Monday, April 26

Shipping Out

This is Monday, so I spent the morning producing the weekly radio program. I was a little worried when I saw the title since I’m sort of a technological guy. After lunch I installed the turn buttons on all five flag cases. These parts arrived over the weekend. I'll need to ready Dan’s case for shipment. The first step in this is to acquire or make a box. The trick is to get one that is big enough to allow for sufficient packing, but not so big as to inflate shipping costs unnecessarily. I often end up making a box by cutting down one that is over-sized. In this case I can use the corner of a large sturdy box. I use Styrofoam to stabilize the glass so it doesn’t crack from road vibration which can set up harmonics that reach past the cushioning. Then pack it into the box. I like using these air pillows where I can because they offer a lot of cushioning and weigh next to nothing. And I happen to have a good supply of them stored up from materials orders I’ve received. We have to mail order nearly everything we use here. Once the box is taped up I weigh it, measure it and go into the office to process the shipment and print the shipping label. Now it’s ready for the FedEx man to pick up on his next trip through our neck of the woods. The other four cases are posted to our web site and area ready for purchase if anyone else would like to have one. There are one each in Maple, Cherry, Walnut, and Oak. We'll use this set as a yardstick to know whether or not we'll be building any more, now that we're our of the custom furniture business. More on that in another post. It's time to clean up, button up and head home.

Thursday, April 22

Finishing Up

This morning I started by sanding smooth the spline stumps that were left to sit overnight so the glue would set up hard. Then I cut out squares of plywood from a 4x8 foot sheet and adapted my big cut-off sled so it would cut the squares of plywood into two equal triangles for the flag case back panels. Next I ran the panels through the wide drum sander to smooth them out. I could do this with my random orbit sander except it’s really hard to clamp a triangle onto the bench well enough that it won’t vibrate loose as I sand. I think the drum sander may be just a little bit faster too, when doing multiple pieces like this. Then I fit the panels to the cases. I cut them just a tad large and use the jointer on the longest edge (bottom) to skim away just enough for a good fit. It has to be able to be removed, so it can’t be too tight, but I don’t it to slop around in its rabbet either. With the help of a simple spacer jig I locate where pilot holes for the screws that will hold the feet on need to go, drill those holes and mount the feet. The final piece of construction is to bore shallow 3/8” holes in the back of each corner and glue a screw hole button into each. All these do is to hold the case up a bit so if it is laid on it’s back the turn buttons that will hold the back panel in place will not scratch the table top. I close out the day by working on finish sanding and spraying on the first coat of lacquer. I got three done before it was time to head home for the evening. I’ll spend the day tomorrow completing the finishing.

Wednesday, April 21

Case Decoration

I’ll kick-off the day today by routing the decorative ogee on the front edges of the flag cases. This is a fairly deep cut, so I make it in three steps to avoid tear-out and burning of the wood. Then I cut the filler strips I made yesterday to length and finish sand them to width so they fit into the slot in the bottom of the cases. This covers the slot where the glass will slide in and makes it possible to replace the glass should it be broken. Next I dig out the two sleds I made up when I made Dan’s first flag case – and had the foresight to save despite my vow to be less of a pack-rat. These hold the cases vertically so I can run them over the table saw blade to cut slots into which I’ll glue splines. Two sleds, one for the 90° apex angle and one for the two 45° lower angles. On this batch I’ll cut two slots, spaced attractively. Then I begin gluing spline stock into the slots. I use dark woods in the light cases and light woods in the dark cases to provide an attractive contrast, making the splines a decorative touch as well as reinforcing the joints. After giving the glue in each set of splines a while to set up, I trim off the excess stock and glue the strip into the next set of splines. Repeat for the final corners. When those too are trimmed off I’ll let them sit overnight and sand the spline stumps smooth in the morning.

