Monthly Archives: June 2014

Santa Cruz Metal Meet 2014

While I’ve been working only with wood for the past year or two (well, and some stained glass) I’ve always been more of a “metal guy”.  I got hooked on customized cars as a kid, and growing up in the rust belt it made sense to be able to fashion patches for cars and weld them in.  My buddies were all “engine guys”, so I gravitated to metal fab — probably to annoy them.

Over the years I’ve done bits of different kinds of metal work, but my main focus was always forming shapes in sheet metal.  Today there was a local meet up of similar minded folks and I decided to join in.  It was a fun day, with some interesting demos, and it helped detox me from the Powerpoint presentation I was up until midnight completing for my boss.  If anything is the absolute opposite of creative endeavors, it’s Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint decks.

The event was hosted by John Forbes.  Interestingly, John is a renowned stained glass artist, his business is Bonney Doon Art Glass.  His shop space is really interesting, it uses bits of architectural salvage in it’s construction.  I was able to see the metal shop and some of the glass shop, but not the tower addition.  Maybe another day.

The host's workshop, I love the tower!

The host’s workshop, I love the tower!

One of the houses on the property

One of the houses on the property

There were easily 50 people at the event, probably twice the number since the last time I attended one of these.  That made it a little over-subscribed for my tastes, but there were some great demos during the day and a nice lunch was provided.  I ran into several friends.

Part of why I was drawn to attending this year is I have a metal project in mind that I will probably start on soonish.  I’ve always been fascinated with the hammered copper Arts & Crafts lamps like those fashioned by Dirk van Erp in the early 1900s.  I’d like to recreate one of those.  That a project for another day though, I’ve got my hands full for the moment.

I’ll post pictures from two of the demos.  The first demo was by Don Houseman, who owned a metal fab shop in Watsonville for many years called Mercury Metals.  Don has a commission to create six accurate reproductions of an air cleaner from an early Alfa Romero.  He demonstrated some good techniques for making patterns and hammer forming parts.  He also talked about making press forming dies using a special low-temperature melting metal called Kirksite.  It melts at a bit over 700 degrees and can be easily cast.  When cooled it has incredible strength and can be used to produce “short run” tooling.  In this context, “short run” is tens of thousands or more impressions.

Don hammer forming an end cap for the Alfa air cleaner

Don hammer forming an end cap for the Alfa air cleaner

Various parts and dies for producing the replica air cleaners.  The silver dies are cast in Kirksite using a sand mold produced directly from the original part -- which is the black unit in the center of the photo

Various parts and dies for producing the replica air cleaners. The silver dies are cast in Kirksite using a sand mold produced directly from the original part — which is the black unit in the center of the photo

Another demo was done by my pal Ron Covell.  Ron demonstrated shaping an aluminum sheet to fit a wooden “buck”.  When doing prototype or one-off car body fabrication you need a “target” to work to.  Something that represents the shape you want to produce.  In this case, Ron has a form made from plywood that represents the major contours of the part he wants to produce.  This is a “track roadster nose” for a hot rod body, something Ron’s made many variations on over the years.  This one ends up being six separate aluminum parts that are individually shaped and fit to the buck, then welded together and the seams hammered and ground.  When completed it looks like it was stamped from a giant sheet.

In the demo Ron showed making a pattern for the top middle piece of the shell, and forming the part using a mechanical shrinker and an English wheel.

Wooden "buck" for the track roadster nose.  This is used as a template to check the shape of each part as it is formed.  The red lines indicate the areas of greatest curvature, this is where the panels will be seamed together.

Wooden “buck” for the track roadster nose. This is used as a template to check the shape of each part as it is formed. The red lines indicate the areas of greatest curvature, this is where the panels will be seamed together.  The paper is used to make a pattern for the sheet metal before it’s cut out.

Ron shaping the top panel on the english wheel.  The part is about half way complete here, when finished it will have a perfectly smooth and shiny surface.  It took Ron about an hour to shape this piece from start to finish, including answering questions.

