Nightstands v2: First Mouldings

The second nightstand project is lumbering and stuttering forward, this time with the tops. I glued up the tops a few weeks ago, smoothed them off, and cut the left sides even and square. I’d been debating what to do about the edges for a while, but then I got the order that they ought not to be “so plain.” Emboldened by a somewhat recent episode of The Woodwright’s Shop with St. Roy hosting Bill Anderson, I thought that perhaps I’d be able to do a simple single ellipsoidal curve.

After fooling around a bit on some scrap, I got a profile that I liked, and was satisfied that I sort of had the idea. So I moved to one of the tops. I started by marking the profile into the sides, and then marking the lines for a rabbet to remove a good portion of the waste:

I should note here that I used a surprisingly large number of marking gauges for this–four (two for the rabbet, two for the edges). Because I wanted to use the same profile on six sides, and all six sides were not ready for marking from the very start, I kept the gauges on their settings so that I’d be ready to mark when able and not have to figure out everything again.

Then I started on the cross-grain side and cut the rabbet:

This plane doesn’t have a depth stop and I didn’t need one (as seen on the show). Then, also like the show, I used a chisel to knock off a bit more of the waste from the edges of the rabbet:

Later on, I switched to a narrow rabbet plane; for this small amount, it worked a bit faster than the chisel.

Finally, I hit it with a simple Taiwanese round and completed the shaping:

So there you have it, my first moulding. I followed this with the moulding on the opposite side, doing the same cross-grain cut. Then I did the one on the front. The cuts on that one went with the grain and was consequently much easier.

Nightstands v2: Making Drawer Bottoms

It’s been so long since I talked about the second nightstand project that I sometimes wonder if I’m making any progress. So I looked back at that last post and realized that since then, I’ve done the following:

  • Made the rest of the cabinet components.
  • Glued up the cabinets.
  • Made all of the drawer sides, fronts, and backs.
  • Resawed and milled the pieces for the drawer bottoms.
  • Milled half of the tops and roughed out the other half.

The drawer sides and backs were a pain because for some bizarre reason, I chose birch to be my secondary wood. Don’t do this. Use yellow-poplar, pine, or something that people who should know better would use. The stock I had a ridiculous number of grain reversals, leading to a lot of tearout when planing, so milling this stuff took forever. It also dulled my plane blades quickly, so I was constantly resharpening. But even after I milled it, the dovetails took longer than they should have because it seemed like I needed to sharpen my chisels after every couple of swipes.

So it took forever, but I finished, and that left the drawer bottoms. I haven’t really talked much about how I’ve been making drawer bottoms, though I did one particular post that kind of touched on panels in the tool cabinet. So I figure I could post something on that.

First, I mill the wood to thickness, preferably a little thicker than the grooves that they’ll fit in. I always need to glue them together.

Next, I saw the glued-up panel to rough depth–about a half-inch wider than it will eventually be. In the following photo, I ran out of wood in one board of western redcedar and had to use another very differently-colored board for the last little bit at the end. The rip panel saw that I use is on top.

Now I plane the top of the panel to remove excess glue and get a finished surface. I do this after trimming the depth because I often use the cutoff somewhere else, so I want that cutoff to be as thick as possible to start.

I used a Taiwanese plane for this because it was sharp and the blade is nice and wide.

With the surface planing done, I trim one of the sides square to the front with a plane. I used a Milllers Falls #11 (this is like a Stanley 5 1/4) because it’s easy to control (and its blade happened to be sharp).

Then I take the drawer front and mark off the width:

I mark this side square to the front as well, and after verifying that it is in fact square, I trim it off as well.

As I mentioned earlier, the panels are typically a little thicker than the grooves that will house them. I don’t measure them because I care only about the face side being reasonably flat. Now it’s time to get three of the edges to fit into the grooves.

To do this, I make a rabbet. I was thrilled to be able to use my new Taiwanese rabbet plane so soon:

I start with the sides, going across the grain. Every so often, I check the thickness by seeing if the rabbeted edge fits in the groove that I’ve plowed in the drawer side. When going across the grain, it definitely helps to take out a little bit of the end of the rabbet with a chisel so that you don’t blow out the grain.

I then make an identical rabbet on the other side, and then do it for the front edge, this time checking against the groove in the front drawer.

