Friday, January 29, 2016

Kitchen Cupboard is Finished, Now Back to Plane Making

It's been just a bit over a week since Julie and I discussed what we needed to make our kitchen storage more efficient and in that time I've designed and made the cupboard we decided would accomplish this task.

As it turns out this cupboard and my wife are exactly the height, about 63" tall.

The step back portion of the piece is a cupboard for glasses. It's near the refrigerator and that should be quite convenient.

The interior has been made a very contrasting colonial yellow color. Not only is this eye catching when you open the cupboard it also has the functional effect of illuminating the interior of the cupboard.

This is another piece in my exercise of designing pieces that can be made with simple construction methods, including the use of decorative nails as some of the primary fasteners. Note the corners of this piece are broken with the stopped chamfers that are a detail on all of the pieces in this exercise.

As typical I used Shaker knobs for the movable parts of the piece.

We have a television console that is made using similar construction methods and has a very similar finish. The finishing schedule is actually quite simple. I start by applying two coats of a solid exterior stain. In this case the color is Cape Cod red. I prefer solid exterior stain to milk paint. It's easier to work and stays in solution better than milk paint. When dry the end result is quite similar. I then sand and rub the red finish down with a maroon Scotchbrite pad. At this point you can do as much distressing as you like or none. I then actually stained the red color stain with a dark walnut wiping stain. This causes more of a color shift than you can imagine. This is subsequently sealed with a couple coats of flat or satin lacquer. One good coat of lacquer is actually enough. A heavy build top coat is not good for the overall look of this type piece.

On the television console I used black Acorn brand H hinges. They are flat black and so are the screws. I found some H hinges on Ebay and assumed they were just a smaller size of the Acorn hinges, and the price was reasonable.

There's an old adage that says, "you get what you pay for" and that held true for these hinges. They were not the Acorn brand hinges and were painted a terrible gloss black color as were the screws.

In order to use these hinges some changes had to be made. As you can see in the picture above I sanded a good bit of the paint off the hinges. Then I filed the edges and corners and distressed the surface just a bit using a punch and a hammer.  Julie chucked the screws in a drill chuck and sanded the paint off the heads while they were spinning.

I then placed the hinges and the screws in a gun bluing solution and the end result as you can see above is much better than the example of the gloss black hinge also show for comparison. When all was said and done I actually liked the modified hinges better than the Acorn hinges.

I'm finding furniture pieces more difficult to photograph as compared to planes. It also seems some colors are harder to shoot with actual color rendition. This red is one of those colors. Therefore I make apologies for the photo quality of the assembled piece.

We have a few other storage projects in mind but those will have to wait until I've completed some planes.


Fear Elmo Vader!
Kids can be hilarious without even trying

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Which Surfaces are Important? A New Kitchen Cupboard

I spend a great amount of time making sure that all the surfaces of my planes are quite refined. These surfaces come under great scrutiny and so justify the time spent. No so with furniture making.

When you commence the building of a piece or furniture or cabinetry you should evaluate it’s style and use when determining how much work any given surface requires.

Even on higher styled pieces of furniture there are surfaces that quite frankly just don’t need to be refined to a very high degree. As we look at cabinetry that is used in a more work a day situation it becomes even less important.

How many times have you spent an extraordinary amount of time refining a surface only later to apply a finish that raised the grain of that surface which required sanding to level the raised grain only to realized that this same work would have been required no matter how much you worked the surface prior to applying that finish? In other words you did an unnecessary amount of work.

In an 18th or 19th century joinery shop any workman observed spending time refining non show surfaces would have been warned and then most likely have been dismissed if he persisted in this action.

I guess there may have been situations or designs that required refinement of interior surfaces but in most cases those surfaces would have been left as they were from the jack plane.

A display cupboard with glass in the doors, or an open hutch section would have been an exception, however any surface that faced to the wall would have been left un-refined. As an example, the walnut clock I recently completed had back boards that were finished only on the side facing the interior of the cupboard. The backs of those boards were left with the finish right off the re-sawing blade from the bandsaw. In many cases in history even the interior surface may have been left rough as well. I felt I was justified refining the interior surfaces considering a person would in fact see that surface approximately every 14 days when the clock needed to be re-wound and set. However those would not have been considered show surfaces in earlier centuries and that labor would have been saved for the decoration of the exterior of the piece.

