Monthly Archives: June 2014

Blog Updates

I spent a couple hours tonight making a few additions to my blog. Wait, I can explain…

It has struck me how ephemeral blog posts are. I build stuff because I like to build stuff, and I blog about it because I like to do that too. I like to get feedback on what I’m doing, whether the feedback is good, bad or indifferent. But at the end of the day. most blog posts have a relatively short shelf life. That’s OK generally, because most of the drivel I generate isn’t something that folks should spend a lot of time reading anyway.

But if anything is worth preserving or revisiting it’s the projects themselves.  With each one I’ve learned something new, and no matter how many issues I ran into along the way I got the project finished.  So, I decided to see if I could update my blog to celebrate some of the projects that I’ve finished.

If you look at the top right corner of my blog you will see a link now to “Favorite Projects”, on that page I’m planning to add thumbnail pictures of each of my projects (at least the ones that are done and I’m not trying to forget).  That picture links to a short writeup on the project, and a link to all of the individual log posts I wrote about it.  It’s an experiment, maybe it’s conceit.

Anyway, the first five recap articles are posted.  I’ll add the rest over the next few days.  These aren’t my overall favorite projects, the more recent projects that combine stained glass and woodworking are my current faves.  These five are special because each of the surprised me that they came out as well as they did.  I’m still stunned that I could hand plane those knotty, crusty doug fir timbers into a flat, square bench top.  Each was a tiny little victory, and a stepping stone to the next project.

Click on any of these pictures to go to the recap articles.

Roubo Workbench

Roubo Workbench

Roy Underhill's Nail Cabinet

Roy Underhill’s Nail Cabinet

Hand Tool Cabinet

Hand Tool Cabinet

Mahogany milking stool

Mahogany milking stool

Tool Chest

Tool Chest

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The Cupboard is Bare

I was so excited about getting the skirt wrapped up yesterday, it wasn’t until later I realized how bare and unbalanced this cabinet looks at this stage.  It has this nice, fat skirt attached to a think box.  So I decided I’d better make a start on the top, and while I was at it, the shelf.

The top is 10.75″ wide, which in some woods might be a little tricky, but wide Sapele boards don’t seem to be a problem.  This one was just over 12″ wide, I have another that’s 13.5″ and there were wider ones in the pile.  It turns out the my pickup bed is my favorite combination saw bench and finishing work station.

Wide 4/4 Sapele

Wide 4/4 Sapele

This is “4/4” Sapele, and except for the rough sawn texture it’s dead flat and generously thick.  After jointing and planing I could have finished this at almost an inch thick (.993″), that impressed me.  Most places I buy 4/4 it measures out less than an inch, and if it’s S2S it is usually closer to 7/8″ or 13/16″.

I dimensioned the top, but I still have to shape the underside – it will be cut back 2.5″ on the underside all around, leaving a rounded step.

With the sized-but-unshaped top you can start to see the proportions.  Squinting helps.

With the sized-but-unshaped top you can start to see the proportions. Squinting helps.

This is more like what the top will look like after it’s undercut and shaped.  I’m not sure how I’ll do this yet, the current front runner is with a tall fence on the table saw.

Detail of how the top will be cut and shaped

Detail of how the top will be cut and shaped

I knocked out the shelf, this was a quick job.  Since I have put together a CAD model it was simple to print a pattern for half of the shelf, cut it out in 1/8″ MDF and trace it onto the shelf blank.  A little filing and sanding finished it off.

The shelf is finished

The shelf is finished

I’m hoping to finish off the top and glue it on today, and make a good start on the door.  I updated my plans last  night, but they are not as well organized at this point so I’m going to hold off on posting them until I have a chance to clean them up.

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Good Progress on the G&G Cabinet

I got the skirts and false bottom installed on the carcass for the cabinet I’m making, which is styled like the left side of the cabinet in the Thorsen house dining room.

Nothing on this project (so far) is particularly hard or tricky, but typical of G&G stuff there is a lot of time spent on little details.  The four sides of the cabinet went together quickly, two rabbets, a double fistful of dados and some glue and screws.  I easily have twice as much time in the skirt as the cabinet body.

