Monday, January 4, 2016

Shaker Side Table - Finished

I finally got this one done.
This was supposed to be an anniversary gift to my wife in 2013.
I don't know what the struggle was, as I said this table was a fun hand tool build. I think it is only that it got interrupted for one reason or another, and when it was time to get back in the shop, there were other things ahead of this in line.

I have a couple projects I am itching to get started, but I made myself focus on this.  I am glad I did, because this little table is really nice.

I left off needing to construct the drawer.  Appropriate stock I had on hand that was 1/2" thick or less was oak, and this nice scots pine (Pinus sylvestrus).  Oak really would look funny with this drawer. Pine should be plenty stout for this.
Lucky me, this was wide enough to make the drawer bottom with only one glue line.
This pine was wide, clear, and perfectly quartersawn, which means it should be fairly stable.

For some reason, I goofed up and cut the sides of my drawer 1/2" too short. As a result, this drawer is 1/2" shorter than it ought to be. I can live with that, rather than start over with less appropriate wood.
I need to learn to clean up after myself in the middle of a project.
The last drawer I built, I used slips.  That was fun, so I thought I would do it again. Besides, this pine was closer to 3/8" than it was 1/2", so grooving slots in it might compromise it's strength.

For some extra overkill, I decided to use ash (Fraxinus excelsior) for the slips. I thought the ash would match the color of the pine inside the drawer, and not detract from the look of the inside of the drawer.

Being lazy, I plowed the groove for my slip stock after having nailed it directly to my bench top. I didn't really have another good option for work holding here without building something else.
I grooved the whole stick, then cut it in two pieces, one for each side of the drawer.
Now it's time for dovetails.
Slips and drawers. Woodworking or Victoria's Secret?
I have made very good dovetails in the past.  These, and the ones on the last drawer I made aren't quite there. I suppose I have to practice this some more.

I also might have to get a better light.
I used fish glue to glue the slips to the drawer sides.
Now that the drawer is done, this thing is looking like a finished project!
I used boiled linseed oil as a finished, and no finish at all for the inside of the drawer. I only burnished the wood with a polissoir.
The bottom actually is a stop that keeps the drawer even with the face. It sticks out so far because I made the drawer too short.
Here is a good shot of the inside of the drawer. The polissoir makes everything nice and smooth.
Nice and clean with no knots.
After a week or so putting on a few more coats of BLO, I will apply some paste wax and set it up with flowers on top, and all manner of crap in the drawer.

I like the top on this one. I found a board that was wide enough that I could glue it up with two boards looking pretty equal.
For now, it's empty.
I really like how the drawer is designed to stay up even when it's pulled out as far as it will go.
Just don't look too close at the dovetails.
The knob for the front I bought from Lee Valley. 
Artistic photography.
Hopefully the color will even out a bit over time. I decided against sanding the bits down that have darkened up over time with age. This would have made the color lighter, but also ruined the hand planed finish. I think the only sandpaper I used was some 400 grit on the knob.
The knob really gives this piece some character.
Here's my AAR:
  • It's probably better to finish the piece right away rather than move it from one part of the shop to the other for years on end. However, finishing it nearly three years late is better than not finishing it at all.
  • Cherry darkens over time, even in a shop with no natural light.
  • Taking time to lay out the parts on a board with grain flow and pattern in mind is well worth it, even at the expense of way more waste than otherwise.
  • Using a handsaw to cut the legs out so the grain is at a 45 degree angle is also well worth the effort. These legs have even, similar grain on all four faces of each leg. Had I not done this, the legs would not have turned out so graceful.
  • Tapering legs with a jack plane is a fun and easy hobby you can do at home!
  • More of these tables will need to be made to explore new and different things that can be done with the form.
  • Christopher Schwarz gets an A+ for his DVD which I used to build this table. I think that an absolute beginner could use this DVD to get good results, assuming he had the proper tools.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Back to an Abandoned Project

I started this project back in April of 2013. I have no idea why, but for some reason I got stalled on this project and moved on. Since that time, this poor table has looked like this:
State of this project for nearly three years.
It's not like I forgot about it, my shop is so small I have to move this thing every single time I walk in the shop.

