Woodworking Blog

This is the collection area of all of the writings I've made that pertain to woodworking in its various forms.

Roughing out the door frame rails and stiles

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I started working on the rails and stiles for the door frames to cover the front of the chopsaw station shelves on Tuesday night. I don't usually get much time during the week to woodwork, but I'm taking time during the rainy summer days that are all-to-common this summer in Georgia to get this project finished.  At this point in the project my goal is to get something solid built as quickly as I can using the supplies I had on hand. (This latter point ended up being a missed goal, as I'll explain later.) So I opted for thin rails and stiles with a glued-in 1/4" birch plywood panel for strength, since the frame will be very slight. The good point about this is that it will make the doors lightweight.

Chopsaw Station door frames laid out for fitting

Banding the feet

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This past weekend was productive on several of my woodworking projects. On the jewelry cabinet, I managed to install the last part of the feet detail, namely the banding around the top of each cherry foot.  I had previous installed cherry veneers on the four sides of each leg, up to a height of about 2" from the floor.  While contemplating this foot detail, I had decided last month that I might as well add a little more refinement to the feet by adding a band around the top to better define the ankle. I had previously cut thin strips of cherry and maple to serve as banding. One piece about 20" long, cut down the length should serve to band all four feet. Or at least, I hoped it would.

I didn't document cutting the slots in the legs with photographs. i was too intent on making the recesses accurate without creating any blowout on the legs. This was a tricky operation, since the legs aren't square down near the floor, but are angled inward on two sides. I ended up cutting the top edge of the band recess with the table saw, very carefully spacing it on the crosscut sled. (I taped the boundary between the cherry veneer and the leg maple with blue tape to ensure no blowout on the back edge.)

Fitting the cherry and maple banding to the top of the feet on the armoire legs

Installed shelves

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After I decided to simplify the case, it was just a matter of picking the materials, cutting and fitting them to size. I used some ½" birch ply I had left over from another project to create the shelves.

Shelves added to the case

Tear down, sanding, and feet

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I've made some good progress on Adri's cabinet over the past two weeks. I started by taking the dry-fit assembly apart so I can do final sanding, finishing and glue up of those parts. Aside from finishing up a couple of tool fixtures for my wall-hanging tool cabinet, I managed to keep my focus solely on the cabinet for a change. So the plan was: take it apart, sand, and work on the legs so they'll be ready to accept a finish. I haven't quite finished the feet details, but that's almost done. Then I'll need to do a couple more hours of sanding before applying the finishes. I'm hoping to get to the case glue-up within the next couple of weeks. 

The boring bits

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I don't have any photos of this, but I have been making progress on my wife's cabinet. When last we left the story, I had dry-fit the case, legs and webframe. So now I've torn down the whole thing and begun prepping it for glue up. The extra complication is that I want to keep the QS sycamore as white as possible, but it will be right up next to cherry and maple parts. So I've decided to finish the case and webframe together as soon as I get it assembled, and finish the legs and other parts separately.

I did have a lot of tear-out in the sycamore when planing it, probably because I need new knives in my old Ridgid power planer. So now I'm paying the price 

Chopsaw Station - Added top drawers

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Well, I'm really working on Adriana's cabinet right now, so everything else has taken a backseat. But I did manage to create the two small drawers for the chopsaw station this past week. Nothing fancy, just birch ply face and 1/2" ply wides and back, and an 1/8" ply bottom. All rabbet jointed using the table saw.  The right drawer is actually so closely fitted it really does have a piston effect on the air inside.  I may need to drill a hole to let the air out when I'm closing it.  (Nice! :-)

Small drawers fitted into the top of the chopsaw station

Little Shop thing - Base for the LN Dowel Plate

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Dowel plate base with holes drilled for the dowels to pass throughI bought the little Lie-Nielsen dowel plate in English units a couple months back, with the goal in mind to use it to create the dowels that will peg the leg tops to the case of Adriana's cabinet. I tried using it a couple weeks ago to make a simple 1/4" dowel. It takes a lot of work unless you've got the pre-dowell pretty close to the proper size. This can be somewhat tricky to do without sneaking into the 'inside diameter' area and giving your dowel an unsightly flat.  But the biggest thing is you really need to be able to clamp this thing down over a hole or a gap in your bench so it's nice and stable while you whale on the predowel piece.  So I got a nice thick old piece of oak, planed it smooth and flat on all sides, chamfered the edges and drilled a series of holes in it so the dowel will go through. Then I attached the LN dowel plate to it using the handy-dandy counter-sunk screw holes LN included at the ends of the plate. 

LN dowell plate mounted on new baseThis makes the plate about 300% friendlier to use. And so much easier to clamp.