The fit on the front part of the skirt is fairly critical, if it’s too long at all it won’t fit, and if it’s too short — even a little — it will look sloppy.  But the real time sink was in shaping the ends of the finger joints.  I suppose you could just hit them with a router, but at that stage they looked too mechanical.  I wanted a fat, rounded, organic look that seems to typify the Greene’s work.

The joints fit, but this is fairly ugly

The joints fit, but this is fairly ugly

I wish I had taken a picture when the ends were just rounded over with a router bit, it was an improvement over square but it still looked pretty stiff and mechanical.

Shaping begun, more to do

Shaping begun, more to do

Once the corners were rounded over with a router, I went to work on the ends of the finger joints with a rasp and a file.  I also used a fine flat file on the routed edges to take of burn marks and shape the inside corners where the router bit can’t reach.  Then I attacked it with 150 grit sandpaper, blending out and points and facets.  Then I worked through the grits, 180, 220, 320, until everything looked and felt smooth.  It was several rounds of blending and refinement, and it’s totally a gut feel thing.  I don’t know if they have to be shaped like this, but it makes me happy.

Shaping of the skirts completed

Shaping of the skirts completed

Before I could assemble it I had to work out the attachment details.  The sides get screwed on from inside of the case.  The front is removable, a little secret hiding place.  I used rare earth magnets to hold the from on.

Magnets to hold the front skirt on

Magnets to hold the front skirt on

The last detail to deal with was the Ebony plugs.  I picked up a neat trick from the video, which is to use a 3/8″ socket extension to hold the end of the Ebony bar in a drill to spin it against the sandpaper to shape and polish the end.  In the past I’ve just chucked it up, which works too, but this is much better.

Use a socket extension chucked in a drill to spin the Ebony bar against sandpaper

Use a socket extension chucked in a drill to spin the Ebony bar against sandpaper

I go through a series of grits to shape and polish the sandpaper.  Each piece is placed on top of a double thickness of scotchbrite pads for cushion, today I started with 150 and progressed through 220, 320, 600, 1,500 and 6,000.  In the past I’ve stopped with 1,000 and switched to a cloth with green rouge on it — that works just as well.  This is just the sandpaper I had handy today.

Setup for shaping and polishing the end of the plugs

Setup for shaping and polishing the end of the plugs

Finished end, ready to be cut off

Finished end, ready to be cut off

I set up a bench hook with a stop so I could make a batch of plugs all at once.  This actually goes pretty fast, way faster than hand sanding the skirts.  Just saying…

Cut the plugs off all at the same length

Cut the plugs off all at the same length

Each hole gets some glue around the edges, then the plug is set in and tapped carefully to seat it

Each hole gets some glue around the edges, then the plug is set in and tapped carefully to seat it

Success!  I make the plugs a little shorter than the hole is deep so I can be sure to seat them deep enough.

Success! I make the plugs a little shorter than the hole is deep so I can be sure to seat them deep enough.

Screwing the side skirts on, plugging the holes inside of the case and gluing in the sub-bottom were pretty anti-climatic.  I think the cabinet looks pretty good at this point, and I’m going to start on the top next.

Skirts installed and sub-bottom glued in

Skirts installed and sub-bottom glued in

I have the wood for the shiplapped back ready, just a little prep work to have that ready to install.  I won’t install it until I have everything built and have applied all of the finish coats.  I’ll make the top next and glue that on.

Mostly-completed carcass

Mostly-completed carcass

 

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Door Design Changes

After staring at the real “Thorsen house cabinet”, I noticed that the door in the Barnard design is different from the left hand door in the real cabinet.  I don’t know if the change was intentional or an error, but the lift pattern in the long mullion is upside down.  In the original door this detail follows the lift in the top rail, in the Barnard door it doesn’t feel as harmonious.  And after looking at the video and photos of the Thorsen dining room there is clearly a pattern of echoing the same shapes in adjacent parts.  So I updated my CAD model to see what it would look like – I like this better, although I’m not sure about having it hinge on the left side yet.  I also slightly raised the short mullion which is closer to the original left door I think.  The rails and stiles look a little too wide compared to the original too, I’m not sure I want to mess with that for this project though.

thor13

Updated model with mullion oriented to match the top rail

Barnard version, with the mullion reversed

Barnard version, with the mullion reversed

Original Thorsen Cabinet from "Poems..."

