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Blacker House Serving Table – Construction

I came across an image of this table on the web a while back, and I knew it had to go on my list of projects.  I blogged in the past about going through the process to model it in CAD, and I think I got pretty close.  I made one change intentionally, adding the leg indent that was found on other pieces in the Blacker house.

Blacker House Serving Table

Blacker House Serving Table

There will be several challenges in building this table, and I’ve already tripped over the first one.

I started by milling six legs out of 8/4 full-sawn Sapele.  Rough cut, this is about 2.125″ thick, I machined it down to slightly over the 1.875″ I called out in my model so I had stock for smoothing.  I had really bad tear out with this stock, so I’ll probably have to scrape and then sand through several grits to get this smooth.  On the other hand, all of the grain reversals should make it pretty.

Rough Stock

Rough Stock

I rough cut the stock into six 2.125″ square blanks, slightly overlong, and mocked them up with a bit of scrap to simulate the proportions of the table.  It’s too early to have a clear picture from the mock up, but al least it looks reasonable so far.

Everything has to start somewhere...

Everything has to start somewhere…

Then I milled everything to size and started laying out the ebony plug locations, and mortises.  I mentioned that there are several likely problem spots, the first is the mortises.  The layout is fairly complex, there is a wide stub tenon, and two full tenons on each skirt end.  The tenons on the sides bypass the tenons on the front and back, and there is a 1/2″ of solid material in the leg between the two adjacent mortises for strength.  That is, none of the mortices holes intersect.

I went over my CAD model, and laid out the mortises carefully, both the shallow mortise for the stub, the deeper sections for the full tenons and the mortises for the stretchers.  Then I immediately proceeded to cut one of the mortises in the wrong place.  Crud.  That sort of thing really takes the wind out of my sails.  I guess this is why I cut six legs.  I also put a ding in one of the other legs, but I think I can repair it, it should be all but invisible.  Greg Merritt has been using a Japanese ink pot to mark in where the waste is, that seems like an awfully good ides right now…

Dimensioned legs, starting to mortise for joinery and ebony pegs.

Dimensioned legs, starting to mortise for joinery and ebony pegs.  The blue tape is something new, to help me keep my orientation.

I’ll add a couple pictures of the first completed mortise, I think you’ll see what I mean about the layout in the pictures.  If the layout anywhere on the four legs is wrong the table won’t go together.

Mortise for the front and back skirts

Mortise for the  left and right side skirts

as

Mortise for the front and back skirts

Once I make it past the mortises I’ll rough in the skirts.  The most scary part of the project is the silver and abalone inlay in the legs and top.  I won’t do that until late in the project, and if it goes badly it will be kind of a problem.  I’ll do a practice run on my scrap leg as a confidence builder.  One step at a time I guess.

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Dutch Tool Chest Done

I wrapped up the dutch tool chest yesterday.  This came out OK.  There are several things I could have done a better job on, but visually it looks decent with a coat of Salem Red milk paint and some oil/wax topcoat.

Finished DTC

Finished DTC

I used strap hinges from Lee Valley, and I wouldn’t recommend them for this project.  The leaves are centered on the hinge barrels, which means you need a mortise in the lid and the case to use them.  The countersinks for the screws are on the wrong side of the leaf on the back of the case.  They work, but they aren’t ideal.

I’m actually not using this as a tool chest though.  We needed a place to put all of our electronics gizmos at night when they are charging, and this fits the bill.  Laptops, iPads, cell phones, video game controllers and all the rest fit nicely inside.

Dutch Charging Station

Dutch Charging Station

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Found It

I picked through the extra parts — luckily not all of the ones in this pile — and found five of the last six parts of the rose marquetry.  Then my wife came out to help.  She told me I was insane to do this, then promptly found the last part I needed.

I’m going to leave this project alone the rest of the weekend to clear my head.  It’s down hill from here anyway, sand shading, re-assembly, glue up, mastic, etc, etc.

