Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stickley #913 Harvey Ellis Dresser, Part 1

Today marks the beginning of the Stickley #913 Harvey Ellis Designed 9 drawer dresser. Like the picture to the left this one is going to be constructed with a cherry carcass and curly maple drawers. I previously purchased the lumber and have had it acclimating in the shop for a couple of weeks, now its time to make some sawdust.

The first thing I wanted to do was to select the best boards for the top and the sides, I specifically looked for interesting grain patterns and lack of knots. I put together one panel just over 36 inches and 20 inches wide for the top. The two sides are seventeen inches wide and 48 inches rough, all three of these panels will be trimmed to size later.

After removing the clamps and scraping off the excess glue I ran the panels through the drum sander to remove any mismatched boards from the glue up and to flatten the panels.

The rest of the carcass parts are ripped to width and rough cut for size, I like to get all my parts together and then cut them to length. This way I can do the rough length cuts on my miter saw then do all the ripping on the table saw with a Freud Glueline Rip Blade, switch over to a crosscut blade and use my extended miter gauge to do the crosscuts.
After the panels have been cut to length I set up the dado blade and cut a 1/4 inch tongue on both side panels this will fit into a 1/4 wide by 1/2 inch deep groove in the legs.

I sanded the legs smooth then chose the two best for the front legs. Once this was done I marked the outer corners and oriented them so I could mark the spacing for the drawer rails and the locations of the grooves. It is important to keep the legs in order when you are marking them out as the layout is rather complex. I used a plunge router with a fence attachment and a 1/4 inch straight bit to cut the grooves in each leg for the side panels. This is the first step for the legs, the front legs will have mortises cut for the drawer rails and the back legs will have a groove for the back panel as well as mortises for the back of the drawer frame. Both sets of legs will be tapered on the outer sides.
After the routing I dry fit the legs onto panels, with a little of fine tuning with a shoulder plane the fit was perfect. The inside of both panels will have a series of dadoes to support the sides of the drawer frames. Once the mortises are all cut in the legs and the dadoes in the side panels I can start cutting the tenons for the drawer rails then I can start on the mortises and tenons for the drawer frames, but that has to be left for next weekend.

"It is not how much one makes but to what purpose one spends."

John Ruskin

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stickley Music Cabinet, Part 4

The last two days I've spent finishing the Stickley Music Cabinet. While finishing is not my favorite part of woodworking, seeing the piece completed makes it worth it. I decided to go with a medium brown finish for this cabinet. I started out by sanding the entire piece to 150 grit then hand block sanding. I used a base dye of Transtint medium brown diluted in water. After this was left to dry overnight I took a sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper on it and used it to cut the fuzz from the raised grain off of the piece. I used a brush on my vacuum to remove the majority of the dust, then hit it with a microfiber dusting cloth to remove the rest. The next step is to use a 1lb cut of dewaxed shellac, also known as sanding sealer, to seal the dye. I went over the piece again with 220 grit sandpaper and a dust cloth. Follow this with Brown Mahogany gel stain, I prefer General Finishes stains. Wipe on a generous coat on one side, then rub it in with a t-shirt, before it dries all the way use a clean t-shirt to rub the stain off. This will leave the darker stain in the open grain off the oak. Once complete this should be left to dry overnight.
This morning was spent applying three coats of amber shellac, I like to rub it on using a "bob" made from lint free t-shirt material rolled into a right ball and covered with a folded square, I use a rubber band to secure the ends. Soak the "bob" in the shellac and squeeze out the excess, the goal is to keep a wet edge as you rub on the shellac with the grain without puddling. Shellac dries quickly and any excess build up of shellac will dry as a thick line or bubble. If this happens and you catch it early you may be able to rub it out with the wet "bob", if you catch it later you can melt it with a little denatured alcohol on a cloth. There is no need to sand between coats as the shellac will melt the coat under it as its applied. I sanded out the final coat after it has dried for 30 minutes with a 320 grit sanding sponge, follow this with a dust cloth. To complete the finish I wiped on a coat of Watco Dark satin liquid wax, I left it to dry for 15 minutes then buffed it out with a clean cloth.
Finally I rehung the door and installed the door pull, I added a rare earth magnet stop and installed the shelf pins and placed the shelves.
I'm very happy with the way this cabinet turned out, its simple design combined with some very nice details such as the through tenons on the top and bottom and the raised sides around the top make this an interesting piece. I'm not really sure exactly where I'm going to put the cabinet, but tomorrow I'm getting one of my neighbors to help me bring it inside, its kind of heavy.
"The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life."
William Morris