Original Thorsen Cabinet from “Poems…”, the left door is a mirror image of the right door.

 

 

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Thorsen House Cabinet Details

I’m wrapping up my work week and getting ready to make progress on the cabinet I’m building.  I am very close to having the skirts finished and the sub-bottom of the cabinet installed.  I also plan to spend some time tweaking Dale Barnard’s design adaptation of the original cabinet — correcting the orientation of the cloud lift on the mullion and the spacing / positioning of the mullions so that it more closely replicates the leftmost door on the original cabinet.

I’d hoped to get up to Berkley today to visit the Thorsen house, but I haven’t heard back about scheduling a visit.  I realized that this is probably finals week for the UC Berkley students that live there, so I’ll try again in a couple of weeks.  However, I found the next best thing…a youtube video of the Thorsen house that looks closely at the cabinet.  The detail shots are great, really helpful.  I’ll embed the actual video, then some details that I found that are helpful in my rendition.

The biggest surprise in the video for me was the depth of the cabinet.  It’s obviously much wider than what I’m building, but the depth (about 6.75″) looked comparable.  In the video it shows that the protrusion into the room is 8″, but the depth inside of the cabinet is 16″.  Yes, the back of the cabinet is recessed into the room!

16" deep wit only an 8" protrusion into the room

16″ deep wit only an 8″ protrusion into the room

Speaking of the inside, there are two more details here.  First, take a look at the back of the cabinet — frame and panel construction.

Frame and panel back on the cabinet

Frame and panel back on the cabinet

I was also curious about his the shelves were mounted.  Shelf pins, but with a twist.  The holes are staggered, and instead of stamped metal pins there are wooden buttons.

Shelf Pins

Shelf Pins

More details I was curios about: How is the glass held in the doors?  I don’t like the way it’s done in the design from the Popular Woodworking video, it looks too heavy.  In the original there are tiny wood strips that hold the glass in place, that would be my inclination too.

Glass retaining strips, and surprisingly - ebony plugs on the inside.

Glass retaining strips, and surprisingly – ebony plugs on the inside.

And as a bonus, I can see that the lock in the door is actually a half-mortise lock.

If you look closely you can see that the lock is a half mortise arrangement.

If you look closely you can see that the lock is a half mortise design

Speaking of the lock, what about the escutcheons?  There is a great shot of those too, they are done in Macassar Ebony instead apparently.  The head of the key is Gabon Ebony, and you can clearly see the shape of the key head, the brass pins that secure it to the key, the protrusion of the escutcheons…  Priceless!

Escutchions and key on cabinet doors.

Escutchions and key on cabinet doors.

One or two more details I want to call attention to.  The way the trim in the room echoes the shape of the cabinet is stunning.  Around the sides it follows the contour of the cabinet.  Underneath there are a pair of shaped support brackets (I’m sure they are not functional), the trim follows the profile of the cabinet and the support arms.

Look at how the trim on the wall echoes the shape of the cabinet.

Look at how the trim on the wall echoes the shape of the cabinet.

Details of the underside

Details of the underside

The details in this piece are crazy, right?  Someday I want to model the real cabinet and build the entire thing, to scale just like the original.  Right now I’ve got my hands rule with the version I’m building.  Unfortunately this week I “accidentally” looked at some pictures of Craftsman style lamps in hammered copper, mica and stained glass.  I need to make one of those too.

 

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Chasing Skirts

I had a good day in the shop yesterday, and nearly finished the skirts for the Greene & Greene cabinet I’m making.  Sooo close, but they need more finessing before I’m ready to install them.

My day started out by resawing stock to make the back.  I’m not happy with my re-saw setup, I get too much blade drift, but luckily I had plenty of material to surface out the discrepancies.

Resawing stock for the back

Resawing stock for the back

I already had the stock for the skirts dimensioned, so getting the finger joints cut wasn’t that much trouble.  Getting the length on the long skirt bar on the front was a little tricky as it needs to be exactly the same width as the cabinet.  Once I had the front at the right length I trimmed the side pieces so that they were exactly the same length as the case sides.

