Mark ( on January 6th, 2009

With the top and the legs completed I moved on to make the aprons for the table.  The stock was already cut to rough width and length so, the first order of business was to  it bring the lengths to finished dimension.

angled-cut-on-apronHowever, you may recall, the design for this table calls for the legs to splay outward to the left and right by 2 degrees.  In order to accomplish this I needed to accurately cut the ends of the front and back aprons at 2 degrees.  I used my miter gauge at the table saw for this operation.  With the guage  set to 2 degrees, I cross cut one end of each of the aprons.  To bring the aprons to the exact length I next added an extended fence to the miter gauge.  I placed a stop block on the extension so that I could cross cut each of the aprons to the same exact length – again at 2 degrees on the opposite ends.  In the picture you can see the result of these cuts on the font and back aprons.

The aprons for the left and right ends were easier.  With the apron stock already cut to finished width I simply cross cut the pieces square with the miter gauge square at the exact needed dimension.  Again to assure that the parts were dimensioned exactly the same I used a stop block for the second cut on each apron.  The reason that I mention the use of the stop block and the batching of these cuts is that by following this procedure you can machine  parts to their exact dimension without changing setups and possibly introducing error.  The fact that both pairs of these aprons are cut to exactly the same length assures that I will have a much easier time of creating a square assembly when the table is ultimately glued up.

apron-arches-ready-to-cutsmoothing-apron-archesAfter getting the aprons cut to length I moved on to creating the arches in them.  I laid out a fair cure using a flexible piece of scrap stock and transferring the curve to the stock with a pencil.   I then used double-stick tape to temporarily stick the aprons together and cut the curves on the band saw.  I stayed about 1/32″ away from my lines and after the curves were rough cut I smoothed them with the sander.  This operation was also done while they were still taped in pairs to assure that the curves for each set of aprons would be identical.

cutting-apron-mortisesAfter shapiing the curves on the aprons I moved on to creating the mortises in both sets.  Usually I would do this with the stock still square to allow for easier clamping and squaring.  However, for the loose tenon joinery I’m using to work properly on the front and back aprons, the mortises need to be cut perpendicular to the angled ends of the stock at the as they will be installed.  This allows me to use the simple mortises already cut perpendicular into the legs (recall that the top and bottom of the legs were previously  trimmed to 2 degrees to make everything flush at the top after the aprons and legs are assembled).  I used the same router mortising jig for this task.  The picture shows an apron in place and one of the two mortises already cut.

Next I’ll tackle adding the cherry inlay into the aprons and the top.  Then it’s on to assembly.

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Mark ( on December 27th, 2008

With the legs for the table complete, I set my aim toward making the top.  I did not have any stock wide enough to accommodate the top in a single piece so, I needed to glue two boards together.

In this case I used two rough boards about 6 inches wide to create the top.  I followed my normal milling process to machine the boards square and true and cut to rough length and width.  I took a good look at these boards to determine their best top sides and also which edges to glue together as the center of the table top.

Top_Glue_Up_1.JPGTop_Glue_Up_2.JPGWith Hard Maple like this, the sap wood (the wood that grew toward the outside of the tree) usually has the nicest creamy color.  So, I first tried to orient the boards with the growth rings curving downward when viewed from the ends (i.e. with the sap wood facing up).  I then tried different orientations of the boards shifting them slightly until I found the most pleasing transition of grain at the center seam.  I settled on an orientation and glued the boards together.  In the pictures you can see the steps for the glue up.  I some used Parallel Jaw clamps to apply even pressure to the boards along their edges and also some Quick-Grip clamps at the ends across the center seam to keep them as even as possible while the glue dried.

Top_Glued.JPGAfter a few hours drying I unclamped the boards and scraped the glue squeeze-out away with a sharp cabinet scraper.  After the dried drops of glue were removed I applied some mineral spirits to the top to see where I may have missed some glue – it’s a little difficult to see the glue on the creamy colored Maple.  The mineral spirits helped to highlight any remaining dried glue.  In the picture, you can see that I marked the areas with glue and any tearout from the planer with a pencil.  With that done I went at the top with my #4 smoothing plane and the cabinet scraper until I had removed all traces of glue, mill marks and tearout from the top.