Ron shaping the top panel on the english wheel. The part is about 25% complete here, when finished it will have a perfectly smooth and shiny surface. It took Ron about an hour to shape this piece from start to finish, including answering questions.

Finished track nose.  The seams are welded, hammered to smooth out warpage, and filed to remove imperfections.  Ron will make mounts and a custom grille for the opening in the front to complete the job.

Finished track nose. The seams are welded, hammered to smooth out warpage, and filed to remove imperfections. Ron will make mounts and a custom grille for the opening in the front to complete the job.

The event really gave me the “itch” to do some metal projects.  I’m finish the Greene & Greene cabinet (and finish re-growing my fingertip), and then try and work some metal jobs into the plan with the bookcase for my wife and other projects I want to do.

Of course a metal meet wouldn't be complete without a bunch of home built hot rods.

Of course a metal meet wouldn’t be complete without a bunch of home built hot rods.

 

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Mission Frame Finished

I’m still working on the Greene & Greene cabinet, but I made a side trip to build a Mission-style frame for the guest room.  The size and design were constrained by the left over white oak I had on and and the picture my wife wanted to display.  The frame is mortise-and-tenoned together, with the top being 7/8″ thick, the sides 3/4″ and the bottom rail 5/8″ thick.

Mission picture frame, dry fit

Mission picture frame, dry fit

Once the frame was roughed in, I shaped a subtle peak in the top (it tapers off 1/4″ to each side) and rounded the top corners.  I chamfered the edges and glued it up.

(there was an intervening trip to the ER for some stitches in between, but I won’t bore you with that).

Meanwhile, the square punches my wife got me for Father’s day arrived, and I immediately putt them to use.  Since the frame was already sanded and glued up, I didn’t want to layout the locations for the ebony plugs on the wood.  Instead I printed out full scale templates, and made patterns.

Full scale printout of plug locations

Full scale printout of plug locations

I glued the printouts to some 1/4″ MDF, and cut them out.

Templates ready

Templates ready

This made it pretty easy to position the square punch where it belonged.  I just flipped the pattern over to the the left side of the frame.

Punching mortises for ebony plugs

Punching mortises for ebony plugs

Then I made a batch of ebony plugs (I’m getting this down to a science now) and glued them in.

Ebony plugs glued in

Ebony plugs glued in

I used the same finishing schedule as the cabinet and sconces in the room — Brown Mahogany TransTint dye, Candlelite gel stain, linseed oil, garnet shellac and dark brown wax.  This picture shows just the dye and stain coats applied so far.

Starting to build up the finish

Starting to build up the finish

I wrapped up the project this morning with a couple of coats of shellac, a quick rub with 0000 steel wool and brown wax.  I used “single strength” glass, which they cut slightly oversize (grrrr!) and I had to cut 1/8″ off the edge.  If you’ve ever cut glass you know that’s not a great situation, but I pulled it off.

In retrospect, I should have made the rebate deeper than 3/8″ or used thinner backer material because there wasn’t much roll for brads to hold these parts in the frame.  It looks great in the room.

Apparently I need to hurry up and finish the Thorsen cabinet so I can make a bookcase for the room next.

Finished frame, assembled and hung

Finished frame, assembled and hung

 

 

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Mission Style Picture Frame, Part 2

I got back from my visit to the Thorsen house this afternoon, and started making the back panels for the cabinet.  While I was at it I decided to blank out the parts for the picture frame too.  I ended up cutting the top rail a 1/2″ narrower (top-to-bottom) than I’d planned, but it isn’t a big deal, I think it will still look great.  I got all the parts dimensioned, the mortises cut and the tenons fit.

I spent a few minutes picking the best sides and orientation for the boards.  The sides have a little streak of sapwood that I put on the bottom inside edge, and the figure in the top has a slight arc down at both ends.  I’m not sure how visible that will be in the finished part, but I think it will work out nicely.

Still to do is the rabbet for the glass, the bevel on the top, and the ebony plugs.  I love quick projects, I can finish this in a few more hours.

