One more day of shop work before I leave for an extended road trip.
Joe had cut out the parts for a shelf that Marcia had requested, but the width was too great for our clamps to span. Even the new pipe clamps were too short. The solution took a bit of puzzling, but eventually we saw how we could build a jig to bridge one end of the project and give the clamps a place to hook about twelve inches shy of the end. Then we bridged the other end with a heavy board so the clamp pressure would be evenly distributed the whole height of the shelves. In effect, we made a box arrangement to surround the shelf, with hangers on the long edge to catch the ends of the clamps. I haven't seen the project out of the clamps, but it seems to have worked, and now we have a clamping system for oversized assemblies.
All the joints are cut and fitted, and it's really starting to look like a tavern table.
Joe chucked a scrap up in the lathe, showed me how to turn the machine on, and handed me a chisel. Then he gave me a few pointers as I gradually turned the scrap into a cylinder. After a break to touch up the edges on the chisels, I worked on, and in half an hour had a right creditable vase shape carved out. With a bit more practice, I think I will be able to do my share of the turning. So far, no blood.
The tavern table is coming along remarkably well so far. All the parts for the base are cut, as are the mortises and tenons for the apron. We dry fitted what we had done, but it is all still loose so we can take it down to cut mortises for the stretchers in the legs and then turn them on the lathe. The tenons on the stretchers are mostly cut. We will have to build a table top, but that is something we have done, and it should be easy.
I mentioned that the biggest job still remaining would be the turning. "The turning," Joe mused. "That could be the name of a horror movie." Lets hope not.
These setup blocks are a new addition to the shop. We're just starting to get an idea of how to use them. So far, we have found that they work well for setting up the table saw. A block can go between the fence and the blade to rip a length to a set width. Or a block can be set next to the blade and the blade raised or lowered until it is precisely the right height. Here is where the finger can tell better than the eye. It is easier to feel that the blade and block are the same height than to see it.
Joe, with his years in the building trades, is pretty good at taking measurements with a rule, but the setup block are probably quicker and more accurate.The set of five individual blocks plus the 123 block can be combined to gauge everything from 1/16th to 4 11/16ths, by 16ths!
With the tenon-cutting jig we built for the table saw and the setup blocks to get just the right settings, we cut some very clean and accurate tenons for the tavern table we are building.
Boxes are fine, we enjoy making them and everyone needs them. But now and then it's time to build a piece of furniture. I have long admired the colonial form known as a tavern table, but never seriously considered building one. They generally have splayed, not to mention turned, legs, so the mortises and tenons have to be cut at an angle, and there's lathe-work as well. Our record on mortise and tenons is sketchy, and Joe is just mastering the lathe that Graham gave him a year ago.
To see if there was any reason to even consider taking on a tavern table, we decided to try cutting a corner post and apron with angled blind mortise and stopped tenons, just to see if we could do it. If it worked out, we could think about moving forward.
Turned out not to be so bad. We completed the test in just a couple of hours, and ran into no real difficulties. Joe says turning the legs won't be too hard, either. So we will probably start building a tavern table in the near future, expecting it to take some time. To give ourselves the best chance, we plan to build it out of soft, straight-grained Douglas Fir. Then we will stain it down to look like the traditional tavern tables, which were commonly build out of walnut, mahogany or cherry. Many of them were painted, but we won't do that.
After searching the internet for hours, I found a plan in a 1929 issue of Popular Science for a tavern table which I will use as a model for the plan I draw up. These tables are small, so I can probably draw it up full size.
We're on a sliding top box binge, and the latest is this 5x5x16 inch one for holding my rope-working supplies - fids, needles and whipping twine. This box will fit on a shelf over one of the settees on my boat.
Four years ago when we started the shop we built several small tool totes for young friends just starting out living on their own. This one went to Marie and Levi, and it still makes good storage for their small collection of household tools. I think it has aged beautifully.
Neighbors put an old chair out at the dumpster. I retrieved it and took it to the shop. A couple of stretchers were loose but the chair was in fairly solid shape, so we reglued the stretchers, sanded off the flaking finish and gave it a coat of green milk paint. Then we brushed on polyurethane. The neighbors are older ladies living on a fixed income and my plan is to give the repaired chair back to them, if they want it.
Also getting poly were a small cypress box my mother asked us to build, a Leyland cypress utility box, a slide-top box and a pine step-stool.
I need some storage boxes so I planned one that could be made out of dimensioned lumber with a minimum of saw resets. It would be 10x16 inches to be stackable with my other 10x16 and 16x20 boxes. A six foot 1x5 would produce a box with a a good scrap left over to be used as a side or two ends of another box. The top and bottom would be of die board.
