Saturday, January 28

Building a TARDIS

I had absolutely nothing at all to do with this project, but I just loved the video and thought I'd share it with you while you're waiting for me to come up with something of my own.  This is just adorable.

To be clear: It's not this German schoolteacher's do-it-yourself quest to build a dimension-hopping time machine that's adorable, it's the manner in which she does it. She recognizes her shortcomings as a craftsman, but doesn't care. She just boldly goes forth and builds herself a pretty smart-looking TARDIS.  It's a long stretch of a video, but totally worth it.  And the finale is worth waiting for.

Friday, January 27

On Wednesday I assembled the stand for Robin's tray table set, finish sanded it and shot it with three coats of lacquer.  This was another long day, working until dinner time (about 7:00 PM) then going back after the meal to shoot the final coat.

Yesterday I packaged the trays and stand so they will do no harm to one another in transit, bundled them together with stretch wrap and packed them into a box for shipping.

I probably go into overkill on my packaging.  So many things we get are just tossed in a box with a few air pillows or foam peanuts for cushioning.  I feel a possibly irrational need to make sure the piece of furniture is secured against shifting and protected against being tossed around by dock apes.

We've only lost one shipment to the handlers in transit, and they ran over that one with a truck!

Robin's tables are on their way.  My orders queue is empty and I'm planning for new things.  We do have a few projects on the slate that you may find interesting; a big headboard made from old barn wood, and a tabletop/desk organizer for bills and mail.  But I won't do those as a day-by-day posting, they'll go up as finished articles.  In between project articles I'll post lessons and tips on woodworking techniques.  I plan to post new stuff weekly.

I hope you'll continue to pop in from time to time.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 25

I spent the day today making the parts for the stand, shaping them. boring pilot holes and counter bores, sanding them and assembling them with glue and screws.

I sanded them again, tacked off the dust and am lacquering them now.  The tables are done.

I will be packaging this set for shipping in the morning.  And that gets me caught up with orders.  Most everything I do from here out will be for stock.  I do have a couple of special projects for local friends, but mostly I'll be turning my attention back to writing, planning this years garden and building up a supply of stock items for next Christmas.

Thanks for watching.  I'll begin posting woodworking lessons next week.

Tuesday, January 24

Completing the Legs

 On Saturday I came in to finish making the leg spreaders for Robin's set of TV Tray Tables
 I also finished lacquering the trays and applying a polyurethane skim coat to the top of the ribbon panel - this help protect it from modern living.  Sweaty glasses and hot plates can ring lacquer.
Today I bored all the screw holes in the legs, sanded them, assembled the leg sets and plugged the crew holes.

I'm shooting the lacquer now.  These will be done before I go home for the night.

All that remains is the stand, and I'll address that tomorrow.

Friday, January 20

Completing the Trays

 The majority of the morning was spent hand sanding the tray rails, leg blocks and latch blocks to 180 grit.  This is the finish sanding.  It takes a while to get it right.
 Then I glued and clamped the parts together.
When the clamps came off I re-sanded the spots where the clamps were just to remove the shiny pressure spot that is sometimes left behind.

Then each tray went into the finishing room for a good coat of lacquer. I want to get at least one full coal on all the trays today
I had planned on finishing my lumber stacking tomorrow (Saturday) but the weather guesser is saying that we have an excellent chance of rain for tomorrow.  So between lacquer shoots I went out and worked on moving the dry cherry lumber from the rack in the foreground on top of the new cherry stack in the back ground.  It's already higher than I am tall.  It's OK as long as I can stand on the low stack to reach up to the top of the tall stack, but as the front one gets lower and the back one gets taller I'll have to get out a ladder and start scurrying up that to reach the top of the Cherry stack.

By the end of the day the lumber is all put away and I have one coat of lacquer on each of the trays.  Since I spent time today doing tomorrows work.I'll come in tomorrow and finish up today's work of lacquering the trays.

Thursday, January 19

Latch & Leg Blocks

I came in at my usual time this morning and set about taking care of the bookkeeping and communications chores that *someone* has to do if this thing is going to run smoothly at all (and since I'm the only one here anymore that kinda points the finger at me).  Then, just as I was getting up to go out into the shop... the place goes dark; power outage. 

With no power, we have no lights, no power tools, no way to get much work done.  Fortunately I do have windows, and the window in my assembly room admitted enough light that I could remove the clamps and do the construction sanding on the trays.

