Of course, this project is long past due. Part of the delay has been uneasiness regarding reaming the mortises into the top, which I had to practice again in order to get a proper result, part of it was cutting out the top in the first place, part of it was not knowing how I would approach the legs, but most of it was just not having the time or motivation to go down to the shop and get something done.
Eventually, I figured out what I wanted to do with the legs, which are sort of a “one-stepped taper thingie” in order to complement the daybed legs. I started with octagon-profile legs, and then cut it down to this:
I’ve improved my efficiency on these. After getting two adjacent sides flat (not necessarily square), I can do almost all of the rest of the initial work on the bandsaw. Getting down to the octagon is easy; first you get a rough square profile, then use the V-track thing to help knock off the corners.
Then, for the tapered tenon, adjust the bandsaw so that you can cut near the sides of cylinder that encloses the tenon. The bandsaw is great because you can cut partway, pull out, rotate to the next facet, then cut the next one. After sawing off the sides, I use a rasp to make the profile round and to final size, and then it’s ready for the tenon cutter. This might sound a little complicated, but it’s easy in practice. Perhaps I could make a video of it.
In any case, once I have the initial piece above, I put it in the vise and go to down with the rasp:
Of course, I don’t use just any rasp for this rough work–I use the Shinto saw rasp for most of it.
I use a big English chisel to cut the step between the thicker and thinner parts:
I guess I could make a shaving horse and do this work with the drawknife and spokeshave, but I wonder if it would save me any time. It takes me 10-15 minutes to shape a leg like this, which seems pretty acceptable for a hobbyist like myself.
Of course, I managed to screw up the first leg that I shaped (by cutting the shape 90 degrees to what it was supposed to be relative to the growth rings). I hemmed and hawed a bit over what to do there, but in the end, I decided to remake the leg. It didn’t me much time.
So the legs are shaped and fitted, and the top is also to rough shape:
In theory, this project is almost done. I need to shape the edge of the top, smooth off the legs, glue and wedge in the legs, apply finish, and cut the legs to length. That’s pretty standard stuff, with no problem-solving (figuring out methods and shapes and such).
I’m looking forward to being done with this. I have another video lined up and ready to shoot, but I don’t think I should do that until this is at least in the finishing stage.
“It’s been a slow couple of weeks in the shop,” as many blog posts would say. My current project is theoretically a quick one: A simple staked side table to accompany the daybed. In true half-slacker fashion, I already have the top glued up and the board for the legs milled:
(Yes, I used the multiwedge to flatten both halves of the top, and have not yet touched the top again with a plane since glue-up.)
I have a design, and even made a half-scale model/mockup to see if it was reasonable:
I also have a full-size template for the top that I just need to tape up and trace to cut out the top.
So, in theory, there’s just a little bit of measuring, gauging, cutting shapes, leg-making, reaming, and tapering to do before this can be called done. I really don’t know why I’ve been dragging this one out. It’s mostly been a matter of not finding the impetus to go down to the shop.
My plan for the small chest project was to try to be like the cool kids and paint it with milk paint. I figured that it would just take a few days for the paint, then I could put down the varnish topcoats and maybe be done with it in, say two weeks. Since it’s now two months later, you can probably guess that it didn’t really go as planned.
I’ve now figured out that I need to either practice more with milk paint, or just not use it at all and use alkyds or acrylics, which I know a lot better. I kept freaking out about all of the weird stuff that milk paint does, and tried to use water in the same way that you’d use a thinner for varnish and oil paint. I did manage to get the chest body done in the first shot, but I screwed up the lid so badly that I decided to sand down and start again. That didn’t work out as planned, because although I knew that milk paint was really tough, I didn’t quite understand how tough. Eventually, I got it smooth enough and fumbled my way through the lid again. (Detailed descriptions of my sulking sessions have been omitted.) Perhaps I would have liked the lid to come out perhaps a little bit better, but this thing will wear anyway.
