Things were pretty mellow in the shop over this last weekend. Saturday was spent getting all 10 drawers working smoothly. In that vein, I was successful for 9 o of the 10. During that time I also had another chip break off where the drawer dado meets the face. I’m not exactly sure if this is one that I had glued earlier in the process but it might have been. Anyway I glued it back on and I hopeful that this time the fix will last. Having had my fill of relieving edges and smoothing drawer operation, I moved on to running the upper and lower beads on the drawer fronts. You might recall that last time I made the mistake of attaching pulls prior to this operation, so I learned to route first. Everything went very smoothly only my bench top router table is so small the drawers tended to tip off the edge unless I was very careful to hold them steady for the entire length of the face. It made for a couple of imperfections but the overall effect turned out nicely and way better than my last effort.
After beading it was on to making and attaching the drawer pulls.
And this is where my judgment just might have been clouded a bit. You see I have this tree that I collected from my neighborhood in Melrose (Turtle Cove). The tree had been taken down and the wood cut into logs and folks were basically invited to take wood so I did. Upon cutting the wood up on my band saw I found it had an interesting spalting. So I figured that I would use this spalted wood to make plugs and pulls to accent the oak. The more conservative approach would have been to use the oak dowels I had already purchased at the big box store. They would have looked nice and it would have been much quicker than making my own plugs, etc. So anyway, I had already made the plugs from this spalted wood so I endeavored to make the pulls from it. My fears were however, founded in that the wood was very spongy and “unpredictable”. Having started down the path, I continued.
I used my 1/2″ plug cutter and freed the pieces at the band saw. The plugs were basically impossible to sand effectively and they were almost the consistency of cork. I came up with the idea of applying some thin superglue to see if that would strengthen them a bit. I emptied one of those small tubes into a cup and added a few drops of acetone until the mixture was watery enough to brush on. I started with a disposable pipette but the liquid was very thin and ran everywhere so I opted to brush on the mixture with an acid brush. I was able to be a bit more precise using the brush.
Well at least the pulls were given a bit of extra strength although they are still
pretty very ugly. Perhaps I shall call them “rustic” rather than “ugly”.
Sunday was a pretty easy day. I sanded the carcass and drawers and applied the first coat of poly which I thinned with mineral spirits to wipe on.
The chest is coming along. I’ll add a couple more coats of poly to the outside and see what I can do about that one problematic drawer then call it done.
While spending a moment with Susan yesterday I asked her if she wanted to help me paint Alexandra’s book-case. You’ll recall from a previous post that I had made book boxes for Erin (they share a room) and I thought it a brilliant idea to fix and paint the remaining book shelf with the left over paint. Alex was on board with this because wanted a place to display her fossils. Somewhere in the back of my mind it occurred to me that it would be neat to make a display case for Alex’s treasures. Susan suggested that a chest like the one I’m building would be ideal to store and preserve them. Hummmm…. I could build another one….. or I could give her this one which is what I’ve decided to do. Now I have built something for each of my three girls. The only question remaining is what to do about a base for it. I could take the easy way out but I’m thinking I should build something from oak to make a matched set.
You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.
In spite of the fact that last Saturday was Valentines Day, I was able to get two full shop days in toward the second small tool chest build. My wife is awesome that way and she had to work on Saturday any way. In general the thesis I proposed in my last post had true and having built the unit once before I was able to work more purposefully and with greater precision than on the first attempt. That was until I got to the glue-up of the case. At that point, reason left me and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to piece together how I had used the four corner clamps to hold the work. In retrospect, I now wonder how I could not have seen it. Anyway things were a bit dicey as I figured out a new way to assemble the case using my brand new assembly squares. They were on sale and I bought two of them but should have bought four. I actually wanted to buy two 0f the mini versions but they were on back order so I held off.
OK, so I well realize that you can make your own version of these guys and I had “intended” on doing that for a while now and still haven’t. The two I bought were an impulse buy to be sure but I’ve already gotten my money’s work out of them. They are large, actually a bit too large for this scale of furniture but I was still able to use these two to great advantage. I used them in the case glue-up and later to glue up the drawer frames which brings me to my next new toy. The Rockler 3-in-1 Bar Gauge kit.