This is the pile of left over chaff.  The main lesson in this project is better part organization.  I did much better this time, but next I'll do even better in terms of keeping parts related to each other.

This is the pile of left over chaff. The main lesson in this project is better part organization. I did much better this time, but next I’ll do even better in terms of keeping parts related to each other.

Complete picture dry-assembled.  Sand shading is next to add depth.

Complete picture dry-assembled. Sand shading is next to add depth.

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Rose Marquetry, Part 452

I’m probably three hours into assembling this marquetry picture, and it’s definitely kicking my butt.  It’s some kind of sadistic jigsaw puzzle created by a psychopathic game designer.  Imagine a puzzle where all of the parts are the same color, and are so small you need to use tweezers.  Now mix seven different colors of the same puzzle, and remove a half dozen critical parts.

But I’m so close to moving on to the next step.  I have probably six more parts to find…or re-make, then I can start the sand shading process.  We’ll see if I have the patience to work on this more today.

Here is the picture, test assembled.  The all-red roses have no depth or separation between the parts without sand shading.

Here is the picture, test assembled. The all-red roses have no depth or separation between the parts without sand shading.

Here is a close up of the problem area.  Maybe I can get my wife and son to comb through the remaining parts one more time before I have to resort to re-making these parts.

Problem area.  The piece of Mahogany background doesn't fit right, and I'm missing 3 stems, two leaves and a bit of background.

Problem area. The piece of Mahogany background doesn’t fit right, and I’m missing 3 stems, two leaves and a bit of background.

 

 

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Jigsaw Jeopardy

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of jigsaw puzzles.

Nevertheless, I just spent an hour after work sorting through a pile of little veneer shapes from this (and another tray of bits)

Too many pieces.  Since I'm stack cutting using the "Boulle" method I have 7 of each part (background, 3 greens, 3 flower colors) plus the front and back "waster" veneers from the packet.

Too many pieces. Since I’m stack cutting using the “Boulle” method I have 7 of each part (background, 3 greens, 3 flower colors) plus the front and back “waster” veneers from the packet.

To start assembling the marquetry picture I’m working on.  I’m assembling it onto low-tack shelf paper.  Once I have the colors all composed, I’ll remove the parts a few at a time and sand shade them.

It only seems tedious when you’re doing it…

Assembly so far.  I'm having trouble locating a couple of small leaves...I'll move on to the remaining two flowers and maybe they will turn up.

Assembly so far. I’m having trouble locating a couple of small leaves…I’ll move on to the remaining two flowers and maybe they will turn up.

Even with the mix of colors, it still looks flat without sand shading.  But first I have to find all of the little bits!

Close up of one flower, this is about the size of a silver dollar.

Close up of one flower, this is about the size of a silver dollar.

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I saw roses

Ok, I guess that’s an obvious pun, but I spent a couple of hours sawing out flowers this morning.  I was away last week visiting my parents with my son, and have been really looking forward to getting some shop time in this weekend.  Unfortunately in addition to my son, I brought home a nasty flu virus, so things are moving a bit more slowly than I’d like.

But this is also a lot of pieces to cut out.  I have seven color layers of veneer — three greens for the leaves, three colors for the flowers and a background color.  At a rough guess there are 100 separate shapes to cut out.  Some are relatively large and easy to handle (why does that seem like cheating?) and some are smaller.  A few of the stems and stem-leaves are fairly small, for me anyway.

IMG_0291

My new marquetry work tray all set up for the project. Tongs, extra blades, a (reversed) reference pattern, and the assembled veneer packet.

I drilled a hole with a #65 bit and started in sawing out pieces.  I’m guessing that this will take me 3 or 4 hours of sawing to get all the parts cut out.  I don’t have the patience to sit and do it in one session, even if I wasn’t sick, so I’m interspersing other projects.  I took a break and set up a kraft paper assembly board.  I laid out an idea for a tool chest on some walnut — although I don’t think it’s going to work out.  And for a change, instead of Lighting Hopkins I tried some Solomon Burke.

