Friday, November 30, 2012

Final Pictures of the School Box / Sewing Box

The school box / sewing box build is finished. I built it for my oldest daughter's 16th birthday present and she was very tickled with it. It is made from Curly Red Oak with a White Pine bottom (so it will have that wonderful pine scent when you open it) and air dried Black Walnut mouldings. The inspiration, of course came from the piece built by Chris Schwarz for the book "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker"

It was finished with three coats of boiled linseed oil on the outside and left clean on the inside. The hardware is Lee Valley unequal strap hinges (01.H20.12) and brass flat head screws. Chest handles will probably be added in the future when the right ones are found. I decided to skip the lock.

Once finished the box is bigger than I thought it would be, more of a small chest than a box. It measures 16" wide by 10 1/2" deep by around 10 3/4" tall.

Making this chest was so very satisfying, I have never gotten to work figured stock like this before and the results were fantastic. Getting to build it for someone so special was important too. I'm very happy with the way it turned out and I really don't have a lot of complaints to make. Turns out my inner Thomas was along for the ride on this one.

Here are the "glamour" shots of the piece. Thanks for looking.

Ratione et Passionis

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hardware How I Want It.

I'm not always the quickest on the uptake sometimes. I've learned more by making mistakes than I ever did from books or blogs. When I started making sawdust, and for many years, I thought the big secret to woodworking was the joinery. How you put the piece together. It took me a while to learn that is just one slice of the deep dish pizza.

I would pace my time building a piece. Draw out measured drawings and try to faithfully execute them by saw and chisel. When the build was over I turned into a fool who felt like whatever finish and hardware I could slap on as quickly as possible would only help me get to building the next thing. Then I started to look at my work with a more critical eye and tried to discern why my pieces seemed to fall short of my expectations. The process yielded several things I have tried to spend several years fixing. From stock selection to my finishing choices I tried to educate myself and better my processes. I think, for the most part, I've gotten better.

The continual struggle is hardware. In fact I think I would drive a long ways to attend a class taught on hardware alone. I think the important thing I've figured out is that you don't have to accept your hardware as it is when you buy it. It is amazing what you can do with a hacksaw, a couple files, and a ball pein hammer.

I didn't have to do any major modifications to the hardware I used building a version of the School Box from "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" but I did have to do some work dressing it up. I had several sets of uneven strap hinges from Lee Valley sitting in the shop and my plan was always to use a set of them on this build. As I opened the packages I found them covered in a brown, manufactured rust that I just thought was unappealing.

 So I put some honing oil on them and went after them with some 320 wet/dry sandpaper

When you start this process you're never sure quite what you're going to uncover. The first two I cleaned didn't match up very well but fortunately I had bought four sets together, so I went ahead and cleaned them all up. I matched them into pairs and chose one set for this project.

If there is one thing I wish I had never learned about, it would be timing screws. It was something I had never noticed before I learned what it was. Now I look for it everywhere. It feels like I've been infected with a horrible OCD virus for which there is no treatment.

If you don't know, here let me infect you as well, just like Chris Schwarz did to me. Timing is clocking all of your screws to line up the same. It takes a bit of time and care to accomplish, but I cannot stop myself. My oldest daughter asked me why I was worrying about it and I explained that, in my mind and eyes at least, if a craftsman has gone to the length of detail needed to time the screws on the hardware, then that is a sign that every other aspect of the piece has see the same quality attention to detail.

I'm worried I might have infected her too.

Take two flathead screws and a countersink bit and call me in the morning.

 I always struggle with hardware installs. Maybe I don't know enough of the tricks yet but it always seems to take a good amount of trial and error to get things placed right. Perseverance is the key though and eventually I do win.

It is a bit frustrating though to put on all the hardware, then take it off for finishing, then put it back on again. Then again, maybe I'm doing it wrong.

With the lid on all I had left to do was make a walnut wrap for it to match the skirt.

The lid wrap is easier to fit than the skirt because it only covers three sides. I chose to mirror the bead on the bottom of the skirt on the top of the wrap and just ease the edges of the bottom. Some glue and nails and I was there.

