Tuesday, October 15, 2019

American Trestle Table - Part X - Finished. With VIDEO

Hooray! It's done!
The finished table.
This might seem like a slow moving project. It is. My first post of the idea was from last Christmas vacation.

There were a few reasons this table took so long. The main one is I built it in Germany, when I live in Spain. We still own our place in Germany, and plan to go back there one day. In the meantime, we get back there every couple of months and I get a day or two to work on it. This time I had six or seven days to finish it.

The other reason it took longer than intended, is the wood for the base was changed from painted pine to American cherry. I love cherry, but it isn't quite as easy to work as pine. Also, I had to put a lot of brain power into matching wood grain for the laminations and stuff like that.

To start things off this time around I decided it was time to drawbore the leg assemblies together. After some testing, I decided to drive 13mm pegs into 1/2" holes. The measurments ensure that the peg is just a little oversize, and leaves a nice clean finish with no gaps.
Making  drawbore pegs with my Austrian dowel plate. Sorry, neighbors!
I was a bit worried using cherry for these pegs, as cherry isn't traditionally a good wood for this. For strength, one should use oak, ash, or something that rives well. I decided to use cherry for aesthetic reasons.
Surprisingly, all seven attempts survived the dowel plates. I sorted them and the best four are on the left.
This seemed to work out really well. Perhaps I was lucky. The slightly oversized pegs helped make good looking joints.
13mm peg in 1/2" hole.
This was the last of the joinery.

Pretty much.

The next job was the decorative job of adding chamfers to every edge that will be exposed. I used a block plane and a Stanley #2 for this job.They worked well. I then used scrapers to get to the corners not reachable by the planes. I paid extra attention to the   ends of the feet and upper supports so the corners look right.
Mock up after all the drawboring and chamfers.
Now it's time to think about how to hold the top onto the base. I chose buttons, and you can read all you ever wanted to know about buttons in the last post. What I didn't show was making the corresponding mortises in the base. Layout was important for this. I used a mortise gauge to mark one line 3/8" away from the edge, and another line about 7/16" above that. I then used a second marking gauge to mark the center point between the two lines.

My buttons are 1 1/4" wide, so I made my mortises about two inches long. I used a 3/8" brad point bit, and started the mortise by putting the brad point in the center line. Then it was just a matter of drilling out the waste, and cleaning up the sides with a chisel. I left the ends of the mortises round to save a bit of work.
Cleaning up the sides of the mortise.
Once I got the first two done, I used them to layout the rest.
This side done. I'll turn it over and do the other side.
Once the mortises were complete, I could finish everything with a coat of tung oil. I'll let the oil cure for a couple months, and when I next see the table at the client's house I will give it a coat of my special paste wax.
Base is done.

Here's a shot showing the buttons installed.
Now that the base is done there is not much to do to the top. It was one solid piece, after all. No need to laminate long boards together or anything like that. What a treat! Luckily Nils had the plank flattened by CNC before I bought it, so it was nearly ready.

The only thing I didn't like about it was there were some tension cracks in the middle where the figure was the strongest. I decided to mix up some epoxy with some brown tint to fill the cracks in.
Epoxy is dry. This seems to be an efficient way to remove most of the extra.
By the way, epoxy with brown tint has the exact same consistency of chocolate syrup. I swear it smells like it, too.
Here is that same spot after card scraping and a coat of tung oil.
After all the epoxy was flattened, I scraped the whole top. It didn't take long, and I'm impressed with how much more figure can be seen on a scraped top than when it had been sanded.
The finished table.
Overall I would have to say this was one of my favorite projects of all time. Mostly because of the single slab top, but I always wanted to make this style of table.

If I could do something over on this table, it would be to re-think the tusk wedges. They look great and were fun to make. The problem is one glaring flaw: if they ever come loose, the top will have to be removed in order to tap them home again. Perhaps I can make some wedges to mitigate this, but I would have to say that this style of trestle isn't ideal because of that.

It's not enough to ruin the table. Perhaps next time some wedges that tap in from the side would be more appropriate.

Lastly is this unusual video. I'm now back in Spain, and the client will pick up the table next weekend and drive it about 1 1/2 hours to it's new home. Just to make sure she would be confident in putting it together, I made a video explaining every possible thing I could think she would need to know in it's assembly. I added it to this post as I thought you might get a kick out of it.
Note: I'm not really cross-eyed. I used my phone to make the video, and it is hard not to look at the screen while filming. If I do more videos like this, I'll have to get used to looking at the spot where the camera is.