Now it’s time to trim the panel/bottom to final depth. I assemble the drawer front and sides without the back, and slip the panel in. (This is also a good time to verify that the panel isn’t too long.) I make sure that the panel goes all the way into the groove on the drawer front. Then, I mark off where I think I should cut the panel:

I make marks on both sides, draw a line between them, and then saw and/or plane to that line. Then I test-fit the panel into the 3/4 assembly again, and measure the depth with my double square:

With the square set, I drop this end into the groove on the rear of the drawer to see how close I am to the bottom:

You can see the gap; you want a gap so that the panel has room to expand in the groove. I usually go for somewhere around 1/16″-3/32″, but it’s never exact, just the kind of thing you know when you see it.

With the final depth trimmed with a plane, I rabbet the underside of the rear panel edge like I did earlier for the sides and front.

Then, the final test-fit comes; here’s the view inside showing the face surface:

and here’s the underside that no one sees, with the rabbets and the saw marks that I’m too lazy to clean up:

So there are the drawer bottoms. I have two done and I’ll do the other two when I get back from the ski trip I’m on now.

I’m also making some progress with the tops. Here are the pieces that will form the tops. I had to do a lot of sawing around defects to get to this point:

 

Five Years of Galoototron

It’s been five years since I made my first post on this blog. At that time, it was on Livejournal, and I was doing it just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Apparently, I’m still posting, so because it’s been a nice “even” number of years since I started, I figure I ought to do a review post because I have nothing better to do.

(You won’t see too many of these posts on this blog, so bear with me.)

Before starting, I should mention something about the name of the blog. It doesn’t mean anything. It was just something that rolled off my tongue. It is a dippy name, it’s difficult to remember, and I’ve always been open to changing it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything better at the time, and that condition persists to this day.

The first post is my introduction, but perhaps there’s a little more that I can add to it. At that point, I had never done anything resembling semi-advanced woodworking. In hindsight, this was a natural time for me to start because I’d finally gotten some measure of stability in my life after years of grad school, moving across the country, working in crazy environments, and living in cramped places. I’d moved into that particular San Francisco apartment not too long before. It was nice and roomy, I lived alone, and I finally had some extra time. Sure, I’d like to have started earlier in life. I didn’t, so there’s no point in thinking about that.

Regarding tools: I don’t know what was going on in my mind, but I must have been researching old tools quite a bit. For example, how did I know that I needed to sharpen my own saws at that time? My initial tool list wasn’t too far-off. I still haven’t bought a shoulder plane unless you want to count the mini Veritas version. And although I have a miter box, I haven’t used it (I haven’t even sharpened the saw). But I had one special tool right-on, and that was the Winchester handsaw I’d picked up (but never used) in 2003, three years before starting. It was a long time before I actually sharpened that thing, but ever since, it’s really been one of my favorite tools.

That a very common style of saw is special to me may provide some insight into the type of woodworking that I like to do now. I feel that I went after too many planes in the beginning, and did not realize the amount of work that saws do. In time, I began to appreciate saws more and more, and even made a few of my own.

I thought that I would be very project-oriented when I first started. I had the idea to make bookshelves–perhaps I believed that I’d make them within a year? I was wrong. I still haven’t made a set of bookshelves (I did make a prototype). What I did instead was learn the process of milling wood and basic joints. The first larger thing that I put together was my workbench, followed by tools such as my mallet and scrub plane.

But about a year and a half into the process, I slowly made a dovetailed box, and that got things rolling. Though I didn’t have much time to work on it, that box went together more smoothly than I expected, and I still use it. By this time, things were changing in my life, and soon enough, I moved from the apartment to a house that actually had room for a shop. I spent the first few months trying to get organized there:

Then I started to build projects in earnest. The first big one was the shoe rack, which took some time but ultimately was a success. That was followed by the prototype bookshelf, the stool, and the first nightstand–I did all three of those projects in less than a year. At the same time, I made some shop improvements such as the saw till.

Incidentally, I switched the blog to the galoototron.com domain about a half-year after I moved to this shop. It was September 2009, and this shoe rack post was the first on the new domain. Before the switch, no one other than some family and friends knew about the blog, but then I started to tell a few more people (such as Luke Townsley at unpluggedshop.com) about it. Suddenly a lot more people than I really ever expected were reading this thing. That’s about as far as I ever went to promote it, though, and I don’t have plans to change that. I do appreciate all of the comments that I get from fellow woodworkers.

