At this point, most of the significant work on the shoe rack’s joints are done. the side frames are complete, with both consisting of six mortise and tenon joints like this:
In addition to this, there are three shelf frames that are on their way to completion. They’ll take just a little more time to complete, but all of the boards have been cut and now it’s just a matter of making 36 more joints. This sounds worse than it actually is, because the mortises and tenons on the remaining joints are quite small.
I have made a few decisions on this project. The first is that I’ll use some sort of bottled hide glue for the joints to see how it works. The second is that this will be a knockdown project and I will use some fastening hardware to attach the sides to the shelves. These decisions reflect a desire to experiment a little more, while at the same time saving some time, because this thing really needs to get done so that I can move on the the next project.
I also figure that since this is not meant to be the finest piece of furniture in the land, it doesn’t matter too much if some flaws show up a couple of years down the road. This became even more so when, a few weeks ago, I saw a design I liked a lot better than my current one.
I’m in the process of making a shoe rack. It will basically be two side frames with three shelves, all done with mortise-and-tenon joints. I have most of the wood dimensioned, and have the boards for one of the sides cut to length now:
There are going to be quite a lot of mortise-and-tenon joints in this project. I’ve been practicing, and am getting much better. The fun part is that I’m no longer using the “drill and chop out” method of making the mortise. Now that I have no more downstairs neighbors, I’ve just been chopping the whole thing out with a chisel. It’s noisy and destructive and a lot faster than fooling around with the drills.
This wood is some rather cheap mystery softwood. These boards have a lot of knots in them; in fact, they’re downright tragic if you look at them whole. However, if you buy 10- and 12-inch widths, you get a lot of sections that have clear wood, and you can get cuts that are quartersawn in this way. This is a pretty common trick with softwoods.
The growth rings are very closely packed in some of these boards, but it’s still a rather soft wood, somewhere around the toughness of yellow-poplar (tuliptree). It’s always kind of tricky to make joints in wood like this, but I must admit that there’s a bit of a charge when you succeed.
Here’s a quickie project for a co-worker, a crepe spreader. It’s 5×7 inches.
It uses a sliding dovetail joint to connect the two parts. The joint came out better than I expected but I don’t think I will use it for any future crepe spreaders. A wedged through mortise and tenon seems like it would work better.
It’s pictured without a finish. I’m going to give it a very light once-over with some sort of oil (probably olive oil) just to make the surface a little easier to clean after use. Otherwise, it’s not worth really giving it any sort of extravagant finish because it will see a fair amount of wear anyway.
I’ve been messing around with hide glue in preparation for assembling the dovetailed box I’ve been working on for centuries now. That stuff may be smelly, but it does seem to work quite well if you have the patience.
For whatever reason, I messed up one of the corners and managed to make the joint out of line. The joint fits fine, though. I must have slipped when marking out the tails from the pins on that one joint I did in reverse. Oh well.
I got two of the joints together (badly), and then realized that the panel should have probably gone in after one joint, because the frontally-exposed grooves were stopped. I worked around it by bending the sides enough to slip the panel in:
At this stage, I realized that I am clamp-challenged or just silly, because I wasn’t able to jam the tails in far enough to get rid of some very small gaps on that side, even though I knew it was possible to do that. When I glued the front on, I used my Workmate and the one bar clamp I have to get rid of that problem on the other side, at least for the most part:
It’s pretty obvious, though, that I’m going to have to provide some clamps and cauls for this kind of thing.
The next task for the box was to cut the grooves where the panel will slide in. The only somewhat appropriate tool I had for this task was my Millers Falls #67 router plane. This is more or less a copy of the Stanley router plane, but without the fence. Unfortunately, the fence is what I really needed. So I decided to make one. The first attempt was just a piece of wood attached to the bottom through the hole in the plane sole. That didn’t work very well.
I decided to get a little more serious about this, and made a combination shoe/fence out of masonite and a strip of yellow-poplar.