Note #2, I didn't really re-assemble this table after breaking it down. I taped everything in reverse order. I actually disassembled the table, and re-arranged the video clips to show it coming together. Only one screw has been in it's hole more than once. It was fun trying to think what I was going to say in the next segment so I didn't sound like an idiot saying everything twice.

Let me know if you like the video, perhaps I will do more in the future.

Here are links to all of the posts from this build:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX

Monday, October 14, 2019

American Trestle Table - Part IX - Solid Wood Buttons by Hand

Or: Practice Cutting Tenons While Making Buttons.

Modern technology has given us many ways to attach a table top to a base. Traditionally a table top is mounted to a table base using buttons, which allows for seasonal wood movement very elegantly.
A button that holds on a table top.
Making buttons with a table saw is easy, but you either have to use plywood for a strong button, or make a million extra cuts into the end grain in order to make the grain go front to back. You might be tempted to do a quick and dirty job with a piece of solid wood, but if the grain goes side-to-side, your buttons will break and your top won't be  mounted for long.

I suggest you go ahead and try it with hand tools. It isn't that much more difficult, and I think the extra time used doing it this way can be justified: making buttons this way practices skills you will need in cutting tenons by hand - one of the most difficult jobs to do with hand tools. I have decided that next time I make a table, I'll make the buttons before doing any of the mortise and tenon joinery as a refresher course.

What is a button? It's just a little block of wood with a tab. The block is screwed to the table top and the tab goes in an elongated mortise on the base.

They can be any size, but making them consistent means you don't have to fit each button to an individual mortise on the base. Mine are 3/4" thick and 1 1/2" long, with a 3/8" tab (3/8" notch) that is 1/2" long. The width can be anything from probably 3/4" on up. Mine are 1 1/4" wide, because that's how thick the board that I sawed them from was.
Sawing 3/4" button stock from a 5/4 board.
Make your stick as perfectly as you can. This is good practice. It's not the end of the world if your buttons are different thicknesses, but other parts of your table might need more precision. This is a perfect opportunity to practice thicknessing stock by hand.

Once your stock is ready, plane chamfers that will be on the outside of the button. Making these two chamfers now will make your buttons look more consistent than if you do them at the end. There are a total of five chamfers that I made on my buttons, and the two main ones were done at this stage.

There is only one thing on a button that needs to be relatively precise, and that is the distance from the table top to the underside of the button's tab (in my case, 3/8"). Accurate layout is key. set a marking gauge to 3/8", and register it from the bottom side of the button. Even if your buttons wind up being slightly different thickness, this measurement will ensure all the buttons hold your table top on nice and tight. Set this marking gauge aside and do not adjust it again until all of your buttons are completed.

The very first button has the cross cuts marked with a ruler and a marking knife. After that, use this first button to mark the others so they all are the same.
Accurate layout is the key.
Accurate saw cuts are now important. One trick to assist is to make a little trench in the waste with a chisel. A crosscut saw now will track in that trench making this cut a breeze.
Notice that my "trenches" go opposite ways. I'm only carving away the waste.
Only make the crosscut for the tab at this point. Leave the button attached to the rest of the stock. This will help in removing the waste for the tab.
A saw tracks in this notch very nicely.
Once the crosscut is made, just like a tenon, remove the waste.
Sawing the waste.

Alternatively, split the waste. Paul Sellers has a nice YouTube video on how to do this.
Once the tab is done, then you can cut the button to length. In reality, the button will work no matter how ugly this crosscut is. However, try to do your best work for practice. Making a crosscut perfectly square is difficult, and a good skill to have.
Cut to length.
If you choose, you can clean up the back of the button with a shooting board. Here also is where you finish the chamfers: three on the backside of the button. This will leave a rounded surface on every corner that could be touched once the button is installed.

Regardless, take time now to square up the crosscut on the remaining bit of the stick. The rest of our buttons will come from this stick, and a square tab end will aid in looking neat (but is not strictly necessary).