I bought two boards at Home Depot and took them to the shop. We set up the table saw to cut dadoes on either edge of the boards to inlet the bottoms and tops. Then we cut two 16 inch and two 9 1/2 inch lengths for the sides and the ends out of each board. Next we cut rabbets in the sides to let the ends fit in between them. We cut down one end of each box to allow the top to slide out. Then we cut out the tops and bottoms from the die board, attached a batten to each top as a pull, and then glued up one of the boxes. The other will have to wait for another time as we don't have enough clamps to glue two at once. I took the finished one home and the other we will keep at the shop as a model. The whole project took a couple of hours but the next ones should go quicker.
Sometimes the old Langdon miter box is the best tool for the job. We needed to cut miters in some stock that was slightly too large to fit in the power arm saw. With a stop clamped to the fence and the stock clamped against the stop, we made eight perfect cuts to produce sides for a small box.
We built another step stool out of an old pine plank we found in the shop. Neither of us has any idea where it came from, maybe it was there when Marcia bought the house. It was the hardest piece of pine we have ever worked with, hard to cut, hard to plane, hard to chisel. We forgot to saw the top to length and after we cut the dadoes it was too late, so this one ended up three inches longer than standard. In my view, the extra length makes it more like a low bench than a step stool, but still perfectly functional for either use. We are getting quick at building these and had it in the clamps in just a couple of hours. All that remains is to jigsaw a carrying hole in the top and put on finish.
I rubbed on three more coats of satin Minwax Wipe-On Poly, lightly sanding with 220 between each coat. Then I sanded with 1000 and gave a last coat, making a total of five. After waiting 21 hours for the poly to set up, I applied a coat of wax. All that remains is to get some levelers to make it stand right on my living room floor.
It was a lot of fun to do this project. Next up, a pine step-stool, then maybe some boxes, wooden bar clamps... Time to do some searching through old woodworking magazines for another good project.
(Yes, I changed the picture. I decided I liked this one better.)
We rubbed a first coat of finish on the atlas stand and I took it home. I will put a few more coats on and then wax.
We built a crosscut sled for the table saw from a plan in the July 2011 Fine Woodworking. This should make crosscut work safer and more accurate. It went together easily using mostly scraps we had in the shop. The fence is a nice piece of maple but we have plenty of it and know where to get more.
The altas stand is completed and next time we will start rubbing on finish.
Poking around the wood stack we found a length of wide, thick old pine that will make a good step stool. There's enough wood to make another of the oversize ones, suited for the equally oversized modern American.
Joe works in the shop a good deal more than I do, and here are a couple of his recent projects - a box and a crate. Most of these things he donates to auctions for the local burn survivors group, known as Victims to Victors, and another local organization, the Firefighters' Burned Children Fund. Joe's work has been very popular and the Sellers' benches generally bring around $100 apiece for the organizations. Even the smaller boxes and crates can bring $20-$50 each. People have a real liking for this kind of craftmanship, especially when things are priced at a level that the average person can attain.
We continue to build things for young people starting out their independent lives, and if there is something we want for ourselves, we make it. We have both been fortunate to live in modern-day America, where it is easy to make a living, so we have never had to look at woodworking as a means to earn money. That means it has remained a pleasant hobby. Everything we build is given away, either to individuals or to non-profit organizations, or used in our own homes.
We got far enough along with the atlas table today that we were able to dry-fit the parts that were cut and get an idea of how it was going to look. Still to come is a trestle cross-piece that will be mortised through the uprights, and brackets from the top to the uprights for adjusting the angle of the top. This is going to be a really nice piece, once it is finished, I think. I just need to figure out where in my small apartment to put it.
The atlas table is coming along. We glued the top into the frame today.
Small utility boxes are a real help for keeping things organized on the boat. I can always use more. They would come in handy around the house as well.
We have built things out of wood we purchased, wood we were given, wood we salvaged from old furniture and buildings. This utility box is built from wood we harvested. A neighbor had a large leyland cypress tree cut and stacked the rounds on the curb. I loaded the truck with all it would carry and moved them to the basement, where we split them out and stacked them to dry. That was in April of 2015, and we used some of the now well-seasoned wood in this box. It's good-looking, very light and easy to work, and should be strong enough for small boxes. If I see more you can be sure I will take it.
I had long wanted to build a stand-up table for viewing my atlases, and we finally started it recently. The top will pivot so it can be set at various angles. Yesterday we glued up the framework for the top. Next we will insert the ash top, which should contrast nicely with the cedar frame.