With that behind me, I attached the lid and loaded it up with my desk crap:
This includes rulers, shears, letter opener, a usb drive, and a screwdriver in the top till, most frequently-used camera stuff in the lower till, with chargers, cables, and who-knows-what-else in the bottom. In this respect, it is a success; this is exactly what this thing was supposed to hold, and my desk has a lot more space now.
I did not decorate the underside of the lid. I probably don’t care.
Closed, it looks fairly humdrum. Perhaps a lighter paint than “driftwood” would have made it pop out a little more (and made it easier to paint).
I haven’t bothered to put on any handles. This is small enough that you can grab it by the lower dust seals on either end without much difficulty. If this gets annoying, I’ll add handles. Also, no lock. I’m a little torn about this one. A lock would be traditional, but wouldn’t have much purpose, and I’d probably lose the key and have to watch a bunch of lockpicking videos to open it. A latch might be better.
It doesn’t have a stay chain or cord. However, keeping in mind that the built-in stops at the rear of the upper dust seal can get mangled with use (there’s a Fitzian blog post on Lost Art Press about that), I glued a cork/rubber pad to the impacted end:
This is just a leftover scrap of the “crubber” that came with my Benchcrafted Moxon Vise hardware. This might not actually work, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to try.
So that’s done and it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. Come to think of it, I recently finished my latest book and wrapped up a couple of other projects. But let’s not call it completion season just yet. I have at least three other active projects that are in the “overdue” category.
Among my various tasks for the past couple of weeks was making a stand for some pots and planters. This isn’t a raised bed meant to hold dirt by itself; it’s more of an enclosed shelf. It was not a complicated project, and it’s done:
I used cut nails to attach most of everything. I’d originally intended to completely eschew glue, making this a very nail-ridden project, but alas, I used glue to make a wide enough shelf, and to attach the shelf supports to the bottom insides of the long rails (the shelf lifts out for easier cleaning, or something like that). It just seemed easier to do it this way.
This is cheap construction wood that I had lying around (one “hem-fir” 2×8). There are several knots that I just banged out rather than wait on them to fall out–I didn’t feel like planing over them. Probably the most time-consuming part of this was just getting all the bits and pieces cut out and milled to profile.
It’s now in use, with plants inside as intended, and I consider this out of my hands now.
With the shell pretty much done, the three main tasks I had to complete on the chest project were the till runners, the sliding tills, and minor lid tidbits (hinges and attaching the upper dust seal).
The till runners were easy enough to make, but when it came to attach them, this was one of those times when I really had no idea what I was going to do. ATC and other sources say to nail or screw, then glue them on, and I guess it makes sense to use nails or something to serve as clamps (it’s not like they’d be useful for mechanical strength). But in my case, I wasn’t sure which nails or screws would work.
And then I somehow remembered the idea of a “go-bar” that’s often used to hold surfaces in place when gluing. So I made some spacers to reference off the bottom, cut an oak scrap strip to appropriate length, and tried it out on the lower till, first as a dry run, then with glue:
This worked, so I did the same thing on the upper runners. This time, though, I needed to use more strips and some battens because there was a much larger surface to glue:
I should mention that the runners are made of ash, except for spacer sections of the upper runners in white pine. The only real reason I did this is that I didn’t have wide enough pieces of ash ready to go in order to make them entirely with ash, so I figured that I’d try gluing up what I had on hand to some white pine to see what happened.
There are only two sets of runners because the plan was for only two sliding tills on this chest (recall that it is not intended to hold tools; I have specific ideas for what should go in here). The larger lower till is around 5″ in height, and the upper is around 2.75″.
Tills are just dovetailed boxes, and dovetailed boxes are straightforward:
They have ends made of ash (for wear resistance), with the lengthwise sections in white pine. The bottoms are 1/4″ yellow-poplar. I disobeyed ATC and other sources, going with panel-in-groove bottoms. Nailing or screwing them would have probably been OK, but again, these are a little on the small side. However, I did use 1/8″ grooves and cut a rabbet on the bottom so that the bottoms would still sit flush and not waste any space:
I also didn’t care to close up the grooves on the ends of the tills. These are invisible when installed in the chest, so I care as much about that as I do the rears of drawers.