I'm only going to build the three tables and a stand that I need to fill current orders right now.  I have parts made for the other 4, but will complete those later so I don't delay these.

 When the power came back on I rounded the outer edges of the trays and set them aside for a bit.
 Then I made up the leg mounting blocks and the latch blocks.
Then I made the latch tabs, fitted them to the latch blocks and assembled them.  When the glue was set up sufficiently I sanded the assemblies.  They are now ready to attach to the trays.  I'll do that tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 18

Tray Rails

 I started the day by pre-finishing the tray panels with one coat of lacquer.  I do this to prevent a sliver of unfinished wood from pulling out of the groove in the rail when the weather dries out.  It's almost always humid here in the Smoky Mountains, so unless you live in Atlantis it will probably be drier where you are than it is here and the panels will draw up some.
 While the lacquer dries I mill out the tray rails.  I miter the ends as I cut them to length, mill the panel groove and round over the inner-upper edge.  Then I sand the inside face only.

Because I cut the rails from a long piece of stock I mark the mating corners with making tape to be sure I'll get them back on in order so the grain flows around the tray.
 Dry fitting (no glue) to test the fit.
Very carefully apply glue in the strategic places and apply clamps.  These will sit overnight to let the glue reach maximum hold before I remove the clamps.

Tuesday, January 17

Panel Trimming

 A good part of the morning was spent stacking lumber; I still have some of the cherry and all of the walnut on the ground.  Sort of.  I have boards under the piles so the lumber is not actually in the mud and wet, But it's out in the open and piled in just a loose stack.  Not good.
It needs to be sticker-stacked on a drying rack with spacer sticks between layers so the air will flow through the stack and let the boards dry evenly.  This is as far as I got last time.  The pile is about chest high on me here so the going gets a little rougher from here on out.  Thank goodness for Aleve!

By about 1:00 I had all the fresh-cut cherry stacked and I was starting to move the dry cherry on top of the fresh cherry.  This consolidates the species, and the dry adds weight to help keep the fresh boards flat as they dry.

I got about 1/3 of the way through the dry cherry stack when it started to rain again so I had to put the covers back on and go work inside.  By the way, the really long boards sticking out will get cut off with a chainsaw later on.

 Today I need to trim and sand the tray panels.  I'll use my big cut-off sled to trim the ragged ends of the panels smooth and to finished length. I do enough of these that I've made a permanent mark on the sled to make this as easy as possible.
Here the panels are trimmed and rabbeted and I'm ready to start sanding.  That will take the rest of the day at least.

A New Direction
When we started this blog back in 2005 the main purpose was to allow our custom furniture clients to watch over our shoulders as we built their furniture.  This was a wildly popular feature and we got lots of comments from our clients about how much fun it was to see their furniture taking shape. It also instilled a new awareness of how much thought and work goes into custom furniture.  You'd be surprised how many people think we just knock this stuff out in a few hours.

A fellow once tried to get me to display in a street festival.  It was a week away and I told him I had nothing made up to show or sell.  He said, "You have a week, whip up a half dozen pieces, put them on display and take orders."  He had NO clue!

However, we're not doing custom work anymore, so this blog will degrade into doing the same old thing over and over most of the time.  Rather than allow that to happen I've decided that I'll change the format.  I will no longer be posting daily progress reports, but will instead do a weekly post and each post will discuss a woodworking technique.  Each post will be longer and will cover a complete process.  I'll try to include more video.  We think this will be more useful to my readers that watching me build tray tables over and over.  If we do something unusual; a special project, I may toss that in for you to watch as an example of putting the techniques I've been teaching into play.

Comments are welcome.

Friday, January 13

Dressing the panels

When i came in this morning I trimmed the ribbon panels to their finished width.

The first step in dressing these ribbon panels is to use a flush plane to scrape the glue pips off so they don't nick my planer knives.  If I've done it right, these little pip of hardened glue pop right off with the flush plane.
 Then I run the panels through the planer once on each side, taking light cuts on each pass.  The ribbon strips were cut only 1/16" thicker than the finished panel will be, so doing a good job of getting them even during the gluing process is important: there's not much excess to take off for smoothing.

Note that there is *no* extra room on the sides of these panels: these tables were designed to just fit like this, so when someone said, "Can I have a set 2" wider than normal" and were shocked that the price almost doubled, it's because such changes upset a lot of carefully planned things like this.