It seems I read about a cabinet maker that made the statement " I always thought if I ever had the chance to put my hands on a piece made in the Goddard and Townsend shop that I would never wash my hands again, once I had this experience I was so dismayed with the roughness of the interior of the piece I decided to wash my hands of the entire experience." That may not be the word for word quote but you get the idea of what I'm trying to express. Even the highest styled furniture of the day did not have highly processed secondary surfaces.

When I saw the picture above I had to wonder if this drawing began as a piece of art work and maybe the pressing need to complete the piece caused it to be included as a back board or if this bit of artwork was applied after the fact. I thought this was quite the curiosity.

Today I started a storage cupboard for our kitchen. We’ve used a hanging corner cabinet in our kitchen in the space where this new piece will reside. The corner cabinet stays tucked in the corner and doesn’t interfere with traffic flow in the kitchen, however corner cabinets are not the most efficient storage devices. Frankly there were some common kitchen devices we would have enjoyed using in our kitchen but we refrained from acquiring them because we just had no where to store them.

My first inclination was to build a free standing corner cupboard that would afford more storage in the space wasted underneath the wall hung unit presently presiding.

After giving this idea more thought I concluded that a shallow rectangular shaped cupboard would most likely provide more efficient storage.

As Julie and I developed this idea thru comments and conversation we decided on a simple piece that would receive a Cape Cod red exterior and a colonial yellow interior.

I spent one weekend afternoon gluing up some pine panels for this piece and as I began flattening and refining the glued up panels it caused me to think about what surfaces should be well refined as show surfaces and which are the surfaces that are only relative to joinery or to creating an environment for a box of cereal or small kitchen appliance. Excessive work on these surfaces would certainly be a waste and I should probably save that effort for work on show surfaces and pieces made from my best hardwoods.

There were 2 high spots across the width of this panel

As I mentioned this will be a painted piece so I glued up the side panels from some already surfaced pine. The next day as I began to work these surfaces I didn't just randomly start cross traversing the surface. I checked the surface with a straight edge to determine where work was needed. In the picture above I planed across the width of the panel because there was actually 2 high spots present across the width of the board. When these were mostly removed I planed down the length of those areas and then in order to promote adhesion of the paint I sanded the panel with 150 grit sand paper. This is the inside surface of the side so I was done. The interior surface needed no further refinement.

This side showed a high area along the glue line

The outside of the panel only showed a ridge right along the glue line. I leveled the ridge by planing across the ridge with a smoothing plane. A couple passes down the ridge area with the grain, some sanding with 150 grit and once again the surface prep to this side was completed.

The surface of this panel showed only slight misalignment along the glue joint

This surface only showed a slight misalignment at the glue line so an even smaller plane leveled this area very quickly. More sanding with 150 grit and these pieces were ready to be sized and the back edge rabbeted for back boards.

My point in all this explanation is when working with pre-surfaced material you only need to remove the problem areas after glue up. Not every panel has to be cross traversed with a jack, planed with a jointer and then worked with a smoothing plane. If there is a problem area on the board, remedy that and move on. 

On another note. When myself and other plane makers demonstrate planes at woodworking events we typically set smoothing planes to take a very light see thru shaving. This is to show how high a standard the plane is made. You would really only use the plane set in that way for the most figured woods. In most cases you should set the plane to take a comfortable shaving but thick enough to expedite the completion of the work at hand.

If you think I'm suggesting that you use your planes out of context, or do less than your best work, that's really not the case at all. Remember that in this case we are working with previously surfaced stock. No need to repeat work already done.

The next day the sides were joined to the interior panels and a face frame was made and glued to the other parts that make up the case. This piece is progressing rapidly.