My Favorite Little Table, apparently other people's too

Imagine my surprise when in the mail today was the spring issue of Woodworking magazine and on the cover is my little table. Chris Schwarz goes through the process of making one version of the Stickley #603 Table using hand tools and another version using mostly power tools. Doing this he describes each step and when you read it you realize that you could combine the techniques to best fit your skills and tools.
Now to be fair, I used the #602 table and Mr. Schwarz used the #603, I prefer the version with through tenons and he used the hidden tenon, all accurate, all made by Stickley around 100 years ago. But I would defer to Chris for his expertise and skill. I'll end this little post with the same quote he used in his article.
"By all means, read what the experts have to say. Just don't let it get in the way of your woodworking" John Brown

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Wooden Sportscar?

When I first saw this in an email from Delta/Porter Cable I thought it was a joke, but then it wasn't April 1st yet, so I looked into it a little more. I've seen wooden boats, I've even contemplated making a wooden kayak, but short of an old Ford Woodie I've never even thought about a wooden car. I found out that the story is about a local man that's building this as part of his master's thesis. Joe Harmon is a graduate student in the industrial design program at North Carolina State University. He has wanted to design cars for most of his life and saw his chance with the Splinter. Harmon's basic job on the car, apart from the design, is to get it finished, one way or another. Whatever it takes to accomplish that is what he tries to do each day, which typically includes making everyone else's life miserable and staying up late worrying about trifling details. When away from the car, he can be found on the water in his hometown of Charleston, playing basketball.

We aren't really all about mission statements around here; too often, they are phoney and superfluous. That said, here is ours. We are building a high-performance, mid-engined supercar from wood composites as a graduate project at North Carolina State University. Wood will be used whereever possible, including the chassis, body, and large percentages of the suspension components and wheels. The car has a target weight of 2500lbs and a power goal of over 600 horsepower. We aren't trying to sell anything; we aren't trying to save the world, and we aren't advocating that everyone should drive a wooden car. This project is a scholastic endeavour in which are simply trying to explore materials, learn, teach, share ideas, and stimulate creativity.

When we started the car, using wood for the suspension was usually talked about with much sarcasm. The more we talked about it, however, the more we began to think it was doable. We decided a leaf spring was nothing more than a bigger, stiffer version of a longbow, so we researched bow making and came upon a wood called osage orange. The strongest wood found in North America, it has properties that make it excellent for use in longbows. Typically considered a nuisance tree, osage orange is not especially easy to get a hold of. We had to drive to Kentucky to get ours,but it was well worth it. We had several logs rotary cut into veneer because the tree's twisty, knotty nature made it difficult to get good strength through an entire board. Our laminations of this wood have left little doubt in our mind that our experiment will prove successful.

Using wood structurally in the wheels began as an experiment. This car ain't no wagon, so we anticipated a lot of development time would be needed to make these hold up to the forces seen in a supercar. We decided to try them when we figured that even if we couldn't make the wood hold up to vicious burnouts and emergency stops from 190mph, we would still have a killer wheel to use in shows. We soon realized that our main problem would not likely be breaking the spokes of the wheel, but rather twisting out the center where the wheel mounts to the spindle. Our calculations tell us that we should be well within the limitations of the wheel, but we suspect there will be some crossed fingers the first time the clutch gets dumped at 5000 rpm.
WOW I still don't know that to think about it, but man it looks fun, I hope that in the end they give it a nice finish. Take a look at Joe's website, they've got a blog, live cam's and lots of info and pics of the process. This is going to be the fastest woodworking project on the road.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stickley Music Cabinet, Part 3

Well here's the weekend and the next installment in the saga of the Stickley Music Cabinet. I came into the shop after work and glued up a panel for the door and also glued up the shelves. In the morning I took the panel and shelves out of the clamps, I scraped the excess glue off the pieces and trimmed them to size. I cut the rails and stiles for the door out of one board, I try to always do this so that the grain and the color match.

I ran the panel through the thickness planer down to almost 1/2 inch, then I ran it through the drum sander to clean up milling marks. I also ran the shelves through the drum sander to even out any differences from the glue up and to remove any milling marks.

I set up the dado blade for 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch high then ran the panel so that all four sides were rabbeted. You will notice in the picture to the left that even with a flat board you can end up with a mismatched rabbet, so fix this I pulled out my shoulder plane and took a few passes until the thicker side was even with the correct side.

The rails and stiles each have a 1/4 inch groove 1/2 inch deep, tenons were cut on the stiles and bridle joints were cut in the rails. I dry fit the door to check the fit of all the joints. After dropping in 1/4 inch spacer balls to hold the door but still allow for movement, I applied glue to the tenons and shoulders but not the panel and clamped it up.

