Friday, February 23

Friday – Latch Blocks & Leg Blocks

My appologies for not getting this posted last Friday. I got the article written but Blogger wasn't feeling well and wouldn't accept my photos. Since there were several of them this time I saved it as a draft and posted the whole thing tonight.

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Another beautiful day, it started out a bit chilly, but burning the hickory scraps from building Carol’s tables heated it up quickly. Hickory is a hard dense wood and burn hot!

Today we’ll be making the tricky little bits that often go overlooked, but without which these tables could not work; latch blocks and leg mounts. The latch blocks are made up of two pieces; a long bar with a tab mounted perpendicularly in it’s top edge. We start by laying out the tab on a long piece of stock that has been prepared earlier.

I like to do most of the shaping first then cut each tab off as it’s done so I don’t have to try to hang onto this small piece while machining it. Especially this step – I’m cutting kerfs with a bandsaw to rough-out the basic shape of the latch tab. I’ll do it again to remove the “fingers” that you see here. Hickory is hard and thus hard to sand, so getting as close to a finished shape as possible is a good thing.

The next step is to finish off the shape with a small sanding drum – careful, don’t take off too much or the latch won’t work. It’s better to leave it just a bit long than to take off too much; it’s easier to take off a little more than it is to put it back.

Next we grab he latch bars that were milled out previously and set up to cut the notch in their tops that will house the latch tab. I use our Incra miter gauge and a sharp, high quality blade for this step. I could use a dado head to get it done more quickly but tear-out is a problem, especially in a stringy wood like hickory. What makes it so tough is that the fibers of the wood intertwine, sort of like threads in a rope, supporting one another and resisting a clean cut with anything but the sharpest of blades.

This step requires a VERY precise fit, time spent tuning the cut is well spent. I always cut the tab stock just a hair wider than the dado (notch) will be and sneak up on a perfect fit by laying a piece of 100 grit sand paper on the bench and running each edge of the tab across it 2 or 3 times, then test the fit, sand again, test, until it’s just right. Like this.

As each one is completed, I test it with a leg assembly. The lump at the outer end of the tab needs to “snap” gently through the hole in the spreader to keep the leg from closing up, but not be so tight that you have to force it.

Completing this assembly takes 5 more steps; four are pictured here. At the left a counter-bored screw hole has been drilled and a short screw installed. Next the screw hole is filled with a plug cut from scraps of this project to obtain a good color match. Then the “stumps” are sanded off of the plug and the back of the tab. On the right is the completed latch bar assembly after the edges have been rounded over with the router and the whole thing sanded to remove burn marks and smooth it. This is done by hand with a piece of 100 grit paper.

That consumed the morning. After lunch I made the leg mount blocks, which are shorter versions of the latch block with no tab, cut out enough screw hole plugs to finish out this project, and installed the plugs, lopped off the excess and sanded them smooth with the surrounding wood.

Tomorrow Marie and I will move lumber. We have to haul out the extra hickory from this project, and some other things that have accumulated, so that I can get at the plywood stored against the wall behind all this lumber. I need the 1/8” BBP that will make backer boards for the tray tops. Once I’ve gotten that out where I can get at it we’ll haul in a bunch of walnut to start acclimating for the bag handle order we just got. This is an over time order, meaning that Brian and I will put in the needed hours in the evenings and weekends after doing the regularly scheduled work. I also have a tray table and an entertainment center that will use walnut coming up.

See you Monday.


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