line back.  After the chip is removed it’s a matter of chopping that chip deeper from both sides.  In my experience this gives a better shoulder line then trying to remove the entire waste from the end of the tail.  Sometimes when you do that, the grain in the waste piece will tear the shoulder.  This is especially true when the dovetail is long and angled like this one is, I’m sure you notice the large chip that’s been removed here.

Next step is to transfer to the pin board.  Here’s where the shoulder created on the tablesaw is really handy as it will lock onto the pin board.  Marked with a knife then cut using the same method as cutting the tails, removing that chip shaped piece, the rest will take care of itself.

Things were progressing along nicely, my muscle memory seemed to be holding up fine and I was really trying to concentrate on the job at hand.  Well, if you can imagine the angles and trying to keep it all straight as to which is up or down, left or right, and then factor in my self imposed stress it was a prime time for an error!  Well, in keeping with the HillBillyDaiku blog written by Greg Merritt I too will confess my mistake!  On the last set of dovetails I somehow got the piece upside down so that one set of tails was on the top while the other was on the bottom.  Only fix was to shorten the sides by 1/2″ and recut both ends of the board — very carefully laid out, checked, and double checked!

Maybe since it’s been a while I managed to make one other mishap!  The first bottom for the box was undersized (simple math error on my part); not a big deal.  Just made a new one but when I was doing the glue up grabbed the wrong piece.  Learned that Old Brown Glue grabs pretty fast when the joint is tight but was able to separate the pieces by carefully prying apart with a screwdriver.  As I used to tell my students; sometimes the only difference between a good woodworker and a mediocre one is the good one has learned how to correct or hide mistakes!  One last picture to leave you with is the effect of a smooth plane on wood.  Whenever possible I avoid using sandpaper in favor of leaving a clean, crisp, hand-planed surface!

Smooth Plane Effect

Smooth Plane Effect

Posted in Etsy Store, Hand Cut Dovetails, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Check off Another Home Project!

 Units in Place

Units in Place

In my last post my comments were geared towards why I love this woodworking stuff and even though I’d much rather be doing finer aspects like carving or hand joinery, being able to do these things is rewarding as well.  Finished and installed the units for the bathroom vanity and pleased with how they came out.  Diane is even more pleased so you know that’s a good thing!  Sorry about the quality of the picture, not much light in there.  Diane has already found some small, divided trays so she can organize her earrings, make-up, etc.  The drawer fronts are made of common Alder and seem to match the existing vanity nicely.  Finish is EnduroVar from General Finishes.

Parts is Parts!

Parts is Parts!

The problems that needed to be solved was how to get as much use out od a very small area.  After taking the hinges and plumbing into consideration there is an area about 10″ square by 20″ tall.  The drawer boxes are made of 1/2″ Baltic Birch and the 1/4″ MDF bottom also functions as drawer slides.  Using mechanical slides would have really reduced the usable size of the drawers.  As I mentioned before, I thought I’d try making a large rabbet on both ends of the drawer fronts to hide the Baltic Birch sides.  You can see everything ready to go in this picture.

Assembly was another challenge.  Glue and #18 brads were the solution, the drawers were assembled in several stages.  After first joining a side and back the next step was to join a front and side.  Then, those 2 L-shaped pieces were joined.  Since handles of any kind would take up room, a hole was drilled in each front then radiused.

The sequence for final assemble was pretty straight forward.  It just happened that using a spacer of 1/2″ ply centered the drawer on the bottom.  Lines drawn on the bottom guided the brad gun and happy to report only had 3 brads blow out — my drawers of course!

The next project is going to be putting up a lumber rack in the small garage.  Finished the Monkeypod picture frame and waiting for the finish to cure before putting the print in it.  Really anxious to see if I remember how to cut dovetails and use my finer skills.  If nothing else I plan to create some boxes to replenish my Etsy store which has had a couple of sales lately — good thing too; that helps keep my woodworking passion “self-funded”!

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Why I Love Working Wood!

You can do the math but my earliest recollections of working with wood go all the way back to elementary school in the 50’s  when I made a tug boat out of a piece of balsa wood. Also remember my parents when we still lived in Holland doing some types of craft projects.  Even now, after all these years there’s something that fascinates me about wood. My experiences run the gamut from stacking and selling it in a lumber yard, building houses out of it, crafting fine furniture, and teaching kids about it for my life’s career and the saga continues to this day!  You may wonder what the focus may be of my blog today but I’m feeling quite blessed to have something that I can get myself engrossed in during these turbulent times we’re finding our country in.

By limiting the times spent on social media and watching news and making sawdust instead I’m maintaining some sense of sanity!  Yep, I’d love to be crafting some fine piece of furniture right now but that’s not always possible so let me tell you what’s happening here in our new, Phoenix home.  Well, Diane and I did do quite a bit of landscaping and are having 500 square feet of sod delivered Monday.  And there’s that load of rocks in the back of the truck that needs to be put into the walkway area but that’s another story.

There is a Monkeypod picture frame I’ve been commissioned to make.  It’s for a Hawaiian themed print and measures about 28″ x 37″.  When I met with the client for the first time I threw out Monkeypod when she mentioned what she needed the frame for.  She was surprised that I even knew what the wood was so that may have clinched the deal!  Woodworkers Source here in Phoenix had a limited supply but I was able to pick out a few pieces.  Forgotten how gnarly the grain can be but heres the profile I came up with.  It’s just under 3″ wide.  After planing it to a uniform thickness the rabbet was cut at the tablesaw and the beaded edge was routed.

At this point the miters have been cut, slotted for biscuits, and glued/clamped overnight.  It’ll be an oil finish with my hand sanded top coat, the Danish oil was applied this morning which means the frame will be completed by mid-week.

The other shop happening is making a couple of small, utilitarian storage units to go underneath the sinks of the bathroom vanity.  The vanity is higher than the standard 30″ and there are three, rather deep drawers in the center of it.  Not a good design for a bathroom in our opinion, especially for those small items Diane has.  We (mostly Diane, my design expert) decided that a storage unit behind one of the doors with small drawers would be the solution.  Of course, you know there is plumbing to contend with so that was an issue.

Cabinet with Rabbeted Drawer Front

Cabinet with Rabbeted Drawer Front

With a width of 10 3/4″ and a height of 20″ I hope to solve this problem with units made of 3/4″ Baltic Birch that is left over from the shop storage area.  Needless to say this won’t be one of those fine furniture projects I’m looking forward to!  Once again I’ll use dadoed sides which will have the drawer mounted to 1/4″ MDF that does double duty as the bottom of the drawer and the sliding mechanism.  To save room and not have a face frame I’m trying a new technique.  The drawer fronts have rabbeted edges that are wide enough to cover the plywood side and the drawer side piece.  Never seen this done before but like the title of the blog says; this is why I love working wood.  Your challenges are limitless.

It was pretty much an assembly line process to make the eight drawer fronts and I used the occasion to use my hand skills to smooth the rabbets, chamfer the edges (10 strokes with a block plane on each) and also plane the faces.  This will be finished with General Finishes EnduroVar when completed.  Sorry about these pictures, sun is great to see your smooth plane results but not so good for photos!

First time I’ve been able to use the rabbet block plane and my bronze smoother.  So there you have it; why I love this stuff.

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