My father in law used to always quote the six P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Very wise words, to be heeded at all times! Especially when making furniture.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the box before I even started. A lot of time. Too much time? I don’t know. Looking back, I think the time I took was worth it. It was the first time I was tackling a project of this complexity on my own. Although I was adapting an existing design, I had to rethink not only the external dimensions but also the joinery (tenon sizes, dovetail layout, etc). Since this was an important gift I wanted it to look really good, and didn’t want to mess up (that should apply to all projects, but still, this one was different!).
I tried a few things to get the dimensions to where I wanted. I tried scaling the original design. However, this didn’t really work: I wanted a box that had a shorter width and length than the original, but still had some height. It had to be of a practical size so you could still use it to put things in. One practical consideration was that the wood had already been sawn into planks, so I had a fixed wood thickness to consider in relation to the size of the box.
After doing a lot of thinking in my head and some sketching, I delved into the world of the Golden Ratio. This did help me get some ballpark ratio’s, like the ratio of the drawer height to the rest of the box. But it became a slippery slope towards being over complicated and fussy for my liking. I also tried using Sketchup. Although I’m quite computer literate and it gets rave reviews, I can’t connect with it. It took me hours to just draw a box with a flat lid. I’m not sure I’ll be using that again.
What helped me the most was simply drawing on paper. First I made some scale drawings. I thought about how deep the inside of the box and the drawer would be and if these were practical dimensions. I sketched on the wood itself to see how the grain would look once it was sawn to size.
But what helped me the most was making life sized drawings. I drew each side of the box on a large sheet of plywood. After some resizing/redrawing I got what I wanted. I also penciled in the joinery – the mortise depths, the frame and panels the dovetail layout etc. Penciling in the joinery was very helpful, not only during the design phase but also during construction and assembly. I really recommend drawing out the joinery, especially when building something for the first time. It helps as a reference and also helps think the project through before you start marking out and sawing bits of wood.
I felt comfortable with the design and felt I had taken care of the five P’s. Time to start building!
I had the pleasure of chatting with Daniel Carter and Lance Granum a few weeks ago for a This Old Workshop podcast; it seems I talk too much, because they’ve broken the conversation into two sections, and they’re now live on the site. Click on the link above to hear about some upcoming articles in the magazine, what we look for in queries, favorite tools (both mine and the guys’) […]
This guitar is very responsive, very loud and is capable of many musical nuances, with proper playing and care it will continue to improve and become a magnificent guitar!
Kyle performs the Fandanguillo from the Suite Castellana by Federico Moreno Torroba.
I had a good couple of hours in the shop yesterday and nearly finished the seat assembly for the Chevalet.
In my previous post I was on the fence about whether to use hand or poser tools for the joinery. This is not a philosophical debate for me, it’s more about pragmatics. What approach is going to get the job done most efficiently with the best result? For example, on tenons I’ve done bunches of them using a dado stack on my table saw with the tenon face horizontal. The fence controls the height of the tenon and the blade height controls the depth. With a bit of scrap wood I can dial the tenons in to a very precise measurement. The downside is that I have to change over to the dado set and set up for each unique tenon face.
In a similar way, my mortiser is very handy and I love it. But changing over to a different chisel requires a bit of setting up and making test cuts to ensure it’s cutting parallel to the fence. I’m also not 100% happy with the finish on the mortise walls (I recently read about some tune up procedures that are supposed to help with that, something to do on a rainy ray this winter!)
So I decided to use as many hand tools as I could yesterday.
First the mortises, I had two blind mortises and two through mortises to do. They are large enough that I didn’t want to try to chop them alone, so I drilled out the bulk of the waste and pared the remaining material in little bits until I got to the wall. For mortises up to probably 1/2″ wide I’d probably have just chopped them directly, but the smallest of these was 1″ wide.
After paring the waste back to 1/16″ or less from the walls I set the chisel in the knife lines and chopped straight down. I’m really pleased with the results, it took very little time and didn’t require any special jigs or tools. I know there was a stage where I would have done this by making a jig and using a router, which would have been time consuming and noisy. And I’d still have to square the corners.
What makes this work for me is taking small bites with the chisel, and having the work oriented so I’m always looking at the side of the chisel to ensure it’s plumb. I work my way around the mortise nibbling away until I’m about 1/32″ to 1/16″ from my knife lines everywhere. Taking small cuts is more controllable and easier to keep the chisel vertical. I never let the walls get out of control.