Most of the smoothing is done on the drum sander.  After the first pass or two I noticed that the panel was not sanding evenly across it's width, so I had to stop and calibrate the sander's head.  That took an awful long time just because it's not easy to do.

Once I got back to sanding, I spent the rest of the day sanding these down to the finished thickness taking off only 1/128th of an inch on each pass using a fine sanding band.

I closed out the day by gluing the ribbon panels to the backers.  These will sit until next time when I'll trim the completed panels to length and mill the rails.  See you then!

Thursday, January 12

Ribbon Strip Panels

 This day began with cutting red oak boards into billets on the chop saw.  I've got rail stock for 6 rails milled out, so I want to end up making 6 ribbon panels to go with them.  Calculating how many ribbons that will take is a bit tricky, so I try to make a few extra just in case.
 The first step of course is jointing one wide face and one edge of each billet.  The jointer flattens the board, removing any cupping or twist.
 By flipping the board up and running the just-jointed face along the vertical fence I joint an edge, straightening and smoothing that *and* forming a good square corner between the two jointed surfaces.

Getting the wood "square" is quite important if you want pieces to fit together well, and in a glued-up panel a good fit is paramount to success.
 Next it's on to the surface planer where I run the just-jointed face down on the bed, the cutter head inside the upper part shaves off a little wood at a time to smooth that face and make it parallel to the jointed face - that "getting it square" thing again.  In most cases I will run all the boards through the same number of times so they all come out the same thickness, but this time that doesn't matter at all so I set each blank aside as soon as the upper surface is dressed.  I use the finishing speed (slower feed rate) for a nice smooth surface.  This is important because the wide faces of the boards are about to become my glue joints.
 The completed parts blanks (rough boards get cut into rough chunks called billets, the billets get dressed out into parts blanks.  The blanks get shaped into parts.  Parts get assembled into furniture.  that's how that works, in case you were confused.

The table saw is equipped with a thin kerf blade and used to cut the blanks into a series of ribbon strips.  Care is taken to keep the strips in order and oriented.  This step can take a while when doing it all by myself.  When I had help the helper would stand on the back side of the saw and take the ribbon strips off as I cut them.  I could cut them one after another: zip-zip-zip and the job was done in short order.  Doing it by myself I run the blank through to cut one ribbon strip, then walk around the saw to take it off the back (because leaning over a whirling saw blade to  try to reach the strip to remove it is an extraordinarily stupid and dangerous thing to do - especially when you're short like me and have to really reach to get to that cut off piece) set the strip on the right table wing, walk back around front, pick-up my push stick, cut another ribbon, lay down my push stick, walk around back, take the trip off and set it on the wing, walk around front, pick-up my push stick... tedious to read about?  Try doing it non-stop for an hour or two.
 To break up the monotony I cut enough ribbons to make a panel, flip them down flat and play with them until I get a pleasing look.  Oddly enough, my goal here is to get it to look like plywood - no obvious seams, and a pleasing "continuous" pattern to the graining.

I use a couple of strips of masking tape to bind the panel together, fold it over and take it to the assembly room.
The masking tape works like hinges to allow me to open up each joint individually to apply glue.  I work quickly but carefully.  When all the joints are glued I spread out the clamps and lay the panel in place on the clamps: 3 below, 2 above, just snugged up.  There should be no need to apply excessive force here.

While the glue sets up, I go cut more ribbons, arrange them into a panel, tape it, fold it and bring it in for gluing.  I do this all day.  As I'm writing this my 5th panel is about ready to come out of the clamps.  As soon as I'm done with this I'll go take the 5th one out of the clamps, glue and clamp the 6th panel, then scrape the 5th.  The 6th one can sit in the clamps overnight.  It's getting late, I'm getting tired.  Tomorrow we'll dress these panels.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 10

Dressing Legs & Rails

Most of this day was spent preparing for, unloading and stacking a lumber order.  This was fresh-sawn cherry and a little walnut.  And by fresh, I mean fresh, the truck was bringing it to me as it came off the mill and they were milling at the site where the tree had been cut over the weekend.

