There aren’t many days left until Christmas so I’m in the workshop and getting down to business. This year I decided to make the little Shaker step stool which can be found on startwoodworking.com. Tom McKenna from FWW takes you through the build with a 6-part video series and there is a downloadable PDF with project dimensions. I felt this was a perfect match for Christmas.
For the first time I’m not using home center lumber. The example build used walnut which I was going to replicate only when I got on the Woodworkers Source website I ended up changing my mind. I was hoping for American walnut but they had a “tropical walnut” on special and I almost bought it. This species was very dark brown, certainly not traditional but not offensive by any stretch. I actually had it in my cart when I ran across the sapele which was even less expensive than the tropical walnut. I decided to order the 20 board feet project pack which arrived on my birthday.
Another first will be milling and jointing “rough” lumber although I must say, this rough lumber was quite friendly. As it turned out I had two boards with the width I required for making these stools and it ended up working out that I could make three from the materials at hand. Originally I had planned to make 4-6 of these but now that I’ve started the work I’m glad it is only 3. Although touted as a beginner level project, I personally feel it to be intermediate, at least if you are to have the skills to do a decent job of it.
I began but rough cutting all the pieces to 1″ over the final length except where I didn’t have enough board. In this instance I left them as long as I could and was careful.
Golden Rule #1 – don’t make cuts to size until you have to. Why prematurely cut you stock when you may find out done the line that you made it too short? Leaving stock oversized give more flexibility should tear out or other unforeseen issue occur.
The rough cut boards were stickered until I could get started on the project which happened to be last weekend.
Stock preparation was fairly typical although for me it was another first. I’ve used my jointer/planer before but this time it was the real deal. I jointed two faces and planed the third. I took as little off as necessary and wound up with a thickness of about 0.8″. The fourth face was cut to width on the table. Milling 101 stuff but again my first time completely through the process. I wanted to keep some level of grain match so as I chopped up the boards, I labeled the pieces using chalk. I used “R” to make reference (jointed) faces.
Golden Rule #2 – practice on scrap. I had plenty of select pine around so I started the project by working on a prototype. Why not practice first?
Before I started cutting on the sapele, I built the router template jig for the whale tail and tested on pine. The pdf provided half a full-sized template of the profile and the video showed how to make the jig.
So far so good.
This weekend I was able to get started in earnest. To say that I am an experienced woodworker would be somewhat comical however, I do feel comforted that I am gaining some experience and finding it useful. I certainly can’t predict all situations but I am beginning put order in the process. For example, with all the measuring I need to do on the legs to find where the hole goes, lay out the whale tail cut, and place the mortise, why would I taper the legs first? In fact tapering the legs will come last so the piece can be registered along the width. Another example, one could choose to drill the hole after making the whale tail but it wouldn’t be difficult to predict that the drill bit would wonder and tear out would be inevitable. I believe it is Chuck Bender that always says you are experienced (or gain experience) when “you can predict how the wood will react when you put a tool to it”. I’m not there yet but I’m starting to use my head more often than in the past.
Blue Tape Trick
So I don’t know who actually invented the blue tape trick but I first heard of it as presented by Michael Pekovich Fine Woodworking Magazine.
I also followed another Pekovich (thanks Mike) trick and used a wooden spacer to layout the top of the mortise. My marking gauge scribed the mortise side and a simple carpenters’ square located the bottom line of the mortise. Not having to fiddle with settings allowed me to mark all 6 pieces pretty much identically. I first scribed the wood, then applied tape and repeated the scribing to remove the mortise window.
I set up the fence and a stop block on my drill press to exactly excavate one end of the mortise and set the drill bit depth to penetrate just over half way through the board. I then carefully drilled the first side flipping the board over to complete the hole. I repeated this step for each of the 6 legs, then moved the stop block to the other end of the mortise and repeated the process. A third iteration completed the excavation by taking out the remaining center section.
The couple of hours were spent the old-fashioned way, hand chop with chisel and mallet.
