Wednesday, November 7

Getting ‘er Done

Today I set out to complete Mark’s cremation urn. I needed to cut the pieces for the bottom and the top, so the first step is to calibrate the miter gauge so precise cuts are possible. This needs to be done whenever I change a saw blade because not all blades are the same thickness. I do it by setting the stop to 12” on the scale, hold my 12” steel rule between the stop and the blade, then unlock and slide the fence so that the steel rule just fits between the blade and stop. When it’s just right, lock down the fence on the miter gauge again and we’re ready for some precision work.

I cut the blank for the bottom piece a bit over-sized; about 1/8”. Then take some careful measurements of the inside of the rabbet that will house the bottom plate. In a perfect world, this would have come out to be a perfect 8 1/8” square. And it almost is… one corner is off by 1/32”. I could try to shave that out of the edge of the rabbet with a chisel, but this honey locust is so hard and difficult to work with that I’d rather take another approach. So I sneak up on a good fit by shaving first 1/16” off of two adjacent edges of the bottom piece, then step it down to taking just 1/32” for a perfect fit – except that one corner. To handle that, I carefully mark the corner that needs shaving down, then put it back into the miter gauge with that corner out front next to the blade. Then I slip a 1/32” shim behind the corner diagonally opposite the corner to be cut. This “cocks” the piece out just enough to shave off that one corner, yet retains a straight edge. It works well and the bottom piece pops in for a snug fit.

I repeat this process for the top piece.

Once it’s cut, it’s time to round-over some edges with the router table. The top piece (or lid) pokes up above the upper edges of the side to provide a slightly decorative point for the top using a double round-over. I also round over the corners of the sides just a little so they aren’t so severe. I dislike sharp corners.

I also make the little tab pull for the top, and round-over the edges of that. Then I fasten everything together. Because this box is meant to be bio-degradable, only wooden fasteners are being used; splines to lock the liter joints and wooden pins to secure the bottom plate and handle. No metal or plastic.

Then I set up the finishing room and make the shellac. This finish is made up from dry flakes as needed. I put three thin coats on the entire box, then let it set up to harden well. Being alcohol based, shellac dries quickly, so three coats took very little time to apply, but before I sand it down and apply three more coats, I want to make sure the finish is hard, not just dry to the touch. I’ll do that tomorrow.

The rest of the day was spent answering a lot of phone calls and making and testing a routing template for the steamer trunk lid support pieces. We’ll get to those tomorrow as well.

But that’s about all the time I’ve got for today.


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