Friday, November 26

Tray Tables - Ribbon Panel Prettification

Welcome back woodworking fans, I hope your Thanksgiving celebration went well.

Today I’m going to finish out (prettify) the ribbon panels for Tina’s tray tables.

I start by trimming the panels to finished width on the table saw.  I take equal amounts off of each side so the panel stays centered.  If I’ve dome my job well then he glue joints will be nearly invisible in the completed panel, so taking the excess all off of one side would probably be OK, but I want to trim both edges to be sure they are both straight and parallel, so I might just as well keep it centered up.  Sometimes I do put a special feature as a center stripe in the panels, making a habit of trimming he edges equally eliminates the possibility I’ll forget about a special feature and cut the panel in a way that throws it off center.

Next I use the surface planer to flatten the ribbon panels.  I take very, very light cuts on the slowest feed speed to help prevent chipping out the surface of my panels.  This can be an aggravating problem if the knives are not razor sharp – and mine aren’t right now.  And can be a problem even when they are sharp because the grain direction on the ribbons will run in different directions and when cutting against the grain the knives will lift the grain and tear out chunks.  Planing with the grain prevents this.
I do the final smoothing on the wide drum sander with a fine grade of paper.  This takes FOREVER because I can take off only a few thousandths of an inch per pass, but does help to sand out and minor tear-out.  Deep tear out, if any, needs to be filled.  Fortunately that didn’t happen this time.

That’s going to do it for this time.  Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 24

Tray Tables -Ribbon Panels

Welcome back!

Once I got my e-mail and administrative chores done this morning I got right to the task of making up ribbon panels for Tina's Folding Tray Table set. 

I take the sets of ribbon strips I cut yesterday and, working with one set at a time, lay the strips down flat on the table and in order.  Most of the time I'll tip them all the same direction so that the wavy pattern in the grain all waves the same direction and "flows" across the panel.  Once in a while I get a really unique pattern that is best  highlighted by flipping every-other strip over giving me arrow like stripes.

So I work one panel at a time, laying in strips.  If one set is not enough to make the needed width, I check to see which other set is closest to this one in grain pattern and continue with that.

When I have enough strips to make the needed width and I'm happy with the pattern I use a framing square to get one end of the strips all evened up and square to a side.  Then I hold them in place by placing 3 strips of wide masking tape across the panel and rubbing it down well to make sure it bonds to all the strips.  Then I fold the panel in half and take it into the assembly room to be glued up.

I built this fixture to hold the panel as I apply glue.  The tape holds the panel together and acts as hinges at each joint, the acute angle at the top opens up the joint so I can get glue into the joint, and the long flat run out the back supports the glued up section and keeps the joints closed up.

When all the joints have been glued I lift the panel off of the fixture and lay it onto the three bar clamps that are set up ready to receive it.  The masking tape is placed where the bar clamps sit to prevent glue-to-metal contact discoloring the wood.  I wipe the excess glue from the back of the panel with a *damp* rag.  Actually I'm not so much concerned with removing the glue as I am removing any ridges of glue.  By just sort of spreading those out, I also seal the wood on the back of the panel and prepare it for being glued to the backer panel later on.  I avoid over-wetting the wood which might affect the glue joints.  The rag need be only damp enough to help move the glue around.  I add two more clamps and make sure all are applying an even, medium pressure.  Going gorilla here will just force the glue out of the small joints and cause problems later.  What is needed is firm, continuous contact between the wood faces in each joint.

With the first one done, I'll go take my lunch break, make a mail run and look in on Mom.  When I get back this panel will be tacked up enough to remove the clamps and glue up another.  While that one sets I'll work on making parts blanks.  Then I can glue up the third.  I have one tray completed, so I only need parts for three more.

I'm going to post these notes now (I'm doing them during my lunch break) because Marie and I have someplace else to be this evening, so if not now, then it would be tomorrow.