After removing the clamps from the door I trim it to fit. When I make inset doors I build them to the size of the opening then trim them to fit. Once the door is sized correctly I use thin shims so center the door in the opening to check the fit and size. Only now will I mark the locations of the hinges and mortise the area for the hinge to sit flush on the door. There are many methods to mortise for a hinge but I prefer to mark the hinge with a sharp knife and remove the waste with a chisel.

With the hinges installed on the door I use two-sided tape and the same shims to align the door. If you are lucky and you hold the door carefully you can open the door while keeping the cabinet side of the hinges attached. But I you aren't that lucky you'll call your neighbor and have him hold the door while you align the hinges like I did. You'll notice in the picture that I had also installed the door pull by this time, one all the hardware was fitted and the swing of the door checked I was ready to take everything apart and give it a final sanding.

One last picture before taking off all the hardware, hand sanding everything with 150 grit on a block. I vacuumed everything off with a brush attached to the shopvac, then hit it with a blast of compressed air to remove any excess dust from the open grain of the white oak. The final thing I did this weekend on this project was to give it a coat of medium brown dye, I let it sit for a while making sure that the dye was evenly taken up then wiped up any dye still standing using my compressed air again to blow out any trapped dye in the corners and edges. The dye should dry at least over night, however, I'm afraid that this will have to dry all by itself until next Saturday.

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.
the Dalai Lama

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Favorite Little Table

If I was going to teach a course on basic furniture making this is the project I'd choose, it is a Stickley #602 small table. I've made several copies of this table and everyone that has one of them loves it. I have one next to my Morris chair with a pile of woodworking magazines on it, another one over by the wall that my laptop lives on when its not in my lap, and a couple more upstairs that I can use for anything I want. I have a #604 table that's 26 inches tall and 20 inches across the top that sits next to the prairie sofa at just the right height. The #602 table is 18 inches tall, it has a 16 inch round top, 2 assemblies of cross stretchers, and 4 legs 1 3/8 square. You can make it with 2BF of 8/4 quartersawn white oak, 3 BF of 4/4 quartersawn white oak, and about 6 inches of 1/4 inch dowel. That comes out to about $25 in wood, not a bad materials cost for a class.

You can learn every step of making furniture short of case work with this project. You have to flatten and square the stock, rough cut and finish cut the stock. Prepare and glue up a top, cut through mortises in the legs, cut captured dovetails in the top of the legs for the top stretchers. You have to cut half lap joints for the top stretchers, you need to pattern cut the bottom stretchers then cut a half lap, vertically oriented joint. You will cut tenons for the through mortises on the lower stretchers. You also will have to cut a circle for the top.

One of the best reasons for using this table for teaching is that it can be made with any combination of hand/power tools that your students have access to. You can make a pattern and trim the bottom stretchers on a router table, after you trim them on a band saw, or you can cut them with a jigsaw and finish them on a oscillating spindle sander, or if you really wanted you could cut them with a coping saw and using rasps, files, and sandpaper shape them all by hand.

The half lap joints on the top stretchers could be cut using a dado blade on the tablesaw, could be routed, or could be cut with a handsaw and a chisel. The trapped dovetail joints at the top of the legs could be cut using the same varieties of tools.
The mortises for the through tenons could be cut using a mortising machine, it could be cut using a plunge router and squared with a chisel, it could be drilled out on a drill press and cleaned up with a chisel, or you could go old school and drill it out with a brace and bit and clean it with a chisel, or even, mortise the whole thing with a mortising chisel. The tenons could easily be cut by hand and trimmed with a shoulder plane, or you could use a tenoning jig on a tablesaw.
Once the glue up for the top is dry you have to cut a circle, the rough cut could be done with a jigsaw, a bandsaw or a handsaw. It then has to be shaped to a perfect circle, you can use a pattern and a router, a circle cutting jig with a router or on a router table, you can also shape it on a disc sander with a jig, or you could shape it by hand with planes or spokeshaves.
Every piece must be sanded to 150-180 grit, you could use a random orbit sander, or even just a block of wood with sandpaper wrapped around it. You have to finish the table and doing this you could teach methods as simple as a stain and poly finish, or you could go all out and use the multi step arts and crafts finish I've previously described, or you could fume it with ammonia and finish it that way. Along the way you've used multiple methods to accomplish several tasks and depending on what tools you have and what you techniques you feel comfortable with you've completed it your way.But regardless of which techniques you use, you should end up with the same thing in the end, a nice little table that is perfect next to a chair to hold a drink and a book.
He has achieved success who has worked well, laughed often, and loved much.
Elbert Hubbard