Originally I was looking to purchase a pair of trammel points for this build but I was also in the market for a functional bar gauge. I lusted after the fit and finish of the Woodpecker version but who has that much coin to blow on such a simple device? Comparing the two is like the difference between a Porsche and a Yugo but for $25 you get two sets of tips (wedge and flat) and trammel points. The tips are plastic which doesn’t exactly scream precision but the telescoping holders are made from attractive aluminum blocks. I also don’t like that the tips are held in by set screws which require a hex wrench to tighten. If the tips didn’t require this and were made of metal you’d have a real winner. You have to provide your own rods so I picked up a length of steel rod but I haven’t yet cut it in half so I used an oak dowel to get started. I used it to transfer the case width to my table saw fence and was very pleased with the ease and accuracy of this way of measuring. And BTW, I also “intended” on making one of these but instead I’m happy with this purchase also.
So after two weekends in the shop this build is fairly far along. The case and drawers are complete although I have still have some fitting to do on the drawer slides as well as a piece of trim I need to fit above the top-most drawer. After I route the upper and lower beads on the drawer fronts and attach pulls the piece will be ready for finishing.
You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.
Don’t be hatin’ but I’ve decided to build another 10-drawer small tool chest. When the decision was made to give the first one as a gift, I had it in the back of my mind that I just might build another one and consequently I made sure to keep all my notes, story sticks and templates which I had assembled in the process. These tools along with the experience of having made it once, have proven to be of great help. Rather than documenting the build again I’m going to jot down a few of my observations.
Build it more than Once
One of the Shop Talk Live “favorite techniques of all time, for this week” was to build it more than once. There was also a discussion regarding the benefits of building a prototype/life-sized mock-ups. I can definitely see the benefits of mock-ups which if made correctly can be used as templates and if made “incorrectly” provide valuable information on what to fix before building the real thing. In the old days, models were often used to work out some of the bugs and they can be useful but most of use now build our models on the computer using SketchUp. The beauty in this is obvious, speed of development, ability to scale adjust and tweak the design and to have plans when the time comes to build it. As an exercise, I put this tool chest plan in SketchUp and although I haven’t had need to refer to it, I think doing so helped me solidify the design.
I consciously preserved the simple templates which were used in the first build. One such item was a hardboard shim with several wraps of duct tape around it. This shim plus the width of the saw blade allowed me to cut the dado required for the drawer slides in three passes of the blade. To this I added a new trick, I cut two 1-7/8″ spacers to represent the drawer height. Instead of lining up the cut each time to the blade and setting the stop block, I simply used the spacer to “advance” the work-piece and then relocated the stop block to the work-piece. One of the sides had layout lines for each of the ten drawers (Note: both the drawer and dado slot where marked). I didn’t trust myself to cut blindly so I used the reference marks to keep me honest but used the spacer for accuracy and consistency. After cutting a slot on the marked piece I relied on the stop block to cut blindly on the second. I was pretty confident in the system but ONLY after testing it on a piece of scrap before making the first. Failure to have tested and worked out the bugs would have resulted in disaster. I also used the test cuts to tweak the width of the dado before cutting for real.
It sure helps to remember your previous mistakes and if wise to devise new strategies to prevent repeating them. The drawer spacer was one such example which will (hopefully) make my drawers much more consistent in their size. Individually cutting and fitting the 10 drawers was painful last time because the dados were somewhat inconsistent. I am hopeful this will speed the cutting and fitting drawers this time.
On the last build I spend a lot of time laying out the sides. I suppose I could have printed a full-sized template out of SketchUp, that would have really been nice. The experience of the first build helped keep me on track this time. On both occasions I started at the top and marked in the direction toward the bottom. After the first such attempt this weekend I saw the error in this. Starting at the bottom allowed me to layout all the essential components which included the cutout for the feet, the panel for the case bottom, the drawers, and case top. Whatever was left-over would form the non-critical decorative arcs. The drawers were quickly laid out by leap frogging them up the side panel making this work quick and accurate.
I had some trouble getting the drawers to side smoothly on the first build. The dados were actually too small for 1/4″ chisel or router blade and I didn’t become aware of the issue in earnest until after the carcass had been glued up. This time I wanted to do a better job so I found a piece of 1/8″ hardboard and used it as a sanding block. I kept working each dado until the drawer bottom scrap piece moved smoothly trough the entire length. A couple of the grooves needed work and it was good to have caught it before case assembly.
The first time through, I cut the center arch out of an oak board and THEN glued it to the plywood back. This made cutting the arc using the band saw a simple process but it did make clamping the arch to the plywood panel more challenging. Last time I accomplished this by using the arch cut-offs as a clamping caul. This time I glued the oak board onto the plywood first which made clamping easy. It also allowed me to hold the back panel up to the side panels and make adjustments to the center arc before cutting it. On the first build the arcs were a best guess based on the plans and a make-shift trammel I cobbled together. This time I had printed a template out of SketchUp from the model which saved a lot of time and guessing although I am kind of sad I didn’t get to test out my brand new trammel setup from Rockler. (Actually not true trammel points rather the Rockler 3-in-1 Bar Guage kit which can be setup as a trammel). Instead of cutting the (now large) panel on the band saw I used my jig saw and faired the curve on the belt sander.