In retrospect, the two years I had in that shop were pivotal. I went from dorking around with tools and wood on a somewhat irregular basis to building projects. I gained speed and confidence in my joinery. The shop itself had a lot to do with this. No longer did I have to be completely fastidious about cleaning up after each session–I could leave a small amount of shavings or sawdust on the floor and it didn’t matter. Because I had enough room, I could put down my work at any time and pick it up again whenever I had the chance. This helped me establish a work pattern; I’d come home from work and have fun with a project for as little as 10 minutes or as much as an hour and a half before finishing for the day. I could even do a little in the morning before I went to work.

Of the projects I built in that shop, the nightstand seems like an obvious choice for a favorite, and it is. However, the little stool is a co-favorite:

The nightstand was the last project I completed there. Then, in the span of a few months, life got really busy, and after that, I moved again.

The new place also had room for a shop but it was more “raw”–as part of a garage, I really had to work to define the space. The old shop had room for me to put tools on tables all over the place. It was mostly disorganized, but I sort of knew where everything was, so I managed. There was no room for that in the new shop. To make up for it, I was allowed to hang cabinets, racks, and hooks on the walls and ceiling to my heart’s desire.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the new shop organized quickly enough for my taste. Part of this was a chicken-and-egg problem; the tool cabinet is an example of this. My first task in the new shop was to get some of the tools on the walls, and I had to finish the cabinet so that I could put tools in there. Unfortunately, my tools were all packed away in boxes (from the move) that surrounded the workbench. I really had no idea where anything in particular was and I didn’t have places to put them temporarily.

At the same time, I also had more furniture to make. The second nightstand project kicked off this year, and it turned out to be far more complicated and time-consuming than I expected. (And I’m still working on it, but I’m almost done.)

Every now and then, I add to the wall storage in the shop. That situation isn’t fully resolved (see below), but it is much better. Things are getting done, and I have to say that I prefer the new shop to the old one.

Also, I’m making a concerted effort to work out some of the annoying little stumbling blocks that I have to deal with from time to time. The two biggest problems I come across are tool and project storage (both temporary and permanent) and workholding. I have plans to solve those soon.

Going forward with projects, I have a long list in front of me. The most pressing, according to those in the know, is an entertainment center. We’re also looking at the rest of the living room–coffee table, bookshelves, who knows what. With the exception of our couch, the living room furniture is crap and it makes sense to concentrate on that room. Whatever I do, I’ve decided that I’m not going to make anything as brutally complicated as the second nightstand project(s) for a while.

But then again, I may just make more complicated things. Here’s how.

The title of this blog is no lie. Everything I do is by hand, and that includes stock preparation. I didn’t go down this road out of principle or some other similarly silly reason. I did it primarily out of interest and necessity–the apartment I once lived in was no place for power tools.

Unfortunately, it turns out that flattening, thicknessing, and resawing by hand is a lot of work. A large majority of my time and effort goes into stock preparation. That’s not even mentioning how much time I spend sharpening plane blades as I go. It’s getting out of hand. I can flatten a board quickly now (and wow am I glad I learned), resawing isn’t so incredibly horrible when you keep your saw blade sharp, but that last step of getting down to final thickness is totally bogus when you have to repeat it dozens of times, even with my scrub plane that can take off 1/16″ at a time.

So I think I’m going to get myself a stupid lunchbox-style thickness planer sometime in the new year. I’ll continue to flatten stuff by hand–it’s a great way to get to know the wood and the board that you’re about to use–but when it comes to getting that other side down to something reasonable, I won’t think twice about feeding it to a machine. I’ve got furniture to build and I do not have the time to lollygag.

However, the blog remains the same. The preceding paragraph (I hope) will be the only mention. I don’t plan to write about it when it happens, and I’ll continue to do all joinery by hand.

At this point, it would be remiss not to mention that I’ve had help. Schwarz says that the modern woodworker works alone and I think he’s wrong. Even if one never meets another woodworker in person, and even if one never takes part on a discussion forum online, the modern woodworker has an incredible resource mass available. It’s sometimes easy to overlook that a person wrote what’s on your screen, and when you learn something from someone, that person is very much with you in spirit as you work.