The Whale Tail
For the next step I decided to move on to making the center decorative cut out on the legs, the Whale Tail. I reprised my process at the drill press, adjusting the fence and stop block to precisely the location marked by punch at the top of the tail. Once again I drilled from both sides to replicate clean holes on all 6 pieces. I was able to use the template and a 1/2″ center punch to mark both the hole and one side of the whale tail profile. Flipping the piece over allowed me to mark both halves of the tail and then over the band saw. I began by making a relief cut right down the center of the tail cut out. I then tried my best to cut out the profile, leaving between an 1/8″ to 1/16″ of material to be routed away. I now know that I should have left about 1/8″ because when I got very close to the line in some areas, the router didn’t want to cut that area. Much cleaner to have the router shave the entire length than to have areas with band saw marks and burning to be cleaned up by hand.
For the most part the router template jig worked perfectly. Because I left my stock a teeny bit oversized (why not, I didn’t need to waste precious wood) I needed to add a template extension to the end of the profile (top right of photo just above the C clamp). It was worth it to add this piece and clean it up nicely because the legs came out great.
It was the very next step that through me into a spiral. The router bit won’t fit all the way up the crotch to the 1/2″ hole so there is about 3/4″ of wood that must be chopped to the profile line with a chisel. At least that is how Tom did it in the video. I found this part was problematic and I ended up with tear out at the end of the leg profile pretty much no matter how I approached it. I recommend a careful study of the grain and very chisels if you are going to attempt it. Personally I was looking for an alternative but soldiered on anyway.
Mortises for Tops
Well after a bit of study over the plans and ciphering on my particular board dimensions, I decided on where my mortises should go on the tops. For this I used two marking gauges and two carpenter squares to layout the mortises on front and back sides of the 3 tops. It took a little while but I wanted to get this part completed and ready for my next shop session.
It’s going to take some time but I’ll be setting up the fence and stop and one by one drilling all the holes required for all 4 mortises. Once set a hole will be drilled on all 3 tops, then reset for hole next, etc. Each setup will allow me to drill (partially) through all 4 mortises (but not all on the same side of the board. In this case, I’ll set the Forstner bit tip to just barely poke through the other side and then will flip the board over and line up the mark to complete the hole. This will need to be repeated of course for each hole of each setup. As I said, it is going to take a little while but should produce accurate and clean results. I’ll just need to keep my concentration……
Join me next time and we’ll chop more mortises and cut some tenons together…..
I mentioned in my last post that I had taken last week off and although I had completed a fair number of chores, I procrastinated on adding my final applications of top coat to the night stand. Down to the wire on the last day off (Sunday) I finally dragged everything outside with the intention of applying two final coats. If you ever saw the movie “A Bridge Too Far” then you’ll understand what happened to me. Although I had squandered all those beautiful sunny days, Sunday morning was very overcast. I spayed my first coat and was hoping to spray the final coat in about 2 hours. While I waited, I worked on other projects in the shop. About an hour and a half later I suddenly realized that it was pouring down rain. No not a little sprinkle, we’re talking puddles of rain. I was “horrified” and dragged everything under the cover. The great news is that General Finishes High Performance Top Coat really does dry quickly. So much so that I was able to wipe everything down with cotton rag with no noticeable ill effect on the finish. So basically I got what I desired but luckily, no harm done. Not to self; “come up with a sensible spray booth solution”
So calling the finishing done, three tasks remained for completion. I needed to 1) fit the lower shelf (probably shouldn’t have made it so close to tolerance) 2) figure out how to attach the top 3) install the drawer slides.
Although this shouldn’t have taken more than one shop day it actually ended up consuming both Saturday and Sunday. I spend most of the day Saturday struggling with fitting the drawer slides. First off, I have never fit any slides period. The slides are purchased were inexpensive Euro Slides from the home center. The directions called for a clearance of 1″ side-to-side which I knew and had factored in when making the drawers. I didn’t read anywhere about the gap required at the top of the drawer necessary to feed the drawer onto the rails. I had added a rail between the two drawers which would have left perhaps a quarter-inch gap for each drawer top to bottom. But struggle as I might, I just couldn’t get it all to work out because there need to be at least 1/2″ in order for the door slide rollers to pass by one another. Yes, I’m a moron but it took me a while to break down and remove the center rail. By then I had struggled so much and been so frustrated that I just had to call it quits and start again on Sunday.