The final little bit of construction was to fit the hinges:
The bench-on-bench strikes again. It was really nice to be able to slide down the rear (the first time I’ve done that since I built it), put this thing flush on the top, and work at this height. This went fine, and just to annoy everyone who needs an annoyin’, I used Robertson-drive bronze wood screws. (I don’t think anyone will actually notice, though.) The only real complication with the hinges (the British-made ones from Lee Valley) were that for some reason, the countersinks were too small for the screws (despite being advertised to work), and I had to expand the countersinks. Glad I had a HSS countersink.
With the lid hinged on, I was finally able to attach the upper dust seal to the lid, round off the top of the mating lower part, and put everything together:
Yep, only two hinges. That’s fine for something this size.
Closed, it looks like this:
So now pretty much all that remains is to prep it (sand), paint it, and put some stuff in it. I suppose that I might also put some batten strips on the bottom. Stay chain? Eh. Huh, would nitrile-infused cork be a possibility on the rear of the stops?
After doing that tongue-and-groove stuff, I nailed on the bottom of the chest:
I guess I sawed off the ends with a panel saw. I don’t remember. In any case, I’ve been looking through not just the “ATC,” but also “The Woodworker” articles on traditional chests, and noted that some of the articles in the latter had said to use screws on the bottom. I went with cut nails, especially encouraged by the fact that I actually have some cut nails on hand.
Then it was on to the plinth and lower dust seal. These are just dovetailed bits and pieces and are pretty much standard fare. Pictures of those are a little later down.
The lid frame and panel presented another typical situation: determining which boards to use for the frame and panel. You normally want frames to be rift- or quartersawn because they’re more stable, and of course, those cuts are difficult to find if you’re just looking superficially (which is close to what I was doing when I bought most of the white pine that I have on hand). Fortunately, I had this one:
At first glance, this looks like a board with a lot of knots and an obnoxious cup. But slice out the center part, make some cuts here and there, and you get this:
That kind of riftsawn cut is what I was looking for.
I made the frame using through mortises (something I rarely do), did the joinery for the upper dust seal, and am now close to finished with the outer shell:
In a case of not following directions, there’s a small knot on one side here. It doesn’t show much sign of wanting to fall out, but if it does, I could repair it, or something. Because this is not a tool chest, it may not be important.
A look at the lid:
The upper dust seal is not attached or trimmed to final dimensions. This is because to really finish off the lid, I need to install the hinges, which I do not have at the moment. These are allegedly in transit.
I’ve already selected the wood for the sliding till runners and the sides of the tills themselves. I haven’t decided if I want to make some kind of divider in the bottom yet. Again, this isn’t for tools, so I don’t know if that kind of compartmentalization is appropriate here.
But it looks like I’m getting somewhere. In theory, this project shouldn’t take much longer.
In my small chest build, I started working on the bottom. This is usually done with a series of tongue-and-groove or shiplap joints. I prefer tongue-and-groove, but although I do have a set of match planes (and a Stanley 45), they are for 1/4″ grooves, and I’m working with stock where 3/16″ would be more appropriate.
Match planes are great for pumping out a lot of tongue-and-groove joints. To do it at almost the same speed, I could spend $30 on the Veritas tongue-cutter for my plow plane in that size. But none of this is necessary, and I didn’t feel like waiting around for that cutter to arrive anyway. So I set out to do it with the plow plane. Doing so requires three cuts instead of the two that you’d need to do with match planes; the tongue is nothing other than two rabbets.
You start by plowing the groove side, which is the same no matter what:
It’s best to plow all of the grooves at the same time, so that you don’t have to constantly readjust your plane.