And wow, have a lot of people been working with me in spirit in my shop. There are just too many to list, but I’d really like to thank anyone who’s written anything that I’ve learned from or even read.

Also, there are the BAGs (Bay Area Galoots). Several of you have really helped me out in more direct ways–lending me tools, giving advice, being generally cool, that sort of thing.

Now, back to the work on the new nightstand projects. Progress has been (inexplicably) made.

Nightstands v2: Rear Panels and Alignment Guide

Since my last update, I smoothed and fitted the side panels to the main cabinets, which left just the back panels before I could glue up the cabinets. I’d resawed the western redcedar for these panels, but I hadn’t cut them to size to fit them to the grooves that I also did in the last week or so.

The top section (backing the shelf) was easy–I just sliced the panel to width, cut the rabbets, and test-fit. Then I started on the backing panel for the first drawer. That opening is 5.5″; add about 1/8″ on each side for the housing grooves, and you’ve got about 5.75″. Because the redcedar I resawed was from a 1×6, that’s perfect, right?

Well, no.

I always forget how crazy they go when they surface these softwoods. What I had was a total width of about 5.5″–a quarter-inch short. Oh, so annoying. (Note to lumberyards: I really, really want my softwood unsurfaced, like my hardwood.)

So I jointed an edge from the offcut from the previous panel, jointed an edge on the slightly-too-small 5.5″ piece, glued it up (sprung-joint style), and rather than getting fancy with clamping as in my previous episode, I just slammed it into the front vise on my bench:

That vise sometimes makes some good arguments for why it should stick around.

Then after the glue dried, the most annoying part came: I sawed off all but about 3/8″ of the smaller piece that I had just glued on so that the panel was the right size. It’s a really good-looking, almost seamless joint when planed down, but no one will ever see it because it’s on the back of the piece. That means that, in the future, I get to spin the piece around, point at a practically invisible line, and say, “this here was really annoying.” I’ll also be suspected of having gone off the deep end at some point.

So right now, I have these rear panels finished on one of the cabinets. To help align the cross-members of the piece, I made myself a little guide out of scraps:

And here it is in use on the rear frame of the cabinet:

The main goal of making this guide was for glue-up, because you have a lot less time to go measuring stuff during that process. And hopefully by the next time I post, I should have the cabinets glued up.

Nightstands v2: Panels, Decorations

Work on the new nightstand projects has been excruciatingly slow this month, but has not stopped. In part, I’ve needed to do a lot of stock preparation and a lot of resawing (that’s the bandsaw calling me with its siren song again). The other problem is a lack of time–external stress causing most of it. But who cares about that? Let’s get into the woodworking.

I’ve been primarily working on the panels for the sides and backs of the cabinets. The sides are similar to the ones I’ve used before–1/4″ thick wood from the same stock (or similar) as the frame. There’s a slight difference, though: I decided that because I didn’t have any single piece of cherry wide enough to cover an entire side, I’d make a decorative touch with another species (birch) when gluing them up to make the piece.

The birch I picked was particularly annoying to work with, mainly because in many places, the grain reverses halfway through the width. Oh yeah, and it adores tearout.

This time, I used the double-wedge method to secure the panel stock against dogs (my low-profile versions) as I was planing it:

The panel jointing/glue-ups gave me a chance to use my new Veritas bevel-up jointer with the fence. I’d already used it in this piece back with the shelves, but this operation was tricker because the stock is so thin (it tends to bend when you press it).

I cut pieces out of the stock as I needed them, first jointing one edge with a slight hollow, then sawing off the desired stock, then jointing again. This was not as simple as it sounds, because when you saw off a small strip, the strip often slightly changes in geometry, because it’s under tension. So the hollow that you had before on that one edge may now be a bit convex, and you have to redo that edge.

But the most annoying thing, by far and away, was that I couldn’t use the jointer fence on the now-thin strip as I did before, because the fence is too deep and I don’t have a workbench trick for that yet (though I might in the future). So I had to use the old “clamp the plane upside-down in the vise and pull the strip through” trick.

It works, but I’m not terribly fond of it. I’m always afraid of planing a knuckle, and you tend to get sweat on the plane sole, leading to rust if you’re not careful. Still, it was the only option I had at the time.