To prepare I needed to lay some thick boards down in the driveway where the truck would unload.  This was to keep the lumber out of the gravel and mud - it's been rainy.  Then I needed a place to put a little over 1000 board feet of lumber.  To free up a drying rack I moved some red oak off of an outside rack on top of a stack of red oak in the lumber shed.  Then moved the rack (which is made of landscape timbers) around to where I plan to extend the lumber shed, mounted it on 6 concrete blocks, and leveled it up.  But first I had to remove a pile of dirt and a stack of cedar logs that were in the spot I wanted the rack.  I dug up the dirt and threw it into the wagon behind the lawn tractor to haul that off, then moved the cedar logs to a pile out of the way.

I had just gotten all that done when the first load of lumber arrived.  We pulled it off the truck and stacked it on the grid of boards I laid down.  When the driver went back for the second load, I started carrying the lumber around to the drying rack and stacking it there.

To air dry lumber you have to lay in a layer of boards, then lay in spacer sticks that allow air to circulate all around the lumber so it dries evenly.  So it was carry, over a layer of boards, lay in the sticks, carry a layer of boards, lay in sticks... all afternoon.  This is a pretty simple thing to do if all the boards are the same length, but I got boards that were 6 feet long , most were 8 feet long, and a few that were 10 feet long.  That made things a bit more challenging!

I worked at it until it got too dark to see, then went home for some dinner (and some Ibuprophen!)

After dinner I came back and worked on the tray tables for a few hours.  I surface planed and sanded the rail stock and dressed out the legs.  I have enough rail stock for 6 tables, enough legs for 4.

Dressing the legs involved two adjacent faces to get those smooth and straight and a good square corner between them.  Then surface planing the two opposite faces, to smooth and square them.  I left them just a tad over-sized, then used the drum sander to take off the planer marks and do the construction sanding.  These are now ready for lay-out and boring the screw holes.

So, this is a good point to stop for the night.

Tomorrow I have to take the truck in for servicing first thing in the morning, then I have to meet someone at noon, and have a church Session meeting to go in the evening. I won't get much of anything done tomorrow!  But I'll be back at it full force on Thursday.

Monday, January 9

Lumber Prep

Over the weekend we went to town and bought a 4' x 8' sheet of cabinet grade birch plywood.  Today I broke it down into 12 tray table backer panels.  The first step is to lay out the cuts then make the first cross-cut with a hand held circular saw; my shop is not arranged for working with full sheets of plywood and I do not have 6 feet of empty space to the left of the saw.

Once the panel is cut into two smaller pieces I can make the remaining cuts on the table saw, which yields much straighter, smoother cuts.
The panel is cut into 4 segments with a left-over that will get set aside for use on something else.

Then I cut the smaller panels into backers.  I get 12 backers out of a sheet of plywood.  I'll set those aside for now.
Next I select a few nice, straight grained boards.  One gets ripped it into 3 segments.  These get resawn on the band saw to make 6 rail blanks.  Don't worry, these are overly long and I will cut off the wormy bit on the end of the middle one.

The other boards get ripped into 1" square pieces that will be cut to length and milled down into legs. 

And I'm about out of time for today: a short afternoon because this is Monday and most of each Monday is spent working on a radio program and updating web sites for my various clients on that front.

Hope to see you gain tomorrow!

Friday, January 6

Boxing the Cradle

 All too often I get to the end of a furniture project and, once the finish is on, think that no one will be interested in the rest.  But so many times we've gotten comments from customers about the way we package our furniture.  One said, "I'm not sure which I'm more impressed with; the quality of your workmanship or your packaging!"

This cradle offers some special challenges on packaging; you might be interested in how I deal with those.

My first step was to build a fame underneath the cradle that will keep it from rocking and keep it positioned in the box. I used scraps of maple lumber; one rail under each rocker and a pair of connectors that keep the rails positioned; shaped like a giant Roman numeral 2.  Blocks of foam shaped to fit under the rocker ends and rockers secured to the frame with stretch wrap create a stable base.  The rails are cut to just fit inside the width of the box.

The box I'm using was from a new sink I just installed for Marie, the Styrofoam is what cushioned the sink, so it exactly fits the interior of the box.  I needed only reshape the inside surfaces with a hand saw to make a snug fit for the cradle. How fortuitous that these events lined up!
 Of course the cradle is much taller than the sink, so I will raise the flaps that formed the top of the box and strap them together to increase the box's height.  It's still not quite enough, but I can deal with that.