Mission picture frame, dry fit

Mission picture frame, dry fit

Mission picture frame, apart

Mission picture frame, apart

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Mission Style Picture Frame

I’m still working on the Greene & Greene cabinet — in fact after my visit to the Thorsen house today I’m hoping to pick up some copper bar stock to to make the surround for the stained glass panel that will go in the door.  I have probably a half a day’s work of details on the cabinet construction left, plus finishing.  And maybe a day to do the stained glass panel.  Ish.

So I’m thinking ahead to the next projects, and I think there are two.  A picture frame for a print my wife likes, to match what we’ve done in the guest room (mission style) and a bookcase for the same room.  So last night I started doodling ideas for the picture frame.  It has to fit a print the is 18″ x 24″, and it has to come out out one scrap of 4/4 White Oak I already have, the that constrains my design.

Design for a Mission Style Frame

Design for a Mission Style Frame

It’s nothing crazy, simple mortise and tenon construction with a rabbet for the glass.  I may need to make the rabbet a little deeper to allow for the glass and a backer board, I can tweak that in the shop when I figure out what I’ll use for those two items.  The way I laid out the mortises the rabbet won’t interfere.  I drew up a quick set of plans to use in the shop, you can download them from this link, or by clicking on the preview image below.

I’m on the fence about the 1/8″ round-over on the edges.  I may do a 1/8″ chamfer instead when it comes down to it.  I do like the different thicknesses in the frame parts, that creates a nice shadow line at the joints.  I’ll use the same finish recipe I used on the Byrdcliff cabinet and the Dragonfly sconces, so it should match and look nice in the room.  I also need to think through how to hang this — I’ll have to look at the hardware store for some convenient contrivance.

My buddy Ron will be here at 9:00 to drive up to the Thorsen house with me, if I get a move on I can probably get the stock for the frame cut to size before he gets here…

Exploded view of the frame

Exploded view of the frame

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Thorsen Cabinet Door Done(ish)

I made the last two pieces for the door for my Greene & Greene cabinet this morning, then spent several hours easing edges and sanding parts up to 320 grit.  Frankly, I was pretty worried about being able to pull this off, but so far it looks promising.  I measured for each of the muntin/mullion pieces (can we just agree to call them the same thing?  Crossbars?  Dividers? Thingies?

Getting all of the, uhmm, “thingies” to fit was a real load off.  At this point it’s mostly details that are missing on the door.  The rails need a clout lift cut into them, and all of the edges of the parts get a 1/8″ round over.  The step back from the plane of the door to the vertical divider, and again to the horizontal dividers is what makes this door look cool.

Door for the cabinet, all the parts are made, but a lot of little details are missing like the lift design in the rails and the rounded edges.

Door for the cabinet, all the parts are made, but a lot of little details are missing like the lift design in the rails and the rounded edges

I pulled the door apart again and rounded all the edges, then sanded everything.  Then it was time for a last test fit.  I had one tenon that didn’t seat as cleanly as it should, so I had to debug that problem.  I re-checked the fit several times, because once I started with the glue it was too late to make any adjustments.  The door looks much nicer now, everything has a softer appearance.

Door with all the edges eased and everything sanded

Door with all the edges eased and everything sanded

Finally, glue up.  I tried to avoid getting glue everywhere, and was mostly successful.  There wasn’t a lot of squeeze out, almost none in fact (ok, now I’m worried that I didn’t user enough glue).

I only put two clamps on it, to draw the mortise and tenon joints tight.  there is a little play in the positioning of the crossbars, so I tweaked everything into place and tightened the clamps.  I check that the assembly was square, and the the crossbars were square, and left the shop so I wouldn’t keep fussing with it.  I used “Old Brown Glue” for this, so if any smears get into the surface of the wood it won’t screw up finishing, and it should have a long enough open-time that I wouldn’t get into trouble with the assembly.

Door glued

Door glued

I also pulled the clamps off of the carcass assembly, I glued the top on yesterday.  There is a tiny gap between the sub-top and top at the two edges, I don’t think it will show in the finished part but it bugs me.  It’s maybe 1/32, and only at the corners.  I think the finish will fill it and that will be the end of it.