Both step stools are finished. We decided to keep the big one around the shop for now and give the standard-sized one to Dee. We put third coats of finish on them and I rubbed Dee's down with wax. She picked it up on her way to work and was very pleased.
The old heart pine was fairly easy to work and we have our eyes open for more.
The latest step stools got first coats of poly today. Just as we expected, the grain and color are spectacular. This wood is old heart pine, not easy to find. It isn't so full of knots as the second-growth wood available at the lumber yard.
Losing count on how many of these small step stools we have built. The original plan was laid out to build two from a 6 foot 1x12 shelving board. Then we built one from leftover oak, and lately two more from a plank of heart pine. So there's five. Could be more that I have forgotten.
So, this is what we did with half the plank that Dee gave us. It's a bigger version of the step stools that we built a while back out of 1x12 shelving board. The step stools were designed for reaching high shelves but this one, with its wider tread, is suitable for heavier work that might require a lift. We will keep it in the shop for the time being for times when we need to get up over a piece of work.
This old heart pine should really look good once we get a couple coats of finish on it. And once we get done with this one, there is enough wood left to do another. That will have to wait, as I will probably be out of town for a week or ten days.
Dee's table is delivered and back in its place in her home. She will take care of painting the leg extensions and the scrapes from working on and moving the table. Dee is a fantastic cook and I'm sure that many great meals will be served on this table, and that her guests will appreciate being able to sit up close.
Some years ago Dee's neighbor gave her a plank of heart pine from an ancient farmhouse that was being torn down. She kept it, thinking some day she would have a coffee table made from it, but that plan went by the wayside. Today she gave it to Joe and I, to use however we liked in the woodshop. The plank was 15 inches wide and 7 feet long, and we took it straight to the shop and started a project, which will be featured in my next post.
My friend Dee has a beautiful little house out in the country, with an antique farm table in her dining area. The frame is a little low to comfortably sit up close, so she asked me to extend the legs by about 3 inches. We cut tenons on the end of each leg, then built up mortised ends to fit over the tenons. We got them all cut and glued the first day, and next time we will put pins in to get extra strength, and start shaping the extensions to match the taper on the original legs.
This coat rack that Joe built hung at the door to Marie and Levi's old house, but they have a closet for coats now, so it has been repurposed as a coffee cup and oven mitt rack in the kitchen.
Marie likes her cookbook rack and has started filling it up. I overestimated the size of her cabinet and drew the rack so large that it ended up just barely fitting the space available - but fit it does; there is no interference with either the cabinet door or the door to the garage.
Nothing out of the ordinary about this glue-up, just a standard clamp job making four narrow boards into one wide one. The wood, on the other hand, is something different. It is Leyland Cypress, harvest wood from a tree that was cut down in my Ardmore neighborhood. I picked up some of the rounds and brought them to the shop, where we split them down, ricked them and let them dry, and then milled them into useable lumber.
Marie asked for a rack to hang in her kitchen for her small collection of cookbooks. We came up with this design similar to a magazine rack and built it out of salvage wood from a frame of some sort. The holes where pins held the frame together are clearly visible. We didn't do anything to disguise or hide them. We are coming to the view that salvage wood can show its honorable scars with pride.
This is the piece that was so bound up in clamps a few days ago. At this stage it has a coat of Waterlox as a sealer and it will probably get a coat or two of poly before it is done.
For something so simple, it has a lot of parts - 29 in all. With the resawing to get thin stock, odd angles on the sides, rabbets and dadoes, complicated glue-up, and all the parts, it was a bit of a challenge, but it went together with no problems.
With a few minutes left over at the end of the day, we made this oaken mallet to go in my toolbox at home.
Well, I'd say we have this one pretty well tied down. You can't even tell what it is, from all the clamps and the 25 pound weight. We call this "Son of Clampzilla".
While I was gone to the coast, Joe started work on this exquisite inlaid cedar box. It is close to being done. He just needs to cut off the top (he assures me there is no weight trapped inside), add hardware and finish. I told him as nice as the box is he should find some really good hardware for it. A rubbed finish would be worth the effort. He tells me making the inlay was not that hard, and he may make another box to this pattern.
I brought my board home and rubbed it down with cooking oil. Afterward, I decided that it should be tested. It works!