On the through mortises I followed the same approach. I knifed in the layout on both sides as accurately as I could, drilled though to remove the waste, and pared back to the line evenly before cutting directly on the knife line. The only difference was that I worked from both sides towards the middle of the board. I got one side to within 1/32 of the line, flipped it over and did the same on the reverse. Finally I dropped the chisel in the knife line and finished it from both sides. There is a tiny bit of unevenness in the middle (the board is 1.75″ thick), but it’s tiny and won’t affect the fit or strength in any significant way. Again, happy, happy.
I mentioned yesterday that there was a problem with the big dovetail joint not reaching the surface of the seat. Sure enough, when I measured the seat blank I discovered that I’d left it over-thick. It was supposed to be 1.75″, but I’d left it at something like 1.860″. Before I could thickness it to correct that I had to finish with my layout lines on the top, so I cut out the profile, rough cutting it on the bandsaw and finishing the radius with my spokeshave. I used a rasp and scraper on the front transition sections.
Which just left the tenons and maybe a few details. I wanted to cut the tenons my hand, but you’ll recall the problem I was having with my Bad Axe tenon saw (the saw plate was getting floppy in the cut). Mark at Bad Axe said that can happen if the saw gets torqued in a difficult cut, and that his use of a folded back on the saw is an advantage. Here is something I didn’t know: on saws with folded backs the blade doesn’t seat all the way to the depth of the back. The back only grips 3/16″ to 1/4″ of the saw plate. You can read his re-tensioning procedure on his web site,
The gist of “re-tensioning” is to tap the saw plate a tiny bit further into the folded back at both the heel and toe. Honestly, any problem I can solve by whacking it with a great huge hammer, I’m all for. So two taps of the hammer later and my tenon saw is magically healed. Who knew?
So I laid out the first tenon, that goes into the seat bottom and checked it against the mortise. Thank God, because I mad my mortise gauge set to the wrong dimension. Take two; I laid out the tenon. Again.
I sawed the tenon down to the shoulder lines. I think the tenon saw is a little coarse for shat I’m doing, or maybe I’m just not used to it. I need a bigger handle too (or smaller hands), this one pinches my hands. On one of the tenon edges I angled waaaaay off the mark, likely it was into the waste. I pared the mistake away and then planed the tenon faces to fit. I intentionally cut the tenon oversize to give myself room to screw up. I sawed the shoulders on my knife line without cutting a “V” like I usually do, and was left with a whisper of excess all around that I could chisel away, I ended up with a snug fit and a decent shoulder in the one place on the project that no one will ever see! Two more tenons and a couple of holes to go and the seat will be done. I’d better start on the CAD layout for the toggle arm and foot clamp mechanism.
I blame it on two things. One is that I started posting pictures of shop stuff on Instagram and that seems to give me an outlet for my desire to share happenings in the shop. Honestly, it is pretty superficial in that regard, though. I like the meat, the deeper stuff. That only takes place here at the blog, so I need to get my butt back in the chair and out of the shop on occasion.
Second, since I have been full on switching the shop from chairmaking to planemaking, I have had a blast of new inspiration going on. It has kept my head going so much that to stop and put it into words has escaped me. Subjects are there but only half formed. Prototype planes are in the works but only half completed or nearly completed. I have hardware and other things being designed and out sourced on their way to me. And, in all that, I have made a load of beading planes and communicated with a load of customers.
I have a list of topics for blog posts that I think everyone will find interesting. You chairmakers and planemakers out there will be sure to find some educational stuff in there. Several short videos I have shot on subjects like glue up and a brief one on weaving. One on putting in boxing for planes and making mother planes and the list goes on. So stay tuned I am going to try and catch up.
In the meantime enjoy a few photos of the stacks of beading planes that I have been making.
This ain’t wainscot by any stretch of the imagination.
We saw this windsor settee when we were at Michael Burrey’s a couple of weeks ago. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/plymouth-craft/ He bought it from a fellow who was downsizing, moving – life-changing somehow.
I made it in about 1992. Had forgotten all about it. I think I made a couple something like it; all under the guidance of Curtis Buchanan. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/go-see-curtis-stuff/ I have two or three of the chairs here at the house. We still use them all the time. Much lighter than a wainscot chair, but no carving…so where’s the fun in that?