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stickley Music Cabinet, Part 2

When last we saw our intrepid hero he had ran out of time right after using a 1/2 inch chisel to square up the mortises cut buy his plunge router...
This weekend I start by cutting the tenons in the top and bottom of the Stickley Music Stand. I set up the dado blade for 3/4 inch and attach a sacrificial fence to the table saw. I set the blade height by eye lower than it should be and run a scrap board through then test the fit, and adjust the height until it fits snugly. Once the setting is correct I run the top and bottom through the dado and readjust the fence to 1 1/8th total cut, this allows the tenon to fit through the 3/4 inch thick side and protrude 3/8 inch. I test fit the shelves and mark a line 1/4 inch above the side all the way around the tenon.

After taking the test fit apart I set up a router with a 3/4 inch blade 1/4 inch deep and set up the guide so that the bit runs just at the edge of the side.

I mark a line at the center point of each shelf and carefully start and stop the rabbet at each line. Then I run the top and bottom the same way. Using a sharp chisel square up the corners.

I bevel the tenons to the line I marked around the tenons. Run a bead of glue along the edge of the shelves and on the inner half of the shoulders of the tenons then assemble and clamp the cabinet.

The tenons for this cabinet are pegged so after the glue has dried I drill a 1/4 inch hole from the front of the cabinet through the tenons. Putting some glue in the holes I drive a walnut dowel into the hole.

Using a flush cut saw I trim the dowels flush.

This cabinet has adjustable shelves which are very easy to create, I use a left over piece of pegboard with marks every 2 inches starting 12 inches from the bottom and ending 12 inches from the top. I picked a row 2 1/2 inches from the back and using a stop collar on a 1/4 brad point bit drill a 1/2 inch deep hole every 2 inches on center. Next I move the pegboard to the front of the board and repeat on a row 2 1/2 inches from the front. Follow this with the other side being careful to reference off the same shelf.
What you end up with is a nice row of parallel holes just the right size to hold adjustable shelf pins.

Next comes the ship lapped back boards, I picked some less than perfect boards from my stock and cut them to length. After running them through the drum sander I rip them to width making sure to leave extra width for the overlap. I set up the sacrificial fence as before and the dado at a little wider than 3/8 inch. I ran one side of two boards and two opposite sides of the rest of the boards through the dado.

I bet you thought pennies weren't good for anything didn't you? Well they are the perfect size to space ship lapped boards. The space is to allow for any swelling of the boards and the lap is to allow for any shrinkage. Wood expands much more across the width than along the length, so you can glue the sides of the cabinet to the side ship lapped boards but do not glue the ship lapped boards together along the length.

The back splash is attached simply with a little glue and clamps, after drying I drill holes for dowels, glue and insert them, then cut them flush.

I repeat this procedure for the toe kick at the bottom front, setting it in 1/2 inch.

The Music Cabinet body is now complete, join us next week when our intrepid hero makes a frame and panel door and inside shelves, and completes construction on this project, then perhaps he can even begin the finishing process... same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Beauty of Wood and the Benefit of Good Relationship with your Supplier

One of the joys of life as a woodworker is wood, everything about it, the look, the feel, the smell. After a long hard week at work I went to my local Woodcraft store to see what wood came in this Thursday. I had been there last Saturday to hunt for curly maple and cherry for my newest project. My brother-in-law wants, a Stickley, Harvey Ellis Design 9 drawer dresser model number 913, that, funny enough, I had just mentioned in my post on the golden rectangle. I had a talk with the owner of the store, described what I was looking for, he told me his delivery was Thursday and to come back then. These dressers were originally made from quartersawn white oak, but now Stickley makes the same design out of cherry, and cherry with curly maple drawerfronts as well as quartersawn white oak. My brother-in-law had been to a local furniture dealer that carried Stickley and literally fell in love with this piece, but however not with the price-tag. Luckily he knew someone that loves to make Stickley reproductions and that just happened to have a plan for this design.
So after a little research and a little math I came up with a price that covered all the wood and supplies and maybe, when all is said and done, would leave something extra for the "tool fund". Now I know that a professional woodworker would have to charge much more for this piece and probably would come very close to the retail price, but this is my hobby, my sanity check. So I'm not into this to make money, but to make things that I want to make, to enjoy the process and to enhance my skills. I had actually been planning on making myself one of these dressers in the original form so this gives me a chance to make one as practice, it will show me the ins and outs of the design, make something beautiful that will be with their family forever, and give me subjects for this blog for a few months.
I showed up at Woodcraft Friday afternoon right from the hospital still in my scrubs, the owner greeted me and said he had something to show me. Walking back to the lumber racks he pulled out an 11 inch wide, 8 foot long piece of curly maple that was heavily figured from top to bottom, all the way across. Its difficult to capture the figure and grain in unfinished curly maple but take a look at the large version of picture to the left. He had put this piece aside for me and its service like that that keeps me coming back. This piece along with two 6 inch wide pieces, some maple for drawer boxes, two pieces of 8/4 cherry and all the nice wide 4/4 cherry in stock made up the initial buy for this build. I'll need a few more pieces of 4/4 cherry but I have the majority of what I need and as I type its acclimating to my shop. I don't buy all my wood from his store, I buy my quartersawn white oak in bulk from a mill in Iowa, but I buy everything else from him. When I first set up my shop I made a large purchase of most of my stationary tools at one time, he advised me to come in on a Saturday they were hosting some industry reps and I got some great deals from the Delta rep. He held my machines at the store until the shop was ready then delivered them in his truck, very helpful because I was driving a Mini Cooper at the time. I guess what I really want to say is, pick a local store, give them your business, develop a relationship, and they'll look out for you. They will steer you towards the good deals, and maybe if you are lucky, they'll set aside a beautiful piece of wood for that special project for you.
The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.
William Morris