Tomorrow, fellow woodworkers, we will... oh, wait... tomorrow is Thanksgiving isn't it?  Well, then I'll see you back in here on Friday.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23

Cherry Tray Tables - Getting started

Today, fellow woodworkers, is Tuesday and I’m behind schedule again. I expected to spend Monday morning working on the weekly radio program and Monday afternoon working on David’s trailer then closing out the day by taking stock of the cherry TV Tray Table parts I have on hand - we recently made another set of these and I made extra parts, indenting to complete the additional set in time to offer it for Christmas.

I think it was Charlie Brown who said, “Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.” That was my Monday. Part of it involved a mushroom cloud rising above my newest venture The Simple Life Prattle. This kind of takes the place of the older Mountain Man Wannabe blog. Details aren’t really relevant here, so I’ll just apologize for the delays and get on with today’s tasks.

After dealing with e-mail and some routine maintenance I pulled out the cherry table parts and took inventory. It’s actually better than I remembered. I knew I had the one tray dry fitted and ready for sanding, and enough leg blanks to make 4 tables. But I also have enough rail stock for the other three tables all grooved and routed, ready to cut and fit as well as stock for the stand’s feet and handle, latch blocks, and leg mounts. That leaves only a hand-full of parts blanks needing to be made up.

So my first task is stock selection. I look through the boards I have in the next room and select boards that are suitable for each of the parts I have to make. I’ll start with the ribbon panels for the three remaining tables. So I select some nice flat-sawn stock with fairly even coloring. By ripping a flat sawn board into thin strips and laying those strips flat, next to one another we get some beautiful quarter-sawn patterns in the grain. You never know for sure exactly what you’re going to get until the strips are cut. A few cherry table sets have come out with a quilted pattern that was especially beautiful. It is this aspect that insures that not two sets of tables will be exactly alike. I do want to get the wood for all the tables from one tree, and preferably from consecutive boards so all 4 tables in the set match well.

Next up I joint one wide face and one edge, making them both flat and smooth and square to one another. I do the wide face first by laying the board on the bed of the jointer so the whirling knives in the bed remove just a little wood on each pass until that face is flattened. Then I flip that board up on edge and run the jointed face along the fence, allowing the knives to work the edge of the board.

This is Scrappy, he’s a black lab pup who owns the Preacher across the road from us. Normally my “girls”; Dolly and Zadie go out for a play-date with Scrappy in the early afternoon. It’s raining today and they chose to stay inside and snooze in the office, so he came looking for them. Sorry Scrappy, They’re feeling wimpy today.

The next step is to cut the blanks into ribbons. I do this at the table saw with a thin-kerf rip blade installed and the fence set to 5/16”. This will give me 1/16” of extra thickness that can be removed to smooth the panels after glue-up. That’s not a lot, so I have to be careful how I cut the ribbons and get them good and even.

I mark each blank before cutting it, then keep the ribbons oriented as I cut them off so that grain patterns remain consistent as they flow across a panel. The pencil marks help me get them back in order if I drop a bundle while moving them around. Not that I’d do anything like that mind you, but just in case.

Doing it this way takes quite a lot of time because each time I cut a strip, I have to walk around the table saw and take the strip off the back side, lay the strip in position on the side wing, walk back around front and cut another strip. Having someone on the back side of the saw taking off the strips cuts this process to about 1/5 the time.

OK, so that’s one blank done, 3 to go. Then I’ll finish off the day by writing and posting these notes for you and head home. Drop in again tomorrow as we make up ribbon panels.

Thursday, November 18

Keepsake Box - Done!

Hello there!  When I came in this morning I inspected Brian's box and affixed the felt foot-pads that will prevent it from scratching any of Brian's nice furniture.  The cold temperatures in here last night affected how the lacquer laid out, and normally I'd scuff sand and apply another two coats to be sure the finish was at it;s best.  But I was told to "keep it simple - it's a box for storing keepsakes". So I'll stop here: the finish is not bad in any way, it's just not 'top notch'.

That finishes up this project, so I'll deliver this one and spend the rest of the day cleaning up and getting ready for the next project.  As it's early yet I'll probably have time to sneak in a little work on David's trailer once I get my clutter cleared away.