When I got to the shop today, Joe was in the process of making a cutting board from a piece of leftover cherry, too small to use for another project and too nice to burn. I suggested we come up with something better than a simple butt joint for the breadboard ends, so we decided to tongue and groove them onto the central section. Since we don't have the proper match planes we cut the joints on the table saw. The board came out well enough that we decided to make another very small one for me to keep on the boat. We made mine from hard maple with walnut breadboards.
I mentioned a maple benchtop and machinist's vise in an earlier post, and here they are, installed in the forecabin of my sailboat Terry Ann.
While I was at the marina, Joe built several more items, including these two boxes. The one in the back is poplar, showing the wide color variations the wood is known for, and the one in front is good solid oak.
There is still a lot of white space on the walls of the Smith's new house, and this corkboard, our third, fills some of it.
Since the earliest days of the woodshop, one goal has been to make decent, solid, useful furniture for young people who might otherwise have to buy pressboard junk from the big box store. This crate is something Katie asked for. At her age, she can expect to move every year of two, and the crate will be a safe container for valuables that she might not trust to a cardboard box. In between moves, it will serve as a bookcase. This is Joe's work, though I helped with the glue-up.
On the workbench is an inch-thick hard maple block that will serve as a workbench on my boat. The big Babco machinist's vise will be bolted to it, and the whole assembly will be secured atop a small bureau in the forward cabin of my boat.
Here is the second corkboard. There is a minor construction change that Joe and I agree makes it look better than the first - the corners of the frame, trim and shelf are rounded. I like the color of the wood, which we think is Douglas Fir. This one will go to Marcia. The first one, which we consider as the prototype, will stay in the shop. My hope is that we will make several of these, in various woods. I think they would sell easily at the Firemen's fundraiser, and I also think that friends who see one will want one.
Joe made a little crate out of cherry for a friend in the burn survivors' group. He took it to the last firemans' sale to deliver it, and somebody saw it and wanted to buy it. Deanna graciously allowed it to be placed in the sale to benefit the burned children's fund. Joe made another one for her and this time I hope he will deliver it at one of the group's meetings. The cherry comes from a bedframe salvaged from along the road. I haven't had much chance to work with it, but Joe tells me it is very easy to shape and sand. Add to that it's beautiful grain and color, and it is no wonder that it has long been one of the premier American woods for furniture. At $4.90 a board foot, we probably won't be buying any, but we'll pick it up off the side of the road every chance we get.
We don't actually sell anything but we still call it payday when we have a lot of work to finish at once. Here are nine items getting first or second coats of polyurethane. Most of this is Joe's work since I have been out of town for most of the month.
Joe built several things while I was away at the coast, including this box. He used a common technique for building boxes, glueing up all the sides, including the top and bottom, into a cube and then sawing all the way around to cut off the lid. During the glueing stage, he put a five pound dumbbell in the box, something we often do to keep the weight of the clamps from flipping the box off the bench. When time came to glue on the top, he forgot the dumbbell and entombed it inside the cube like some poor cat out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. Fortunately, he was able to saw the lid off with the blade set just a hair over the thickness of the box walls and retrieve the dumbbell with no damage done.
We're close to finishing the cork board, which hopefully will be the prototype for several to follow. All it needs is a couple more coats of finish and then for the cork and backing to be applied. What made this project easy is that most of it is made from 1 1/4 by 9/16 inch pieces of varying lengths. We can mill out long sticks on the table saw, cut stepped rabbets for the cork and backer, and then cut individual pieces to length. The tray and trim piece at the top are different dimensions, but still out of 9/16 stock. Cutting these pieces to wrap around the frame is the only part of the job that takes any hand work or close fitting.
The best cork I could find was only 3/32nd inch thick, so we laminated two layers to get it up to 3/16. Not having glued cork before, we did some tests with yellow glue and contact cement. Each worked fine, so we decided to use the quicker and less noxious yellow glue.
We finished up a couple of projects today, putting final coats of finish on a shoe rack for Marie and a tool tote that I will take down to the boat. Last time I was at the boatyard I found my tools getting scattered all over the place, and maybe having a tote will help me keep them together. We have built at least ten of these totes, and this one went together fast and easy.
We started a new project, a cork board. I have high hopes for this to be something we might like to make as a regular production run. For the most part it is machine work with just one small step requiring hand work.
It's the city's bulky item pickup in Joe's neighborhood, and he drove around with Marcia scouring trash piles for good items. They found several decent pieces of furniture that can be restored or parted out. The basement is packed full of small dimensioned wood that will make good boxes, crates and racks. We still have plenty of cedar, West Salem yellow pine, hickory and poplar. In fact, I don't think we have ever had so much wood on hand.