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stickley Music Cabinet, Pt. 1

I've wanted to make this Stickley Music Cabinet ever since I ran across one at an Antique shop a few years ago. This piece is something that has no equivalent in today's world, it is designed for a time when making music was a daily form of entertainment. It is made specifically to hold sheet music. I like the size of the piece, tall and thin without seeming out of proportion, I like the slight curve on the top edge of the sides, and I like the simplicity of it along with the detail of the through mortises. I also like the solid door that will hide the clutter inside. If anyone is looking for a stereo cabinet for a component system this would be perfect. The original had at least ten adjustable shelves and a keyed lock. The cabinet is 20 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 46 inches tall, I'm only going to make 4-5 shelves but they will be adjustable. What I'm going to use it for is to store board games and various things that clutter up my living room.
Not having plans for this but knowing the dimensions this cabinet is simple to make. It is a simple box with the top and bottom being joined to the sides with through tenons. There is a kick board at the bottom that appears to be inset by one half of an inch. The sides protrude from above the top a few inches and there is a back splash that rises one half of an inch above the sides. Not being able to find any pictures of the back I'm going to go with a shiplap back which would be period appropriate for this piece. I guess a plywood back would be fine too especially if you are making it as a stereo cabinet and need to cut a slot for ventilation and cords to run through.
The first thing I did was to make a template out of 1/2 inch MDF, I plan to cut the mortises with my plunge router so I layed out the slots to fit a 3/4 inch router bushing. After drilling the ends of the slots with a 3/4 inch forstner bit I use a jigsaw to cut out the rest and then clean it up with chisels and files. I cut the relief for the base on the bandsaw and clean it up on the oscillating spindle sander and with a sanding block. I don't really need the template to be full height so I make it only 24 inches tall, I'll route the bottom then move it for the top.
Choosing some nicely figured boards from my stock I cut them to rough length and square the sides, I glue them up making sure that each piece has one clear side. Once the glue has dried overnight I scrape off the excess glue then run them through the drum sander to flatten the panels. I then use the template to transfer areas to be removed to the boards for the sides, taking care to choose the best sides for the exterior, marking the inside and front.

Placing the side panel inside up I drill two counter sunk screw holes at the level of the bottom shelf. These screws will hold the template in place while the bottom shelf will hide the screw holes once the unit is assembled. Clamping the template/panel combination to my work table I easily route out the mortises taking it in a few passes with a 1/2 inch straight cutting bit.
With the template still attached I switched to another router with a 3/4 inch pattern cutting bit this is when having a couple of routers comes in really handy. I have a Porter-Cable 690 motor in my router table, a P-C laminate trimmer for light duty, and two Dewalt 618 combo kits that get the job done. I usually keep one of these setup for my dovetail jig and use the other for everything else but this method seemed the most efficient set-up for this project.
Flipping the panel around I again drill two counter-sunk screw holes on the midline of the top shelf. I use the pattern bit for the slight curve on the top front edge, then the same bushing guided set-up for the mortises. I then repeat these steps on the other panel. With all the routing done I use a 1/2 inch chisel to square up the mortises. The top and bottom shelves were glued up at the same time as the side panels, I cut these to size (16x20 3/4 inches) and sent them through the drum sander but I ran out of time today so I'll have to leave them for next weekend.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
William Morris