Next up will be Tina's set of Cherry Tray tables.

Please pop in again and "May the sawdust be with you!"

Wednesday, November 17

Keepsake Box: Making the Lid

Welcome back my little woodworking buddies!  I'm sorry to have been away for a few days, I have been working but not getting around to posting that work here.  So, I'll get you caught up.

To make the lid for the box I start by cutting carefully selected rough-sawn lumber into pieces on the chop saw (compound miter saw).  Then I follow the same procedues I did on the otehr part of the box; jointing one wide face and one edge of all three blanks.  EXCEPT; on the piece that goes in the middle I joint both edges.  And I do NOT surface plane the other face or rip the rough edges off the two outside pieces.  Yet.

Then I apply Type III polyurethane glue to the joints and clamp the three pieces together into the blank from which I will make the top.  Almost everywhere I will use regular old yellow (aliphatic) wood glue for joinery.  Most furniture joinery will, in 75 or 100 years, need to be cleaned and reglued. Using a glue that can be taken apart through steaming makes that eventual task easier on the repair technician.  But for making up plates like this, I do not expect them to ever need to be taken apart for repairs, so I use a polyurethane glue.

Would it not be better to use the strongest glue you can find for all your joinery so it never needs repairs?  No.  Because wood moves.  Even though long dead, the wood continues to expand and contract with humidity changes; expand and contract, expand and contract, over and over and over.  Pretty much forever.  Anywhere the grain in the wood meets in different directions; like in the joinery, those pieces will expand and contract in different directions.  A well made and properly glued joint will last for a lomg time, but eventually the glue will fail and the joint will become wobbly. Super-duper-extra-strength glue will make getting the joint apart for repairs that much more difficult because rarely does a joint experience *total* failure. Those parts that remain bonded together will break the wood, making the repair just that much more difficult.  Using a repairable wood glue will make someones job much easier when that day comes.

Where was I?  Oh yes...

Now that the glue is set up I take the top blank and surface plane off the rough face of the blank.  When that is smooth, I flip it over and plane off just enough from the other face to even up any discrepency in the two glue joints.

When I'm done I have an attractive piece of wide wood.  If I've done my job well, the colors in the three pieces of wood blend so well as they cross the wood that you can not see the glue joints at all.  This looks good.

Now I rip the long edges to width on the table saw and install my cross-cut sled to trim the ends straight, square to the long edges and to finished length.  When done, I measure across both diagonals; if both measurements are the same, the blank is perfectly square and we should not have any problems fitting it to our perfectly square box.

To make a more elegant shape on the lid of the box, I set the table saw blade to 80° and install a tall rip-fence attachment. I use this set-up to support the lid as I trim off thin, wedge shaped pieces from each edge of the top surface. This yelds a hip-roof shape that is far more elegant than just a flat top.

To make it even nicer I use the table saw to cut out a rabbet on all edges of the under side - 1/4" deep and 1" wide. This allows the center part of the lid to slip down inside the sides of the box bottom; no need for stays or hinges or latches.  A simple solution for a simple box; the lid just lifts off for easy access to the treasures within, but when placed back on the box it sits securely and will not slide off.

Next up: SANDING.  This is going to take a while so you may as well go into the office, grab a cup of coffee and keep Zadie and Dolly company for a bit.  Sanding takes attention to detail and lots of patience, but it is *really* boring to watch.  It can not be rushed, even though it is not our favorite part of woodworking.  A piece that is poorly sanded will be poorly finished no matter how much attention to detail give to he finishing process.

Oh, you're back, good!  The sanding is done, and I've vacuumed and tack ragged all the dust away and I'm ready to shoot the first coats of lacquer.  We'll do two full coats, allowing each to dry in between, then scuff sand to smooth the surface before the final coat goes on.

Once all three coats are on I'll let the lacquer dry overnight.  Tomorrow we'll finish it up, inspect it and once I'm satisfied all is well, deliver it.

See you then!

Friday, November 12

Keepsake Box - Box Construction

Welcome back woodworking fans!