With that done, it was time for laying out the panel components and choosing which pieces would go on which panel. Some people use stroke marks or triangles to mark which pieces go where, but because I had 20 pieces, I decided to go with a more detailed system that told me which part went where, and which panel each piece ultimately belonged to.

Now the fun part began: glue-up. There’s been a bit written about gluing up panels lately, and wouldn’t you know that The SchwarzThe Chris would post something just as I was doing mine. However, that method is for thicker stock. Plus, I was itching to try a variation on something I saw on page 20 of Toshio Odate’s shoji book.

Essentially, that method calls for you to sandwich the panel that you’re gluing between two boards, wrap a rope around the panel/boards, and put some blocks of wood underneath the rope to tension it and smash the panels between the boards to keep everything flat.

I modified it a little, making it sort of a hybrid with go-bars:

  • I used my workbench top instead of the board.
  • I didn’t use a board on top, but rather, just put the blocks directly onto the panel.
  • I used two sets of rope instead of one (one for each side of the panel)
  • Instead of using the rope to tension both on the top and the sides, I used it on the top only. For the sides, I used wedges, dog holes, and a stop on my workbench.
  • I put wax paper between the panel and the workbench to keep the panel from getting stuck to the benchtop.

It’s much easier to show this in a photo:

It took me a while to finalize the setup. I actually used a single piece of rope (twine, really) that I clamped to the bench in strategic places, and didn’t even cut it from its spool. I didn’t have scrap blocks handy, so I had to search all around the place for one of my boxes of scrap. And since I’d never done it before, I didn’t have a feeling for what the tension should be like and how everything fit together.

The good news is that once I figured it out, the actual glue-up process was a snap and took only a couple of minutes to execute. That’s important, because I had to do eight repetitions. (There are four panels, and each panel has five pieces, and hence four joints. I glued only two joints at a time to reduce complexity.)

Additional good news: it worked like a charm. Those panels came out really flat and seamless on the faces, and the wax paper did a perfect job at preventing the panel from sticking to the bench (and the paper). You have to replace the wax paper now and then because the wax coating comes off because it’s stuck to the glue.

I’m really happy with the results of the method and I’ll be trying it again. I’d struggled doing this sort of glue-up earlier because the panels are so thin. Being able to put the interim work into a spot where it won’t shift around is nice. I just hope that my experience with this time reduces the time it takes to set up next time (although part of that time was spent looking through boxes to find the rope).

I also acquired and resawed the stock for the backs of the nightstands. I picked up a bunch of “vertical grain” (quartersawn) western redcedar. It was so easy to resaw and plane–what a relief.

I guess there’s also this obligatory shot of this board’s grain (sorry to you folks on Google+, you’ve already seen these shots):

The other thing I’ve been doing on this project has been the decorations. I changed the design to be a little closer to the one I used on the first nightstand, to give it a little less transparency and eliminate the need for plinth on the bottoms of the sides:

With all of these components made, I’m nearly ready to glue up the main cabinets.

Nightstands v2: Frames Complete, Shelves Joined

It’s been a little while since I posted anything on the twin-nightstand project, so it’s time for a quick checkpoint (one of the reasons I write this blog is so that I can record when I’ve finished various phases of a project).

Both frames, exterior and interior, are complete. The interior frames are to support the shelf and drawers in each piece. In the first nightstand project, I shaped some of the exterior pieces to provide drawer supports in strange ways, and I said to myself that this method was too complicated to be worth the effort next time. So in the new one, I’ve been making the supports as separate pieces, in a secondary wood (yellow-poplar salvaged from an old bed frame).

I was finished with the exterior frame several weeks ago, and I finished with the interior frame about two weeks ago. This week, I’ve been working on the shelves that go above the midsection of each piece. Each shelf is made from two roughly 1/2″ panels edge-glued; I did the glue-ups yesterday and today.

So now the pile of components looks like this:

You can clearly see the secondary yellow-poplar members here. The components that I have yet to make are:

  • panels for the sides and back
  • drawers
  • drawer bottoms
  • tops
  • decorations (these will line the base of the pieces)

In theory, none of this should take too long, but it’s still a fair amount of work to do. There will be a non-trivial amount of resawing for the panels. I can’t really put a time estimate on how long this is going to take, because I’ve encountered a lot of diversions when making this project (though I’m starting to feel like I really need to finish this and move on to the next thing).