It's just that there always seems to be something more important to work on.

Now that I am in between projects, I vowed I am going to finish this freaking thing before I start anything else. Man, do I want to start something else!

Don't get me wrong, this is a fun project, and I have yet to run into any problems with it that I am unsure of what to do next. Also, we really need this piece in our house. It is a really nice design!

I guess the only way to jump back in the saddle is just to buck up and do it. First up, I'll finish the panel I glued up for the top. I can't believe it is still straight!
A perfect use for my panel gauge.
After marking it to size, I planed it to width and crosscut it to length. Now it is time to smooth the top.

I have been playing a lot lately with my #4 bench plane. It is a Sargent #409, and is nothing special. However, I feel like I have finally dialed in what I should be doing with the chipbreaker to get the best results.
Smoothing with my Sargent bench plane.
I am really coming around to this plane. In fact, I recently fell of the eBay wagon and went crazy. More on this in a future post.

I really like that it's versatility. This board had last been scrubbed with some kind of jack plane to thickness. The surface was pretty rough. I started with a fairly deep cut using the smoother to take out the humps and the worst of the tear out.
Using a heavy cut, tear out like this didn't last long.
Once I started getting close to a uniformly smooth surface, I sharpened the blade, set the chipbreaker close (but not too close), and started on the most wispy shavings you can imagine. In no time the surface was glass-smooth.
I wish you could see the sheen on this just from the plane.
I eyeballed a chamfer around the edges after bevelling the bottom to make a nice, even 9/16" edge from the top of the board. This bevel gives the top a more delicate look, rather than the original 3/4" thickness.
The chamfer I did with the #4, except I used my block plane on the short edge.
I couldn't remember how Christopher Schwarz screwed down the top. The runners were in the way. My solution was to use a screwdriver bit in my socket wrench.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Now that it is all together, I realized the edges of the rest of the table needed to be softened. My normal way is to use a small chamfer. This would have been easier if I had done it before the glue up.

I used my block plane and some careful work with the chisel for these chamfers. They are small enough where it is difficult to see them, but they sure can be felt.
Funny shavings making chamfers here.
A little work on the drawer front, and it is beginning to look complete.
All that is left is to complete the drawer and apply finish. 
One problem with the timeline on this project is the cherry has oxidized and darkened considerably over time. The new parts do not match.
You can really see which parts are newly planed.
I am hoping a couple of days in our sun room will even up the color. I would really rather not have to stain this piece.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Constructing the Satan Santa Pope Chair - Part VII - AAR and a Poll

This chair was a lot of fun, and in many ways surpasses any of my previous Roorkies. One big success was the cigar shaped octagonal stretchers. Those really weren't so hard. I'll definitely be using those again.

One of the unnecessary challenges was using a drawknife on this dry lumber. One leg was nearly ruined because I took too heavy of a cut, and the resulting split dove deep into the surface. I felt I was really at the mercy of the grain here. I want to try this again, but next time instead of carving the legs with a knife, I will use a technique like the one Roy Underhill uses when making his bench hooks. I will make several relief cuts with a saw and chop out the bulk with a chisel. Then I can smooth it out with a spokeshave.

I also might go with the more angular look if I use this charred finish again.

I did really like using the knurled knobs for the back of the arm straps. I probably will do that again. I just ordered the same ones that Christopher Schwarz wrote about. It only took a few minutes to polish them on sharpening stones, and I think it might be fun to punch some initials in these. Also, I think it might make sense to install two threaded inserts closer together, permitting the use of fewer holes (or farther apart).
I like this.
I think the charred finish was an unmitigated success. I look forward to trying this with other woods. Although I used a paste wax for this, it might be fun to experiment with some other finishes, too. I am pretty sure BLO or shellack would both work equally well, depending on what the goal was. More on this later.
I like how the texture of the endgrain looks.
I really enjoy playing around with different aspects of this chair. In total, I have done four, and I feel I did something unconventional and new on all of them.

The first one I did was this black one. I have this set up at home and use it to watch TV often. It seems to be holding up well.