I installed a stay chain, (timing the screws that hold it in place of course) and the box was ready for finishing. I wanted to put handles on the sides and I had a set of chest handles sitting in my stash I though I would use but after getting to this point I decided I didn't like them as much so I held off until I make another online hardware order, then I'll install them.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Framing Up A Lid

I had given the School Box four dovetailed sides around an open till, a pine bottom nailed on, and a dovetailed moulded walnut skirt, It was just missing one major component, the lid.

I had enough of the board I took the sides from to make up the lid as a glued up panel.

I started by jointing one side with my #6. I made some measurements and cross cut a couple sections to a bit over size. Then I took those blanks over to the tablesaw and ripped off the live edge so I had two blanks.

I played around with the blanks for a bit, trying to get the grain patterns to match up so once the panel was glued up and planed the grain patterns would meld together harmoniously and instead of seeing two boards glued together at a seam, you would see one congruent field of curly oakey goodness.

When I was done I had a board that was close to the right width, but much too deep. Now the problem was trying to decide what portion of the board was the best to use for the lid.

Should I center the glue line in the lid? Should I work off one edge? How can I decide whats the best section of the blank to use?

I decided to use an old art class trick to decide. It's tough to focus on which section would work the best while you have to look at the entire area. You need some way to focus your gaze and help you visualize what you'll end up with.

I needed a big piece of paper. I keep a ton of brown paper grocery bags in my shop. I use them underneath pieces I'm finishing, to cover the bench from over-spray when I'm changing the sand paper for my super scary sharp slanderous sandpaper sharpening system.

A few minutes with a razor blade and I had dissected the bag to open. Tah Dah . . . a big piece of paper.

Then I marked out the area the size of the lid with a sharpie.

A few more seconds of razor work and I had a fine paper frame. Now what the hell do you do with this?

You position it over the panel to select the grain / figure look that pleases you the most.

This technique will work anytime you're trying to zero in on that perfect panel. Whether for box lids, door panels inside a set of rails and stiles, or anytime you need to narrow down your field of vision to see exactly what you're going to get.

With the lid cut the only things left to do were to deal with the walnut moulding to wrap the lid and the hardware to attach it.

Ratione et Passionis

Leaving A Mark

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. 

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Ratione et Passionis

P.S. Don't understand marks like this on the corner of a board? Then you need to get yourself a copy of Robert Wearing's book "The Essential Woodworker" Taken to heart it will change your woodworking for the better in a dozen subtle ways. Find an old copy or order a new one through Lost Art Press.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scratching Myself To Distraction

One thing I like very much about my mostly hand tool approach to woodworking is how it is mostly jig free. I have a dislike for gadgets and I would rather spend my time making progress on the piece than making a tool or a holder for a tool. That aversion had lead me to put building several things I would probably like very much to have. A good bow saw for one, a scratch stock for another. To make the progress I wanted on this build I had to upgrade something.

I'm working my way through a build of the School Box from the book "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" If you want to catch up on what I've done so far you can see all the post collected together HERE. (Fair warning they're in reverse chronological order with the newest at the top so keep scrolling down and see the build work it's way backwards to rough stock.)

I needed a couple of scratch stocks. I wanted to make a little bead detail on the mouldings to wrap around the base and lid of the box. They are simple little tools to make and I've had them on my "Gosh I should make one or two of those" list for a while. Apparently the time had come.

I'd picked up a saw at the home center on clearance for a dollar a while ago. I never intended to actually saw with it, the intention was to use the blade steel for something like this. I also had a section of hickory in the off cut pile.

The hickory had a nice knot in the middle of it so what I thought might be three of a kind turned into a pair. I've never been good at poker anyway.

 I got them sawed down to size and took them over to the band saw to get them roughed into their "L" shapes.

Then I spent a few minutes with the rasp to smooth out the saw marks from the band saw and to give a little ease to all the edges.

I marked up the saw blade with a square and a sharpie. I chose to make strips the same width as the blade of the tri-square. I used a cutting blade on my angle grinder to cut them up. Sorry no pics of the sparks flying.

I don't have a great picture of it but the steel blade fits in a thin saw kerf that runs up the thin area. You place a screw at the most distal end of the arm to pinch the kerf together and hold the blade in place.

