Daybed: Shaping the Platform

All of that fussing around with making those clamps has finally gotten me ready to get started in earnest on my next project: a daybed/”couch”-like thing for an area of the house that currently has zero furniture. I had a sort of “vision” about how I wanted it to appear one day, and knew that I had to build it before someone else in the house bought one, because what I imagined seemed pretty neat, at least at the time. And when I read what Roubo had to say about them (yes, it’s in there), I became more convinced.

I wanted this to go a lot more quickly, but getting the large platform glued up took much longer than I had wanted–I had to make a whole bunch of stuff, including the clamps, before I could get to where I am now.

The first operation on the glued-up platform (after planing it off) was to shape it. I started with the ends, which are to be semicircular. I don’t have any trammel points to make a beam compass for such a large radius, so I just drove a couple of small nails into a board at the appropriate distance and used that to scribe it out:

As made, the radius of this improvised beam compass was a little too much, but to correct it, I just tapped one of the nails to bend it inward. I marked over the scribe line with a pencil.

Then there was a curve to lay out on the front. I guess I’ve been watching too much “Tally Ho,” because I tried to imitate Leo’s curve marking with a batten tacked into place:

I wasn’t sure if this would work, but it did. There were a few options for curve shape, mostly dealing with the tangent angle at the point of inflection in the middle. I chose a fairly mild one.

So I had one side done, and to do the other, I traced that side’s lines onto some of the paper that I use for making patterns, then cut along the lines on the paper, flipped it over, and transferred the lines to the other side of the platform.

Then it was time to start removing wood. I always get a little nervous the first time I cut into a panel (especially one that I’ve spent so much effort on gluing up), but it had to be done:

I removed as much as I could with a saw, working my way around the ends and trying to get as close as possible to the line. The cuts on the long grain were more challenging, so I used a drawknife to get rid of most of that material:

I finished the initial shaping with my Shinto saw rasp, and had this:

The front curve was somewhat tricky because it’s convex; I sawed a relief cut in the center and took out most of the waste with the drawknife and a chisel. (Note: Southern yellow pine is not particularly easy to use a drawknife on, but there’s worse.)

It came out as planned. Pay no attention to the ugly knots in the middle; those will not be visible with a cushion on top. I would have preferred clear wood, but due to multiple factors (the proximity of the nearest source of large southern yellow pine, the inconveniences of the source at the time that I went to buy it, not to mention the obnoxious process of picking through the pile alone on a steamy hot day in the middle of a pandemic), I settled for straight, mostly-quartersawn boards that would yield a clear perimeter, which is the only part of the wood that will be visible.

There isn’t much remaining work on the wood to do. I have to make the legs and the railing, do the final profile of the edge, and finish it. During finishing, I’ll make the cushion (hopefully I’ll have some sort of an idea about what I’m doing there).

More Messing with Tapered Tenons

My plans today were to get the legs onto the stand that I’m building. Things did not quite go according to plan. The first impediment was that I haven’t been too content with the way you use the tenon cutter, and it came to a head today. I prefer to twist the stock into the cutter rather than twist the cutter around because it’s easier to keep it centered that way. Unfortunately, it’s not really easy to put the tenon cutter into a vise or something to keep it put. Not like it’s easy to twist the cutter, either, mind you.

So I picked up a squared-up ash cutoff, put a rabbet into one edge, and screwed the tenon cutter into the opposite edge (it has holes and little half-moonish registration standoffs to help with the attachment):

Then I can just put it into the vise, with the rabbet registering on the benchtop. The result is that (in theory, at least), you can hold the stock parallel to the benchtop and bench front to keep it in the right place:

With this system in place, I was still having problems. The tenon cutter isn’t large enough to engulf the whole octagonal profile of these legs. I was doing a rough shaping with the drawknife and saw rasp to get a cylinder to shove into the tenon cutter, with a little transition area to the outer surfaces. I determined that you need to be fairly precise about the size of that cylinder. I’d made it too small, which resulted in tapered tenons with a long rough unshaped area between the tapered part and the transition to the octagon:

This happens because the transition area eventually meets the end of the tenon cutter and cannot advance any more. This wouldn’t happen if the tenon cutter were larger than the stock being worked (which would be the case for most cylindrical legs), or if I wanted to do a more gradual transition (assuming that I were actually good enough with a drawknife to do that). Even though this 9/16″ version isn’t the largest tenon cutter that Lee Valley offers–the 5/8″ keeps selling out too quickly–it wouldn’t make much difference here.

I decided to cut new transitions farther back in the stock and make newly-shaped cylinders bigger in order to bring the tapered part closer. Something tells me that this would be a lot easier with a lathe, but I don’t have one of those. I’d been putting it into my tail vise and just whacking away with a chisel, but the end would keep sliding around too much. So I interrupted myself again and made a stop with a mouth on one end that I could secure into two dog holes (to keep it from swiveling around):

This worked. As a bonus, you don’t need to secure it with the tail vise this way, making it really easy to turn the stock around so that you can work on all of the facets.