Here you can see the shape of the foot. I've reinforced the join at the very bottom of the foot with a glue block on the inside surface. This area is vulnerable to damage so the extra work here is justified. You may also notice that the cross members are fastened to the dividing panels with cut nails. Not only do cut nails give a certain look to the piece they are highly functional fasteners.

More as I progress to the details of the exterior and the moving parts of the cupboard.


I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

                                                                                    Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 15, 2016

My Forp I Bench

At the first French Oak Roubo Project I was a participant but initially I decided not to build a bench. I really did not have a lot of room in my schedule and I knew I would not be able to spend an entire week out of the shop. I also didn't think I had enough room for a second bench, especially not a massive French Oak bench.

As the week went on and I was able to spend more and more time at the Wyatt Childs shop I changed my mind. I began to gather materials to build my own FORP 1 bench. I based my design on the 7 foot long bench configuration.

During the year following this event myself, and the other participants would get emails with pictures of completed FORP 1 benches while mine languished unfinished. I actually had completed about 90 percent of the work but my schedule just wouldn't allow me enough time to get the bench finished and usable.

As FORP 2 week approached I was dismayed that my bench sat unfinished and another batch of FORP benches were about to be built. Fortunately Jameel Abraham came in a fews day early for FORP 2 and we were able to spend a couple days together in my shop. When Jameel asked for something to do I was more than happy to suggest that he put the finishing touches on my bench. Literally all it lacked was completing the planing stop, leveling all the joints, and making the legs even. A good half a day in shop and he had put my bench right.

Because I procrastinated about building my bench, no wooden screw or tapped leg was ordered for my bench so I opted to make my own and designed it to be similar to the BenchCrafted Classic leg vise.

I really didn't want to go into FORP 2 week with my FORP 1 bench still incomplete. Thanks to Jameel I didn't have to face the embarrassment of terrible procrastination.

That reminds me. At the first Woodworking in America event in Berea Kentucky I was involved in a conversation with Gary Blum and Mike Dunbar. I will always remember Mike Dunbar telling us that "procrastinator" was just another word for woodworker. He went on to say that woodworkers were the worst procrastinators ever. He was convinced that many woodworkers would much rather talk about projects than to actually get busy and build them. I have to admit I've known many of those kind of woodworkers and at times I have resembled that remark.

As my friend Jon Fiant would say," anytime you finish something, that's one less thing."

Wesley Tanner makes nice labels to be attached to all the FORP benches. It looks as though I've had a poster size label printed for my bench but that is not the case. If you picked up on the scale of the grain, or figured it out otherwise, my bench is bit smaller than the other benches made at that event.

I mentioned that I based my design on the 7 foot long bench, however I made my bench at 3/16 scale. You'll see the 6" scale across the top of my bench in the pic above. I did in fact have room for this bench and I also have a very nice memento from the FORP I event. The material for my bench was acquired while I was helping Jameel clean up the Wyatt Childs shop the morning after FORP 1 had officially ended. It was either a miniature bench or fuel for the wood stove.

Making this miniature bench was great fun and making things at a smaller scale was harder than I imagined.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Clock is Finished, Best Way to Complicate a Simple Piece of Casework? Add a Clock Movement

Today I finished the clock. If this had just been a wall cupboard I would have been finished many days ago. Adding the glass in the door and a clock movement complicated things a great deal.

These additions added so many processes and required several more individual parts. So next time you tell yourself, "it's just a cabinet with a clock movement," think again. A frame for attaching the dial board is required, and oh yeah, you have to make the dial board and drill it accurately. You'll also need 2 cleats and a shelf board to mount on the cleats that makes a place for the coil going to fasten and this will have to be notched around the space for the clock movement.

Couple other things. You'll need to glue the dial to the dial board quite accurately. Attach the clock movement to the back of the dial board, once again, quite accurately. Cut a piece of glass to fit the door (antique glass does not break reliably on the score line) and then mount the glass into the door with small bead moulding. We still haven't assembled and adjusted the clock movement, in this case a pendulum driven, 14 day Hermele movement that strikes out the hours and strikes once on the half hour on a coil gong.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not complaining. I've made this clock before and I went into this project, as they say, "with my eyes wide open". I say all this because woodworkers are notorious for downplaying everything that is really involved in the making of a functional piece of furniture. This usually occurs when you're convincing your spouse it would be way cheaper to make said item than to buy it. Sometimes our egos cause us a lot of work.