Tuesday, April 20

Case Assembly

I’ll start the day by trimming the parts blanks I made yesterday to finished length. To be sure the ends are square, I’ll cut a bit off each end, but where the two side pieces meet at the top I shave off just a little so the grain pattern is disturbed as little as possible, that way the grain will flow up up one side and down the other. I set up the chop saw to cut the 45 degree miters at the apex corners. To set the stop block I get it close, then schooch it in a hair at a time until the point of the miter is right at the edge of the board, don’t want to remove any length of the board. To make the 22-1/2 degree cuts I set up the table saw with the blade set at 67-1/2 degrees (90 degrees minus 22-1/2 degrees) mount the rip fence on the wrong side of the blade and attach my shop made tenoning jig to the fence backwards. Stand each board in the jig, make sure it’s sitting flat on the table saw top, clamp it in position and carefully make the cut. A little masking tape allows me to test fit the first case. If adjustments are needed, it’s best to figure that out before all the parts are cut. No adjustments were needed. Next I cut the little rabbet in the inside-back edge of each piece where the plywood back panel will sit. I do this by setting the blade ¼” high and set the fence so the OUTSIDE edge of the blade teeth are ¼” from the face of the saw. One pass with the board face down, flip it up on edge and run it again to complete the rabbet. I also cut a groove on each inside face that the glass will slide into. After sanding the inside faces, I’m ready to glue up the cases. I start by applying glue to the miters, being careful to stay back from the inside edges; glue squeeze-out in those tight corners would be a bear to clean up. Then I attach the three pieces of the case together with strips of masking tape… …set the assembly up on edge and wind it around into a triangle. Another strip of tape at the final corner holds it in shape while I clamp the corners together with – more masking tape! Yes, masking tape. If the joints are cut well, it doesn’t take much pressure to hold the joints together while the glue sets, so I apply some pressure with one hand, and stretch a piece of tape across the joint with the other. Do this on both edges of each joint and it’s done. I stack the completed cases and let the glue dry for a while. While I wait for the glue to set up a bit I mill out the small pieces needed for the feet and the filler strips that hold the glass in once installed. That doesn’t take nearly as long as the glue does, so I go find something else to fiddle with for a while.
Once the glue has tacked up, I set up the router table with a ¼” up-cut end mill bit and set the fence so the ¼” wide groove will be centered over the 1/8” groove cut from the inside of the case. This slot will house the filler strip that holds the glass securely in place. And that pretty much uses up this day. Tomorrow I’ll do some decorative routing and make the little bits. See you then!

Monday, April 19

Starting the flag cases

It's Monday so I spent the morning producing the weekly radio program for WGSN radio.
After lunch I selected stock, I roughed out the pieces, jointed them, surface planed them and ripped them to finished width. By the end of the afternoon I have parts blanks for 5 flag cases, 2 in walnut (Dan had ordered one of these) 1 in red oak, one in cherry,and one in maple. The extras will be posted to our web site when completed.
The design is compliments of the Diablo Woodworking Club.

Friday, April 16


This is not a very good picture, but it will do for the moment. Once I have the glass in I'll move everything around, set up extra lighting and try to get a better photo -- of course the best photo would be after the clock works are in, but I may never see it in that state.

Finishing Up

I was in early this morning to see how the rope trim was sticking to the pendulum door – and to be sure the clamps hadn’t marred the paint on it. Looks good. So I reattached the latch hardware to the door and set it aside. Then glued the rope trim to the base cabinet and clamped it down. Other than putting all the pieces together for final assembly, all that remains is to wait for the glass to be ready so I can fetch and install that. Then it’s ready for delivery. SO I guess I’ll look to making Dan’s flag case on Monday. For today I’m going to do some cleaning up then go mow the lawn. It’s likely that it will rain tomorrow and thwart my standing plan to mow on Saturdays.

Thursday, April 15

More of Same

This morning I continued scuff sanding the first coat of shellac, then tack ragged off the dust and began applying the second coat. When all the head case parts were dry I began reassembling that part of the clock by attaching hinges, latches, and glass retainers. Once the pendulum door was dry I started attaching the rope trim. I had not expected to get this far until tomorrow, but things are going pretty well today. I did get confirmation from Allied Glass that the templates arrived safely and have been handed off to the guys who will produce the beveled glass. I’m posting this while the main case dries. When I’m finished here I’ll go and reattach the ball catches that hold the pendulum door to the case. I’ll let the rope trim stay in clamps overnight to let the poly-glue set up hard. Hopefully that will be sufficient – don’t want to have to resort to epoxy or resorcinol.