Now we have a button that only needs a hole for the screw. The hole should be a little larger than the screw threads, so a screw can be pushed through the hole freely. I used counter sunk screws, so I added a countersink for the screw head to sit flush, and a tiny countersink on the table top side just to clean up the surface and ensure a stray fiber doesn't get in the way of the button seating flush to the table top.
My hand-powered countersink.
All that needs to be done now is to repeat the process for as many buttons as you'll need. I made twelve for my table, which is overkill.
Do they really need to look exactly the same? No, but making them this way builds many skills that are needed for other things.
To mount the table top, I made mortises in the corresponding parts of the table, drilled pilot holes in the top (ensuring not to drill all the way through), and screwed them in.
I think that solid wood buttons add a little flair to a boring part of the project. No one will ever comment on them, but you know they are there and that they were done right. I think the biggest benefit to using them is the skills you will hone. Face it: no one likes to practice things like tenons in scrap. Here you can practice making a dozen tenons exactly the same, and use the offcuts for a practical part of your project.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Tree with Conections Quercus suber L

A Tree with Conections
Quercus suber L 

Since I was a young boy, I’ve always seen “sobreiros or chaparros” (portuguese name for cork oak trees) around. Being a Mediterranean kind of tree it can be seen all around the country - Portugal. It’s only when traveling south that you can see vast areas of woodlands where the cork tree is predominant. It’s called “Montado”.
Typical Montado landscape
I must ask you to forgive me, I’m being rude. Let me introduce myself.
Hello, my name is António. I’m from Portugal. As you may guess by now, Brian invited me to write a bit about cork trees. (I’ll send the money later Brian).

I’m lucky enough to live in a very tiny hamlet surrounded by woodlands. Some times it is quite scary because of how common forest fires are. During my morning walks with our crazy dog Luna, I like to talk to trees and take a few pictures. This summer I got lucky, some of the trees got undressed. It was the strip for the decade... (pause for reflection)

Nothing dirty I’m afraid. 
Just a couple of days after the stripping
You see, the cork oak tree bark was “harvested.” That only happens to trees that are over 25 years old, and only once a decade. How do they keep track? Quite simple, a bit of white paint.
Defying gravity with a big burl
No matter how many times I see it, it still amazes me. Taking a big chunk of the tree’s bark by hand with a special kind of hatchet (no pictures this time) and the tree’s fine with that for the next 150 to 200 years.
The little bush is a baby cork oak tree in the foreground
The APCOR (Portuguese Cork Association) data reports that 33% of the cork bark worldwide production is located in Portugal and growing every year. A great deal of industry is reliant on the obvious and humble cork, such as insulation for construction, electronics, shoe industries, fashion industries (wallets, purses), even umbrellas, which are made out of cork because of the natural waterproof properties and natural fire resistance. The areas of Montado are simbiotic to other plant species, wild animals and small live stock like black pigs, goats or sheep that provide lovely and smelly tree food…
The same tree before and after the stripping.
Last but not the least, the connection… Only when I began my woodworking journey did I discover that the cork tree is an oak cousin. It’s a thin one but they both belong to the Fagaceae family!
New tree alongside her mother
In case you want to dig in a bit deeper, there are a couple of links in english:

Until next time,
Cheers to you all!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Boarded Book Case

I recently got back from a trip to the US, and I have to write a catch-up blog or two. I made a couple of things there and I think I should blog about them.

This, however, isn't one of those blogs.

Right before I left, I was commissioned to build a boarded book case. I just finished it and I think it turned out very well.
Finished book case. I wish I could take better pictures of it. None of the pics I have seem to do it justice.
The client needed a bookshelf for his children's books. He gave me the measurements of his biggest books, and I came up with the design for this particular piece. I borrowed heavily from Christopher Schwarz's boarded book case in the Anarchist's Design Book.

I decided to make it about 80 cm wide and about 91 cm high (why not?).

I used some of my favorite plastic-wrapped laminated pine from the home center. I really like the stuff here because it is a good quality, and the laminations always are full-length. There are no end-to-end laminations in this stuff. Also, I can usually find boards that are mostly straight and have few knots.

Since it was intended to be used with kids, I borrowed one of my wife's pot lids from the kitchen to lay out a roundover on the top front edges. If I forget to mention it later, I cut it out with my Dick saw, clamped the pieces together, and cleaned everything up with a spokeshave and a rasp.