By the time I made it to the shop on Sunday morning, I had already watched a YouTube video on the installation of this style of drawer slide. The video gave a couple of great tips on assembling drawers (which were of no use to me now) a one use tip on using a spacer to support the slide while marking the position on both sides of the carcass. With this knowledge and with some trial and error I was able to get the drawers functioning.
The final challenge was to affix the top. I you happen to notice, under the solid wood top is a plywood panel so I wouldn’t be attaching the top to apron as is done in most situations. A further complication was that I felt I wanted the panel to “float” which I thought would add shadow and therefore dimension to the piece. I questioned whether or not I was going to be able to gain enough access from underneath considering the plywood sub-top. One option was to cut through the center portion of the plywood piece, leaving the outer edges and corners to add strength. In the end, I was hoping for as simple solution as possibly and I came up with cutting the discarded rail (see above) into 4 pieces and screwing them to the plywood top. I then drilled down through the center of these shims piercing the plywood sub-top. I then positioned the top and using a punch marked the top to drill for screws. At that point it was a simple matter to use a screw up through the pre-drilled holes and into the top. Of course this had to be done with a hand powered screwdriver and a shot one at that. Wood movement is possibility but I’m not shipping all over the country and it is probably about as humid as it’s going to get so it might shrink but hopefully not swell.
I think it turned out pretty nice. Clearly if I built another one I would make a couple of modifications which would save aggravation and Susan wanted me to build a second one for her side of the bed. I told her if I build another one I want to paint it purple. She looked confused……..
Nest up: Time for the Turtlecovebrewer to get busy making toys for big boys and girls. He also needs to brew but where is he going to get the time???
So November 5 was my birthday so I had decided to celebrate by taking the entire week off work. You would have thought that I would have accomplished an amazing number of tasks in the shop but alas, I only managed a few. The week never-the-less was well spent and turned out to be a pretty good mix of family chores, relaxing, reading, practicing instrument and shop time.
My intended design is a mix of painted surfaces and natural tops and drawer fronts. Because the top third of the carcass is exposed I wanted to add a second solid panel to this surface. Below was the actual top which will overhang the carcass an inch on all sides.
For the panel which covers the drawers (the lower top) I used nothing but tape to secure the two pieces while the glue set. This is method often used by luthiers when gluing acoustic tops. It worked quite well and I found there was less movement of the two pieces then overzealous use of F-clamps. More efficient glue clean-up as well.
With most of the components constructed, I mocked up the night stand. The “lower” panel hadn’t been glued up, if you’re wondering about the wood sticking out of the side. Turns out I bought another board rather than use these scrap pieces.
Paint and Top Coat
I used one can of forest green spray paint for the carcass which I applied in three coats. The drawer pulls were purchased from the home center and I would have preferred them to be slightly larger but these were all they had. Pulls were also painted.
For the top coat I used my groovy new Fuji Semi-PRO2 hvlp sprayer. I was clueless which model to get the gravity or siphon feed so I did my best to read various opinions on the matter. The gravity feed has the benefit of, well, gravity which is supposed to be of advantage however to me the gun looked top-heavy. The siphon feed appeared to have a larger capacity but in theory wasted more product. Then there was the question of which profile allowed you access to where you needed to spray and on the debate went. I opted for the gravity feed which it turns out can easily be converted to siphon feed should that turn out to be necessary. So far I see no reason for this.
Other than the fact that I need practice I found the sprayer was relatively easy to use. Expect there to be a learning curve as you figure out your air to finish ratio, fan pattern and spray technique. This project allowed me to at least discover some of these variables and controls and I believe that I’ll get better. Over all I didn’t find it that difficult to get started. I did want to build a small cart to house all these components. Possibly modify a small hand truck with a storage bin and place to wrap up the hose and electrical cord. I haven’t really decided though.
