Thursday, August 30

Thursday – Installing Hardware

Today’s tasks are to get Dan’s Pirate Chest sanded and install the hardware… temporarily.

Sanding the lid took most of the morning. I started by filling nail holes and any cracks that were left between the slats. In a perfect world where everything is straight and even there would be no cracks to deal with, but we don’t live in that world… yet.

Now, there’s a trick to using wood filler. First off, forget what it says on the label and look at the color. This chest is made of red oak, but in filling the cracks I used red oak, white oak and walnut fillers, sometimes straight, sometimes blended, and sometimes just folded together so they produced streaks of color in each other. Wood is not one uniform color, so to make fillers work properly you have to match the colors.

While the filler dried I installed the handles on the sides of the base box. Then I got busy working down the ridges where the slats in the lid came together and smoothing the whole thing out as much as possible. I did use a power sander to quickly fair off the majority of the ridges where the slats run over the steeper curves at the top, but where the lower parts go concave and the final work along the top was all done by hand.

That done, I laid out and installed the hinges, hasp and lid support chain.

And that, dear readers, completes the construction phase of this project. The rest of today will be spent removing the hardware again and finish sanding the chest in preparation for staining. Because Dan has already sent me his pre-stain progress payment there will be no delay in the work so I may even get that done today. The stain will have to set up for at least eight hours before we can finish, and I’ll be in Treasures tomorrow, so it will be Saturday before I can go any further.

See you then!


P.S. Blogger SAYS it now supports video clips, so I shot a brief clip of the chest on a turntable and tried to upload it here three times, it crashed every time even though it was only 3.1 MB (100 MB max allowed) and it was in Quicktime format which is one of the allowed formats. Oh, well, now I know not to try that again.

Dan, if you want to see it (and have software that will play a QuickTime (*.MOV) file installed on your computer) I can e-mail the clip to you.


Wednesday, August 29

Wednesday – Making the Lid

Today we will make the lid of Dan’s pirate chest. To start with I take the full size drawing I made, and trace off a paper pattern for half of the curve along the top. Then I cut the paper pattern out and use that to lay-out the full size piece on a piece of thin plywood. Then I go out to the band saw and cut out the curvy part. I cut it oversize then use a spindle sander to bring the shape back down to the line – much more precise that way. Finally I check the template I just made by setting it on top of the bottom box we built yesterday to make sure the edges line up and the angles look right. It’s good.

Now, I use the template to lay out the two lid end pieces on a piece of lumber. I found a board with a knot in it. Can’t use the knot, but because the grain in the board tends to swirl up and around these knots, I thought it would be a good choice for these parts; see how the grain will follow the arch in the part? Wood is such fun stuff to work with.

OK, so it’s back out to the band saw, rough out the arch on both end pieces and come back inside. One of these days I’ll shanghais enough muscle to help me move that monster inside the new shop, it’s too heavy for just the two of us.

I use the chop saw to cut the straight angles that will match the shape of the lower box, then use the spindle sander to shape the arches.

There are two ways to make a curvy top like this; one is to use a piece of flexible plywood nailed down to the end pieces, the other is to use slats. OK, there is a third way, but it's so time consuming it's not worth considering on this project. The original design used slats, and I’m glad of it because I prefer this method too. But even though they are narrow pieces, if the edges are left square, they will still have gaps where they go around an outside bend. How do we get rid of those? We could try cutting beveled edges, but that would take an awful lot of trial and error to get all the different angles right, and that would mean some slats will end up quite a bit narrower than others because of having to trim more off to get the angles right. There is a better way. Taking a lesson from roll top desks, I routed a bullnose (or rounded edge) on one side of each slat and a cove (or concave edge) on the other, that way the two fit into each other and allow the slats to “bend” around the curves without opening up any spaces. The slats will even “lock” together during glue-up to make a stronger cover.

But we don’t want to just nail the slats to the top – that would look sloppy. So I set up my Rabbet Master bit to cut a rabbet the depth of the slat thickness and three-quarters across the width of the crowns and route a pocket for the slats to sit in.

Next I cut the little rails that will be the front and back of the lid, test fit them on top of the lower box then glue and clamp them together. While the glue is setting up, I make those slats we dreamed up.

Once everything is ready, I trim the slats to precise length and test fit them into the lid. But first, I lay them out and look at the colors and grain patterns in each of the slats, and rearrange them to produce a pleasing look. Then I tape my starter strip in place and begin transferring the set of strips onto the lid. And it works out just perfectly.