Joe is very active with the local burn survivors' group. One thing they do is participate in auctions and sales to raise money for the Firefighters' Burned Children Fund. Joe has built and donated many items that have raised hundreds of dollars for the organization. Marcia crochets items for the sales, and they have been big sellers too. In appreciation, the Firefighters gave them medallions. Joe mentioned that I helped out on some of the builds and they sent one for me as well.
Yes, another Sellers Bench, in cherry. Joe did about 90 percent of this one and tells me that cherry is very easily worked. The source for all this cherry Joe has been using lately is a salvaged bedframe that somebody turned up. That's good because cherry at Wall Lumber is running $4.90 a board foot.
In addition to glueing up the Sellers Bench, we built a tool tote for me to take down to the boat, started glueing a shoe rack similar to the one we built Marie, and coated several items with polyurethane.
I made this cherry crate for a friend and took it, full of fudge, to the Fire Fighters' Burned Children's Fund spring sale. A shopper saw it and wanted it and paid $50 for it, so I am building another for my friend. I am so pleased that these crates have become so popular. They aren't too difficult to make, so I think I'll take one to each event and maybe won't bring any back home.
One of the reasons I like making things for Marie is she has a specific need to fill when she asks for something. Nothing gets pushed to the back of a closet and forgotten. Here is her little tray to keep her herbal teas organized, that we made last October.
Our first big project, finished three years ago to the day, was this cedar-topped table for Marie and Levi. It has served them well in three houses now and shows hardly a scratch in the polyurethane topcoat. No wobbles either.
The big pile of parts has been assembled and all that remains to do is to sand and finish. I got the general design from the July/August 1995 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. Felix Marti, the author of the article, made use of lots of identical parts - four identical legs, four shelves, several feet of molding that just had to be chopped to various lengths - to make for a quick and simple project. We dispensed with the formica shelf covering and used pegs through inserts rather than screws, but followed the directions in the article for the most part. The router jig for making dadoes that Felix designed served us well and was easier than cutting them on the table saw.
Big pile of parts for a shoe rack we are making for Marie. The four plywood shelves have holes in the corners for inserts that will accept dowels pinned through the legs. Trim pieces will cover the edges of the shelves. This project will rival Lars' rocker for most pieces, though it is much less complicated to build. We have materials available to make a second smaller one once this one is complete.
Last time I was in town we built this little utility box to hold bolts, nuts and screws. I took it to my boat and it has been very convenient. I need a few more.
We built a couple of these step stools a while back, dimensioned to use 3 linear feet of 1x12 apiece. This one is slightly smaller, dimensioned to use a small piece of oak left over from another project. Using mostly machine tools, we built this one in not much more than an hour one afternoon.
The teak first aid box got hardware today, and then a final, rubbed-on coat of poly.
The companionway steps we modified a few weeks ago are now installed in the boat. They will make it a lot easier and safer getting in and out of the cabin.
Most of what we have done lately has been related to the boat. We have stripped and started refinishing the main boom, built a mast spreader to replace one that had rotted, and started work on a trim piece for the companionway cover.
Joe built this small Japanese toolbox out of teak. We still have a bit of it left from the old garden furniture that Graham gave Joe a while back. If I ever find a source for salvaged teak, I will take all I can get. It is easy to work, strong, impervious to rot; the only drawback is that it doesn't adhere well with regular yellow glue, so we have had to learn to use epoxy.
Joe commented on how he looked back over the site and was amazed at how much production we had completed since we started the shop in September of 2013. Considering that this is only a hobby for either of us, and we can only give it a few hours a week, I have to agree.
A great day in the shop. First, the pleasure of seeing my dear friends Marcia and Joe, after a long absence. Second, starting and completing a project that will make my recently-acquired boat safer and more comfortable.
For the most part, my Alberg 35 Terry Ann is well-designed and easy to get around. But the entrance through the companionway and down the ladder to the cabin sole leaves a lot to be desired. As built, the first step down from the cockpit, through the companionway to the top of the motor casing, was 20 inches deep, then there were two steps down from there, each 16 inches. That first 20 inches is yet to be resolved, but today we rebuilt the motor cover to add a step so now there are three steps, each just under 11 inches. This was a priority since I slipped off a step a few days ago and took a painful fall. The project involved unbolting the bottom step and moving it down, then building a new one out of oak to go between the top and bottom. With Joe and I each working on different parts, we managed to complete this job in one afternoon.
I am going to paint the whole assembly white for visibility and add non-skid material to the top of the steps. For the drop from the companionway to the top of the motor case I will probably install steel brackets with a wooden step.
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