Sunday, 18 December 2011

If all You're Getting is Lemons, Make Lemonade

  This post is about what I do when things don't turn out the way I expected. I think to myself, "Way to go Ken, screwed that up eh, Mr. Chips ". Yes, this happens from time to time.

  I'll wager quite heavily that this happens to all who take rough boards and attempt to make them into something like this Chippendale Secretary (no I didn't build it)

Or this simple yet absolutely 100% functional stool.

  Always remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Both the stool and the secretary are successes as they fulfill their intended purpose. To make either one requires planning, tools, wood and a wood worker. Either one requires a wood worker who is willing to try and fail, learn from the mistake and try again.

  I ask you, how would one know if they succeeded if they have never failed. I am almost certain the person who built the secretary desk has made many mistakes and has learned from them. The simple stool may have been just as daunting a task to the person who built it as that secretary would be to me. (that stool is no cake walk either). I may never make enough mistakes in my lifetime to be confident in taking on a desk like that. But there is not a wood worker who would tell you that there is no use in trying. Take pride in what you are doing and you will have great results.

I'm climbing down from the soapbox now to get back to having some fun looking at my goof ups.
   One may curse and throw the mistake in the firewood pile wasting all that time they spent getting to this point. I have enough firewood piled up outside. I may still toss in a curse though.

   A foul up leads us to do something better than originally planned. Here I will show what so few of us ever put in a blog, our own mistakes. Too err is human, to really screw it up add tools.

 Lets start with the corner posts. I was lacking material thick enough to make the corners from one board so I laminated three thinner pieces together like this. This is the end view of my test piece. The corners weren't chamfered until later.

This lamination is a variation of a trick used by arts and crafts makers to have all sides of a square piece showing quarter sawn faces. Three sides of flat sawn face grain would do me just fine for this build. Some may poo poo my idea, saying, "That's preposterous", but hell I'm going for it baby. Probably the same thing was thought about the first person whom put raw meat on a stick and held it over the fire.

 Unfortunately the mitres on my corners did not come together so well. I wonder if that cave dweller had the same feeling as I when his stick burnt and the meat fell in the coals and ashes. Have a look at the edge below the mortise opening. Does it ever pay to be a pioneer?

A long time ago I would have used wood filler and got on with it. As I think about it I probably would not have tried that lamination at all. You feel able to try things outside of the norm as you become more confident in your ability to fix things.

  I figured out how I bungled this but lacking extra lumber I was forced to come up with a solution to this problem.  Was it luck that I kept the cutoffs, or cosmic intervention. Whatever... I cut chamfers on the gaping corners and applied these multifaceted strips made from the angled cut offs which came from making the corner posts parts in the first place. After much smoothing with scrapers and planes the faceted strips were ready.  

Here you can see the strips already applied to the corners. They make for nice shadow lines and add some visual interest from the way the light glances of the flats.

Looks alright. Scratch some beading on the inside of the corner where it meets the doors and voila. It's as if I planned it. I imagine the cave dweller pulling the meat from the ashes and telling everyone he just wanted the meat blackened cajun style.

  Another design upgrade (that's what I call screw ups now) was the glazing rabbets. While cutting the rabbets on the table saw I cut on the edge then flipped to the face but forgot I raised the blade. Anyway the stopped ends of the rabbet were cut past the corners. More firewood ? Let's try something, nothing to lose if it's junk, right.

So I ripped them right through and ran the glazing stop the full length of the horizontal rails. Holy crap, it looks better this way.

  I was feeling pretty smug about these until later in the project when I glued the faceted strips to the outside corners. Ya, that's right, now I can't get the blasted horizontal glazing strips in. Do I cut the strips in half and use some kind of something in between the halves? Awe shizzle. Let's just pry a strip off the one corner so I can sneak them in. And that is what I did. So be it.

  Wow , writing this is akin to the dream where you find yourself at work and you don't have any pants on and you pray no one notices. Ever had that one? All these confessions have me feeling liberated. Cleansing the soul of the wood worker.