Adri's Cabinet - Finally fit the webframe

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Webframe dry fit into Adri's cabinet  (Links to Adri's Cabinet gallery)After several weeks of cutting the mortise and tenon joints on the nine web frame drawer divders for Adriana's cabinet, I finally dry fit the whole thing to the case to see how it all works. It took some planing and tweaking to fit each one, but they're finally installed. This is still just a dry fit, I haven't glued anything on this piece yet.  Part of that is just prudence, but the other part is simply fear. When I designed this piece, I didn't thinkit all the way through to detail and decoration, so the second I glue it all up, I'm locking myself out from any more changes. 

Adri's Cabinet: Final dry fit of the cabinet case, with web frame installed

Added left and right guides with stop blocks

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I made some good progress on the chopsaw station project the last few days. Last night I managed to get guides installed on the left and right wings of the stand, including stop blocks mounted in some T-track I just bought from Rockler. The Rockler track was convenient because I could stop at the Rockler store down on Roswell road on the way home from work to pick it up. But after buying it I noticed that it's made in Taiwan. I'm not sure but I think the Incra tracks are U.S. made.

Finalized all 22 pendants for the show

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Pendant 2-06, Teardrop in African mahoganyI put four coats of spray gloss polyurethane to the pendants (with a final 400 grit light sanding before the final coat.) Glued on some stainless bails that Adriana had (Thank you, Baby!) Took some photos so I have a record of what I made now that I'm hoping to sell them this weekend, and if they don't go there, I'll add them to Adri's Etsy store.  I'm proud of the way these turned out. It emphasizes one of the main reasons I woodwork, I love the appearance of the material. I think that wood, when treated well, is more beautiful than cut gemstones. That's the main reason why I do these little pieces. 

Seafan pendant in cherry and sycamore, 2" x 3"

Added brackets for the No8 Stanley, the LV dividers, and marking gauges

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Tool cabinet bracket for No 8 Stanley planeThe slowest aspect of building a tool cabinet is building all of the brackets to hold individual tools. If I had the time to devote away from family and work, I'd have done the entire thing at once, but since that isn't possible, I completed the case, and have been building brackets for individual tools as I get to them. Recently, I completed brackets for my trusty Stanley No 8 plane, my LV dividers, and a couple of marking gauges. I like the way the marking gauge and plane brackets turned out. The dividers bracket still needs a secondary brace, so it doesn't swing around when I open the cabinet's inner door.

Bracket for a pair of marking gauges

A recent blog posting by Chris Schwartz that is Priceless

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On April 19th, 2013, Christopher Schwartz posted an important essay on his Lost Art Press blog called "On Technical Perfection". It asks the question of woodworkers, "Should we focus on being technically perfect, or should we instead focus on the design?"  It's a natural topic for him, since Lost Arts is currently preparing a book about just this topic. The book is by George Walker and Jim Tolpin and will be called "By Hand and Eye". It sounds as if it has the potential to be a seminal work.    

But even more impressive than the essay and the forthcoming book, is the discussion that follows his posting. What you can read there is a fascinating (and frankly, astonishing) discussion of the fundamental issues at play when it comes to the tradeoffs between technical prowess and design. Reading through this discussion seems to me to be a bit like sitting around in a room eavesdropping in about the year 1768 on a conversation between James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Locke about what it is about a government that would make it a better sort of government, one that would fulfill the ideals of the Enlightenment.  We aren't in a new golden age of furniture design, but if things go the way they seem to be flowing, we may see one flower within the next few years. (I suppose it follows, since we've only recently seen a new golden age of tools and craftsmanship. It's a natural evolution of an Age for the leading lights to go from the questions of 'How do we do this?' to ones of "What then should we choose to do?")

The Twibill, the English World's Besaigue

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I recently read (and reviewed) Maurice Pommier's children's bookabout woodworking called GrandPa's Workshop. It's a charming book and it introduced me to the uniquely French tool called the besaigue. To a modern American woodworker's eyes, it's an odd, ungainly looking tool, but after hearing how it might be used, I've come to see how it could actually be useful in the right situation. A besaigue, pronounced as best as I can determine as Bay-say-gwe', is a long, double-tipped chisel, with a mortising chisel on one end, and a broad, flat chisel or firmer chisel on the other end. In the middle is a long rod with a handle attached at the midpoint. The purpose of the tool is for timber framing. The long end not being used is placed on the shoulder, and the handle is used to pare down or punch down into a beam to create a mortise. From other reading, it seems to have been commonly used up until perhaps the 17th century along with a large brace and bit to create round-ended mortise slots for structural timbers.

Promotional artwork for Lost Art Press edition of Grandpa's Workshop showing the besaigue in handFrench Style besaïgue from the collection of the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva


French style besaigue, Ethonography Museum of GenevaWhat I didn't learn from this reading, however, is whether or how this tool was ever used in the English-speaking world.