Today I’m going to be completing construction of the box part of Brian’s Keepsake Box.  I’ll start by setting up to miter the ends of the box parts.

There are quite a few ways to make corners of boxes.  Some, like dovetails or finger joints, are quite elaborate and decorative as well as strong.  Some, like a rabbeted butt joint are fairly quick and simple, but not so pretty.  Because I’ve chosen the wood for this box because of its dramatic graining, I will use splined miter joints on this box.  The miters allow the grain to flow around the outside in a nearly uninterrupted pattern, the splines reinforce the joints by locking them together.

I start by zeroing my digital angle meter to the bed of the chop saw, then attaching it to the saw’s blade (it has magnets in the base) and setting the saw to 45°.

Rather than testing the set-up on the box parts, I cut a piece of scrap wood with this set-up, flip one piece over and hold them tightly together while I check the angle with an engineer’s square.  This looks good.  If this single joint does not come out to exactly 90° then when I build the box, some or all of the joints will have gaps.  Gaps are not our friends.

Then I set up a stop block on the chop saw to set the length of the cut.  I’ll make the first cut, flip the piece end for end and make the second cut, place the other short end piece on the saw and repeat.  Reset the stop block for the longer pieces and cut the front and back pieces.

Viewed from the back side of the table saw.
Next I set up the table saw to cut the spline slots.  To do this I set the table saw blade at 45°, place the rip fence on the “wrong” side of the blade and use it to serve as an end stop.  This determines where the cut will be made along the face of the mitered end.  Blade height determines the depth of cut.  Again I use my scrap pieces to test the set-up before cutting into my box parts.

When all four box parts have a spline slot cut on each end I cut the spline stock to width.  These splines were cut off yesterday when I was trimming the blanks to width.  They are just a hair thinner than the saw blade, so they slip snugly into the saw kerfs.  I need to have just a smidge of play between spline and box parts because the glue will cause the splines to swell up a bit.  If they are too tight they will bind and getting the box to come together while gluing will be an exercise in frustration.  Too loose and there will be gaps in the spline joints. Gaps are ugly; we don’t want gaps.

Now I  reset the saw blade to 90° and set up to cut a slot ¼” up from the bottom of the box sides and 3/16” deep (to avoid interfering with the spline slots).  I’ll use 1/8” Baltic Birch plywood for the box bottom.  The BBP will slide right into the slots I just cut.  Once the slots are cut, I take careful measurements from the slots and cut a piece of BBP to fit.  I want a snug fit between edges of panel and bottoms of the slots as the panel will strengthen the box and prevent racking.

Lunch time!  Don’t you just love a sandwich with fresh from the garden lettuce?  Yes, I’m still picking lettuce from our garden and it is mid-November.  Gotta love that!  Today I’m having Peppered Turkey and Muenster Cheese on whole grain bread with a touch of brown mustard and low-fat mayo.

During my lunch break I lay in a bundle firewood at the house, walk down to the hard road and the mail boxes, then drop in on Mom with her mail to see how she’s getting along today.  Dolly and Zadie go with me, but get indignant when I just drop the firewood in the box on the porch and head on down to the road; they wanted to go inside.  Their snuggle beds in the house are more comfy than the blanked on the floor of my office at work.

OK, back to work.  I sand the inside surfaces of the box sides.  Just the inside faces because the outside faces will get dimpled up a bit by the clamps and I’ll have to sand those out anyway, might as well do all the outside sanding after the glue dries.  Sanding the inside faces will be difficult once the box is assembled; it’s much easier to do a good job of it now.

Before the glue goes in I do a test fit and check to be sure all the joints will draw up tight and the edges will line up flush.  Once I’m satisfied all is well, I set the box up on one side, take the top side off, apply glue, insert the spline and slip the side back in place.  Flip the box over and repeat.  I have to do a good job, not so much glue that it gooshes out all over: especially not inside, but not so little that the grain of the wood will suck the glue out of the joint and leave it starved and brittle.

Then I work quickly to apply clamps.  Lots of clamps.  Enough clamps to be sure all four corners are pulled snugly together from bottom to top.  I’ll leave these clamps in place overnight.