So, what’s left?  Ebony plugs on the door, hinges and a latch, a few details on the shiplapped back, finishing and the stained glass panel.  The door really put me over the hump.  Tomorrow I’m driving up to visit the Thorsen House in Berkley to see the original cabinet.

Top clamped in place

Top clamped in place

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Building the Door for the Thorsen Cabinet

I’ve been a little worried about being able to pull this door off without screwing it up, but so far, so good.  I got several hours logged in the shop today, and the door is looking mostly complete.

What makes this hard?  I’m glad you asked.

The first complication is the glass channel on the back.  That means the ends of the rails have stepped tenons on the to work with the rebate for the stained glass panel that will go in the door.  That’s not overly concerning, I had to do the same thing on the “Brydcliffish” cabinet, and the came out great.  No, the tricky part is the asymmetrical mullion and muntins.

I started by milling the rails and stiles.  They are all 1″ thick, which means I can put a 1/4″ mortise right in the center, and have 3/8″ on each side.  I did the mortises with my spiffy new mortiser, holy cow did that save me a lot of time.  I almost feel guilty, shouldn’t I be chopping those by hand?  As penance I’ll do a batch of mortises by hand.  That said, chopping a 1/4″ x 1/4″ mortise 1″ deep would be a trick to do by hand.

Mortises all cut

Mortises all cut

Then I cut the rebate for the class, 3/8″ wide and 1/4″ deep.  The side of the rebate should just hit the edge of the mortise.   Then I cut the staggered tenons and test fit it the door frame.  The tenons are all a decent fit, one could be a little snugger but it holds together so it should glue up just fine.

Tenons cut and the door frame is test assembled

Tenons cut and the door frame is test assembled

A view of the back shows the glass channel and the exposed mortises.  If you look closely you’ll notice the the rebate is wider on the stiles.  That because the rails get a “cloud lift” detail cut into them, so part of the channel will be removed.

Back of the door

Back of the door

Next I made the mullion.  The mullion is only 7/8″ thick, set back from the outer face of the door by 1/8″ — so it’s flush on the back.  It has rebates on both back edges — the glass in the door is actually two panels, separated by the muntin.  The mullion also has a through mortise an a blind mortise for the muntins.  When the sawdust settled I had a nicely fitting mullion.  (before the door is finished the inside edges of the frame, and the edges of all the crossbars will be a 1/8″ round over.

Mullion in place

Mullion in place

Of course the mullion has staggered tenon ends too, to work with the rebate on the back.

Exploded view

Exploded view

Finally I started on the muntins.  I cut extra materials because I was concerned I’d have troubles, and I did make a mistake on the first cloud lift muntin, but the second attempt came out perfect.  The short muntin on the right is 1/16″ too short, so I’ll need to remake it.  And there is one more muntin that goes below it.  All of the muntins are only 1/4″ thick.  They are set back 1/8″ from the mullion, and the glass will be immediately behind them.

Muntins being fit, I need to re-make the short one on the right, and make one more that fits just below it.

Muntins being fit, I need to re-make the short one on the right, and make one more that fits just below it.

Tomorrow I need to make the two short muntins, then cut the cloud lift detail in the rails and round over all of the edges.  Followed by a healthy dose of sanding.  Oh, and make 12 small mortises for the ebony plugs.  I really wish I’d ordered those square chisels from Lee Valley last week, it would really simplify that job.

Then I should be able to glue up the door.  Fingers crossed.

 

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Shaping the Top

After finishing off the re-assembly of the guest bedroom yesterday morning (on top of an absolutely insane work week) I planned to go out to the shop and make some progress on the Thorsen Cabinet.  And I did, right after a short power nap.  I sat down to watch a few minutes of a Paul Sellers video on making a Craftsman-style lamp, and I just sort of folded up.

Once I made it out to the shop I picked up where I left off.  I had the top cut to size, flat and square – but I noticed that it had slightly bowed. as had the sub-top in the cabinet.  The main top panel was easy to re-flatten, I’m still dealing with the warp in the assembled cabinet.  I put a clamp on it to pull it back straight and left it overnight, hopefully that will let me glue it up today.