  I am also happy that my wood stove was unable to get a taste of cherry this time. It does smell nice while burning though.

    Surely my next project will go off without a hitch. Actually if it did it would probably look like it came out of a flat box with an allen key to put it together with.

  Let us celebrate the mistake my fellow wood workers. May we boo boo with our heads held high. For it is one of the ways we come closer to wood working nirvana.

  Seriously now, there are many ways to learn how to work wood better. If you are new to wood working be sure you know how your tools work and to use them safely. If you have to use excessive force on anything you are doing it wrong.

   Planning is very important. A scale drawing will let you see if the proportions are right. If there is tricky joinery or bent lamination I use some full size drawings. This helps me find problems before hand. It's better to waste some pencil and eraser head than waste the wood.

   Have patience. Don't force the wood through the tools, it will yield to them.

  Thou shalt measure twice and cut once, tattoo that on the back of your hands.

   Don't be intimidated by the work shown in some magazines. I used to think them snobbish until I realized I just wasn't ready yet. Read how they do things and take what you can. Accept that some things may be a little ahead of your ability. Walk first instead of running right away. A stroll is less painful than a forced march and you will reach your goals anyway. For myself, I would like to spend a year at some place like Rose Wood Studio or College of the Redwoods and really crank up some hand tool skills. But it won't happen any time soon. Well maybe a weekend session at Rose Wood. Just have to keep reading, watching, practicing.

  Try and try again and if you still can't get it don't despair, seek out advice

  Yes, advice..... advice is always available. Others are always willing to tell you how. Why just the other day I was working at a job site and I overheard a carpenter yelling to his apprentice , "Keep whacking yer wood'll fit in there yet."

 Just be sure you clearly understand what you are being told.

thanks for looking

Cherry Curio Completed

  A little over a hundred hours of working time has passed from the time I pulled the boards from the drying barn. This is how the cabinet looks tonight. Just need to put some pulls on the doors and this one is complete and ready to be gifted for Christmas.
 I hope my friend will be happy with this piece for years to come.

The following pictures take you through some of the final stages on this beauty.

The shelf frames will hold a piece of plate glass. This should allow light to travel through the cabinet a little easier and give the inside a lighter look.

Frankenvise is earning his keep in this shop. If I ever make a new bench it will be minus the vise that Franky is attached to and Frank will be shorter in stature.

Glue up of the sides took some unusual clamping methods. Tie downs can be used for more than holding the bikes in the back of the truck. Only one side is actually glued on at this point. I failed to get pictures of the next part of the assembly as it was very involved putting in the bottom shelf and front aprons along with other side assembly. Every cabinet maker would benefit from having four arms. It'd be hell finding a shirt that fits though.

I clamped this shop made scratch stock in Frankenvise so I could put a rounded profile on the glazing strips. Much quieter than using a router and round over bit.  Just pull the wood across the cutter and you have the same thing with out the racket.

I also used the same scratch stock with a different cutter to cut beads on some edges of the cabinet parts. 
David Moore demonstrates how to use a nice one in this article at Fine Woodworking magazine.

The strips will fit in along the edges of these openings on the side to hold in the glass.

Shelves in place. Glazing installed in the sides. Time to assemble the doors.

These boards will become the doors. The panel for the top is underneath these.

Doors and glazing strips oiled ready for glass.

I think this will be a nice profile for the top panel

 Woodworking is still a hobby for me. A hundred hours, doesn't feel like work when your enjoying it. Now I can spend my spare time with my family as we enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

As always, thanks for looking.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Curio Cabinet Progressing

  Here are some more pictures from this recent commission as I soldier on towards completion. If I can get some time in the shop this week I may be able to complete this lovely cabinet. You can view more about this project at Cherry Curio Cabinet

Here is the bottom shelf panel after smoothing the surface with scraper cards. 
I prefer scraper cards over sandpaper.