I started this project out by cutting the boards to length according to my cut list. Then I went to work on the dadoes.
I cut dadoes with my Dick saw, chop the waste out roughly with a chisel, then finish them with a router plane.
A while back I bought an old Record 071 rabbet plane from eBay. I've generally been happy with it, but there was a little crack in the very edge of the blade that prevented me from getting it as sharp as I'd like. While I was in the US I picked up a set of Veritas replacement blades. It turns out they fit perfectly by dropping them in. I was able to sharpen the regular wide flat blade with no trouble to a very sharp edge.
I would recommend this upgrade to Lee Valley blades if you can.
Once that was done, I drilled pilot holes and temporarily screwed the book case carcass together with some cheap screws.
The idea behind using screws here is to replace them with Roman nails after I paint, for an even paint job.
I made a slight design change here from what was in the book. Instead of making 1/2" rabbets for the back boards to be inset, I used the same 3/4" laminated pine boards for the back, nailed flush rather than inset. My thought was it would give me an extra 3/4" of depth on the shelves.

Plus, it was easier.

In theory.

It turns out that once I got to this point, I realized the boards I had for the back were about a half inch to an inch too short. If I nailed them flush with the top of the bookcase, there was a gap before the board got to the bottom shelf. Ooops!

To fix this I decided to glue and screw a backer to the cross-rail that I had already inset into the top of the case. It was about half the width of that cross rail, so the back boards now go from that extension all the way beyond the bottom shelf so it looks just fine.

As an added benefit, there is a lot less endgrain showing on the top of the case now. Only a little on the sides that has been painted.
Gluing my necessity-invented backer extender thingie.
I didn't bother ripping the back boards to width before I nailed them on with no glue. I centered them the best I could, then I ripped the extra off after it was nailed on.
I planed all the sticky-out parts flush with the carcass.
Since the back boards don't go all the way to the bottom, I decided that I would count this as a feature: it leaves a little space so the shelf can be pushed up against the wall without having to muck with the baseboards. To make it look right, I just trimmed a triangle shape on the bottom so it looks like a 45 degree cut from the side.
This leaves room for baseboards.
I left gluing the toe-kick for last. I actually forgot to account for this piece when buying wood, so I had to use a piece of scrap pine that I pulled out of a dumpster. The color on it was far different than the rest of the piece, so I painted it before gluing it on.
Gluing on the toe-kick. Once it was clamped up, I drilled pilot holes and nailed it from the side.
One thing I did before gluing on the toe-kick was to put two coats of a commercial chalk paint on the sides. I lightly sanded it with a maroon scrubby pad after each coat, to keep everything nice and smooth.

Once the paint was on, I could replace the screws with Roman nails. The large heads of these nails cover up any evidence of the screws.
Putting a nail in a screw-hole.
I don't always do the screw before nail trick. It does add a little time, and one also risks really messing up the paint job with an errant hammer blow. These dents can be fixed on bare wood a lot easier. That is, as long as they aren't too bad.

Luckily I only had one French mark on this case, and it wasn't too severe. If my client doesn't read this blog, he will never know.

All that was left at this point was to chamfer the sharp bits and add a coat or two of BLO.
I used a block plane for the chamfers.
It was easy enough that I didn't really have a problem on this round part.
Once everything was done, I applied BLO with a paint brush, let it sit a few minutes and then wiped it down with paper towels. I started on the inside and did the painted parts last.
The oil really put a nice finish on this chalk paint.
This chalk paint covered nicely in one coat with no need for a primer. I used two coats, however, just to make sure that I wouldn't rub through the paint during this stage.
I slathered oil on the nails and everything. I would only suggest not to rub the paint too hard as some of the paint does come up once it's been drenched in oil. After wiping the oil down, my towels had plenty of paint on them.
I put some paint on my carved detail, but didn't bother with painting the back.
After the oil is on, the shelf looks really good. I decided to have the client come over and take a look at it before I bother to wax this piece. Wax can go right over the BLO after a week or so when it is cured. It probably could go on it after a day.
I think it turned out well, and I am glad I spent the time to make every little joint the best that I could. This book shelf isn't perfect, by any means, but I was happy to sign my name on it. Hopefully the client will get many years of enjoyment from it.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Light Clamps for Cheapskates

Right now I am using some of my Golden Dumpster Wood to make a Jasmine Jewelry Box, designed by Gary Rogowski. The wood is 3/8" sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum) that I got out of a dumpster. It has some really stubborn paint on one side, so I decided to try to build the box while leaving the paint on. Kind of use it as a feature.