Now, I have one reservation here. The pictures of the original chest show that the builder glued edge banding tape over the end grain of the end pieces and up over the lid – presumably this was to hide the joinery of this curvy top. Perhaps they didn’t take the care to get a precise fit; cut them a bit shorter and they’ll go in quicker and with less fussing, then just cover it up with edging tape. But *I* don’t care for the edge banding, and the joinery here is nothing to be ashamed of. So I’m going to check with Dan to see if he wouldn’t care to dispense with the banding – at least on the top. If I’d had my druthers, I’d have opted for mitered corners too – then there would be no end gain to hide. Might have been tricky to cut though.

But it will be Dan’s dresser that this ends up sitting on so whatever he chooses to go with I will do. Here are some shots of the semi-completed chest, remember though that the slats are just sitting there, they have not been glued down yet. I’ll work on that this evening after supper.


Tuesday, August 28

Tuesday – Making the Lower Box

This morning I planed out a plank of the red oak I had brought in to acclimate. I have three projects lined up that will all use red oak, so I brought in enough to do Dan’s Treasure Chest, Gilda’s breakfast tray table and get a good start on Marie’s dining room suit. I’ve dealt with Marie before and know her to be a patient sort, so I’ll get these two little projects out before launching into the table and chairs. That project may take a couple of months all by itself.

Because all of the lower box parts will have a 12° bevel on their upper and lower edges, I set up the table saw to rip at this angle and trim the plank to width with it’s bevels… making sure the bevels run the right direction on both edges!

Because the side pieces angle in at the bottom as well, the ends of the front and back pieces have to be cut to a matching angle. I could use my miter gauge on the table saw – and normally would do so, but that would mean messing up the angle on the blade. So I’ll use the chop saw instead. A decent chop saw has an angle gauge that allows you to dial in the exact angle and lock it down for precise, repeated cuts.

When all the parts are cut I test fit them using masking tape to hold them together while I check the angles and be sure the box comes out square.

Next we need a bottom, but this piece needs to be glued up from narrower pieces so it won’t warp. Since we do not yet have a jointer (until recently we did not have room for this piece of equipment, at least not a good one) and because I’ve always gotten good results from using my table saw and a glue-line blade as a jointer, I will again use the table saw. Oh, but wait… the table saw is set up for 12° cuts. What to do, what to do? Well, why not use 12° glue joints? That way we do not have to disturb that setting as we will need it again. As long as they are all precisely the same angle it doesn’t matter much what that angle is. A very shallow angle would make the boards try to slip up over one another, and even here I use clamps to prevent this, but at this angle it’s not much of a problem. Even if it were to end up a little out of alignment, I’m gluing this part of from rough sawn lumber which will be planed to finished thickness when the glue tacks up sufficiently, so any misalignment will be pared away by the planer anyway.

While the glue sets up lets give credit where credit is due. The design for this chest came from I gather that Dan saw it there a while back, liked it, but hesitated on buying it. When he went back to get one, it was no longer being offered. He did get a set of photos and the source for the rusty pirate hardware, so we can replicate it for him.

One difference is that the original was made of cypress, which is fairly soft and prone to dents and dings. Dan agreed that building it of oak would make it more durable. Otherwise we will follow the original design as closely as I can.

OK, that glue ought to be tacked up now. Yes, I know, I’m kind of a slow typist.

I surface planed the blank to smooth it and bring it down to the required thickness, then used the table saw to cut the bevels on the edges. By running it through upside down against the rip fence I cut the front and back bevels, and by using the miter gauge with the blank right side up I cut the end bevels. This was a slow process as I wanted to sneak up on a perfect fit, so the final few passes were taking just 1/64 of an inch off at a time.

One last test fit to see that everything is copasetic then it’s off to the glue-up table to make it permanent. Clamping all these angled sides is something of a pain; the clamps keep wanting to slide off the angled sides. But persistence prevailed. This will need to sit overnight before I bother it again.

So, it’s time to clean up the shop and head home. My sweetie and I have a date tonight and it would be good if I cleaned up a bit first!


Monday, August 27

Monday – Planning

This morning was spent on accounting chores, as usual for Monday, and the afternoon was spent drawing out the design plan for Dan’s pirate chest. I worked out the math and did a sketch last week, today I got out the big paper and drafting tools.

Tomorrow we’ll start cutting lumber.


Friday, August 24

Friday – Finished Finishing

This morning I completed applying polyurethane to Bryans’ stained cherry tea chest and installed the drawer pulls. This one is now ready to package up and ship out.