On a similar theme, the plywood case bottom has a 3/8″x 3/4″ oak strip glued to the front. Rather than guessing the exact final thickness of the strip, I cut the bottom slightly over-sized. Once the strip was set, I used the oak top panel to precisely mark and cut the bottom to proper size.
There are two main points here I think. First thinking a couple of steps ahead in the process can save a lot a trouble down the road. For example gluing the oak top piece on before cutting saved trouble both clamping and setting final dimensions. Second having built previously built a piece provides much useful feedback both for what worked and what didn’t on the previous go.
I made a few mistakes regarding the pulls last build. Perhaps they weren’t mistakes per se but they were decisions that I’d like to improve on this time round. I didn’t make my own redheart pulls from plugs rather I opted to cut lengths of poplar dowels. The dowel I selected was smaller than the 1/2″ diameter pulls used in the plans. This made fitting a dowel a bit more of a challenge. The plans have a nice jig used on the drill press so a centered hole can be drilled to accept the dowel but mine was off-center. As I installed each knob, I rotated them until they were centered on the drawer front and lowest from the mid-line. This time I plan on using larger pulls and getting the holes centered before proceeding. My plan is to drill a 1/2″ recess in a piece of scrap using a Forstner bit, where the center point pokes through represents the center of the dowel. I can then insert a dowel in the recess and mark the center from the backside. Or better yet, I’ll drill a 1/2″ recess in a clamped piece of scrap on the drill press. I’ll then change the bit for the dowel and adjust the stop to the proper depth. I can then use the recess to hold the 1/2″ pull while drilling the center hole for the dowel. I’m not trying to make it complicated but last time I couldn’t find the center of the dowel to make the simpler jig used. After my trip tool hunting at Christmas I now have a center finder attachment that would probably work also.
One of the more onerous mistakes I made in the last build was to install the knobs before routing the upper and lower beads on the drawer fronts. The knobs interfered with the bit causing sloppy work and the requirement to hand carve the bead surrounding the knobs. The problem was so worrisome that I considered sawing off the knobs and starting over. I would have done so if I though I could have done a clean job but I was concerned that I might dig a deeper hole if I started down that path. Ugh, won’t do that this time route first, then attach.
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Just a quick post to include a snapshot of finished book boxes I made for Erin’s bedroom. I ended up applying a single coat of gloss latex paint and it took the entire quart. I had purchased two cans and had intended to add a second coat but Erin felt the project “looked good” and I figured I could always use the second can to paint the other homemade bookcase in the same room which would add a bit of color and coordination to the room. When you live in a cypress log home, color, especially white, helps to brighten the space.
On to “project next”!
The University where I work closes between Christmas and New Year’s so Susan and I took the opportunity to put together one last “whole family” vacation to the mountains. She normally favors North Carolina but while hunting for a cabin to rent she ran across a good value in Hiawassee, Georgia which turns out to be several hours closer to us. It is always a massive effort to get all the planning and packing together but even more so this time as we were leaving on Christmas Eve to celebrate Christmas day in the mountains. Thus we were not only packing but we were handling the normal last-minute gift wrapping, etc. Madness I say!
Once we made it safely through the bands of severe weather on the trip up, everything turned out very nice and Christmas was a success. For entertainment we went for walks, drove around sight-seeing nearby towns and shopped in antique stores. I’m not sure what it is about Florida but you just don’t see a tradition of woodworking or find very many antique shops around. They exist I know but not to the extent we found on our trip. The fun thing about antiquing is that there were interesting finds for the entire family, ranging from tea cups, clothes and hand tools. The purchases we made were strictly recreational and we even learned that if you wanted something but felt the price was too high, you could make an offer and they would often work with you.
I came home with two Disston handsaws, two braces, a spoke shave with iron, a Dietzgen bow compass, an eggbeater hand drill and small metal plane (No. 3 smoother).
I found a number of wooden planes of various types and in various states of disrepair. No doubt one or two of them would have been a worthy addition to the shop but truthfully, I just don’t know that much about what I would have been buying. Most needed some work and many didn’t have irons. I decided to just enjoy the shopping and held off from purchasing. I’m definitely not a collector, just having fun on vacation and learning a little something about the function of these tools.
I also enjoyed looking at all the old furniture pieces in the antique malls. The lovely wood species, how their made and how they function. I think the entire family had fun!