  Scraper cards are small pieces of tool steel on which you burnish a burr on the edge. The card is held with your hands on both sides and you bend it in the middle with your thumbs to apply pressure along the edge against the woods surface. You then push the card away from you along the grain direction. The burr actually cuts the wood like a plane. No circular scratches left behind by sanding with orbital sanders. Also this keeps my shop from being blanketed in a fine layer of dust. The scrapers are also excellent for working on wild grain that shows up around knots in the wood.

Grooves called dadoes (sounds like day doh) are cut into the lower rails to accept the edges of the bottom shelf panel.

I make the panel slightly thicker than the width of the dado and chamfer the panel's back edge so the upper edge will fit snugly against the top edge of the dado.

 Shelf panel in place, nice fit if I do say so myself.

In order to fit all this together takes a lot of joinery work. Here you can see the mortise on the bottom edge of the corner post to accept the side rail (side rail is the end that I have the corner post perched upon) and a notch above that to accept the corner of the shelf panel which is fit into the side rail dado. The last mortise is for the rail that will run horizontally across the front of the cabinet.

Closer view of the same joinery work, I like joints.

In this photo you can see I have cut dadoes on the edges of the rear stiles and rails to accept solid cherry panels to fill in the open areas of the back of the cabinet.

 The panels will slip into the grooves like so. Beauty eh!

I use a high auxiliary fence that fits over the table saw fence. This allows me to safely raise the panels. The blade is set at an 8 degree angle for this project. The angle used can be somewhere from 15 degrees to 7.5 degrees.

Called raised panels because they look as if the central area of the panel has risen up out of the flat panel. I raised the panels on both faces so even the backside of the cabinet will look good even if it's only the wall that will see it.

Here is the rear of the cabinet after glue up. I also brought out the oil varnish and pre finished the panels and rails and stiles before assembly.

This afternoon I set up what I have built so far to see if it looks as I had hoped it would. I am happy with what I see.

Sunlight on oiled cherry. Warm and cuddly isn't it.

  Well I still have lots left to do. Maybe there will be some glass on the sides and shelves by the end of the week with a nice wood panel on top too. The doors will come last so they can bring this cabinet to a close.

  I am enjoying this build immensely. Right from the design at the beginning, making adjustments as I go, working out the joinery, considering direction of the grain and color of the wood, allowing for wood movement as real wood furniture lives and breathes. I can't wait to see my friend's reaction when it is finished.

As always, thanks for looking.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cherry Curio Cabinet

   Hi everyone, I've been working some cherry wood to make a nice two door curio cabinet. I lost a day during the week due to the freezing rain that came through in the early hours of Tuesday. I operate a combination salter plow unit on Hwy 401 during the winter months. I had to get a little shut eye after a bleary eyed night of salting roads. Power tools and sleep deprivation lead to lose of digits.

Here are some pics of from this week.

Start with ripping up some rough lumber to make the corner posts. Luckily all the wood for this project came from the same tree from Jeff Waite.

Jointed edges and planed to thickness

Cut 45 degree angles on the edges

Glue them up like this and you have the corner posts.

Mark out the mortise holes that will accept the tenons from the horizontal rails.

Cut the holes with a square chiseled mortising bit.

The holes the mortising chisel creates look like these.

I take time to ensure that I can get all the horizontal members that you see on any given side of the cabinet from the same board so the color and wood grain work together. I also do the same for vertical parts. You won't get that kind of attention with factory built furniture.

Trying to match some grain for the door rails (top and bottom) to give some visual interest to the doors.

Lots of rails with the tenons ready to be fitted. I use machines to rough out the tenons then fit the tenons to the mortises using hand tools.

It's finicky work but makes for good strong joints.

Here is an end assembly coming together.


Things are fitting together nicely, still lots left to do.

  Hopefully next week I will post again and have some of the detailing to show you.
Until then I'll be in the shop.

Thanks, Ken