The rest of the day will be spent cleaning up the shop, hauling out scrap lumber from this project, doing some cleaning out in the lumber shed and working up a plan for Dan’s treasure chest -- once it gets too hot to work outside. We are heading for yet another record breaking high temperature today, so having an excuse to spend the afternoon hanging out in the AC will be good.

Dan sent me a drawing in PDF form that he got from the fellow who used to make these chests, but the file was corrupted an all I got was one corner. So, I’ll start from scratch and do my own design based on the photos Dan provided.

Hope you have a great weekend!


Thursday, August 23

Thursday – Finishing Continues

This morning I completed lacquering the natural finished tea chest and installed the drawer pulls. This one is now ready to post to the web site as an on-hand item.

After lunch I began applying gloss polyurethane to Bryans tea chest. This is a new product for us: instead of using the tung oil based poly that we have always used before (which requires 8 hours of dry time between each of the three coats) we’re trying a water based poly. Our first step into “green” finishes.

I got two coats spayed on, then had to do some adjusting because the finish was building up too fast on the drawer boxes and they were binding in their slots.

Once that was straightened out I shot a third coat on the case. That should to it. So I’m going to call it a day and will check it tomorrow after the case has had the chance to harden up overnight.


Monday, August 20

Monday – Finishing Begins

Today we begin the finishing process for our two cherry tea chests.

Bryan wants his stained Bistro Walnut then finished with gloss polyurethane. The other will get a clear semi-gloss lacquer finish.

Both start out by getting sanded to 150 grit. Normally, under a gloss finish we would sand to 320 grit, but the stain manufacturer states that I should sand to no finer than 150 or the stain will not adhere well enough and the color will be too light. After sanding I vacuum them with a soft brush tip then tack rag them.

I stain Bryan’s chest first. While the stain is drying in the finishing room, I sand the other chest. When the stain is no longer tacky I move the chest out of the finishing room and set up to shoot lacquer. This stain will need to cure for at least 24 hours before I begin applying the polyurethane.

I give the second chest one good coat of lacquer. Normally I’d let that dry for an hour or so then shoot it again, let that dry, scuff sand it and shoot it one last time, but the day is about over and Marie will be here soon to fetch me away so I’ll get to that tomorrow.

See you then,


Thursday, August 16

Thursday – Drawers

I have quite a lot to get done today, in many small steps, so I got to work right off.

I started with a task that really belonged to yesterdays assignment, but couldn’t be done yesterday because the tea chest cases were in clamps; that is to fit and attach the base moldings. I had already milled the molding strips, but needed to cut them to exact length with mitered the corners and attach them to the case. If you’ve never tried this, it’s a little trickier than it looks. Getting one corner perfect is a snap – as long as you can cut a perfect 45° miter – but getting both front corners to fit precisely takes some fussing. But I got it the first try… on both tea chests.

Now we launch into today’s assignment: making drawers. I have two, three drawer chests, so I need 6 drawers. I had roughed out the stock for the drawers boxes earlier so today I just cut it into finished sized pieces, add grooves and rabbets where the parts all fit together and viola – drawers!

Along the way, however, I must take care to keep an eye on the orientation of all the pieces. Unlike mass production shops who use very bland, colorless wood so they don’t have to worry about color matching, we like to use “interesting” wood. These drawer boxes are being made of silver maple, which has some nice coloring to it. But that means pairing up the sides and the drawer end so they look like they go together, it also means keeping track of which edge is “up” and which faces are “in” and “out”. It takes a lot of concentration to keep it all straight as we work through the various milling steps.

Once all that is done, I dry-fit all the drawers using masking tape to hold them together and look for misalignments, then test fit them in their slots in the case. If needed, I make adjustments. When I’m happy with the fit, I take the parts for each drawer to my glue-up station and assemble the drawers with glue and small nails. The nails are not so much insurance against the joint falling apart as they are a substitute for clamps. It would take 5 clamps per drawer, 6 drawers = 30 clamps to do all the drawers at once. Or do as many as I have clamps for then go do something else until the glue dries. To get around all that, I just use the nails.

There are drawer stops installed in the rear of each drawer slot that stops the drawer at a precise point. I adjust these until all the drawers line up with just the right amount of protrusion from the case. With the double round-over moldings and the rounded drawer front edges, it all comes together for a very classy look, don’t you think?

The last step is to use a centering square to locate dead center on the drawers and bore the holes needed for the drawer pulls. Bryan ordered our Tea Pot & Cup pulls, which are the only pulls we make ourselves. But I ran out of Epoxy before finishing his, so I’ll stand down until Marie gets here with more.

