This project is finally done and in its intended location:
Here’s the obligatory drawer-open, from-the-side photo:
For those who haven’t been following this project, the dark wood is black walnut, the lighter wood is ash. Drawer bottoms are western redcedar, and a few other parts here and there that you can’t see are tuliptree (“yellow-poplar”). Finish is the usual varnish, and this time, I waxed the top, anticipating heavier wear than usual.
The photos here show how the panels and drawers are arranged so that each side looks like it has a continuous piece of ash, framed in. This wasn’t too bad to execute, even though the drawer fronts are a lot thicker than the panels on the sides. You just have to mark stuff out and remember where everything is. It also helps to remember what your plans were in the first place, which can admittedly be a problem when a project takes as long as this one.
I’ve had a crazy, yet admittedly modest dream for many years: That we would start using napkins instead of paper towels (as napkins, that is), and that I would make a napkin holder for the napkins. Last week, SHMBO made the decree that napkins would now be used in our household.
I was excited. See, I had grand plans for the napkin holder, involving delicate mortise-and-tenon joints and all sorts of other nonsense. These dreams pretty much evaporated the moment I took the 1/8″ mortise chisel into the ash and realized that for what I wanted to do, it would tend to split badly.
So I sat on the sawbench for about 20 minutes and fooled around with the wood that I had milled to size, and realized that I could probably make something halfway decent relatively quickly if I just sandwiched stuff together. I ended up with this:
I was careful to make the protruding napkin width equal on the two sides and the top, for whatever that’s worth. But the thing that I’m most happy about with this project is that it happened very quickly. That’s a true rarity in these parts.
I’ve got the legs glued up (laminated) and close to final dimension, and started ripping boards for the top today. And I almost apologize for the horrible lighting in the front. One of these days, I’ll get an additional light or two for this side of the bench.
I have decided to aim for a thickness of 2.5″ (65mm or so) on the top. I do this with some trepidation; I’d prefer a little thicker, but I just don’t have the wood on hand. My main Roubo-style bench (also shown above) is about 3.5″ thick. But I figure this will be OK, because I don’t actually plan to do much handwork on this thing. I don’t see a reason why I wouldn’t use my main bench for planing, and on the off-chance that I decide to mortise or something on the new bench, I’d do it over a leg anyway.
I have not decided on the width. I was considering around 20″ (510mm or so), but I could go wider, again because this is not my main bench and the problems with wide benches will not matter on this new one.
Another note is that I will likely use a strip or two of hardwood for the front part of the bench, as I did with beech on my main bench. I have some soft maple on hand that should fit the bill.
I’m almost out of glue. I ordered more liquid hide glue, but I do not know when it will arrive, given current circumstances. If that does not ship soon, I do have a backup: hot hide glue. For now, though, I’m going to let those pieces for the top destress a little before I flatten and prepare them for face-jointing.
With the coffee table in the finishing stage, it’s time to move on to the next thing. I haven’t quite figured out what the next furniture project will be, but I do have a fairly immediate need in the shop for something to help out with a number of tasks, including assembly, storage, and miscellaneous kinds of work.
There are a few partial solutions to this problem, including framing up a wall to add some shelves for storage, but due to current events, I don’t think I’ll be getting the help I’d prefer with the framing down there.
So I think I’m going to make another workbench, meant as an auxiliary to the Screwbo. The reasoning is that it will solve the immediate organizational problems, and then when I get around to framing the wall or something, I can move the new bench to another part of the shop, where I already know it will be useful.
To that end, I picked through my hoard today to get some wood to get the frame started:
This is southern yellow pine. I don’t have a good source of it here (apparently the closest big-box source is in Richmond), but the borg nearby has “project wood” that happens to be SYP. The catch is that, due to bad planning, it’s cut into three-and-four-foot lengths.
The length should be OK, because I’m imagining something perhaps around three and a half feet (1060mm or so) long. I haven’t decided on the benchtop thickness yet.
This will be the first “big” thing that I’ve done in SYP. I made a stand with it about a year ago and was happy the way that turned out (even if it was sort of a quickie).
In any case, it’s a fair amount of wood to mill. Time to get rolling.
After gluing up almost any dovetails, you normally trim away the excess on the ends to make everything nice and flush. I make my half-blind dovetails especially proud so that I can get a really good kerf started next to my line. In the past, the main tool I used for trimming this stuff was my block plane. However, I picked up an inexpensive flush-cut saw at a home center in (hmm, I guess it was) Koto a year ago, and decided to try it out here:
This worked pretty well. If you’re not familiar with this kind of saw, it’s got no set (some have set on the top end only); the one I have is a little strange because it has teeth on both edges. I liked the way that this worked enough to go look for a better one the next time I’m in Japan. In any case, when you’re done, you can be left with some pretty amusing cutoffs if you’re doing half-blind dovetails:
(The photo above shows my original clamping method before I switched to clamp it down to the corner of the bench.)