The jewelry box was obviously intended to be made using some machine tools, since it is suggested to use box joints. I don't have machines. In fact, I don't even have a proper bench! This should be fun.

I'll write more about the jewelry box in a follow-up post, as what you really came to this blog post was to learn about my clamps that I made.

Well, here they are:
Free clamps.
This looks like a hot mess, but it is doing it's job perfectly. If I had been smart and used dovetail joints instead of box joints, I would have only needed to clamp the box in one direction. Box joints have to be clamped in two directions to make sure all of the joints are tight.

I'll be honest about the reason I made these clamps: I would have bought some, but there were none in my area  that were long enough. I would have even ordered them online and waited a day or two for delivery, but clamps are expensive. I would have spent at least 80 Euros for some quality clamps new, and I didn't really want to wait for some to become available in Spain on eBay.

With none to buy locally, and spending eighty bucks and waiting a few days for them online, I looked to making my own.

I found two good videos on YouTube about making bar clamps: one by Izzy Swan, and one by Shannon Rogers. Rather than doing what I did, you are better off building clamps like theirs.

Shannon and Izzy's clamps both are adjustable and are much more heavy-duty than these. I took inspiration from those videos for mine, and I suppose if I want to use them again for something, I can drill more holes.

I need some light clamps for a quick and dirty glue up. Let's get started!
I pulled this oak out of the Golden Dumpster, too. It's a little over 1/2" thick oak skirting.
First I pulled some of my reclaimed skirting off my pile. A chunk about three feet long ought to do for the short side of my box. I do have one F clamp that will work for the other end of the short side. We'll figure out if this clamp can be made to work before  I make any more.

I needed a dowel for the clamps. I happened to have a couple of broom handles that I bought a while back that should be perfect. I thought they were about 7/8" in diameter, so I bought a 22 mm spade bit from the local Chinese Crap store for about 3.20 Euros.

I used my electric drill (I think it is my only power tool I have here in Spain) to drill holes with space between them a little longer than the length of the clamp I needed.

So far, so good.

Well, it turns out the broom handle was quite a bit bigger than the hole, so I used a gouge to whittle down the dowels to fit in the holes. It was a bit of effort, but I got them all to fit snugly.
Prototype #1.

All the dimensions are just right.
I didn't feel like whittling four more pegs down like that, so I went back to the Chinese Crap store, and they had a 25mm spade bit for 1.50 Euros. Perfect.

It turns out that the holes the 25 mm bit gave me were a bit oversize, but that didn't matter. Once the wedges are in, everything should hold nicely.
Blue Tape use #974, keeping dowels from dropping through.
I now have three "clamps" that should work just fine for gluing up box joints. The fourth side will be clamped with my F clamp. No need to do any more work than absolutely necessary.

The only thing missing is some wedges. I sawed eight wedges out of some scrap that I had laying around, and lined one face of each with packing tape so they won't stick to my jewelry box during glue up.
Wedges? We don't need no stinking wedges! Well, maybe we do.
Since the box joints all sit a little proud, my idea was to put a wedge on the long grain of each box joint with the hope that it would put pressure right where it was needed to close up the joints.
I did a dry, test clamp to make sure everything would work as I hoped..
Everything looks good, so all that's left is the real thing. I slathered hide glue on all of the box joints, snugged them up with hand pressure the best I could, dropped the bottom of the box in to keep everything square during glue up, and went to work with the wedges.

It all went pretty well. I wound up putting the wedges on opposite sides where I had two, and on the long ones I put the wedges on the inside.
Clamp in place with wedges.
With a little effort (and some cursing), everything tightened up as much as it needed to.

I think it would have worked better if I had made a flat on the dowel for the wedges, as every time I whacked a wedge with the hammer the whole clamp moved a little. Or, perhaps using two wedges together so it eliminates any lateral forces.

Tomorrow I'll take the box out of the wedges, and I'll see how I did. From what I can see now, all the joints are nice and tight.

I figure I've saved 75.30 Euros making these clamps. Perhaps they will come in handy again later.

Good luck if you try making clamps like this, I'd love to see them. (Believe it or not, #ghettoclamp had entries on Instagram on it before I posted!)