“In some instances it may be necessary for a man to keep knowledge to himself, as his own property, and upon which his bread may depend; but I do not see any impropriety in persons of the same branch informing each other. In trades where their arts depend on secrets, it is right for men to keep them from strangers; but the art of cabinet-making depends so much on practice, and requires so many tools, that a stranger cannot steal it. But in every branch there are found men who love to keep their inferiors of the same profession in ignorance, that themselves may have an opportunity of triumphing over them. From such I expect no praise, but the reverse. Their pride will not suffer them to encourage any work which tends to make others as wise as themselves; and therefore it is their fixed resolution to despise and pour contempt upon every attempt of this kind, in proportion as it is likely to succeed. But those I will leave to themselves as unworthy of notice, who only live to love themselves, but not to assist others.”
-Thomas Sheraton, 1793, “The Cabinetmaker’s and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book”
When I posted the beard comb video earlier this month I mentioned I’d be happy to post some pictures of the ones all of you made, if you were to make one.
A little while later Brian Timmons of Big T Woodworks contacted me to show off his version…or should I say “versions?”
Brian blew me away with his collection of wood beard combs that are as beautiful to look at as they are beautifully constructed.
You don’t have to have a lush full beard to appreciate these beauties, they look as if they belong in the bathroom of any well groomed gentleman!
If you want to be inspired by beautiful woods, or you just want to purchase one so you don’t have to make your own, visit Brian and his amazing wife Rachel at his store’s website (which has a blog too if you want to keep up-to-date with what Brian is up to.)
Visit Big T Woodworks by clicking here! Tell them Matt sent you!
Our local art museum, the Mobile Museum of Art, is hosting an arts-and-crafts fair next month. I don’t usually sell my work at craft shows, but the table fee was reasonable, so I signed up.
The problem is that I don’t have a lot of surplus spoons on hand, so I’ve been in production mode this weekend. That means I’ve had to streamline my workflow. Because–let’s be honest–I enjoy the process as much as the product, so I don’t usually work as quickly as I can.
First, I pulled out some stock that I had been saving for spoons: these boards have some bad end-checking, and they were cut to a very uneven thickness (a casualty of my ineptitude at the bandsaw). The figure isn’t spectacular enough for use in furniture, but it should make great spoons.
Usually, I select stock to minimize waste, but this time I’m working to maximize the appearance of each spoon. I’m also not bothering to work right up close to defects like knots and splits. I don’t want any surprises after I’ve roughed out each blank. My templates help me plan out exactly what parts of the board will become spoons.
If I’m making one spoon at a time, I cut out everything by hand, but this time I cut each blank to rough shape on the bandsaw. Normally, I find that the whole ordeal of taking a single blank down to the bandsaw, turning everything on, putting on my dust mask, tensioning the blade, making the cuts, de-tensioning the blade… oh, shoot–it’s just not worth it for two cuts! But when I’m cutting out seven spoons all at once, the machine is faster.
I still shape the spoons by hand with a large gouge, drawknife, and spokeshave, but I do contract out some of the finishing work.
My wife is pretty quick with the card scrapers, and I even taught her how to resharpen them! I can sometimes get one or two of the kids to do a little sanding. Other times, they just keep my company as they crack pecans. (It was a pecan-sort-of-an-afternoon.)
By the end of the evening, I had seven pecan spoons ready for final sanding.
Nearly all of them have at least a little spalting in them.
I need to do a lot more, in both pecan and walnut. But a few more afternoons like this, and I’ll have a good stock of spoons ready for the show.
Tagged: band saw, bandsaw, craft fair, craft show, Mobile Art Museum, Mobile Museum of Art, pecan, stock selection
In 2007 I met John Winter and he came to my house over a number of days to build his workbench with his dad. His dad is a paediatrician and was working at the hospital in the town near where I live. John came into the castle workshop at 18 for a year to apprentice and learn woodworking and he’s now a man of 21. He’s a fine craftsman. His work is exemplary as is his passion for knowing woodworking. I sit often at my bench and watch him as he works and I see the birth of a skilled and knowledgeable woodworker. Beyond that he’s become a close friend to me and others he works with, a capable furniture maker and an excellent and knowledgeable teacher. His future is now ready to unfold in his own workshop in Patagonia and before the year ends he’ll start new things no one knows anything about yet.