Then, with the groove side still up, adjust the fence so that the cutter sits right on top of the “outer” side of the groove (the side opposite the fence), with the sides of the blade and groove flush:
This is where I have to say that I really like the Veritas small plow. I could do this with my Stanley #45, but moving and locking down the fence on that thing is finicky and difficult to do with precision.
Now, flip to your tongue side of a board, and (here’s the important part) clamp a scrap to the side that you’re going to cut, flush to the top. Then cut this side of the tongue:
The reason for the scrap is so that your depth stop (which is usually on the side opposite the fence) has something to hit when the cut is complete. Yes, I made the mistake of forgetting to do this on my first attempt.
Again, it’s best to cut all of your boards at the same time. Then, put a board’s groove side up again, and set the fence so that the cutter rests on the “inner” side, like you did before:
This one is more difficult to see, so feel free to use any optical method of cheating that comes to mind.
Then flip back to the tongue side, and cut this second rabbet that makes the tongue:
You probably won’t need to include the scrap this time, because the depth stop should register against the tongue itself.
It’s possible that you might feel that the fit is too tight when you’re done. In that case, just adjust the “inner” side with a rabbet plane. I’m using my miniature shoulder plane because I recently said that I seldom use it, and I feel guilty for that. Or something.
If you’ve got a lot of these to make, one possible time-saver is to reset the fence to the trimmed side after you adjust the first tongue.
That’s more or less it. And I now have everything ready for the bottom of my small chest:
My next project is a scaled-down down version of the traditional English tool chest, for use in my office as a place to store the junk that always seems to pile up on my desk. Call it “The Conformist’s Doodad Chest” or whatever. Though it will resemble the original form, let me be clear: I don’t intend to use it for tools. It’s not big enough for that purpose, at least not for woodworking. It’s half the length of the ATC as originally published, but has only 1/6th the volume. The stock I’m using isn’t quite as thick; it’s not intended to be beat around a shop.
Several months ago, as I was starting the daybed project, I also decided to do another project in parallel: a stand for some decorative object that’s to go in the living room. I figured that it wouldn’t take much time; it would have three tapered-tenon legs, so all I needed to do was make a quick model to figure out what angles would be appropriate, and just do a little work.
I’d already made the model (leading to this). For the top, I glued up a really nice chunk of yellow pine and sawed it into a disc on the bandsaw. I made the legs and the tapered tenons on those. So all I had to do was ream the mortises and I was as good as done. Shouldn’t take more than a few days, right?
That’s when disaster occurred. For the life of me, I couldn’t keep the angle consistent when reaming with the brace. I failed immediately, reaming too far on the first one. Having ruined the top, I figured that I could learn just what I did wrong, so I tried the other two. I failed at those as well. Then I just tried a bunch more and failed at all of them by hand:
I was just having too much trouble controlling the reamer. It wobbled too much in the brace, and I couldn’t feel anything. Furthermore, because this is on the thin side, I was having trouble making adjustments without overcompensating. If I were more experienced, I might have been able to do it. Then I tried with a power drill. I was able to do some decently using that.
Sitting back, I wondered what I could do about this situation. I’d speculated before that I suspected that the reamer I was using was just meant to go into a chuck on a power tool, and this reinforced it.
Note: Chris Schwarz says in an old post that this “standard” reamer, sold by Lee Valley, is made in Canada and fits well in a brace. The former is NOT true (maybe it was back then), and as for the latter… maybe it fits better in a Spofford brace? I dunno. The shank is very soft, which caused me a lot of trouble in the brace.
What to do? I figured that I had four options:
Use a handheld power drill to do it.
Make the “banjo jig” to do it on my drill press.
See if I would have better results with a reamer with a square-taper shank that’s meant to go into a brace.
Door number four is never a bad choice, and I did a fair amount of that (especially considering how nicely the rings were arranged in the glue-up of the top that I ruined), so I thought, well, I’ve never really been too comfortable with my power drill; I’m don’t have the steadiest hands. Perhaps I could make the banjo jig?