But I wasn't getting off the jig and appliance train just yet. Papa needed just one more fix. The mouldings I was working with were narrow, about 1 3/8ths inch wide and that makes work holding more difficult. So I decided to make a moulding shooting board like the one I saw used in Mathew Bickford's book "Mouldings in Practice"

It's a simple thing. I decided to make mine two sided out of a section of pine 1x6 I had sitting around. I cut the board to four foot, I kept half for the bed and ripped a strip off the other section to attach to the top. It's not as fussy to make as an end grain shooting board where you really want to make the fence square. In a moment of decision I decided to make this one two sided, one side narrow and one wider to support different kinds of stock.

A little glue and a couple screws set the fence in place. Then you countersink a couple screws in the ends of the bed that you can raise and lower to act as a stop for the stock you're planing. In use I butted the jig up against a bench dog and held it down with a hold fast.

After using it for a bit I decided to add screw stops to both sides. It makes it easier to work on both sides of the moulding and work with the grain.

For the bottom moulding's I chamfered the top and ran a bead around the bottom edge. The scratch stock worked pretty well for the first time out of the gate.

I dovetailed and wrapped the mouldings around the box. A little hide glue and a couple nails and they were attached.

And I have to say I really liked the way they turned out. The bead and the chamfer are subtle. The single dovetail is strong, and not out of place and the black walnut I made the mouldings from is a nice, framing contrast to the wild grain of the curly red oak.

Ratione et Passionis

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taking the Till To School

I have been building my oldest daughter a version of the School Box from the book "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" If you want to catch up on all the posts they are collected together HERE, in reverse chronological order so if you want to see what came before this post, you have to keep scrolling down.

I've been making lots of boxes lately, most of them carved, bible box style boxes. But I haven't fit a till in one for a while. I had to look back to find the last one I built, it was for the Medieval Style Hutch Chest I built a little over two years ago.

That one had a lid, fixed with pin hinges. This time I was forgoing the lid. But I still had to make the stopped dados for the till.

Like everything, it starts with the layout.

First I measured and penciled in for the 1/2" dados. There is no secret or magic to the layout, I played with a couple 1/2" wide pieces of scrap until the spacing felt right.

I have been getting to like laying things out with a marking knife more and more. I started using them because I had read many woodworkers I respect write about how wonderful and accurate they were, but it was a tougher sell for me. I would start using the knife and before too long in a project, I would switch back to my trusty mechanical pencil.

I am up to about 60% knife and maybe 40% pencil. I still like to scribble in my waste area so the pencil is always near anyway.

After setting the lines with the knife I deepened the walls with a wide chisel. Often I would saw the walls down with a stair saw or sometimes a back saw but because of the stopped dado nature of the vertical till side, this was the way to go. 

After setting the walls I used my big 1/2" mortise chisel to chunk out some of the waste.

Then I cleaned down the rest of the way with my router plane. 

I was worried about some serious chip out with this wild grain. I ended up with some, but better than I was worried about. 

I took a straight grained piece of red oak and broke it down to 1/2" thick using the band saw and bench planes.

I rabbeted the bottom of the till wall to house the bottom. This makes a nice corner on the inside that won't gap and allow small things to fall through. 

Everything ripped and fit to size.

A while back I started writing on my work, but not like you think. I started writing in places that no one can see. I write on the inside faces of joinery, behind moldings, and in other odd places. Thos. Moser got me started after I read a passage in his book about him doing the same thing. I wrote about the idea HERE. It's putting just a little more of myself into the work. This piece, being for my daughter was no exception. I took the chance to write a whole letter on the bottom of the till, on the underside.  I also wrote in the rabbet.

Once the dovetails are glued up with the till wall and bottom sandwiched in place . . .

. . . and the bottom is nailed on. No one will see those words until the piece falls apart. That should be a long time from now. But Chloe knows it's there, in fact she asked me about it. "Did you write something inside this one Dad?"

You bet I did.

With the pine bottom nailed in place it was just a matter of planing it and the proud parts of the dovetails down flush with the sides.

Ratione et Passionis