I should explain the construction on this cabinet a little.  The sides of the cabinet are 3/4″ thick.  There is a 1/2″ thick top that is glued/screwed into a rabbet cut into the sides.

Cabinet with only the 1/2" thick sub-top in place

Cabinet with only the 1/2″ thick sub-top in place

Then there is a 7/8″ thick top that is longer and wider than the cabinet that will be attached to the cabinet.  In the video they showed driving six screws through the sub-top into the larger overhanging top, then plugging all six screw holes.  I didn’t care for that approach, so I am planning on just gluing it — but no matter what the two surfaces need to be true to have a clean glue up.  Here is the cabinet with the unshaped top sitting in place.

Cabinet with the unshaped top mocked up

Cabinet with the unshaped top mocked up

The larger “over top” needs to be undercut along the bottom to produce a 5/16″ profile.  I made a giant tall fence for my table saw out of MDF, cranked up the blade to 2.5″ and made three rip cuts to remove the 5/16″ waste.  The first pass I undershot a little (shown below) and only removed about 1/4″.  I re-set the fence (measure twice, cut twice) and remove the rest of the material.  The resulting surface was not really acceptable, there were minor differences in height between the end cuts and the long rip cut at the front (maybe 1/32″).  I used my low angle jack plane and a shoulder plane to clean up the surface, right up to the reveal.

Waste material removed from the underside on my table saw

Waste material removed from the underside on my table saw

Then I used an 5/16″ ovolo bit to shape the reveal, and a 3/16″ round over bit to shape the edges.  I perhaps could have done these steps with some hollow moulding planes, but I only have odds and ends, and I haven’t spent the time to get them all sorted out.  Maybe I’ll block out a day this week to get the ones I have set up and figure out.

Anyway, the router made quick work of the edger treatments, and I followed that up with a round of sanding to make everything nice.

The reveal on the underside of the top shaped

The reveal on the underside of the top shaped

With the top sitting in place on the cabinet you can see the final effect.  I did a dry run for the glue up, and decided I wanted to try to convince the sub-top to go back to being flat before I glued this.  I put a clamp on it to pull it slightly past flat in the other direction and left it over night.  I’ll get this glued up one way or another this morning.  Then I have a little work to do for the cabinet back, and finally on to the door construction.

Top mocked up, this shows off the undercut and profile

Top mocked up, this shows off the undercut and profile

One more view

One more view…  I need to clean up the shop and put away tools before I start the next step.

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Dragonfly Sconces Installed

Perhaps a month or so ago I finished a pair of mission-themed sconces in quarter sawn white oak with stained glass shades.  There was one significant problem with them, there was no wiring in the wall where I wanted the hang them.  That meant cracking open the drywall, running wires, patching drywall, matching texture…  Not something I was eager to sign up for.

Finished, installed sconce

Finished, installed sconce

Enter “Reliable Rick”.  He’s a handyman that we’ve had do a number of jobs around the house, and this was right up his alley.  Rick cut a couple of surgical openings in the wall, ran a new circuit from the light switch to the wall where we wanted the sconces hung and took care of all of the necessary details.

Walls after patching - the big squares are color samples we were trying out.  The final choice was the grey on the left.

Walls after patching – the big squares are color samples we were trying out. The final choice was the grey on the left.

We ended up painting the room, replacing the switch covers with nice mission style brass versions and got everything finished and put back together just a few minutes ago.

Sconce, illuminated (the red color isn't pink in reality, it's just nearly impossible to photograph these with a phone.  I'd probably do better taking pictures with a camera...

Sconce, illuminated (the red color isn’t pink in reality, it’s just nearly impossible to photograph these with a phone. I’d probably do better taking pictures with a camera…)

As part of the room re-do we lowered the “Byrdcliffish” cabinet I built recently, the sconces are mounted on either side of the cabinet.  They don’t provide a lot of light, they were more intended to provide some color and warmth..