With this aid, I was able to shape everything a bit better and use the tenon cutter again. This made for a much nicer result:

I’m not worried about the 1/4″ between the transitions and the tapered part (this is the distance between the tenon cutter’s blade and its end).

Unfortunately, I spent so much time fooling around with these little shop aids and trying to figure out the best way to use them that I didn’t have any time to ream the holes for these things today. Oh well.

About Those Wire Hanger Models

One small project that’s been lingering for a month or so is a narrow stand to hold some decorative stuff (such as a plant or worse). I planned to make a three-legged round-topped staked version. The difficulty is that the proportions don’t really conform to most furniture projects, so I wasn’t really sure what would look halfway decent.

Fortunately, there is a solution, described in The Anarchist’s Design Book, also referenced in a recent LAP blog post. You make a quickie half-scale model to see if it works, and if it does, transfer the angle(s) from that. So I made myself a little r = 2.5″ top and set about getting some wire hangers to dismantle in order to mock up the legs.

That’s where I came across two problems. First, there’s sort of a shortage of wire hangers in this house, and an acute shortage of ones that aren’t bent all to hell, which would make it difficult to get a halfway accurate resultant angle with the long legs that this project requires. Second, I had this difficulty: How would I get a better feel for how the legs would look meeting the top, as well as the overall weight of the legs, taking into account some of the thickness? I also didn’t know what length of leg I wanted.

So maybe I don’t have a lot of straight wire hangers around, but I do have a lot of narrow offcuts of wood lying all over the place. I decided to try drilling a hole in the end and stuffing a smaller piece of wire hanger in there:

And then, I wasn’t sure of the inset from the edge where the legs should be attached. Again, because this is not a chair, I wasn’t really sure what might be appropriate. So I drilled two sets of holes in the top so that I could play with both:

At least the sightlines for this thing are really easy to determine.

With this in place, I attached scale 30″ legs in the outer holes to see how this would look:

As I suspected, it was awkward. There were problems viewing from different angles and the proportions are also a bit unfortunate. I tried putting the legs into the inner set of holes, and that was also strange.

So then I tried scale 26″ legs, attached to the inner holes:

This seems to work better. It looks like a stand, I guess. Hopefully it does not look like a stool, though it might actually be able to perform that function.

In any case, before getting the resultant angle, I just tried fixing the wires in place with “Shoe Goo” to see if I can keep them from wriggling around so much. (Others use epoxy, but I don’t have any of that right now.)

Quickie: Back Door Shelf

A secondary title would be “A Study in Overthinking.” There’s a spot near our back door where we’ve been wanting to put up a small shelf with some knobs or hooks or something underneath. I decided that it wasn’t worth procrastinating any longer, so I grabbed a piece of eastern white pine, flattened and thicknessed it, and set out to do the actual construction. At first, I thought that I’d make some sides as brackets and use cut nails to put the whole thing together (too much “Anarchist’s Design Book,” you see).

So I plowed a groove into one of the boards that was to be the back. This would accept the shelf:

I had to do this in three stages because (a) I don’t have many blades for the plow plane, and my widest one was a little too wide, and (b) I failed to think ahead that I could have just thicknessed to the width of that wide blade. When you’re overthinking, you wouldn’t accidentally want to think of something that makes sense, right? At least I rejected the sliding dovetail idea.

Then I quickly evened out the bottom with a router plane, and got to fitting the shelf into the back. At that point, I tossed the nail idea out the window because it was faster to glue the thing in place:

The remaining work would be to make the sides that would act as brackets. I was still planning to nail those on, but then I realized that because I glued it, this thing was probably already stronger than it needed to be. There was the option of omitting the brackets altogether and letting the shelf “float,” but I didn’t think that look would fit the intended setting.

My first thought was to just make diagonal braces dovetailed into the rear and top, but partway into making the brace, I decided that this was a dumb idea. It helped that I was feeling lazy. I ended up just mitering the brace with no additional joinery, and just glued them on:

I didn’t even bother to use clamps. In other applications, this might strike one as flimsy, but remember that the purpose of these is decoration. I’m not timber-framing. Still, I did prepare the mitered surface with thinned liquid hide glue before the normal (liquid hide glue) application.

For what it’s worth, I did try knocking them off after the glue dried, and they didn’t budge.

And so here’s the result, edges broken and ready to be painted (at least, I think I’m painting it):

Now I’m destined to overthink the paint. (I think it’s supposed to be white.)

Coffee Table: Finished

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.

Quickie: Napkin Holder

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.

Here it is without the napkins:

Coffee Table: Drawers Trimmed and Completed

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.

Coffee Table: Drawer Glue-Up

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.

Coffee Table: Gluing Up Drawer Bottoms in a Less Idiotic Way

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.

Coffee Table: Gluing Up Drawer Bottoms the Dumb Way

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.