After sawing, you still need to give the ends a final planing, but it’s trivial at this point.
So the drawers are ready for finishing now:
In theory, the project is nearly done. The top has all of its coats of varnish and just needs to be rubbed out. The base needs a few more, and of course, these drawers need the most.
Having applied the glue, I just put the second drawer for the coffee table in the clamps:
I did the first one yesterday. As I expected (because I haven’t glued up any kind of carcase construction in quite some time), that one took some wrangling, but it got there. This second one went smoothly.
Part of the trouble yesterday was in clamping. Most of my stronger clamps are also quite long and heavy, making it difficult to clamp smaller gaps at the top of a piece without tipping over or at least having difficulty manipulating them. To help matters a little, I bought a pair of shorter pipes for my pipe clamps today, which I put to use here.
But as it happens, I do find myself somewhat clamp-challenged at the moment. Back in California, I was fortunate to have been able to borrow a number of pipe clamps from a friend when I needed them. The two that I have now came from a yard sale about a year ago. I’d like to pick up a few more this year. I guess the PATINA Damascus sale is in two weeks, though I’m a little skeptical about finding clamps there. I’ve had the best luck with clamps at yard sales; I just haven’t gone to many lately.
Yesterday’s oafishness had a predictable result: One of the panel pieces rode up ever so slightly in the rear, so I’ll need to plane that down a little more than desired. For the second drawer bottom, I came to my senses and did it this way:
This looks somewhat complicated, but it’s not. Instead of the twine that I was originally going to use, I used the ratcheting tie-down straps that I also use for securing lumber to my roof rack. The ratcheting mechanisms are underneath the bench, upside-down. It’s also a decent excuse for keeping weird little cut-offs around.
This method takes a little longer to set up, but is more effective, and is easier to manipulate.
I’ve got all of the pieces for the coffee table drawer bottoms ready. Here are the three components of one of them:
These are western redcedar, resawn from an inexpensive S1S 1×6. These aren’t quite as nice as the quartersawn stock that I used earlier, but are largely defect-free. The knots that you see here won’t be in the bottoms; they’ll be trimmed off.
I glued up one of the bottoms today, and it looks completely ridiculous:
Like some other panel glue-ups, I used dual wedges on one side to apply pressure along the edge joints. But here, I’m using pieces of SYP to press down on the panels so that they don’t accidentally ride up. That big wooden jointer plane is supposed to add weight to that side.
This was an idiotic idea, and probably didn’t really work terribly well, at least in terms of keeping the joint flat (I’m going to do a final planing anyway, but still). The method that I used back when I was gluing up some other panels was far better. The reason I didn’t do it this time was lame: I didn’t feel like searching for the twine that I used before. But I think I will do it for the other drawer bottom.
During the past couple of weeks, I restored the old blog posts that have been missing for the past year or so. I won’t go into technical details, but it was a mostly unpleasant process. All comments from sometime or other in 2010 did not make the transition. Unfortunately (and unusually), this is a shame because there was some really good feedback.
Thanks to the Internet Archive for helping me patch up a number of holes where I had no backups.
I have the original versions of all photos. Many of the old photos are kind of dim due to that being a somewhat transitional period between CRTs and panel displays, and they are pretty low-resolution due to the limitations on storage at the time. If anyone wants me to brighten up and expand the resolution of a particular image, let me know.
As part of the process, I reviewed every post. I confess to making some minor edits for typos and such. Making it a little interesting is that I started the blog at the exact same time that I started woodworking; I had no hands-on experience until even a few posts in. So I saw myself learning again. (And then, there were those posts that I read and thought, “oh, that’s how I did that…”)
Enough navel-gazing. Here’s what we’re looking at right now:
A large amount of my time in the shop lately has been dedicated to something related to the coffee table, but hopefully to be used in most future projects. More on that soon, maybe. If I do write it up, it will be different than my usual fare here, for the three people who have been reading this blog fora while.
In the meantime, I have this update: The coffee table drawers are now officially underway. I finished milling all of the wood except the backs and bottoms, and just did the front joints of one drawer:
It’s been quite a long time since I last did some half-blind dovetails. At least it’s measured in years and not tens of years. The little cutoff in the lower right corner is a little test cut, investigating tail width and spacing.
The Veritas router plane is newish; I bought it last year after getting annoyed with the fence that I made for my vintage Millers Falls plane. I could have made another fence for the old one, but it would have cost me even more time, and I was getting irritated with the adjusting mechanism.
I used the router plane to go to the bottom inside of the blind part of the front, between the pins. I think I used a chisel for this in the past, but I think I’ll do it this way in the future (soon, because I have another drawer to make). It makes it a lot easier to keep things straight down there. The only thing to remember is to take fine cuts, and after you extend the blade down, move the adjuster back up to register against the top of the notch on the blade’s shaft to ensure that it does not slip. This sounds complicated, but if you’ve used a router plane before, you know what I mean.