Scribing_Arc_with_Trammel.JPGThe next step was to mark and cut the arches on the ends of the top.  As you can see in the picture, I made a simple trammel with a long piece of scrap, a pencil and a screw as a trammel point.  Nothing real scientific here, I just varied the location of the screw until I obtained the arc that I was looking for.  Once I had that location I simply marked the length of the top at the center line and placed the pencil point there.  Then I held the  screw point lightly against the top on the center line and swung an arc across each end of the top.  No need for any fancy tools or jigs.

Cutting_Arcs_on_the_Band_Saw_1.JPGCutting_Arcs_on_the_Band_Saw_2.JPGWith the arcs marked on the top I set up some auxillary support at the band saw. I first contemplated creating a jig similar to the trammel to cut the arcs but, after thinking about it I felt it would be easy enough to just freehand the cuts and then clean them up on the sander.  So, I went the freehand route.  No problems there. With the extra support helping to hold the top I just swung it in an arc following about 1/16 of an inch outside the lines.  Once the cuts were made I cleaned them up on the edge sander until I reached the marked lines.

Next up will be milling and mortising the arched aprons and assembling the base.

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Continuing with my reviews of DVD’s for the SmartFlix Hand Tools course, this time I review the David Charlesworth DVD’s: Precision Preparation of Chisels For Accurate Joinery and Chisel Techniques for Precision Joinery.

Like the earlier reviewed DVD’s on Hand Plane preparation and use, these were shot on location at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. Again like those DVD’s, these titles completely cover the subject of sharpening chisels as well as detailing specific joinery techniques using them. To quote Charlesworth:

“Chisel work is at the heart of all of the most sophisticated joinery”

Heeding this advice, it will benefit all woodworkers to learn about preparing and using chisels to ultimately help us in efforts to perfect our joinery tasks.

Chisels – Precision Preparation for Joinery

chiselprep.jpgAs the title suggests, this DVD details the subject of a sharpening chisels for use in the workshop. Specifically, in this DVD Charlesworth highlights both the concepts shared with sharpening plane irons as well as new techniques that are unique to sharpening for chisels.

Starting with the definition of sharpness as the intersection of two polished surfaces, and the statement that the quality of the edge is only as good as the quality of the polish on the surfaces, Charlesworth takes you through the process of flattening the backs of chisels and honing their edges.

This instruction starts with a discussion of how to use Japanese water stones to sharpen (including the flattening of stones with a simple technique using wet/dry paper on a flat plate). Two distinct movements are discussed for flattening the chisel back with an interesting aside on why a slight hollow on a chisel back is actually a desirable trait as opposed to a belly or bow. Along the way, Charlesworth touches on different scratch patterns and how to use them to your advantage to determine when to move to the next grit stone as well as why to avoid using the second sharpening movement on narrow chisels.

The discussion on honing the bevel of chisels covers a triple-bevel technique for fast sharpening. This includes a rationale for each of the primary and micro-bevels and their angles as well as a discussion on when to re-grind the tool. Also covered was a technique for using a jig and a coarse stone to correct for an edge that may have been ground out of square.

Charlesworth shows a nice water stone holding board for use when sharpening and as an added bonus the plans for this board are included as a PDF on the DVD.

The material covered on this DVD is a nice complement to the information on the DVD covering sharpening of plane irons.  Distinctions are made to compare and contrast the two techniques. The techniques for chisels are different and for good reason. Charlesworth emphasizes these differences as well as their merits for use with chisels.

Chisel Techniques for Precision Joinery

Chisel_Techniques.jpgBefore delving into the subject of joinery using chisels, this DVD begins with a survey discussion on various chisels types. Charlesworth speaks to the relative merits of various types and brands of chisels including both western and Japanese tools.

