Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breaking Down the Rough

Starting the work on the Medieval Hutch Chest was one of the more daunting beginnings I've had. It's been over a year since I've built anything for anyone else. and a good while since I've built anything other than stuff for the shop. So just starting it was a bit of a hurdle. The second hurdle was starting with the roughest boards I have ever worked with. I have been a mindless consumer of big retail lumber for a long while, not for lack of trying to find other options, but often for ease and lack of other easy options, but boy have I paid through the nose for it. I'm so glad that I found a local hardwood dealer selling almost hot off the kiln for reasonable bf prices.

I got three boards total, all a slight (a 16th to an 8th) thicker than an inch, all 8 foot long, two 11 inches wide and one at 9 inches wide. I let them rest a week in the shop while I finished up the Moxon Twin Screw Vise, and setting up the new workshop. I decided to take the build in steps instead of stages like I have in the past. That's the nice trick I learned by starting to work more with hand tools. In the past I would try and do almost all the work on one machine at once. Cut all my stock to size at once, joint all my stock at once, cut all my joinery at once. This was a very "production" minded mentality and though it's useful in some instances, to use it all the time is a trap. I decided what parts of the finished piece I would start with, cut, prep, and join those parts and get them further along, then step back and start the next steps while glues were setting up or when I needed them. This worked great as there were very few stops while glue dried on a panel or what not, it kept me feeling efficient.

Here's another quick look at the finished piece,
I decided to start working by making the front and back sections, the legs and the larger center panel. The board went down on the Saw Benches and I crosscut it down to size by hand.
 Then it was time to break out the jack and fore planes and start breaking the stock down smooth and flat.

Then I took the shorter pieces over to the band saw and ripped them down to about 3 inches wide, (leaving enough to plane the sides down to 3 inches exactly.
With all the parts milled and flattened I started playing around with the legs and panels, I was trying to align the grain patterns to be as pleasing to the eye as possible, I managed to get the front panel fairly centered on a very cool grain pattern that left the center pretty plain Jane. The boring center was perfect because I planed to carve a Celtic knot medallion in the center. The grain patterns in the front legs were both tight and carried a kind of gentle arch. I arranged them to hopefully give the piece a bit of elevation, to give the work the optical illusion of being taller than it is. The lesser choice boards were destined for the rear panel and legs, but I still paid attention to making the grains of the legs complement each other.
With everything laid out I marked the pieces so I wouldn't lose their place and set to work cutting the joinery. A stopped tongue and groove joint reinforced with driven dowel pins is traditional joinery for a hutch chest like this. I marked out and cut 3/8th inch stopped dado's into the legs for the grooves, I used a 3/8ths straight cutting bit on my router table to accomplish this always making sure that I had the pieces oriented with the showing face of the leg facing me. This meant I could start two of the pieces right from the end grain, but two of the pieces had to be started by lowering the wood onto the bit to get it started. I made 1 inch deep dados so take the cut in passes not cutting more than a quarter of an inch at a go.
Using the router table again felt a bit odd, I had been on a hand tool focused journey for almost a year to this point and using the band saw to rip some shorter boards was didn't feel too different, but the router table was really a step back into electron smashing territory. It was funny because another blogger wrote a post about the same time that really dovetailed into my feelings about doing a little plugging in again. If you missed it you can read about that HERE.

I cut the tongue in the front panel switching back and forth using a rebate plane, a 1 inch chisel, and a router plane. Cutting with the rebate plane across the grain of this white oak was a lot of work. I have to find a good way to sharpen the nicker that is supposed to cut ahead of the plane blade and leave a crisp edge. I didn't realize until now how dull it had gotten, I tried to push it around on my sandpaper system, and either I didn't give it enough of a chance or it's not the best way but I wasn't happy with the results. Thus a lot more chopping with the chisel and some additional work with the spear tipped blade in the router plane.
A couple test fits and some fine tuning and these joints were ready for some glue up.
Then before I called it for the day I cut and smoothed the panels for the sides.
Cheers

Oldwolf

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