This was a nice excuse to use my overly expensive countersink to keep the brass screw heads below the various mating surfaces.
It’s still not the easiest tool in the world to use; to cut a groove, you must move the adjusting nut down between passes while keeping the blade in the same lateral position. You can accomplish this by doing the adjustment while keeping the blade inside the groove you’re in the process of cutting.
There’s just one bit that you can’t get with the shoe/fence attached, and that’s the very end of the stopped groove on the pinboards where you start the cut. There’s a “swimming pool-like” recess there that you need to cut deeper (see the first photo above at the bottom right). To get to that, just remove the shoe/fence and cut in the opposite direction. You don’t need the fence for this because the shallow groove that you already cut guides your blade.
So now I have the four sides and we’re nearly ready for assembly. It’s probably time to complete that bottom panel.
Unsure of what I was going to do next, and with little time to do it, I sat around doing very little for a while. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that making a dovetailed box will help me improve my technique. So at the most glacial pace imaginable, I milled a board, cut it to width, then cut out four pieces for the box sides.
Then this weekend, I made the joints. I was really slow at first, but gradually gained a little confidence.
That turned into “too much confidence,” because I sawed the wrong thing when making the tails of the very last joint, which screwed up a lot of things. After looking really stupid for a little while, I decided to salvage it by shortening the tailboards. However, if I simply made a new joint on the opposing tailboard, I would have had to shorten the pinboards too.
So I decided to just try re-making one set of tails by marking them out from its pinboard. It was a little unnerving, since I’d never done it that way before, but it seemed to work out okay. I’m slowly getting used to sawing straight with that little dovetail saw, though I have to admit that it’s a lot easier and natural-feeling with the saw I made a handle for.
The box was originally supposed to be 10 inches on each side; now it’s gonna be 9.5″x10″.
Next step is to make the grooves for the panel (which I’ve already milled but have not assembled).
I’m going to take a break for a few days from doing anything in particular. I have a few odds and ends to catch up on, including these wood-related things:
Figure out a way to mount the vise on the front of the workbench. Well, okay, I know how I’m going to mount it, but I don’t know what materials I’m going to use yet.
Affix the roof rack to my car, so that I can carry boards on it.
Drive to a lumberyard with said car (and rack) and get some roughsawn wood. There are a couple of sources here in the city, and since I’m just getting some fairly cheap wood, this should not be a big deal.
Wait for my newly-ordered waterstones to arrive, and practice sharpening on those.
It’s supposed to be hot here this week, so I don’t really want to work up much of a sweat anyway.
You gotta figure that four years of thinking about building something without actually building something will wear on you. So the question comes down to “what?” It’s a pretty obvious choice for me: bookshelves. There are a lot of things about bookshelves that lend themselves to a first project, and me in particular:
1. They’re easy. No fancy cuts or too-tricky joinery.
2. (In my view) They’re best when made of softwood, which works easier, doesn’t cost insane amounts of cash, and doesn’t require absurd amounts of planing to get to a certain thickness (at least to the thickness that I desire).
3. They don’t require too many tools.
4. Designs for what I want are readily available.
5. I need several bookshelves, so I’ll have some practice at repetition there.
6. The shelves are also repetitive, so even more practice abounds.
7. People like bookshelves.
8. I need bookshelves in an excessively seriously god-awful way.
The basic idea is a design like 57th Street Bookcases and Big Fish Furniture that I remember from my Chicago days. When I lived there, I even had some stuff from Big Fish, and I liked it, but certain factors made me decide to sell it before I moved. Some of it had to do with it being too tall for comfort. A lot had to do with the fact that I did not make it myself. And there was some other stuff that we won’t talk about here.
Anyway, I’d like to do stopped-dado fixed shelves, perhaps a rabbeted top, finished with oil. I haven’t made up my mind about the particular wood. The western conifers all seem pretty nice, I just have to see what’s available and what I like.
So now I need to draw out the design and dimensions. Much of this will depend on measuring my apartment.