There is a new tool in the preceding photo that I may feature sometime in the future, depending on how just I like it. You could guess which one it is, though the excitement factor may not be entirely present in doing so.

 

The Embellished Story of a Simple Box

There I was, working on the latest project, when SWMBO approached and asked for some sort of container to put in the cabinet for some spices. She drew something that suspiciously resembled a box, so I inquired, “would a box work for this?”

Affirmative was the reply, and in the words of Topato Potato and Sheriff Pony, it was time to “spring into action!” The valiant woodworker never misses an opportunity to trot off to Mount Carcase to face off with the Dovetail Dragon, no?

I selected a target and started milling. Then I realized that the chunk I had chosen didn’t have enough wood to make the piece, so I looked around for another piece, which turned out to be this:

It was a measly offcut from some much larger board that I’m saving for a rainy day. Making the second call to “spring into action,” I was successful at milling the necessary pieces.

At about this time, I realized that I had no idea what this wood was. I still do not. Here is a cross-section of this ring-porous angiosperm for the sole purpose of an excuse to use the macro lens again, and on the off-chance that one of you crack wood identifiers knows:

At this point, I just made the box. I think most of everyone who reads this knows about through dovetails, so I’ll digress on that. The sole excitement was getting to use the 1/8″ blade on the Stanley #45 for the groove on the bottom, and since that doesn’t reach high enough on the excite-o-meter, let’s just skip to the end.

Box.

 

Nightstands v2: Exterior Frame A

The new twin-nightstand project is coming along. After some quality time with saws and planes, I had all of the external frame pieces milled for each piece:

In the center are eight sticks of yellow-poplar that I salvaged from an old bed frame. They’ll be used for the rear of the nightstands. Looking at the timestamps of the photos, it looks like it took (gasp) almost two weeks to produce this stack. That’s just the speed you’ll experience when you’re working by hand, have at most an hour and a half to work each day, and maybe aren’t the quickest person around. (Would a bandsaw greatly facilitate the speed? You bet it would.)

The next step was to come up with a frame map, as I did for the previous nightstand. Because there are so many components in this piece, it’s best to keep close track of them. And again, as I did in the previous version, I made a really ugly but still-workable and accurate drawing:

There are two kinds of labels here. One begins with a P, meaning “piece,” so P1 is the far left leg in this case. The others, which are simply numbers, label joints. The joints are in four vertical levels in the piece, so I decided to have the lower-level joints start with 1, the next with 2, and so on. Then, the second number denotes the position. In this drawing, the x1 joints are in off the right side of the front left leg. So joint 11 is the lowest one of these, and 21, 31, and 41 are directly above. Naturally, in this system, there will be plenty of holes–for example, there are no joints 25 or 35.

Finally, because there are to be two identical nightstands, I decided to add a letter A or B to the end to identify each one. So you’ll have all sorts of labels like P3A and 43B.

Whew. But that wasn’t the hard part. That honor went to planning which piece would go where:

If I recall correctly, the components for piece A are on the right and piece B’s are on the left. In any case, it was tricky. Because the components came from different offsets into a single flatsawn board, the cut profiles were different. The ones from the center were more or less quartersawn in flavor, but most were riftsawn in one way or the other. The worst part was that two of the legs had very tangential grain on their sides because they came from the center of the board. To produce a consistent look, I decided to put both of those legs on one side, and use matching rails between them. The reason? You can’t look at both sides at once, and in the end, I can always choose to hide that side against the side of the bed if it looks too ridiculous. In any case, that will be on nightstand A, and I’ll try to show that when all of this is done.

I wasn’t just trying to match the grain on each side, though. I decided to try out the arrangement of shoji described in Toshio Odate’s book, where you arrange the pieces so that the core of the tree is pointing inward (bark side out). Because this is a 3-D piece, I also tried to place the legs and rails so that the cores would face the interior of the nightstand. It didn’t look so bad to me, so maybe this traditional arrangement has a bit of merit.