First foliage sawn free

First foliage sawn free, starting in on the main rose

Then I transitioned into my rock country mix with Iris DeMent, Lucinda Williams, John Prine and the Cowboy Junkies.  I need a shop stereo, the headphones are too annoying with the Optivisor.

The main rose is cut now

The main rose is cut now

More progress.  Time for a new soundtrack.

More progress. Time for a new soundtrack.

At this point I have all of the flowers and most of the larger leaves cut out, and it’s getting to be tricky to know how to progress.  The stems connect that major cut out areas, as I start removing them the packet gets fragile and I could break off a section if I’m not super careful.

This is roughly where I am as I write this post.  I have a  couple of large leaves to cut free, but I'm looking ahead at the interconnecting stems that bridge the cut-out areas.  I think that's going to be a little tricky.

This is roughly where I am as I write this post. I have a couple of large leaves to cut free, but I’m looking ahead at the interconnecting stems that bridge the cut-out areas. I think that’s going to be a little tricky.

I’ve probably got one more hour of work at the chevy to finish cutting this packet.  I’d like to finish the sawing today if I can.  I’m finally feeling comfortable with the “coarse” 32 tpi blades.  I can follow the lines 98% of the time, and I can make crisp turns.  I need more practice before I’m ready to try the “piece-by-piece” method.

I have to say, it’s a little daunting when I sit down to cut out a complex piece like this.  I’m not stressing over it, but it’s a little tedious.  Most of the other woodworking I do involves more varied work activities.  I love the finished assembly, but it’s really time consuming to cut, sand shade, assembly and finish the panel.

I’m only waiting for the last bits of hardware to finish the first Dutch Tool Chest, and I’m going to start another soon.  I want one nice tool chest to take on the road the next time I take a woodworking class, but I’m on the fence between a DTC and a small traditional chest like the Traveling Anarchist’s Tool Chest or Sellers’ Joiner’s Tool Chest.  You can expect it to have some marquetry design inside the lid.

 

 

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Everything is coming up roses

Yes, more marquetry.

I’m not going to get any shop time this weekend, but I wanted to set up for my next marquetry project.  “Set up” in this context means laminating newsprint onto the show face of the veneer with hot hide glue.  And sticky fingers.  My wife walked in the shop when I had a sheet of newsprint stuck to my hands and I was waving my arms to get it off.  That’s probably an image that won’t go away.

Here are the raw materials for the next marquetry project.  Backer (and "fronter") sheets, veneer for all the colors in the picture plus the background, and a reversed copy of the design.

Here are the raw materials for the next marquetry project. Backer (and “fronter”) sheets, veneer for all the colors in the picture plus the background, and a reversed copy of the design.

The design I’m going to do (note the positive attitude!) came from the UK marquetry society member’s library, it’s one of my favorites.  At least as a line drawing, I expect seeing it in color will be pretty good too.  I like that there is a lot of motion and detail, but that none of the parts are microscopic.

Here is the design, and the veneers I'm using.  Light, medium and dark green for the foliage and stems, bloodwood, bubinga and satinwood for the flowers.

Here is the design, and the veneers I’m using. Light, medium and dark green for the foliage and stems, bloodwood, bubinga and satinwood for the flowers.  The background will be swirled mahogany.  I’ll add a cross-banded border as I did on the last one too.

If you’ve followed my marquetry adventures the past few months you’ll recognize the main rose as one I did for a sand shading practice exercise.  The marquetry packet is 9″ x 12″, for scale.  Adding a border later will make this about 3″ wider and longer when completed.

The rose from this design

The rose from this design

Once I had all of the veneer sheets laminated with newsprint I shoved the whole gooey mess into the press to “cook”.  I’ll leave it like this overnight, then assemble the packet for cutting next week.

The clamping and drying parts aren't very entertaining.  Getting it into the press with it sticking your hands is jolly good fun though.

The clamping and drying parts aren’t very entertaining. Getting it into the press with it sticking your hands is jolly good fun though.

Meanwhile, I need to start something else.  I wonder what I could do with this?

