Tuesday, January 15

Head and Foot Boards

I was in at 5:45 this morning to work on a personal project, had some time left and got the daily bookkeeping and e-mail duties done before going back home for breakfast.

After breakfast I was able to get right to work on Gary’s cradles. Today I’ve planned to make the head and foot boards. I cut up , jointed and glued up the blanks for the head boards yesterday. Both foot boards will be milled from wide boards, so no glue-up is necessary just surface planning them to thickness and trimming the long edges smooth.

I start out by laying out the cuts to be made on the headboards. These parts have a complicated shape (almost like a diamond) and will require some special attention to getting them right. They will need to sit flat against the base, the sides snug up on both sides and the three pieces of the roof will fit to the half-a-hexagon shaped top. AND the roof apron must end up shaped just like the top of the headboard or the roof panels will not join up smoothly. If any one of these cuts is over or under sized something will not fit right.

I have been chastised for my approach on this piece of furniture. It is called a Heritage Cradle because it’s supposed to look like something a settler would have built 200 years ago. The parts aren’t *supposed* to match up perfectly. The joints don’t have to be perfect. It’s supposed to look hand made.

Maybe so, but I don’t do “primitive rustic”. I (try to) built quality furniture. There are lots of people around who do the primitive furniture. If that’s what you really want, I can refer you to one. I like the design of this cradle but I prefer to spiff it up some and pay close attention to the details. That’s just the way I do things… I’m obsessive-compulsive, what can I say?

OK, back to work… where were we? Oh yes, obsessing over these odd angle cuts. I find the best way to insure symmetry in a large template is to make a half template, strike a center line on the piece to be cut and flip the template over to lay-out both sides. That’s what I’ve done with the headboard. I start the cutting by cutting away the waste at the top. The lower edge has already been trimmed smooth.

The lower edge is to receive an 8° outward bevel, so I leave the fence exactly where it is and tilt the blade to 8°, flip the headboard blanks over horizontally and cut the bevel. The foot boards get the same treatment, so I move the fence in and cut that bevel on those pieces as well. Then I have to get the blade back to 90°. I use a small engineer’s square for that because the blade angle indicator on virtually every table saw I’ve ever used is only good for an approximation. If you want a precise angle, use a set-up gauge.

Now, to cut the long side angles I have to use my cut-off sled. But the sled is set up to make precise 90° cuts. I keep meaning to build a sled with a swinging fence that would allow me to do this sort of thing, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. So instead I clamp in a nice straight piece of scrap stock as a fence and brace it with blocks I cut on the miter saw; 90° at one end, 8° angles on the other and cut to length as needed. Another block is used at the top of the work piece to wedge the work in place and hold it steady since clamps won’t work here. Cut one side, flip it over and cut the other. I sneak up on the final cut taking two or three passes on each side so I don’t accidentally cut away too much.

Then I can put the sled away and go back to my miter gauge to cut the “ears” off the top corners, When they’re done I check the results against the template for the roof apron to be sure they match. We’re good there.

Then I cut the side angles on the foot boards using the miter gauge. These pieces are short enough that the sled is not needed. Nothing tricky here. But the final step is a bit of a challenge. The upper edge of the foot board not only has to be beveled inward at 8° to mate up with the side rails, but is has a fancy scrolled shape. So I put a fine tooth 3/16” blade on the band saw, tilt the table to 8° and make sure I know which way the part has to bevel and that the pattern is laid out on the correct face of the board. Get either of these wrong and I start over on these parts. I take my time, cut close to the lines and try to keep the cut as smooth as possible.

The biggest reason for all this care and concern is that the sanding to remove the saw marks is done by hand. If I’d gotten sloppy on the band saw I’d have more work to do here. I use a flat sanding block for the convex curves and a large diameter dowel as a block for the concave curves, making sure to be mindful of the bevel, don't want to flatten that out.

Now it’s time for the trial by fire. All the parts go into the assembly room to meet up with their brethren and see how they fit. Any trimming or tweaking gets done now. I look closely at the fit of everything in an attempt to head off any frustrations later when I’ll be repeating this process only with glue. Right now it’s just screws.

And that does in another work day. I’ll be back after supper, but will be working on in-house projects, so I’ll pick up this adventure again tomorrow.

See you then,


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