With everything arranged, I labeled each piece and its orientation, put half of the pieces away, and started work on the actual joinery. One week later, and I’ve finished the 24 mortise-and-tenon joints of the exterior frame of nightstand A:

Hey, how about that, it doesn’t seem to look too bad and it took a lot less time than I thought it would. Now it’s B’s turn.

Or, it will be B’s turn when the Thagomizer recovers from its run-in with a holdfast. I broke it in a different spot this time, a clean shear across the top:

Of course, it had to wait until I was working on the next-to-last mortise. I finished that one and the final one with it still broken (it hadn’t split down the middle). Then I removed the head, gunked on and spread the hide glue, and clamped it together. Yeah, I’ve thought about making a new mallet one of these days, but I just don’t have the time right now to be dorking around with tools (sigh). Maybe when this project is near an end and in the finishing process.

Nightstands v2: Wood Acquisition

Normally I wouldn’t write about the mundane process of purchasing and transporting some wood for a project, but after some thought, I noticed that I really haven’t talked much about how I’ve gone about that process. Then, I realized that I actually hadn’t done any halfway serious wood shopping in a few years. I’d gotten the beech for the stool and first nightstand projects through a group purchase off of craigslist, and a fellow BAG dropped it off at my house (thanks again, Kirk!), and the rest of it was either really cheap home center softwood or some stuff I’d gotten long ago in this initial purchase (wow, is that ever a blast from the past–I was still living in my Inner Sunset apartment then!).

I’d also gotten another piece of beech somewhere between those two, which marked the first time that I’d used my roof rack for that purpose. We’ll get back to that rack in a second–it goes along with this post. I’ve seen a few posts from other folks regarding wood transport (including some crazy stuff like bicycles), but not many, which probably indicates that a lot of people have trucks. And for those of you wondering, yes, I may do all of my work by hand, but when I need to move some wood around, you can believe that I’m not going to do it by wheelbarrow or drag it on the sidewalk.

Let’s go back and start with the wood selection. My design was for cherry and called for 1.25″ thick legs and 1″ frame pieces, meaning that I’d some 6/4 or bigger stock . Then each nightstand will have drawers, panels, a top, and a shelf, which calls for the usual 4/4 stuff. I had the amount of board-feet and linear feet necessary for 6″ wide stock computed before I went.

But when you go to the lumberyard, you really don’t know what they’ll have. That especially holds true for cherry, where the stock on hand has all sorts of variations in in color, grain straightness, and especially defects. So you have to have a basic plan at what stock you’ll need for your cutting list, but you need to be able come up with a plan B.

And plan B it was. I really didn’t like any of the 6/4 cherry boards that I saw today. However, the 8/4 stock was only 16 cents more expensive per board-foot, and far better-looking. So even though it will mean a bit of exhausting resawing, I bagged a decent-sized one of those for the legs and the frames, and a 4/4 piece for panels and drawer fronts. I may get another piece for the top later, if necessary.

I also got a piece of 4/4 birch for my secondary wood. I don’t know if that was a great idea or not, but I like birch, and it doesn’t cost much.

Now we get to transporting the wood, and it’s where we get back to the story about the rack. Here’s the load of three boards back at my place (those are ACF and Penn State decals in the window, in case you’re wondering what sort of pointless stuff that is):

The rack is a Yakima system that I’d gotten off ebay when I had my CRX. Now, if you know anything about these rack systems, you can switch them from one kind of car to another, as long as you’re willing to pay the king’s ransom that Yakima wants for the little clips that will fit your car (essentially, very expensive powdercoated pieces of pressed steel). As a special surprise, I also had to get new crossbars, because the new Civic’s roof is much wider than the old one. Thankfully, I was able to dodge Yakima’s cash vacuum on that one by just getting some 3/4″ galvanized pipe from the hardware store.

Now here’s how the choice of car gets a little tricky. I like my 2-door, mostly to annoy any passengers that may end up in the back seat, but this is one instance where having the 4-door is better. You see, on the 2-door, you place the bars only 18″ apart (unless you pay another arm and a leg for Yakima’s extender kit), but on the 4-door, you put them 32″ apart. A longer spread helps keep the load from rotation forces and keeps boards from springing around so much. To avoid that altogether, you can tie the load down in the front and the back. Because this was a short trip (and wood has a much smaller aerodynamic profile than, say, a canoe), I didn’t need to do that.