Finger joints cut

Finger joints cut

Skirts test fit

Skirts test fit, the board for the bottom is sitting on top of the case

From there it was a matter of chopping the square mortises for the ebony plugs and rounding the corners.  But just running a round over bit along the edges isn’t enough.  First, it doesn’t do an acceptable job on the inside corners, and second I’m using two different sizes, larger on the ends and smaller on the edges.

I used a file to work in all of the inside corners, and to “pillow” the ends of the fingers.  Instead of a flat end with radiuses on the corners I was a smooth pillow or dome.  In this picture I’m nearly there on the side skirt, but more work is required on the front piece.  I just takes a bit of time with a file and sand paper.

Smoothing out the details on the finger joints

Smoothing out the details on the finger joints

Before I can mount the skirts to the case I need to prep the outside of the case and finish sanding the skirts.  The I can screw the skirts to the sides, and glue in the bottom of the case.  Then I need to round over the inside opening of the case.  It’s a lot of little details, but it’s important to get them done nicely.  Oh, and somewhere along the way I need to glue in the ebony pegs.  The front skirt is held in place by some rare earth magnets that I recessed inside of the finger joint.  This gives me a tiny hiding place.

The other think I played with was to have a mortised lock instead of handle or cabinet pull on the door.  I looked through my G&G books and this certainly seems to be the more common approach to cabinet doors outside of the kitchen.  I played with shapes for an Ebony escutcheon and I think I’m pretty close on this one.  Now I need to order a full mortise cabinet lock, I’m thinking of using this one from Whitechapel:

Mortise Lock for Cabinet

Mortise Lock for Cabinet

I need to add hinges to the model, and I want to play with hinging it from both sides to see if one works better than the other.  This particular door style in the original cabinet was hinged on the left.  Take a look at the original again:

Original Thorsen Cabinet from "Poems..."

Original Thorsen Cabinet from “Poems…”

Comparing with the original cabinet, it also looks like the bottom mullion on the right side of the door should be a little higher up.  In fact, maybe both mullions should be a little higher up.  And you know what else I just noticed?  The lift in the mullion goes the wrong way simpered to the lift in the top rail, look how in the original it mimics the lift in the rail, while in the Barnard design it’s just doing it’s own thing.

I definitely need to organize a trip up to the Thorsen house one of these weekends.

Updated rendering with a carved Ebony escutcheon instead of a cabinet pull

Updated rendering with a carved Ebony escutcheon instead of a cabinet pull

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Finish Samples

I’m working away on the “Thorsen Cabinet”, and have the skirt nearly finished.  One more trip to the store to get some screws and the router bit I need.

While I’m working on the skirt and other parts I’be been working up a sample board to check out how I’m planning on finishing this project. I know that’s weeks away, but I’m eager to see how it will look.

This sample was sanded to 320, and then I wet it to raise the grain.  I scuff sanded it with 320 after it dried and put on one coat of Trans-Tint Brown Mahogany dye.  After that was dry I rubbed it with a white Scotchbrite bad to take off any grain fuzzies, and gave it a coat of Linseed Oil.  I left that to dry overnight, then padded on two coats of garnet shellac, rubbed with steel wool and waxed with Dark Brown Briwax.

It looks good, although I think I want a hint more red in the finished cabinet.  I think I’ll try either the Reddish-Brown or Red Mahogany dyes and see how that looks.  Maybe a different color wax too, although that is pretty subtle and probably won’t make much difference.

Finished sample next to sanded, bare Sapele

Finished sample next to sanded, bare Sapele.  Photographed outside in open shade

Same parts, photographed outside in direct sun.

Same parts, photographed outside in direct sun.

Same sample, photographed inside in natural light.

Same sample, photographed inside in natural light.

I think this sample is pretty close to the color of the original cabinet, maybe with a couple more coats of Garnet Shellac.  Whatcha think?

Original Thorsen Cabinet from "Poems..."

Original Thorsen Cabinet from “Poems…”

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