Wednesday, April 14

Slingin Shellac

I got two coats of paint on the rope trim yesterday, let them sit over night and put a third coat on them this morning. The third coat didn’t improve the appearance so I stopped there. It didn’t hurt anything, but there’s no point in applying more paint if there is nothing to be gained. Then I began stripping off hardware, sanding and shellacking the rest of the clock case. I got one full coat on everything… then ran out of shellac. So I’ve mixed up another batch and that will be ready to use in the morning. I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon scuff sanding the clock parts to prep them for the second coat tomorrow.
Marie and I will be making a presentation to the ruling body of our church his evening, so I'll be knocking off a little early so I have time to get cleaned up, changed and swing by to pick up Marie on my way in.
See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 13

Ropey Stuff

I start the day, as promised, by straining the shellac and applying some to the small side doors to see how it’s going to look. Normally I’d apply 4 or 5 coats but shellac is a naturally glossy finish and Harold prefers a satin finish, so I did not sand as fine as normal and will apply only two coats, sanding in between. This should leave us with a non-glossy finish. My primary task to accomplish today is to get the rope trim pieces cut. These are a pre-made molding strip four feet long. What I have used in the past was maple and a full ½” wide. I ordered the same stuff from the same supplier, but they have switched to an Italian made stock that is some sort of oak-like wood and about 7/16” wide – probably some metric measure. It will work, but the open grained wood will show more unevenness through the brass paint. I did check to be sure they sent me what I ordered. The rope trim will go in the channels on the front of the clock. The head scratcher here is determining in what order to do things. The trim needs to be sealed, sanded and painted brass, the walnut channeling needs to be shellacked, the rope needs to be cut into a bevy of strangely shaped pieces as it winds around the pendulum door frame, and the trim needs to be attached to the channeling. But, shellac will interfere with the glue. Painting the trim after it’s in place could be very messy, the garnet shellac is very dark and would darken the brass paint – and the alcohol in the shellac might mar the paint if I were to do the shellacking last. I could attach the trim with brads after all the finishing is done, but I would need to set the brads and fill over them, then touch up the brass paint. What to do, what to do? To facilitate cutting all the tiny little pieces and minimize tearing and chunking, which oak does more readily than maple, I built a simple little sled attachment for the miter saw and pre-cut places to cut each of the various angles I will need. This helps a lot to speed up cutting the trim pieces. I don’t cut all the way through the sled, just deep enough to cut through the trim strip. And I have to remember that when I measure angles on the door with a protractor, I’m measuring up from a base angle, when setting the cut on the miter saw, I’m measuring down from 90°. To properly cut a measured angle of 46° I have to set the saw at 44° or 29° instead of 31° because of the difference in perspective. Easy enough to do once you figure this out, but it will drive you bonkers until then! I decide to cut the parts first, do all the finishing then assemble last. I may need to use some special adhesive instead of wood glue, but I want to avoid brads if at all possible. As I cut the pieces of trim I sand them to remove as much roughness and grain as possible. Then I use a bright brass metallic paint to cover the sealed wood. This test trip was done by itself to see what it would come out looking like. I did all the other pieces in a batch to waste as little of the paint as possible – I may need to apply several coats. Cutting the 12 individual pieces went faster than I anticipated. I expected to have to re-cut several – and bought an extra rope strip to be sure I’d have enough – but it all went very well and each piece came out right the first time. So, I have time to begin the sanding of all these pieces. As I take them off the door, I number them on the back, and number the positions they came off of, so I’ll be sure to get them back in the right places. I also have to do some hand carving to shape the ropey bits to look more natural as it winds around the door. I was careful where I cut each piece, starting in one lower corner and walking around the door, but a little hand work is needed to finish the job. Then I’ll begin painting them.