I used pear wood for this one, which I have never heard of anyone else doing. Having not built one before, I followed Christopher Schwarz' instructions closely. With the exception of planing down the legs a bit farther than he suggests. This chairs legs a a slender 1 5/8" square, as opposed to CS' recommended 1 7/8". The result is a bit of a more slender look. It seems to be holding up so far.
Pear and black leather.
The second chair was one I built with my dad when I travelled home to visit a while back. He builds walking canes and the like with diamond willow, which he collects from the wild himself. I had an idea that this would make a really cool rustic look. I was surprised how refined the leather made it look. Dad is really proud of this chair.
Diamond willow chair.
The next chair I made was a gift for my sister Janet. I bought a hair-on cowhide for this build, and repurposed some wenge I had laying around from an abandoned project. Honestly, I expected this chair to turn out with a kind of Western cowboy look. I didn't expect it to look so swank.

Janet was thrilled.
Coffee and Cream.
Of course if you are still here you should know about the story with this one. It was a gift for my sister Linda. She loves it and says this is her favorite color of red. She claims she has some decorations in her house this exact color, so it should fit in.

If it does, it was purely by accident.

My opinion is this is a very striking chair that will dominate a room. Once again, I think it looks swank.
Red and black SSP chair.
Now that you see them, I would really like some feedback on these chairs. I am happy with them all and am confident and secure in my thoughts of how they look. Even so, I think it would be fun to see what you all think of  what I have done so far. Go ahead and answer the poll of which one is your favorite and which one comes fourth on your list of my chairs. I also would love to read any comments regarding your choices, too.

Which chair is your favorite? free polls

Which chair is your least favorite? free polls
Until my next chair...

Finished Chair
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Constructing the Satan Santa Pope Chair - Part VI - Leather

See the first in this series HERE.

Overnight I started thinking about my torched finish, and there are a couple things I forgot to mention. First, burning the wood is hard on sharp corners. A sharp arris will catch on fire a lot easier than the surrounding wood. This will create a bit of a roundover, but it is difficult to control. I planed a tiny chamfer on all of my 90 degree corners to assist with this problem. A related issue is the inside corners, as in a rebate or a molding do not darken as quickly as the surrounding wood. If the flame is left too long on those parts, the surrounding wood will char too much. I found brushing the wood pushes ashes out of the pores, and this can be used to brush the ashes into those corners to soften the look of a white stripe right there.

I also wanted to mention that brushing the wood does a couple of things. This wood is ash, which is ring pourous like oak. The early wood is made up of fat hollow tubes which you can see on the wood. Many finishes require you to use a wood filler to fill in these pores to get an even finish.  What torching this wood does is burn away these porous parts a lot faster than the more dense latewood parts. Brushing the wood pulls all of the ashes of the early wood parts out, highlighting the grain's texture. It's a really neat effect.

Last, the fine horsehair brush that I used really polishes up the bare wood. This means that imperfections in the surface that were there before charring will still be there after. I had some small sections of tear out that I figured would even out after burning, but nope, they can still be seen.

Time to get some leather on this puppy. Here's what I now have to work with. My leather template can be seen on the floor.
The first thing I did was make the 3/4" belts that go side to side and are screwed to the legs. For these to work right, pilot holes need to be drilled.
It's weird to drill a hole in black wood and have white shavings come out.
This red leather actually dictated to me everything else about this chair. I ordered it online because it was a really good deal. I figured the photo I saw didn't quite get the color right, and I expected it to be a little more burgundy-ish when it arrived in the mail.
It took some real thought to get the most out of this leather.
NOPE! That was the real color. I have named it, "Holy Shit! Red."
Besides it being very bright in color, it was a pretty small side of leather. There was barely enough to get the parts I needed. Let's just say the main parts now have very long belt straps. Luckily it works.

The good news was this leather was vegetable tanned and took to coloring really well. The color on this side doesn't go all the way through, so some treatment was needed for those parts. Because of time constraints, I only dyed the parts that are visible from the front.
In fact, the leather color/finish I bought matched perfectly, allowing me to blend the edges in perfectly. These parts look like they were cut at the factory.

Linda, if you would like to put some of this paint on the edges of the belts on the underside and the back, I would think you can buy this exact stuff from the saddle shop that Dad and I went to. Or, you can buy it online from Tandy Leather.

