Monday, August 16, 2010

Joining and Carving

I have been chronicling my build of a Medieval Hutch Chest from rough sawn white oak, If you want to catch up on the rest of the build you can click on this link HERE and it will take you to all the related articles.

With the sides all cut and prepped and the joinery cut and sized for the the legs and all four sides of the chest it was time for a day of doing the little jobs that would help stage up the next sections of the build.

I started the day working on the Celtic knot medallion carving in the center of the front panel. This past year of electron free living probably made one of the biggest changes in my carving habits. I have done a lot of carving, not super detailed and intricate designs and definitely not relief carving, so far I have stuck with simple line representations. Simple and easy, I think anyone can do it. I have used a Dremel type rotary tool with a variety of specialty burrs I have collected over the years. They did the job well but I was never satisfied with a couple of the side effects. One was the dust they created. I would walk out of the shop after doing an afternoon of carving and have a good coating of it all over my arms and clothes and even in my beard. Not good and definitely not healthy to be breathing all that dust. The other problem was the vibration of the motor in my hand, I never managed to pick up one of those flexible extension collets that I have seen a lot of other power carvers use, and the weight and vibration would have my hand cramping by the end of the afternoon.

I picked up a couple of hand carving chisels at the Woodcraft store in Madison several months back and I have been smitten ever since. I just spent a little while watching a master like Peter Follansbee use them in some internet videos and an episode of The Woodwright's Shop and picked up a couple of techniques and using them seemed very intuitive after that. I don't doubt I have much more to learn an that's why I'm excited to hear about Lie Nielsen putting out a instructional video with Peter (a link to the preview on YouTube HERE). I consider the chisels an upgrade, no more ear plugs, no more dust, in my opinion easier to control, just the tap tap of the mallet. I may never power carve again.

I started with a printout of a Celtic knot design I admit I used from a design book I purchased at Barnes & Nobles a couple years ago. The book was full of royalty free patterns (under certain rules), and it's been a real resource for me in these instances. The first step was to use a couple push pins to secure the print out over a piece of carbon paper, making sure I got it centered in the board.
 You know the next step with carbon paper, you trace over all the lines and the design is transferred to the work underneath. You really gotta love the stuff.
Then it to work with the chisels, for this particular carving I was only interested in putting in the lines of the design so I worked only with the "V" chisel.
 With all the "carbon" removed, all that's left is some light sanding to pull off the remaining registration marks and soften the design.
 The next little job to tee up the rest of the build was getting a couple of panels glued up for the next day. I needed to join two full size boards for the lid. That was pretty straight forward to cut them to length off the stock, joint the edges and prep for the glue up. I didn't even pre-flatten the boards figuring it would be the same work to do either way once they were joined. I did decide to throw three biscuits in the joint, I think mostly because they help me sleep better at night.
 The more difficult panels were the three panels that would make up the interior till.
 I wanted these panels to be between 1/4" and 3/8" thick, uniform thickness of course but the final thickness did not have to be perfectly either. They came out about half way in between so that's what . . . 5/16ths inch. Ha!

The trouble was I wanted them 5" wide, let me explain the week here in Wisconsin while I was working on this, one of the hottest on record with heat indexes into the upper 90's (I know that's almost nothing if you live down south, but it was a very muggy and draining heat up here) and the new workshop version 5.0 is a steel shed, otherwise known as an oven, or a hot box (Cool Hand Luke anyone?) I decided early on I was not doing this resaw by hand, but the issue was the size of my bandsaw. It's a small and cheep 9" off brand. Something I picked up cheep so I could get the feel for a bandsaw before I put big money into one. The resaw capacity on this is like 3 and 3/4", maybe a 2x4. So I sat down and thought about it for a while.

I decided that instead of a problem this was an opportunity. If I resawed 2 1/2" boards in half and book matched them when I joined them back together it could be a subtle but stunning touch. So I managed to do just that. and with the end results I am happy I did.
 One final task for the day was making some dowels for pins to support the bottom and the side panels. I wanted to end up with 3/8ths dowel pins so I started by ripping some stock to 1/2" by 1/2" strips and then cutting them to 2 1/2" lengths.
 The I clamped the belt sander upside down in the leg vise and rounded over the ends of the pins to give them a start in the doweling plate.
 Then it was a matter of positioning the plate over one of the bench dog holes and starting the pin through the 1/2" hole. This shop made plate has holes sizes 1/2", 3/8" and 1/4". To see the making of the plate you can look at the article HERE.
 In the end I came out with 26 pins, I only needed 18 for the project but I've found it best to over produce because the plate doesn't always result in perfectly round pins, This way I can start by chosing the best pins for the most visible areas and work my way backwards in quality from the front to the sides to the back. The worst quality ends up not being needed.
 With the next article I'll show putting it all together, fitting the bottom board and fitting the lid and hinges.

Cheers

Oldwolf

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