Stay tuned, I’m almost there
I found the free plans for this build on the Ana White website. This site isn’t for uppity woodworkers (or should I say wood craftsman??) rather it is a wonderful place for average folks like me to find all kinds of DIY inspiration. Kudos to Ana and the scores of folks who are “simply making stuff”!
My wife Susan and I inherited bedroom furniture from my Mom which we needed for our second home in Melrose, Florida. It was so wonderful to once again have a king sized comfortable bed and dresser making the place look lived in once again. The set came with one night stand and we really needed one for each side of the bed so being a Maker, I decided to build one. As often happens the decision to build a night stand sent me chasing my tail looking for plans. I found some very nice arts and crafts tables that I liked but I just didn’t think I had the time and desire to invest so much into this project at this time. I’d still like to do it at some point but for now I wanted something attractive yet inexpensive, fast and easy to build. The good news, I found many free and varied plans but it took a while to find just the right one. Then Viola! I found the Rhyan End Table build on Ana’s site.
It was such a versatile plan and many folks had modified it to fit their own needs and décor. This plan turned out to be the perfect base from which I could match my Mom’s furniture which was a painted dark green.
I wasn’t going flashy but I did decide to use solid wood tops and drawer fronts. I borrowed the SketchUp model and put my own spin on the design but really other than paint and the use of solid wood accents, I changed almost nothing.
I will bevel or round over the top panel edge, I just didn’t take the time to add that to the SketchUp plan. Actually I did on the first attempt but when I increased the top size to 22″x 22″ I didn’t struggle with the second panel. I’m still a bit loose on the “Follow me” tool.
The plan called for 2″ x 2″ stock but not finding suitable at the home center I decided to laminate two pieces of 1″ x 2″ stock instead. This did require more work of course but it did give me an excuse to use the new jointer which worked beautifully for me. I also attempted to use the planer mode for the first time on the pieces for the panel top and I still have a great deal to learn in that respect. I shouldn’t be surprised, it was my first attempt after all.
I suppose I should hide my head in shame that this build uses butt joints held together by glue and pocket hole screws. Well so what! Ha, there I’ve said it. I am very confident this piece is structurally sound and I have no doubt it will hold my drink and remote control without collapsing! It might be hard to believe but I actually haven’t built very much using pocket hole joinery. I believe the bench top router table was the only other time I used pocket hole screws. Now I have used plugged, counter bore screws and glue exhaustively in other builds. Anyway, that is all the apologizing that I am I going to do about pocket holes. The carcass is built and I have glued up the top panel. You may or may not have noticed that the lower shelf is recessed. I decided to go ahead and build the carcass with plywood and follow-up with a solid panel on top of the ply. This also allowed me to correct a huge mistake that I made when assembling the laminated 1″x 2s”.
I realized that these glued up pieces would not be exactly as wide as they are thick and of course this can throw off registration when assembling the carcass. Realizing and doing are two different things and of course I glued them up in random mixed fashion. Had I been a proper woodworker, I would have not only realized the necessity but I would have also carefully marked my stock before assembly. Rookie mistake which I just had to soldier on through and work-around. Often, even when I make my stock I ignore the marks and glue it up wrong anyway! That is not how I want to roll so I now reprogramming myself to learn and not make these same mistakes again on future builds. After all, there are so many other mistakes that I have yet to discover, I want to leave future builds open so I can enjoy new bungles!
Next up I’ll be building drawers and finishing the tops but that hasn’t happened yet so you’ll just have to be patient…….
These days I just haven’t had a great deal of “quality time” in my shop. When I have had time it takes me a while to get oriented. What should I work on? What was I working on? Where are all those great ideas I had collected over the last month? If practice makes perfect then I’m out of practice on virtually everything. Woe is me, chaos abounds!
Well it isn’t as bad as all that but I do feel disoriented and out of practice after time away. Everything I do seems like it is for the first time and to my surprise, many things work out fine. Often, they work out even better than anticipated. Then it happens; the unexpected…. disaster!
In hindsight I have to ask myself, “was this result really unexpected?”