Monday, April 12

Completing Construction

One last thing to do in construction mode: make the top plate for the head case. I start by selecting a board with straight, even grain, chopping it up into pieces, jointing the edges and gluing them together to make the blank from which the top will be made. After surface planing the blank smooth, trimming it to finished size and routing the decorative edges, I sand all surfaces and attach it to the head case with screws from inside. No glue is used here. The back edge is permanently affixed, but the screws in the front edge are put in though screw holes that are elongated so as the top piece expands and contracts the front edge can move so the top won’t split. I finish out the day by making up a batch of shellac. This finish starts out as dry flakes of a resinous material that gets mixed with denatured alcohol as a solvent. This will need to sit overnight to let the flakes dissolve, tomorrow I’ll strain it to remove any lumps as I transfer it into another jar for storage. This way I can go start shellacking the parts of the case that are done while I apply the rope trim to the rest. The rope trim will be frustrating, I’ll need a diversion to get away to!

Friday, April 9

Beginning The Frilly Bits

Today I’ll get going on the frilly bits by making and installing the waist banding and the cove that transitions the pendulum case to the head case. I start by milling some stock into blanks, routing the profile onto the edge of the board, then ripping the molding off the board – this is much safer than trying to route a profile on a narrow strip of wood. As I cut the moldings, I must be mindful of where they go and the angles that will be involved: sides slope at 2 degrees, front at 4 degrees, label them to be sure the top edge gets on top, then get good tight miters at the corners. Fitting the molding strips is one of those tasks where I wish I had a third arm sticking out of my chest. I need to wiggle the two strips where the first miters meet until they mate up exactly right, then mark the back of the side piece so I know where to cut it. Once it’s cut I’ll test fit it to be sure I got it right, then bore pilot holes for 1½” brads, start the brads through the holes, apply glue to the back of the molding, fit the moldings in place again, and tap the front brad to set it’s proper location. Then I can fiddle a little with the back of the strip to be sure it’s running level and drive the brads home, set them below the surface and fill the holes with wood putty. The other side is similar except I cut the front piece to rough length (1/16” to 3/32” long) then use the fit between the other side strip and the front to home in on a perfect fit of the front piece. When that is achieved I cut the other side strip to length and attach it. This is the transition cove at the top of the pendulum cabinet, it will serve as a fillet between the narrow cabinet and the wider head case. At right is the waist banding after installation. The nail holes have been filled but not sanded yet – have to wait for it to dry first.
Joyce commented that the wood looks funny. Sanded walnut looks almost grey in these photos, unsanded walnut reflects less light and looks darker. All raw wood looks kind of bland, once I apply the finish it wil liven up and darken considerably. Angle of light and whether or not I use flash can affect the way to wood looks -- this is not a photography studio...
While I’m waiting I start on making the templates for the glass. I use some small sheets of poster board, tape them together, cut them to rough size and tape them securely to the face of the panel. Then I rub the edge of the glass rabbet HARD with my thumb to make a crease in the poster board where the edge of the rabbet is. HINT: Do NOT sand the edges of the rabbet before doing this, you want as sharp an edge as possible, rounding it off a bit makes this almost impossible. Once the outline is determined I remove the tape and poster board and use a sharp pair of scissors to carefully cut out the shape. Bouncing the light off the poster board at an angle helps to make the crease show up. When it’s cut out I lay it in the rabbet and check the fit. If it’s too tight anywhere I mark it with a pencil and cut just a hair more paper off – did I mention this requires a SHARP pair of scissors? When it fits perfectly I label the template so the bevel gets cut on the proper face – the shape may not be perfectly symmetrical and if the glass gets beveled on the wrong face it may not fit (unless I install the glass backward). Now I’ll roll up the templates (no creases that way) and mail them off to Allied Glass in Knoxville to have the beveled glass pieces made. They can be working on that while I complete the case. Now I go back and spend the rest of the day sanding. Sanding the dried wood putty over the nails, sanding the molding strips, sanding the fluted door frame, sanding anything else I see that needs sanding… I’m just a sanding fool this evening! Next up; Golden Rope. I’ll get to that on Monday. I have yard work to do tomorrow (Saturday).