I have enjoyed having John here and I am certain that is obvious, but what made him different to say apprentices I trained years back? When I first took an apprentice it was to help him become what he had no knowledge of but had always wanted to be. His dream was to become a furniture maker and that’s what he became. Stephen was not the easiest apprentice trainee. Probably because he was older and more set in the ways he wanted to do things. As soon as he learned anything from me he thought everything originated from him and as soon as he learned enough he left and started his own business. I was still glad that he was able to start on his own and that he at least worked with me long enough to learn furniture making and indeed he too became more than competent and I taught him all he needed to become the furniture maker he’d dreamed of becoming.
You see, on the one hand it’s been good from time to time to see someone grow away from you for the wrong reasons, but all the better to see someone come to maturity and grow into their place of ultimate responsibility with you and away from you. On the one hand there is often disharmony and then on the other perfect peace. John and Phil have both brought peace into my otherwise high self-demand life. When they come into the workshop I feel settled at them both being with me. I hope that they feel the same way I do.
As we worked on the class today there was for me a peace throughout the day. The students are from Israel and Brazil, from the USA came three more and then another from Belgium. The rest are from the UK. It’s been very peaceful and even though I apply substantial pressure I feel for the one thing I value the most and that is peace and understanding. I think we all feel the same way about learning a craft; that it’s high self-demand that makes it work. No one really ever stops until I call a launch break. Hot coffee is always welcome but no one stops to chat until a phase or step is completed. This maximising of intense training has borne good fruit in that boxes dovetailed all fit and fit well. For most of them these boxes are their very first. Who knows, perhaps they will become furniture makers too, in their own right of course.
One way to accurately replicate a boat design is to build the boat on a strongback with molds that hold the major structural pieces in the proper position. For most skin on frame kayak building, this method is overkill, but Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak says that if you stray from the design of his F1 kayak that you'll have slug of a boat.
So, I built a strongback and molds at several stations along the boats length to hold the gunnels, chines, and keel in the proper positions.
|Keel bent into place.|
|Molds in place.|
Getting the gunnels in place was exciting, because one of the most prominent features of a boat is the sweep of the sheer. The curve of the gunnels defines the sweep of the sheer on this boat and as soon as they were bent into place, it felt like the boat jumped off the page and into my workshop.
|I added tabs to the molds and used wedges to lock the gunnels in place.|
|The ends of the gunnels are lashed together.|
Here are two more videos just uploaded to YouTube on the beautiful and very practical HNT Gordon spokeshaves and planes, some of which I now stock at very keen prices. Nice ones for Christmas!
First I had to prep the wood. Most of this was done with powertools. Cutting a piece of wood from the last cherry plank, planing, resawing it on the table saw, and more planing and thicknessing, They ended up at the 10mm thickness I wanted them to be, It was a squeeze though, the thick tablesaw blade eats up a lot of wood. I really need a bandsaw!
Then I marked out the exact position of all the cutlines. I don't really measure at all, every mark is taken from the other parts, like here, the inside width of the cabinet. This method is much more precise then measuring with a rule.
For the sliding dovetail I first chop a small mortise at the end and mark the sides with a deep knife wall.
And then it's a matter of sawing the sides of the sliding dovetail socket. It';s going to be a half dovetail, so one side is straight, just keep the saw vertical, the other side is at an angle. To give myself an idea about this angle while sawing I set a sliding bevel in front of the board.
The male part is cut likewise. I didn't shoot a picture (sorry), but it is a matter of sawing the baseline and cutting the sloping part with a chisel. Only a little bit of material needs to be removed, so this is quick work.
And here is the result. Not perfect, but not too bad for the first time either.
One of the things I enjoy in life is the experience of the under promise and the over delivery. I bought “Is It Genuine” (1971) while searching for good information about 18th-century furniture. I don’t worship what the 18th century has to offer but at its core it represents what I feel is the pinnacle of hand-powered woodworking. It’s a unique period of the pre-Industrial Revolution world that relied on […]
It doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, but I got the dovetail joint for the seat cut and fit yesterday afternoon.
I spent some time sawing practice joints first on a tick scrap of Sapele. My LN dovetail saw didn’t quite reach deep enough, and it was a lot of sawing — but the cut was crisp and arrow straight. I decided on using my nearly-new Bad Axe 16″ tenon saw and made a bunch of practice cuts to get my arm tuned up.