In the case of “router vs headstock” I should have acknowledged that I had never made and used a router template, never routed mahogany and never used the new albeit groovy Whiteside router bit before. Would it have killed me to practice on a piece of scrap first? I don’t think it was a lack of patience or even over-confidence it just didn’t occur to me at the time. Most of the procedure went as expected but only after I had mangled the end grain.
In the case this weekend of “pocket hole vs 3/4″ stock” I knew that I hadn’t used my pocket hole jig over a year, maybe even two. I had to look up the proper screw size for 3/4″ stock. Again, I had upgraded to proper Kreg coarse screws and Kreg drill bit. That combined with the HF pocket hole jig was all a winning combination (the HF screws suck, but the jig is awesome). Confidence was high right up until I screwed in the first screws which punched out the side of my attaching piece. DOH! I couldn’t remember which of the two bushing angles I should have used when drilling the hole. Yes, this information is provided on the jig but I stupidly assumed this was referring to the length of the screw I was using, not the thickness of the material. A quick test on scrap would have been quicker and a better outcome than a repair.
Have I learned my lesson? I would hope that these two experiences will guide me in the future. Practicing when it doesn’t matter can be far more relaxing and can certainly give insight on what to expect during “the real thing”. It is such a simple concept, “practice on scrap first!
Learning shop lessons with the Turtlecovebrewer
I’m in a time of transition at Turtlecove and thus I haven’t been very productive over the last month. I haven’t posted in almost one month basically because there hasn’t been all that much to share. That said, I have been busy book learning which is a good thing in its own way. I notice it was February 2013 when I posted my first entry announcing my desire to become a woodworker. In many ways I still see myself as a beginner but realistically I have probably been socially promoted to intermediate worker simply based on “time in grade”. When I started my entire goal was to gather enough tools and experience to feel confident enough to build stringed instruments. Over 2 1/2 years later I still haven’t built any and I know that I never will unless I take those first mistake-filled, ignorant, unskilled steps. So I have decided to set sail on this new skill set in earnest which for no good reason I could have done so earlier. Basically I’m nervous….
Recently I’ve spent more time hitting the books than making sawdust. Here’s a synopsis of what I’ve read up on.
The Luthier’s Handbook: A Guide to Building Great Tone in Acoustic Stringed Instruments – Roger H. Siminoff (Author)
Despite its title, this would not be the first book an aspiring young luthier would want to tackle. Although I am new to the field, I plan on reading lots of books on the matter so I gladly read this one cover to cover. It won’t help you build an instrument but it will help you to understand how acoustic stringed instruments make sound and the factors that can and do influence that sound. Mr. Siminoff is as influential a luthier as Orville Gibson or C.F. Martin and this is a very worthwhile supplemental read. Think of this as a college physics class for instrument builders, only this time you won’t fall asleep. Learn about tension and how energy is transferred from string to soundboard to surrounding environment.
Recommended as a supplemental read for acoustic instrument builders.
Fret Work Step-By-Step – Erick Coleman and Dan Erlewine (Author), Stewart-MacDonald (Editor, Illustrator)
Again this is probably not the first book an aspiring luthier should purchase but who can knock an informative body of knowledge by these two experts? The format of the book is to present case studies of fret jobs each covering different instruments and the unique challenges and complications these jobs presented. Extremely informative and I’m glad I have the resource which I’m sure I would need to read over and over again to understand what exactly is going on. I do tend to agree with other reviewers that this book sounds like a Stewart-MacDonald advertisement for tools and equipment. I have purchased two other Dan Erlewine / Stewart-MacDonald published books and neither of those came off that way. In those references Dan would mention the tools that he used (or the he or others had made) and seemed to offer many solutions for the task whether it was Stew-Mac or another vendor. I won’t re-read this book for fun rather I’ll pull it out to study when faced with a particular job.
Recommended but only as a supplemental read when attempting fretwork. In hindsight, I didn’t need this reference yet at my level. Very technical and precise work using expensive tools and jigs.