Over the long holiday weekend I was able to get the 5 book boxes built but it took all three days in the shop for me to complete them. I have to admit, I enjoy my time in the shop and long days seem to fly by as I focus on my project.
Methods and Materials
I stopped by the home center on my way home from work and picked up 5, 8′-1×12’s. I opted not to go with the “select pine” which I have used so many times in the past because the boxes were to be painted so I mulled over my options and went with construction grade pine. After picking through the entire stack I came up with 4 half-way decent boards and one not-so-great board. They all had knots and dings and in retrospect I can really recommend following my example here. In the end I think for what I’m building it turned out OK.
The box design was kept simple so I didn’t actually need any printed plans other than my last post which listed the box sizes that I was going to use. The main feature I had to sort out was the shape and placement of the hand-hold cutouts. For the template, I used my largest Forstner bit which is 1 3/8″ and drill three holes side-by-side, 2 3/4″ from the front edge of the box sides. I then connected the top and bottom with a straight line and chiseled out the waste. From there I took the work-piece to the spindle sander and worked the cutout until it was smooth. Giving consideration that these will be used for lifting I needed to relieve the sharp edges I had carefully just created. I attempted the use of chisels and really just ended monkeying it up a bit. Good enough as a proof of concept however. I would make improvements during the production phase.
I started by building on of the largest boxes to completion. Again using the exercise to work out minor details and techniques. This proved valuable although it did make a wreck of my small shop space. Still although I lost economy I was able to work out method and templates which served me well on later boxes.
Boards were cut to approximate length on the miter saw then both ends were trued and cut to final length using my crosscut sled. The handle cut-outs were kept consistent but placing a stop block to locate one of the outer drill locations with a depth that stopped just when the center tip poked through. The board was then flipped over and the other outer hole was drilled on the opposite side. Both holes were then completed by simple flipping the board and aligning the drill bit to the tiny through hole. To remove the waste in between these two holes, top and bottom lines were drawn tangent to the circles and cut with jigsaw. The cut-out was then taken to the spindle sander and cleaned up by sanding to the lines. After doing one or two I became quite proficient and the work went quickly. To finish up the handle, I found an old spindle of sand paper and hand sanding worked efficiently and reliably to relieve the sharp edges while providing a consistent look.
Before assembly, each board was sanded P-80, P-120 then P-220 using my random orbital sander.
I got tired of the hose from my vacuum cleaner getting pulled loose so I duct taped the fitting and used a twist tie to keep the hose and cord connected together. This limited the use of my vacuum cleaner but made sanding much less frustrating.
Tried and true, I used screw, glue and plug joinery. Miter clamps kept the 4 sides in orientation while I pre-drilled and counterbored holes. I then loosened two (miter) clamps to free a side, applied glue then slid it back into place. Because neatness matters, I created a simple template to arrange the screw pattern. Screws found their pre-drilled holes and cinched the piece tight. For insurance the box frame was left in the miter clamps and F-clamps were used in cases were some of the pieces were a bit cupped.
As mentioned in my previous post, I opted for 1/2″ plywood for the box backs (bottoms) in an attempt to balance weight against strength. On one hand the boxes are heavy and when loaded with books, they will require two people to carry. On the other hand, the books will put a lot of stress on the bottoms so I’m hoping 1/2″ is enough. I think it will be if used prudently.
I glued, screwed and counter sank holes for the back. I began by lining up the back to the frame, marking and drilling before the glue-up. Once glued, screws brought the pieces in alignment and no clamping was required.
Plugging the Holes
If you have been following my blog, you will see that am completely new to woodworking. I would say that I am self-taught but really that is a gross misrepresentation as I have been learning from many Masters via the magic that is the Intranet. I love to learn new tips and techniques. I learned how to safely and reliably make these plugs on the Internet. I have however, struggled with trimming them flush to the work piece without marring the furniture or blowing out pieces of the plug. One technique I saw used with using a trim router and straight bit to trim plugs close. That actually worked very well but it wasn’t without some challenges. Plugs that were close together interfered with the router base as did plugs near the edge of the work piece. One slip off the edge and the router digs in to mar your surface. Plus it really is a scary piece of kit with that spinning bit. This time I tried a new tip, use a spent sanding disc to protect the work piece while using the flush cut saw to trim. I have to say, this technique was easy, fast and relatively safe. Although it doesn’t cut that close (due to the sanding disc) it was close enough to finish up with my block plane. I would take quick successive slices off the remaining plug top until flush. Reminding me of watching my Mom slice a cucumber with a mandolin slicer.