The rest of the afternoon will be spent prepping lumber to make the top of the box and writing and posting this article.  I also have about 6 articles I need to write, but they are not about woodworking, so I won’t go into that here.

Please drop in again on Monday and we’ll make the top for this box.  One more thing: if you were among those considering purchasing the half-completed walnut steamer trunk - that has been sold and is no longer available.  I'll be detailing the completion of that trunk on this blog in a few weeks.  The completed oak steamer trunk is still available.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 11

Keepsake Box - Roughing Parts

Yesterday I brought in enough walnut, cherry and red oak to build the two tray table sets that have been ordered.  Then spend the afternoon trying to straighten up the shop some.  We've been moving things around and I have a few half-completed projects sitting around getting in the way.

The poplar I pulled for Brian's keepsake box has been indoors long enough to be acclimated, so I select a couple of boards with good character.  Let me explain that; I don't mean that they have a mild temper and never lie to their friends, I mean that the grain patterns are interesting, yet stable enough for use in a fairly sizable box.

The board I selected for the sides of the box is much wider than the sides need to be, so my first step is to rip (cut lengthwise) the board 1/2" wider than the finished width is to be.  Then I lay-out the sections of the sides; long - short - long - short so the grain will flow around 3 of the corners perfectly.  The 4th corner will not match up so perfectly and I will place that corner in the back.  There is a technique whereby all four corners can match, but it requires resawing (splitting the thickness in half) a thick board and "un-winding" it to achieve the grain match.  The budget on this box does not allow for the extra work, and resawing this stock would result in sides that are too thin for a box this large.  The sides would tend to bow with humidity changes.

Once the board is laid out, I use our chop saw (slang term for a compound miter saw) to cut the board into the lengths I laid out.  I mark the sections as A, B, C and D to make sure I keep the corners properly identified.

This completes roughing out the box sides.  The first step in finishing them is to use the jointer to flatten and smooth one face and one edge of each piece.  The jointer has a cutter-head in the bed of the tool and uses the perfectly flat, smooth beds on either side to guide the wood so the cutters take of a small amount of wood.  Using the tool properly take a little skill in the way the wood is fed into the cutter, where the pressure is applied when, and so in.  When one face is smooth, I run that face along the fence to smooth and square one edge to the jointed face.

The surface planer is then used to flatten and smooth the rough face.  In this machine the cutter is in the top of the machine.  I run the jointed face along the cast iron bed and the cutters remove a little wood with each pass.  In addition to smoothing the planed surface, it is also made perfectly parallel to the jointed face, helping to produce a nicely squared up part blank.  That makes three surfaces squared to one another; three to go.

My final step for today will be to go back to the table saw and trim the remaining long edge to finished with.  This squares that edge to the two faces and makes it parallel to the opposite edge.  I'll square up the two ends when I trim them to length and miter them tomorrow.

See you then!

Wednesday, November 10

Quick update

Strangeness Abounds
 No, I haven't fallen off the planet, been abducted by aliens or run over by stampeding gnu's.  I know it's been a while since I posted here, and I apologize.  Things have been a little strange.  Most of that has nothing to do with our woodworking projects so it isn't appropriate for posting here.  Some of it is at The Simple Life Prattle, should you be even slightly interested.
We have had a flurry of interest in custom ordered furniture.  Just when we thought that part of our business was a dessicated corpse laying in a depression in the woods and were contemplating shoving some dirt over it, it's fingers twitch.  Resurrection from the dead or Zombie we're not sure yet.

I'll be back to working the wood again tomorrow and hope to have some photos and details to post for you then.  Thank you for continuing to subscribe - especially to all the new subscribers; our list has almost doubled in the past week.

We are adding to the list of projects.  Now in addition to David's trailer that is underway, and Brian's Keepsake Box, we now have a set of 4 tray tables with stand in Cherry and a two table Classic set with stand.  Several other orders were discussed but fell through or were abandoned, we're not sure; those folks just disappeared.