Guitarist’s Guide to Maintenance & Repair – Dave Rubin (Author), Doug Redler (Author)
“A Tech to the Stars Tells How to Maintain Your Axe Like a Pro”. Well I can’t blame the fellow for using his street credentials to market the book. Sort of like, hey you’ve never heard of me but I know what I’m talking about because I’ve toured with ……! There was a lot of useful information in this book including some what to carry with you and how to fix things in a pinch tips. The stories are interesting but the photos are in black and white and could have been a bit more illustrative. Well worth the $11 I spent to purchase this reference, I learned that much and more. Other reviewers have called it “informative, easy to understand advice”. I would agree with that and this is a very reasonable reference for a guitar player. I wouldn’t recommend this book as a sole reference for the guitar tech or builder.
In hindsight, I would have skipped this purchase and bought The Guitar Repair Guide straight away but that’s me and what I’m looking for in a reference. It think this is a fine reference for gigging guitar players who want to keep playing on the road.
Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step – Dan Erlewine (Author), Don MacRostie (Author), Stewart-MacDonald (Editor)
I absolutely love this book and highly recommend it for any guitar builder at any level. Notice I said builder, someone who needs to finish a guitar. Probably too much information for a player or someone who just needs to polish their axe. That is my opinion although a couple of review I just read disagreed a bit. One fellow was an absolute beginner and complained that it was a “treatise on virtually every type of wood finish used on guitars in the last century” and although AMAZINGLY complete it was a disappointment for a beginner. Hummmm, a complete treatise describes everything I want in a book. Beautiful color photographs of stain mixing formulas, recipes and techniques (sometimes multiple methods) that can be used to successfully reproduce virtually any commercial instrument finish in the last century. Sounds terrible, not! One reviewer noted that this book was last updated in the 90’s and there was no (or little) material on HVLP sprayers that are now inexpensive and common. My version was published in 2005 and although I don’t have it in front of me, I’m pretty sure this option was at least mentioned. Anyway I know about these sprayers and I actually appreciated the detail given to compressed air spraying as otherwise I’d have been left ignorant. I never got the impression that this was a Stew-Mac advertisement, Dan and Don did a great job with this reference. Did I mentioned I loved this book?
Highly recommended for any guitar builder.
The Guitar Player Repair Guide – 3rd Edition – Dan Erlewine (Author)
If you made it this far reading my post, then I will suppose you are interested in guitar building or maintenance/repair. Therefore I will suggest to you that is the first reference you should have purchased. Even if you are simply a guitar owner, this is the material that you will want to have at your disposal to keep it healthy and playing great. Want some interesting stories and celebrity name-dropping, it’s in this book as well but in the context of famous instruments, techniques and setup. Dan also includes sections written by fellow experts providing not just HIS experience but the best collected information on a subject that he can find. Interesting accurate, complete and very detailed. One of the reasons I have been so slow to start working in this hobby is because the there are so many specialized tools and materials and every dang one of them is expensive. Dan doesn’t hold back telling you how to make a few of them on your own. Some reviewers disagreed with me. For a few there wasn’t a detailed enough explanation of a specific topic and for one novice reader, they found this repair guide was way too detailed to be of interest to them. I can absolutely see their points, I just don’t happen to agree. I personally like my references to have lot’s of tables (like the setup measurements for various instruments) as well as step by step instructions on their application. But if I already know what to do maybe all I need is a cheat-sheet with the numbers. You can’t satisfy every apatite. I have a few woodworking books that provided me essential information when I got started that I would now not need having already read it.
Highly recommended if you want to build or repair guitars, but especially electric guitars. Hell I think regular guitar players should have this reference on their shelves.
Thinking about it, I suppose I have been busier than I first thought. So as you see, I have been reading up and have purchased and made a few of the tools I’ll need to get started. Yesterday I received my order of aniline dyes so I can now get started coloring the PRS style kit guitar. I have also purchased parts for Les Paul Junior double-cut style that I’m tinkering with. The latter will be assembled from various parts so it will be a bit trickier than the kit. What can go wrong ….. right?
Turtlecovebrewer wants to know your favorite instrument related read.