 When I made the pine version of this clock, I also made a key storage block that was fastened to the interior of the bottom panel. As I went to do the final assembly of the door it occurred to me that one of the door battens would make a good place for the key to reside and only required that I drill a hole. Much better than creating an additional part.

One of the nerve wracking things about this clock construction was driving these pyramid head nails thru the top and into the case side. After all the work of creating, fitting all the parts and then finishing all the parts, the last thing I wanted was to have any of the parts split from the penetration of the nails. I pre-drilled the holes and enlarged the pre-drilled holes slightly thru the top panel where the largest diameter of the nail would pass.

Nothing split, I breathed a sigh of relief.

So you've finish making the case and your spouse has asked, "how long will it take to apply the finish?" And you replied, "oh, about a day". YEAH RIGHT!

If you're good with a hand plane then you'll probably spend half of a good day just sanding all the surfaces. That is, if you're good with a hand plane. If not, then it will require most of a very dusty day.

As long as we're talking about finishing I may as well give you the run down on the finishing schedule for this piece. After the sanding, I applied Transtint medium brown dye, I followed that with an application of Provincial stain. Admittedly the Provincial stain made the piece darker than I had actually intended. If I had it to do again I would probably use something more like a fruitwood color, however when all is said and done I liked the end result. Unlike other woods that get darker with time the walnut will actually lighten a bit.

I then applied two coats of lacquer. I let the lacquer cure for 3 days and then started the rub out process. First I sanded all the surfaces with 400 grit sand paper. Next was a rub down with a Maroon Scotchbrite pad, followed by a rub with #0000 steel wool. I cleaned away the sanding and rubbing residue  with Old English scratch cover for dark woods. This cleans the white residue out of the pores and the residue that is left in corners and crevices is darkened by this material to a dark brown color so it doesn't show. The final step was a thorough rub with paper towels. The paper towels remove the excess scratch cover liquid and burnishes the surface to a nice soft sheen.

I did not apply stain or lacquer to the interior of the case sides. Instead I painted them with an ochre colored paint. This lighter color keeps the interior of the piece from looking like a dark cave when the door is opened.

I spent a good day just performing the rub out of the finish. So much for applying the finish in a day. In fact I probably spent as much time finishing this pieces as I did on the woodworking/construction aspects of this pursuit.

I enjoyed this project but I'm glad it's completed. I think I've satisfied my clock building needs/wants for a while.


"The five second rule does not apply if you have a 2 second dog", unknown

P.S. Many of the comments made above were meant "tongue in cheek".

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas Break, Another Clock and Rain, Rain, Rain

I arranged my holiday schedule in order to actually have some time off this year. I completed my last plane of the year about mid December. I really wanted some time to pursue some woodworking projects that have been on the list. The idea of projects in the plural may have been ambitious on my part so I decided I would be happy to complete one project.

As a tool maker I find it hard to make time for actual woodworking that is not tool related. This is too bad because I miss this type of woodworking. Frankly after you spend a great deal of time in the shop making tools the idea of going back into the shop for any reason is not really an attractive idea. It's really better to create time to pursue one thing at a time so the week before Christmas and this week were set aside for personal work.

Of course I immediately begin thinking thru all the house maintenance items that needed to be accomplished but I was resolute to make this an enjoyable time to pursue a project that's been on my mind for a while and one that I actually started a while back and left unfinished.

I had roughed out some walnut boards for another clock like the pine version I made a year or so ago. Each time I walked thru my lumber shed, going and coming from the shop there those pieces were, leaning against some mahogany boards in one of my lumber racks. I felt as though they were mocking me. It was like an unanswered question...."when will you finish me?"