But I also thought, well, I like hand work, and I don’t like the idea of another jig lying around. Maybe I could be lame and blame the tool, try a different reamer, one with a square-taper shank? I ordered the Veritas “Pro” Reamer. It was on backorder for a week or so. That became a few weeks. Then the expected date was shifted to January. This was not a cause for optimism. Much sulking ensued. But just as I was thinking, okay, well, time to build the banjo jig, mine shipped around the end of November.
To make a long story short, I am far happier with this reamer. Other than the proper shank, there are two things in particular that I like: First, there is a single blade, which seems to make it easier to control with a brace. Second, the blade is adjustable: You can set how much it protrudes (different amounts for different woods), and you can adjust the included angle slightly with set screws.
Great. My first “genius” idea was that maybe I’d try to use the thing in my T-handle in the “inline handle” configuration (or whatever it’s called; it’s the configuration on the right):
That worked, but it was really slow. So I first went at it with my largest-sweep brace:
This was quite effective. I was able to get down to near the depth I wanted quickly and at the correct resultant angle. I admit that I did switch back over to the T-handle when almost done to go more slowly when finishing up, but I think I probably didn’t need to do that.
Then it was time to chamfer the bottom edge. It’s weird to do that a curved surface. C.S. did this on a similar project in the ADB with the bandsaw, and I probably should have done that as well. Instead, I first went at it with a block plane chamfer attachment, which did not work terribly well, but got me to a certain point. Then I made this stupid thing to go the rest of the way:
It’s essentially an adjustable chamfer block with a piece of sandpaper clamped down at the bottom. This worked, but not very quickly. It loads up too much. I think it would have gone much faster with 60-grit paper instead of the 110-grit here, but eh. This might work really well with a milled-tooth file wedged down in there. I think I know how to do that, but have no need right now.
In any case, it got done. I glued and wedged in the legs next. This left me with the final cutting task: getting the legs to length. I marked them with the “slide block of wood with pencil taped on” method, but then I needed a good way to clamp the octagonal legs to the bench to actually saw them. I was thinking about making some kind of custom caul, and then I just grabbed the above stupid tool and clamped with that:
It was far more effective at this task, so the futility was diminished somewhat.
After sanding, I finished it with tung oil. Here it is in its intended location, without the object that will sit on top:
Aside from the top being southern yellow pine, the legs are ash; one of them was seen in this post. A project that I thought would get me a few quick XP instead dragged on without much action for a couple of months. At least I no longer need to sulk over this one.
Additional: I have a plan for that initial ruined top. I do not know when I’ll be able to act on it.
The only remaining task after gluing in the daybed legs was to glue in the railing, which brought us to this point:
It’s hard to notice, but the rail has a slight concavity on top, to echo off the front of the platform.
Well, that’s all fine and good, but almost no one wants to lounge around on a slab of wood, right? I haven’t really mentioned anything about the cushions, except that I’d finished them. I don’t have any photos of that process. It’s not exactly woodworking, and I don’t approach sewing projects in the same way that I do woodworking. So you’ll just have to settle for me sewing together two scraps of the cushion fabric:
Grayscale to make it look more “old-timey-looking,” when in reality, I was just too lazy to deal with the white balance down there.
I could have made my life easier if I’d done square cushions first instead of a curved thing with weird little cutouts in the back. But I managed, so here’s the final piece:
Strangely, even though I’d only made a very rough drawing of this before starting, it came out almost exactly as I envisioned it. That doesn’t seem like it should happen very often.
To recap, this is southern yellow pine with red oak legs and railing supports. The raw material cost wasn’t terribly high; I think the foam might have been the biggest single-ticket item. The main problem with materials is finding what you want. The wood is one thing, but if you’ve never shopped for fabric before (while trying to get your spouse to agree on a selection), there’s a whole new world of fun waiting.