The chisel joinery discussions start using the half-blind dovetail as a teaching example. Here, Charlesworth covers the proper grip, hand position and use of the mallet when chiseling. While working on the dovetails in the DVD, he introduces a couple of specific techniques including: the “release cut” and “tenting” to remove waste material fromthe joints. Also discussed is the technique of horizontal paring including the proper stance and body position as well as the effective use of the hands as a breaking system for increased precision. During the discussion on paring, the concept of the “forbidden direction” is introduced and Charlesworth effectively demonstrates why you should never pare with the grain but rather across the grain in order to obtain precision results. Joinery techniques are continued with a shorter section on the mortise and tenon joint. Techniques for chopping a mortise and paring a tenon are covered. Included is the use of the tenting technique for trimming tenon shoulders as well as the proper techniques for levering and extracting chips from a mortise.

One interesting aspect of Charlesworth’s chisel technique involves the use of a hammer rather than a mallet for chopping in order to best hear the differences in sound indicating when to remove chips. In passing, Charlesworth also mentions one of the few uses for a chisel in the bevel down position – creating faceted pegs for decorative or structural use in furniture.

The material covered on this DVD is definitely useful for developing skills with bench chisels. The importance of the chisel as a precision tool in the woodshop is emphasized and reinforced. Anyone wanting to learn proper chiseling techniques and methods to improve the quality of their joinery will benefit from viewing it.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s before the full Hand Tools course is developed, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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Mark ( on December 9th, 2008

With the rough stock for this table acclimated to my shop for a week or so, I started this project as I usually do, by viewing all of the stock and marking out all of the components for best grain use, etc.

Cutting_Rough_Stock_with_Jigsaw.JPGRough_Legs.JPGI then broke down the rough stock into more manageable, slightly oversize, pieces. I previously wrote about my method of using the jigsaw and band saw for this process.  To me this is the safest, most convenient and economical way to do this.

For the legs of this table I want a finished 1 3/4″ square leg at the top, tapering to about 3/4″ square at the bottom.  I started with 8/4 rough stock and ripped it to 2″  square by 29 1/2″ long to accommodate a 28 1/2″ finished leg length.  For the legs, I tried to utilize the stock such that the grain lines run diagonal across the ends of the leg.  This yields the straightest grain along the faces of the legs.  In this case I used the more quartersawn faces for the front of the legs – this helps to keep any face grain on the legs from competing with the simple design of the piece.  I mention this here because it is important to realize that it is at this point in the build process where these kinds of decisions must be made.  In my mind, this is just an extension of the design process that started with the initial sketch. Choosing your stock wisely here will pay dividends in the look of the finished piece.

Angled_Cuts.JPGI milled the rough leg blanks to 1 3/4″ square and then cross cut them to length on the table saw using the miter gauge with an extension fence.  However, because the legs on the table will be splayed out to each side by 2 degrees, it was at this point that I needed to account for that detail.  I first made a pencil mark on one face of each leg at both the top and bottom to indicate the general angles to be cut – it’s easy to get these angles turned around in your head and to make a mistake.  So, a quick set of pencil marks to orient you when cutting is helpful.  I then set the miter gauge for a 2 degree angle and cross cut one end of each leg.  Next, I set a stop block on the miter gauge fence at 28 1/2″ and cross cut the other ends of the legs, again at 2 degrees.  Batching these operations to occur at with the same setup assured me that each of the legs would be cut with exactly the same angle and also to the same length.  In the picture you can see the angled cuts on the top ends of two opposing legs.

Mortising_Leg_Blanks_with_the_Router.JPGI am using loose tenons for the joinery on this table.  So, while the legs were still square in cross-section I machined the mortises to accept the loose tenons for both the front and side aprons.  The side aprons have only single tenon but the front and back aprons have double tenons for added strength.  I used the router mortising jig that I wrote about previously to create the three 1/4″ mortises in each leg blank.