Finished Room

Finished Room

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Shades of Furniture Past

Maybe 15 years ago I went through a “woodworking phase” that was prematurely pushed aside by life, metalworking hobbies, a custom car project and a hobby business that was growing out of control.  I didn’t actually make that many things, but this is one of them.

It’s a side table that I made for my wife to go next to a bed in the guest room that is somewhat overly tall.  The table is made out of scraps of Quilted Western Maple, a off cut of figured Claro walnut that I re-sawed into 1/8″ thick veneer and some strips of bloodwood for the stringing.  The core of the table top is MDF, veneered on both sides with a 4-way book match of the Walnut and then edged first with a strip of Bloodwood and then the mitered quilted maple edging.

Table top, four-way book match claro walnut, bloodwood stringing and quilted maple edging

Table top, four-way book match claro walnut, bloodwood stringing and quilted maple edging

The skirts or stretchers at only thin strips because I only had enough material to do it that way, but I think it came out pretty well.  Because it’s tall and spindly it always felt a little insubstantial, but it’s survived regular use, stacks of books, overflowing with family detritus and coffee spills intact and still looking good.  Sometimes it’s fun to see what you can do with the scraps you have.  Sometimes that includes cutting them up into little pieces to feed the smoker and make BBQ, other times it’s a table.

Mr. Spindly Table

Mr. Spindly Table

After an long and interesting week at work and a 2+ hour commute home I’m ready to spend some quality time with my tools this weekend.

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Hardware Choices

This morning I’m puzzling over what hardware to use on my G&G cabinet.  Specifically, the pull/latch combination.  I’m trying to get my ducks in a row so I don’t get blocked on finishing the cabinet in the next week or two.

Option number 1 is to use a knob and latch combination.  To hold the door closed I’d probably use either a small wooden stop block with a rare earth magnet or a double ball catch.  The magnet is simple and not at all fussy to install, but looks a little clunky when the door is opened.  The double ball catch is a little trickier to get installed right, but is visually nicer.  It serves as both a stop and a latch, and having installed one on the coffee cup cabinet I made I’m confident I could do it (and do a better job).

Double ball catch

Double ball catch

That leaves the knob or pull to sort out.  On the design I’m copying from Dale Barnard, he used a pull he has made locally that looks similar to the latches used on several Greene & Greene kitchens.  I like the look, although in the video the latch looks like it’s attached on the inside with largish threaded studs and hex nuts.  I don’t care for that, and the price is a little more than I’d like to spend.  But it looks really nice in place on the cabinet.

Same cabinet design by Dale Barnard with the "G&G Kitchen Catch" pull

Same cabinet design by Dale Barnard with the “G&G Kitchen Catch” pull

Looking at this picture I’m somewhat swayed to use that pull and call it done.  I looked at other original G&G knobs, but I haven’t seen one that works for me in this cabinet.  For example:

Carved and inlaid Ebony knob from the Culbertson sisters' bookcase

Carved and inlaid Ebony knob from the Culbertson sisters’ bookcase

Or this one from an earlier sideboard:

Carved knob on a reproduction of the Blacker House sideboard

Carved knob on a reproduction of the Blacker House sideboard

Behind door number two is using a more original approach.  The original cabinet in the Thorsen house — and indeed most cabinet doors in similar G&G furniture — used keyed locks with carved wood escutcheons and key handles.

Escutchions and key on cabinet doors.

Escutchions and key on cabinet doors.

I like this look a lot, but it presents several challenges.  I’ve looked at full- and half-mortise lock sets, and the backspacing (distance from the edge of the door to the center of the key barrel) for ones that would fit in a 2″ wide stile is only 5/8″ — which puts the key and escutcheon fairly close to the edge of the door.

Mortise Lock for Cabinet

Mortise Lock for Cabinet

It also presents more technical challenges, like shaping and inlaying the escutcheon.  Mortising the lock itself doesn’t overly concern me, but doing a clean job on the inlay is a little worrying.  And with the lock approach I still need to provide a backstop for the door.

I’m open to suggestions, especially if you see a better alternative.  Right now my thinking is to do a sample escutcheon and inlay it into a piece of scrap to work out the details.  That should give me a better perspective on the process.

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