I screwed the arm straps on to the front like a Klindt Safari chair, and doubled up the leather arms with some thick 10 ounce veg-tan leather for extra stout arms.
Here my clamping set up is shown. I used Tandy's leather glue, which I think is just regular white PVA glue like Elmer's.
Since the leather was so thick on these arms, I laminated them together in place so the bend would have no wrinkles.
I ordered some of these brass thumb screws from McMaster-Carr along with matching threaded inserts.
I thought the circle pattern on the heads was a bit unsightly, so I polished them smooth on my sharpening stones. Over time these should darken up. The big benefit with these fasteners is over time if the arms start to sag, they can be tightened up.
Done! Next up are lessons learned and comparing this to my previous Roorkies.

Finished Chair
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VII

Friday, December 25, 2015

Constructing the Satan Santa Pope Chair - Part V - FIRE! With VIDEO

See the first in this series HERE.

Not much to be said, so watch:

I made the medium brush from a three dollar broom and some zip ties.
Make sure to stay safe with a fire extinguisher, just in case.
The fine horsehair burnishing brush came from the Japan Woodworker. It was expensive, but resulted in a real nice finishing touch.

The wax I used was a combination of beeswax and orange oil. However, I think any finish would probably work. Next time I want to try using boiled linseed oil first.

Now it's coming together.  Next up, leather.

Finished Chair
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part VI
Part VII

Constructing the Satan Santa Pope Chair - Part IV - Stretchers

See the first in this series HERE.

In my opinion the most important part in this chair is ensuring the grain runs from one end of each stretcher to the other as straight as possible. Ripping the stretchers out with a handsaw (or a bandsaw) makes this easy, as long as the lumber is straight.

My problem was the lumber I had wasn't quite wide enough to rip enough square pieces at 1 1/4", and then taper them down to one inch on the ends for the nice tapered cigar shape. However, I could get one inch on the ends that spread out to 1 1/4" in the middle. Perfect! Half done already.

After that, it was short work with a jack plane to taper the other ends of the sticks. All four are 1 1/4 inch in the center, and one inch at the ends.
A funny shape that really isn't necessary, but cool nonetheless.
Next it is just a matter of making squares into octagons. I found some joiner's saddles that I forgot I made years ago, and they worked perfectly to cradel the sharp corner up so it could easily be planed off.

I hogged off most of the wood with a wooden jack, then finished the cut with my smooth plane.
This photo also shows Olav's trick octagon marking tool.
Each corner required planing up one side and another swipe down the far side. I wanted to maintain the hump in the middle.
Here's a closer look at the setup. Ignore the circle on the joiner's saddle. I must have used it as a backing board at some point.
The trick with making even octagons is to mark it out with Olav's magic tool, but not get too precise with planing to the line. Once you get close, finish it off by eye.
In short order they were done.
Now for the tapered tenons. This is easy with a tapered tenon cutter like the Veritas model. It would be a little easier to rough out the shape on the lathe, and then use it to finish. I am not using a lathe, so using this from the start is the only way. It is easy to get off line, leaving a tenon that points the wrong way, so some care must be taken to keep it centered.
Big pencil sharpener.
This was actually much easier than shaping the legs.
Now for my prefered method of tapering the mortices: with a brace.
I have found this is just as good as a drill press, perhaps even better.
I think that using a drill press for this prevents making adjustments that are needed to ensure a perfect mortice. As long as you keep your chin on the brace, you will be mostly straight.
Once I get close to the bottom, I set up a square and check to make sure everything is perfect. If it is not (it rarely is), small adjustments correct the problem. Stop when you get to the bottom of the mortice, unless it isn't straight. Another turn might be all it takes to fix it.
Dead-nuts perfect. Just make sure it is clamped square to the bench top.
Now I can finish shaping the legs. I mark centers at all of the tops.
This tool isn't strictly necessary, but I find myself using it all the time.
Once this is done, I can use a compass to define the roundovers.
X marks the spot.
I roughly cut the 45 (or so) degree angle by eye,
Just don't cut past the line!
and use a rasp to bring the rest down to the line.

Easy peasy.
You guys are going to love the next part. It involves a blow torch.
Finished Chair
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part V
Part VI
Part VII