While I’m waiting I’ll clean up the shop and put away the tools. We’re pretty much done with construction on these tea chests now, ready to go into the finishing stage. Once chest will get a clear lacquer finish and go to the Treasures of Appalachia gallery to sell as an On-Hand item. The other is for Bryan’s order. But, when Bryan placed the order he instructed us to “finish it in dark brown to match the kitchen cabinetry”. But, having never seen Bryan’s kitchen we have no idea what color it is and so can not match that color. His chest will get set aside while we wait for him to answer our e-mails about his color selection. The other we can go ahead and finish.

Tomorrow is my turn to be shopkeeper at Treasures, so I will be out of the workshop all day. I’ll make up for the missed time over the weekend. So, I’ll see you good folks again on Monday.


Wednesday, August 15

Wednesday – Case Assembly

I started the day by trimming to size and installing the drawer rails; these are the parts in the bottom of the case that the drawer boxes will slide on, they also stiffen the case. While the glue on these was setting up a bit, I routed the base shoe moldings. I’m using what I call a double-round-over (I’m sure there is a technical name for this shape, but I have no idea what it is, the router bit case just has a number on it) on the base shoe and the underside of the top plate, so I route both while I have it in the router. Then I switched over to a plain round-over bit and routed the top edges of the top plates.

Another task that I will work on through out the day, while waiting for glue to dry for example, will be forming the stops that will go inside the drawers. These upside down U shaped pieces will spring snugly inside the drawers to hold up the tea bags when the drawer is not full. They are made from oak because it bends well but since I don’t have a steam bending box, I soak the 1/16” thick strips in hot water for a few minutes. Once they are pliable I slip one into the bending form and clamp it. After about an hour I can remove the strip and place it in a “keeper” that holds its shape while it dries completely. Once it’s dry it will pretty much hold this shape.

Next I trim and install the center dividers. These form the tunnels into which the drawers will slide. Their location is critical, so laying them out and placing them takes some time as I triple check everything. If either are off by as much as 1/32 of an inch in any direction it will cause a drawer to bind. Unlike some folks, I don’t make things easier on myself by leaving a lot of slop around the drawers. I like a nice clean fit. There has to be enough room that the drawers won’t bind in humid weather, but no more than 1/32” of gap on each side on drawers this size.

Next I cut the drawer fronts. Technically this is part of tomorrow’s work, but I’m waiting on things again, so I’ll work ahead. I put a slight round-over of the front edges. One of our hallmarks is the way we always cut drawer fronts and keep them in order so the grain pattern flows across the drawer set.

Finally I glue the top plate to the cabinet assembly and clamp it in place. This will need to sit in clamps overnight.

And that completes today’s assigned tasks. Tomorrow we build drawers.

See you then.


Tuesday, August 14

Tuesday – Making Panels

This morning I got right to work on the tea chests. Today’s task was to take the parts that were roughed out yesterday, trim them to finished size, shape them into completed parts and begin assembling the parts into sub-assemblies. The primary goal for today: side and back panels.

I trimmed to size with a fine tooth blade on the table saw, and did the shaping with a straight, two flute bit on the router table. This is the type of operation where some plans will try to really over complicate things. But by keeping it simple, all of the grooving and tenoning can be done with the same router bit, and with just one change over in the set-up. Of course there is some fine tuning to do using scrap pieces before committing the good stuff to the cutter, but that is normal anyway.

Once the pieces are cut I test fit each assembly; the panel fits between the rails, then the stiles slip onto the ends. Everything should take a snug fit, but not too snug; nothing should have to be hammered home. This panel assembly has not been sanded or glued, just being test fitted together.

Once everything fits properly, the panels are disassembled, sanded to remove milling marks and pencil lines. Then glue is applied only to the rail & stile joints, not to the panels: they must be free to expand and shrink, and clamps brought into play. I check each panel to be sure it’s square, if not the clamp can be adjusted to pull it into square.

Once the glue in the panel joints is tacked up I remove the clamo and cut the miter joints at the rear corners of the case, then cut the miter lock slots. By inserting a spline in the slots the joint is locked in position and can not slide under clamping pressure. Anyone who has ever tried to glue up a plain vertical miter joint knows how tricky it is to keep the lined up and held tightly together along it’s full length. This is a quick way to insure that there are no surprises when the clamps come off.

Speaking of clamps, they go on next. It looks like a lot of clamps. Maybe it is, but it is what it takes to clamp the joints evenly in both directions.

This will have to set and dry for a while, so it’s time to clean up the shop a tad and go home for supper. I will come back after supper to glue and clamp the second case body so they will both be ready for the next step in the morning.

See you tomorrow.