While I was sawing the cuts I noticed that the saw seemed to want to wobble in the kerf. When I checked the saw the plate was “loose” or “floppy” along the toothline. Not good. I set it aside while I laid out more practice lines, and then noticed that the wobble was gone. Almost like it was heat related. I made another cut and it came back. Crud. I bought this saw a couple of years ago, but I’ve hardly used it at all. I emailed Mark at Bad Axe and he suggested that the saw plate needed to be reseated in the folded back, so I’m going to try that today.
I sawed out the tails and checked them for accuracy. There were a few spots where they weren’t flat and a couple of areas where they were slightly out of square with the face of the board. I pared out all of the problem spots and jury rigged this setup to transfer the tail layout.
If you are particularly observant you’ll have noticed the scraper between the end of the tail board and the plywood alignment stop. Somehow I had the baseline for the dovetails about 1/16″ too shallow. That means the end of the tails won’t reach the face of the seat. Not a structural problem, but a little annoying. I’ll have to check the thickness of the seat, maybe I didn’t finish it to the right thickness, that would be an easy fix.
I sawed and chopped out the pins, and got the joint mostly fit up in time for dinner. There is a little tweaking left as one side isn’t seating completely yet. I’ll deal with that after I get some coffee.
The rest of the joinery on the seat should go more quickly. I’m on the fence about whether to do the work by hand or use power tools. I’m leaning towards hand tools, if I can re-tension the saw plate on my tenon saw I can practice sawing the tenons, and if they are not perfect it isn’t a huge deal as I haven’t yet convinced my wife to put the Chevy in the living room. We’ll see.
I continued work on my Enfield Cupboard yesterday afternoon. I had planned on getting the face frame finished, as well as the case side arches sawn so I could glue up the carcase today. Unfortunately, I ran out of time, but I did manage to get the face frame ready to go.
I started out by laying out the mortises for the top rail. I decided to chop them out by hand because there are only two. That part went fairly quickly, but the poplar I’m working with is stringy, and it wasn’t easy to get the mortises cleaned out. I then made the tenons on the rail by using the table saw jig I built a few weeks back. It worked well, but I did have to wax the runners of both the jig and the table saw fence to get it to slide more freely. Before I go on I will admit that I hate making mortise and tenon joints. Firstly, I’ll say that I’m not all that great at fitting them from the get go, and I always have to spend the extra time getting them fit properly. In this case it was about 15 minutes of added work with a router plane. I would much rather make ship lap joints, which I’m good at and are much of the time just as strong. In any event, it was finished and I moved on to sawing the arches at the bottom of the stiles.
To lay out the arches on the stiles I followed the measurements on the original Enfield plan. I marked some guidelines, and used a French curve to draw the arch. I sawed the first arch with a jigsaw, used it to mark the second arch, and did the same. I then clamped both together and cleaned up the cut with a spokeshave and some light sanding. Before I glued up the face frame I planed the edges, just a few passes, with a smooth plane and gave it a very light sanding. I then glued it, clamped it, and let it dry overnight. Today, I hope to get the case sides finished, though I’m not necessarily sure about gluing it up yet. It’s quite cold right now, and the temperature isn’t expected to rise much above freezing. The case is too large to bring inside to dry, so I’m going to play it by ear.
On another note, last winter I built a Dutch Tool Chest. I felt it would be both useful and fun to build. It does a nice job of holding tools, but I have to say that it is really getting on my last nerve. What is the problem? I have nowhere to put it. The chest always seems to be in the way, and I’m constantly moving it whenever I woodwork. Considering that the chest weighs around 120 lbs, this part isn’t fun. One solution I’ve seen is to attach a French cleat and hang it on the wall, which I might do, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose? It is too deep to be a wall cabinet, at least in my garage, and too large to be unobtrusive on the floor. If I had the time and money, I would make a proper wall cabinet for tools and be done with it. Live and learn I guess.
There is no reason to turn away from building true divided-light glass doors in your projects. While some techniques to get the dividers made and installed are involved, this is a simple technique sure to work.
After building your door frame complete with rabbets to hold the glass, dividing the opening is done using two different sized parts. The pieces that show to the front of the door are 1/4″ thick and 3/4″ wide. The pieces used to separate the glass are 1/4″ thick and 1/2″ wide. Installation uses glue and small spring clamps – and your abilities to cut to the lines.
Build Something Great!
At the same time - next door - will be The Brooklyn Holiday Market featuring Brooklyn makers and hosted by Wanted Design. A lot of our friends are exhibiting there. Both shows are free I think you will have a great time!
See You There!