Three Days and Five Boxes
With the prototype finished, it was just a matter of “rinse and repeat” until I made all five boxes. At the end of Saturday, I had two boxes essentially completed (box 2 needed plugs) and by the end of Sunday I had four boxes completed (minus plugs on one). My design called for two large, two medium and one smaller box.
By mid-day on Monday (the holiday), I had completed all five boxes. Not without a few mistakes I must admit but nothing that was a show stopper. A couple of times, I misread a cut and had to cut another piece. Twice I had the same bone head mistake of cutting the handle on the wrong edge of the sides which leads me to the lesson learned for this project. Wait for it….. “err on the side of labeling your work pieces”. As simple as this design was I still managed to misread assembly. I mean when you’re busy doing, you are sometimes not busy thinking. That is where labels will help keep you on the path. For the first time I used a yellow crayon instead of a pencil and found it useful. I’m not sure how difficult it is to remove the marks after assembly but I knew I was painting so I didn’t worry too much this time. I’ll have to see what removes crayon but I already know pencil doesn’t remove easily so I’m willing to try something new.
Having finished the last box early in the afternoon I was on schedule to get them painted. I was concerned about finding a good space so I hauled them upstairs to our screened porch. I really wanted to get a coat on them in one session so I fabricated a “bed of nails” aka painter’s points so that I could paint all sides of the boxes. I used two 2×6’s that I drove in 3″ screws from the underside. I’d paint the backs (bottoms) and the long sides of each box then place them on the points where I would then finish the insides and the two short sides. Several hours into the process I began to question myself, “Just how many sides does a box have?” Answer: 6 on the outside but minus a top there are only 5 but there are 5 more on the inside. So 10 sides times 5 boxes means 50 pieces to paint. I used a small roller for the bulk of it and a foam brush for the corners. It took me forever and the bulk of it bending over or on the ground. I have a new respect for painters. Now I also understand the benefit of spraying furniture.
You have been building and painting with the Turtlecovebrewer.
Greetings, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break! Susan and I took the girls to Hiawassee, Georgia for a week over Christmas and although it was a lot of work I think everyone had a memorable time. While we were there we were able to get a bit of “antiquing” in. The girls shopped for tea cups and tea service while I shopped for vintage hand tools. But that was then and this is now my second week back at work and while considering what my next project should be, I was drafted to make a “tall skinny bookcase” for my eldest daughter.
After brief consideration I felt I had the perfect solution for her, “Thomas Jefferson Book Boxes”! The modular stacking boxes are not only utilitarian for a college student but she is a history major which should only add to the appeal. Erin want’s them painted white so I purchased inexpensive 8′ – 1 x 12″ pine boards and will glue, screw and plug for joinery. After deliberation I decided that 1/2″ ply for the backs would be strong enough and 3/4″ ply would add unnecessarily to the weight. I could be proven wrong on this; such is the privilege and adventure of make one’s own design.
Currently I’m planning to make 5 boxes, two large, two medium and one smaller but I’m not going to commit myself yet. I decided to make cutouts for hand hand-holds which should make moving the loaded boxes easier when the time comes. I am still going to recommend that two people move each loaded box because they will be heavy. Completely modular these don’t have to be stacked vertically and any reasonable number of boxes can be stacked in many configurations.
Project Dimensions (suggested)
top and bottom (1 ea) – 33″ L x 11 1/4″ W (single 8′ – 1 x 12 pine)
sides (2) – 14″ T x 11 1/4″ W
back (1) – 15 1/2″ T x 33″W (1/2″ ply)
top and bottom (1 ea) – 30″ L x 11 1/4″ W (single 8′ – 1 x 12 pine)
sides (2) – 12″ T x 11 1/4″ W
back (1) – 13 1/2″ T x 30″W (1/2″ ply)
top and bottom (1 ea) – 24″ L x 11 1/4″ W (single 6′ – 1 x 12 pine)
sides (2) – 10 1/2″ T x 11 1/4″ W (can split a ply – 24″ x 24″ panel for two boxes)
back (1) – 12 1/2″ T x 24″W (1/2″ ply)
top and bottom (1 ea) – 24″ L x 9 1/4″ W (single 6′ – 1 x 10 pine)
sides (2) – 10 1/2″ T x 9 1/4″ W (can split a ply – 24″ x 24″ panel two boxes)
back (1) – 12 1/2″ T x 24″W (1/2″ ply)
Centered 2-3/4″ from front edge of the box. Three 1-7/8″ diameter holes next to each other, then cleaned up with a chisel. Alternatively could trace a shape and cut out with a jigsaw.
Monticello Book Boxes « Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (Also called “book cases” or “book presses.”)