So, yeah, had I thought about this when deciding between the coupe and sedan, it would have been a consideration. However, the 4-door had a big problem that I don’t think I could have overcome: You can’t get it in the color you see above. [Edit: Also, new for the 2012 Civic 4-door, you can’t get the EX trim with a manual transmission. This is far worse than the wrong color. But you can still get it with the EX coupe.]

[Note: The Schwarz also has a what is essentially a Civic, and but he’s basically gone the infill route by getting the old Acura version. I have to admit that I miss the hatch of the CRX.]

Okay, back to the load. Let’s see how I fasten the boards to the roof. Here is the driver’s side, which has the 8/4 cherry:

I put pieces of foam pipe insulator around the bars, then put the wood on top, and fastened things together tightly with a ratchet tie-down–which is essentially a band clamp. The ratcheting ones let you get the grip good and tight, compressing and locking the board into the foam. This not only takes a lot of slop out of the fastening, but also adds some friction to the surfaces; everything is always in contact with something else, even if you hit a bump in the road (and California roads have plenty of those). The boards were shorter than the length of the car, so I did not need to put a red flag on the end to indicate an overhang (as you would need to do if you let your boards hang out the back of a pickup or van).

These tie-down clamps have really long cords, so you have to do something with the excess. On the driver side, I’ve wrapped them around the board several times, then tied the loose end to the bar. It doesn’t need to be a strong knot because the ratchet mechanism is doing all of the hard work.

On the passenger side, I put the two thinner boards together, but this time, I got lazy and put the loose end of the straps into the car. I wouldn’t do this on a long trip because it makes too much noise:

Once I was finished fastening everything, I gave them a bunch of pretty hard shoves to make sure that they wouldn’t budge.

As far as the capacity of the rack goes, I’m pretty comfortable with these two boards on top of each other, but I don’t know about three. In any case, there isn’t room for much more. The weight limit on the rack and the roof itself is 125 pounds, which translates to around 35 board-feet of this density of wood. There were 23 board-feet on there today. This is just fine for a small-time woodworker like me; it’s just very unlikely that I’d ever need to buy much more wood than this at once, given what I currently do.

But what if I did need to haul more? Would I get a truck? A significantly cheaper option would be to get a trailer. My car’s towing capacity is 1000 pounds.

Replacing a Cheap Drawer Front

Shortly after moving into our new place, a combination of old age and hamfistedness conspired to snap off the edge of one of the kitchen drawers.

Clearly, the drawer is nothing special and lacks in the aesthetics department, but when the landlord came over and we talked about what to do about it, we decided that it would probably be easiest just to repair this thing rather than to replace all of the kitchen cabinets (which would be nice, but would require lots of planning and disruption in our lives). So I said that I could make a new front, but he’d have to paint it. He said that would be great and he’d pay me for my work.

It was straightforward. The front consists of a board with rabbets on both ends and a groove (dado-y-like thing on the original). When I knocked out the old front, I found one possible contribution for its deteriorated state: There were a total of 17 nails holding the sides in. Looking at the other drawers in the kitchen, there were only two per side.

After milling the board (yellow-poplar sapwood–I’m being really extravagant here) to size, I marked out the rabbets and decided just to saw them instead of using a rabbet plane, since these were relatively large and cross-grain:

Then I plowed the groove for the bottom panel. This was perhaps the most time-consuming part of the process because I had to fit the longer arms of the #45 to get the fence at the right distance:

The next step was to mark the holes for the handle. This was a straightforward process of lining up the original on top of the replacement and poking an awl through the original holes:

Now if I’d been paying attention to what I was doing, I would have also drilled the holes at this point. But for whatever reason, I made it hard on myself and forgot to do this until I had the front attached.

I figured that I’d attach the front with two nails per side, and predrill small holes to reduce splitting and stress. It was a nice application for a Millers Falls #5 (hiding behind the F-clamp in this photo):

After putting the nails in and (awkwardly) drilling the holes for the handle, I test-fit, shaved a little bit off here and there with my block plane, and it was done:

Now it awaits the landlord’s paintbrush. (Hmm, might be time to clean off that area above the cutting board, eh.)

This was a very quick and cheap fix for a silly little problem. I expect that it will hold for as long as it needs to. Now I can get back to work on more “serious” projects.