And then it started raining...........and raining, and raining and then it rained some more. It seemed we were experiencing a near Biblical event. As you can see in the picture above, the lake on my neighbors property was over flowing on one corner of the damn. A lot of water can flow thru a 10" diameter over flow pipe. You can just imagine the shear volume of water that was coming into this lake that resulted in more water than the drain could possibly dispense below the dam.

Of course this did not interrupt my woodworking project in the shop, however it did necessitate running the dehumidifier to keep the moisture content of the air in my shop at an acceptable level. The unseasonable tropical type weather we experienced created a situation we've never encountered. Never have we needed to run our air conditioning system while there was a Christmas tree in the house. This was a first.

Back Boards

Lots of people use 1/4" plywood for back boards these days and there's really nothing wrong with that. I've chosen to use pine back boards on my last couple of projects. They are a more authentic detail and they add visual interest when the case is opened. Leaving them a light color also has the functional advantage of creating a better lit interior.

I cut 3/8" deep rabbits in the back of the case to accept the backboards so I re-sawed the back boards to 5/16" out of 3/4" thick stock. Pine is very stable and the pieces came from the bandsaw quite accurate in thickness, and stayed quite flat. I had planed smooth the show face of these boards prior to the re-saw operation and I left the backs of these boards rough right off the bandsaw. I would much rather spend my efforts on the show surfaces of this piece in lieu of refining surfaces that will never be seen when the piece is placed where it will reside.

I used a business card cut into pieces and folded to double thickness to space the back boards. This leaves plenty of room for wood movement. To join the boards together I simply sawed a slot gauging from the face that would show on the interior surface of the clock case, then cut and planed splines to fit into these slots. This is easy, fast and the end result is much more interesting than a ply panel.

I broke the corners slightly to accentuate the join between the back boards. I had some waterborne lacquer that needed to be used while it was still viable. I added a bit of amber Transtint to this material so the finish would not have the cool look associated with waterborne finishes. Two brushed on coats then sanded with 400 grit paper and then rubbed down with some steel wool finished these up quite nicely. This may have been a bit over kill for back boards and a well prepared then waxed suface would have also worked well.

Board and Batten Doors

Board and Batten doors are under used in fine cabinetry in favor of frame and panel doors. I think in some context they are very suitable. In this instance the case construction is quite simple and so should be the door.

Most of my recent furniture making pursuits have been in the idea of simplifying construction to make the build aspects more enjoyable and less taxing. The construction method can be quite simple until you decide to include a cut out that will retain glass, then the method becomes somewhat complicated and the sequence of building up the door requires considerably more work. Housing a clock works always complicates case construction.

Some would say it may be hard to control wood movement in this style of door and that is why they prefer a frame and panel door. I disagree. This door is pre-assembled using pyramid head screws. I will remove the battens to refine the surfaces for finish. When I re-assemble the door I will actually put a bit of glue under the batten at the outer edges of the door and will enlarge the large the holes for the screw at the center of the door battens which effectively makes all the movement occur in the center of the door. This is the same thing that occurs in a frame and panel door and the doors I've made with this method are doing quite well and enduring seasonal changes without issue.

You could subsequently add cut nails driven thru the front face of the door and clinched over into the battens, thus eliminating the need for the screws in the backs of the battens. Or you could do both. I'm using the black pyramid head screws so the front of the door is cleaner with no fasteners.

The clock dial cutout with stopped chamfer detail around the opening

There are plenty of ways to add visual interest to these type doors. The simple chamfer where the boards come together at the center along with the stopped chamfers around the door opening are ways to create visual detail.

The assembled case with back boards installed

As you can see the board and batten door allows your eye to flow around this piece easily and is most probably a more attractive choice in the context of this piece.

In a general summary of the construction of this piece I should mention that it is basically assembled using pyramid head screws and nails. In fact the top of the case will not be permanently joined to the case sides and front stiles until after the finishing process. At that point it will be fastened by driving pyramid headed nails thru the top panel into the sides and the top of the front stiles. I will pre-drill holes for the nails to avoid splitting the finished pieces. At least that's the way I have it planned in theory.

We'll see,