Tapers_Marked.JPGWith the angled ends and mortises cut on the square leg blanks, I could now move on to the operation of tapering the legs.  To start, on the two faces to be tapered I marked the legs at a point 4 3/4″ down from the top and at the bottom 3/4″ from each of the inside corners.  There are many ways to taper legs.  I contemplated just marking out the tapers and free-handing the cuts on the band saw.  I also thought about just using the jointer and making repeated passes to achieve the tapers.  Then, I noticed a little used jig in the corner of the shop.

This old jig was one that that I once used to cut straight edges on rough stock with the table saw.  I thought that it could be re-purposed for the process of tapering the legs of the table.  The jig is simple – it consists of a piece of melamine coated particle shelf stock from a home center and a couple of De-Sta-Co type clamps.  I re-oriented the clamps on risers to account for the thickness of the legs, added a couple of stops to account for the tapers to be cut and I was ready to go.

Table_Saw_Tapering_Jig.JPGThe jig rides along the fence on the table saw.  To cut the tapers I aligned the edge of the jig with the blade and positioned the fence against the jig.  Each leg was positioned on the jig aligning the 3/4″ end with the edge of the jig at the leading end and the 4 3/4″ mark at the trailing end.   The stock was pushed through the blade cutting a perfect taper – then the stock was rotated 90 degrees and the second taper was cut.  The important thing here was to cut the faces in the correct order so that after rotating the leg I still had a square face resting on the jig.  Doing so required the addition of a small block under the front clamp for each second taper cut.  In the picture you can see a leg blank in the jig with a taper already cut.

Next up I’ll start the work on the aprons and the top.

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Mark ( on November 30th, 2008

Usually, I do not design pieces with very contemporary styling.  However, when I was asked to design and build a table for my brother-in-laws vacation home, I knew that I would need to change course a bit from the more traditional.  My brother-in-law and his wife’s tastes lean a bit more toward the contemporary side.   Also, the house where the piece is to reside features very dark wood floors so, I knew that  lighter colored wood was a necessary design consideration. The immediate need was for a hall/sofa table for the main living room of the house.  So, with more modern styling in mind as well as a known need for a lighter wood for the project, I set off to develop some ideas.

The dark floors in the house drove me to choose Hard Maple as the main wood for the project.  My first thoughts were to start with traditional Shaker styling due to its simple lines and to modernize the look from there.  Adding some curves was a consideration and with Maple as the primary wood, I also considered some other types of embellishment or accents for the piece without deviating too far from the clean modern lines.

Modern_Shaker_Table_Sketches.jpgIn the picture, you can see the initial sketches for the piece.  I incorporated tapered legs that are traditionally found on Shaker pieces but, I decided to also splay them by 2 degrees to each side to give the piece a more modern and graceful look.  I also added gentle curves to the aprons and replicated those curves on the ends of the top to accentuate the more modern styling for the piece.  As you can see in the sketch, I also explored adding some darker inlay to follow the curves. My thinking was that this detail provided a bit more of a more modern well as potentially providing some embellishment to the bland Maple.

Armed with these rough sketches, I moved on to Sketchup to further develop my ideas.  As you can see in the Sketchup drawing, I changed the side aprons to provide a more open and modern look.  I also simplified the inlay to avoid competing too much with the simple lines of the piece.

Modern_Shaker_Table.jpgAs shown, the piece is 28 1/2″ high, 48″ wide and 12″ inches deep.  This sizing should allow it to work either as a hall or a sofa table.  The designed height allows for the surface of the top to sit just below the top of most sofas.  The width fits nicely centered oalong the back of a standard 84″ wide sofa and also works well for a spot along a wall.  The depth is  enough to allow things to be displayed on the table top in either setting while not occupying too much space in a typical hallway.

This design effort is not unlike most where there are certain constraints and desires to be balanced in the resulting piece.  Rarely is a design effort for a functional piece of furniture an open book.  However, with the basic constraints in mind we are free to explore any alternatives for the form.

Next up I’ll work on roughing out the pieces for the table and commiting the design to wood.

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