Here I've added cushioning around the sides, back and top of the cradle cover.
 For the next step I go out to the lumber shed and drag in a scrap of crate board.  Scrap?!  Yes, this is just a cut-off; a full sheet is something like 7' x 12'.  I used to use a lot of this when we were making large furniture pieces.  I'd have to use crate board to design a custom box, then frame the box in wood and make a pallet under it so the trucking company could move it around with a forklift and stack other crates on top of it.

This crateboard is 1/2" thick, triple wall corrugated cardboard.  Much lighter and just as sturdy as the 1/4" plywood I had used for crating before.
 I cut panels, partially slit them down the center so they'll fold and insert them as corner reinforcements and lid-holder-uppers.  I also cut a panel to fit between the corners at the foot as a hold-down to keep the foot of the cradle in place.  This way no amount of bouncing will cause it to shift in the box.  The dock apes can even turn the box upside down (and don't think they won't!) and everything will be held in place and protected.  By running the corrugations vertically in the corner pieces they have enough strength to prevent crushing the box even if another is set on top of it.
 Yet another panel of crate board forms a sub-lid that will further prevent crushing.  This is not bulletproof, but will help a lot to prevent mashing the box if they're careful at all.
Another large standard cardboard box is cut up and shaped to form the cap that slides down over the corner braces.  Everything is taped securely, yet can be opened easily by slitting the band of tape where the cap meets the lower box.  The cap will simply lift off.  Slit a few pieces of tape to remove the inner top and corner braces, slit the flaps turned sides, fold them down and lift out the cradle to remove the foam.  The foam is held in place with stretch wrap - lots and lots of stretch wrap.  No tape there; we wouldn't want any sticky gunk getting on the cradle.

Remember to recycle the cardboard.  The styo: well, maybe you can find a way to re-purpose that one more time.  Eventually it will end up in a landfill, and that pains me, but it's hard to avoid sometimes.

Now, we're done.  All that remains is to await payment, run a shipping label and summon the FedEx man.  He won't be any too happy to see this beast sitting on my dock, and I'll be sure to be watching so I can help him with it.  It only weights 67 pounds, but at 40" long, 27" wide and 35" high it is a handful for one person to be sure!

Thursday, January 5

 Gary and I have managed to connect regarding payment and shipping of his cradle, so I'll begin the process of making inserts to cushion the cradle and fitting it into a large box: I knew the monstrous box our new kitchen sink came in would prove useful!  I'll have to strap the flaps together to become part of the sides and make up a new top as well as fitting blocks of Styrofoam to keep it positioned and supported during shipping, but I've done all that many times.  Note to self: make sure it will go through the door once it's done!
 I also brought in walnut and oak for the TV Tray Tables I'll be building next.  We're just about out of walnut - and good walnut has become very scare around here, thus exceptionally expensive - so this will be the last round of tables in walnut and red oak.  I'll probably switch to cherry and red oak, possibly cherry and maple.  I'll have to make up a test piece to see how each looks.
As I get ready to prepare the stock, I also pull down my template and fixture set.  These bits of plywood and lumber will be all the instruction I need to build the Tray Table sets and insure that they come right.

I don't know that I'll do a step by step series on these again - we've done that quite a few tikes on this blog - but I will post progress reports for those who are waiting to order tables.

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, January 3

With the final coats of satin lacquer applied and hard, it's time to assemble the three components into a completed cradle.

I start by running a half-dozen screws up just through the bottom plate.  I'll use the tips of these screws to engage the related pilot holes in the lower edge of the sides.  Because the sides angle outward the shank holes through the base also angle, making it unwise to run the screws up very far before trying to engage them with their pilot holes.  This requires some peaking through cracks and wiggling.
Once those are in and snugged up I install the rest for the screws.

Mounting the rockers is easy by comparison.  I use a ruler to get them centered side to side and front to back then run the pocket hole screws down into the base to hold them secure.
And we're done!

All that remains is to decide how I'm going to get this cradle to Gary in Arizona (anyone going that way?)

In the past we had an account with a trucking company and would crate and ship all larger furniture that way.  But LTL trucking fees have skyrocketed with the rising fuel costs and we haven't used that company in a couple of years, preferring to focus on smaller pieces that can be shipped FedEx.

I will be checking with FedEx to see if they will accept this as an over sized shipment or if it would be considered too large and have to go via their freight division.

I have much to do, I'd better go do it.  Thanks for following along with this project, I hope you enjoyed it!