I found this in my secret stash from a million years ago and smoothed it up.  I can think of one or two good uses for it...

I found this in my secret stash from a million years ago and smoothed it up. I can think of one or two good uses for it…

 

 

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Dutch Chest Lessons

Building the Dutch Tool Chest has had some important lessons for me.  Aside from the obvious “make sure the dovetails all face the same way”.

First, the one that bugs me most, is get decent lumber.  I got Common Pine (“whitewood”, a very soft pulpy wood-like material), which cupped after I got it home.  By the time I dressed it the “1 by 12″ (.749″ out the door) was closer to 5/8” thin.  This doesn’t leave enough for nailing and dadoing in my view.  It also continued to move around after it was flattened, and is super soft.  I wanted Select Pine but the home center has been out for several weeks.

A consequence of the soft, thin boards is that the cut nails I’m using caused blow out in several spots as they went into the pre-drilled holes.

Wrought-head cut nails.  I like the look, the blowout on the endgrain, not so much.

Wrought-head cut nails. I like the look, the blowout on the endgrain, not so much.

Something else I’ll do differently is to put the back on after the drop-front is fitted so I can glue on the brackets for the sliding latch more easily.

Drop front ready for battens and some shaping on the catches for the latch bar.

Drop front ready for battens and some shaping on the catches for the latch bar.

I had a bit of a struggle with the boards on the back.  I decided to go with tongue and grooves instead of shiplap.  Problem #1 was my tongue and groove plane doesn’t make a joint that works right off the plane.  The tongue is too big (or the groove too small).  It’s problem with the cutter width, I’ll need to replace something there.  I also installed the boards from the top to bottom.  Bad call, I should have started at the bottom, and not cut the bevel on the top board until it was ready to go otherwise.  Live and learn.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this project was to dust off my hand tool skills and take a break from the crazy detail of marquetry.  I tuned up my coffin smoother, it leaves a super surface now.  That’s a great feeling, it works better than my metal smoother with a more carefully prepared blade.

Smoothing parts for the drop front latch.

Smoothing parts for the drop front latch.

This tool chest is going to get a coat of milk paint and go into service as storage in the house.  I’ll make another one to use when I go to woodworking classes.

Dovetails fit nicely (picture is after rough planing them level, cleanup still to do)

Dovetails fit nicely (picture is after rough planing them level, cleanup still to do)

Without grading on a curve, this will be a B-minus project when it’s done.  Everything will be functional and square, but the details aren’t quite a nice as I’d like.  I’ll do another with either select Pine, or maybe some VG Fir I saw at the wood store.

Just need to trim the lid and get some hinges to complete this one.

Just need to trim the lid and get some hinges to complete this one.

 

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MC Escher Tool Chest

Yesterday I posted a picture of a Dutch Tool Chest I’m making.  It’s just a busywork project, something to do for fun.  It was decidedly less fun when I discovered that I’d done the joinery for one end bass-ackwards.  Not really the end of the world, this is the cheap common pine.  It’s also slightly cupped, even after flattening it, it cupped again.

And it’s not like I need a tool chest.  Having said that, I’ll probably end up building two or three of these.

Kudos to Greg Merrit for nicknaming this the "MC Escher Chest".  I'm *never* buying plans from that Dutch Dude again...

Kudos to Greg Merrit for nicknaming this the “MC Escher Chest”. I’m *never* buying plans from that Dutch Dude again…

So, I cut one set of pins off, and re-cut them. No biggie.  The sawing went much better, it helped that I put up more shop lights in the intervening time.

Dutch chest after coming down from a bad sugar high. (the chest, not me)

Dutch chest after coming down from a bad sugar high. (the chest, not me)

 

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Dutch Tool Chest F A I L

I had some 1 x 12 pine boards, and a recently completed Moxon vise, so I thought “why not build a Dutch Tool Chest”?  As I’m putting it together, I am starting to question the usefulness of this chest…

I don't think this is going to work out like I thought.

I don’t think this is going to work out like I thought.

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