Inlay Experiment

The next step on the Blacker table has me worried.  It’s the inlay on the legs.  Now that I have the joinery done and fitting well, the leg ends shaped and everything otherwise ready to assemble it’s nice to know I have a fresh opportunity to screw things up.

I’ve done inlay exactly once before, it came out passable.  The tricky bit was routing the cavity for the inlay to fit, and part of the issue was using a tool that had some design issues.  More about that another time, but I’ve upgraded my inlay router base to one from Micro Fence and am very pleased with the new one.

So I decided to do another experiment with a similar design and the same materials as the Blacker table.  It’s a vine motif with Silver vines and Abalone leaves.  I don’t have a blow-by-blow on this as I’m still figuring out how to do this properly.  If I can get to a level of comfort with the process I’ll try to document my approach.

I started by cutting out the individual petals and super gluing them to a piece of Abalone.  I picked the least interesting of the shell pieces I had, and positioned the leaves so all four fit on one piece of shell.  On a real project I’d waste more shell, using only the most interesting colors and shadings.  In this case, I’d just use one leaf using that interesting blob of green in the middle.

Pattern for four leaves cut out

Pattern for four leaves cut out

Patterns glued down

Patterns glued down

I sawed these out on the Marquetry Chevalet, which worked OK, although I’m not sure that’s the best way as the piece of shell is small and hard to manipulate.  I’ll need to try this with a jeweler’s saw and see which works better.  I have something like 24 pieces to cut out like this, so I’ll get plenty of practice along the way.

I taped my vine pattern to the wood and routed it, and traced around the petals with a scalpel and routed them as well.  I wasn’t happy with how the process flowed and want to try some other options for doing this.  The main problem with routing the vines is getting a smooth shape, any little undulation shows up in the finished inlay.  It’s theoretically possible to make a template for this, but I’m committed to doing this freehand so I’ll have to develop the control.

I had trouble at every stage, surprisingly the “dots” were the biggest pain in the butt, that will be easy to figure out.  Trying to glue in 1/8″ long pieces of 1/8″ diameter silver wire was not fun.  Next time I’ll make the holes deeper and maybe sharpen the tip like a nail so it goes in easily and can bite into the wood.  Hopefully with a bit of practice I’ll get this figured out so it goes smoothly.

Finished inlay experiment

Finished inlay experiment

So let’s score this.  A few wobbles in the vines, -5 points for lack of control.  Gaps at the ends of the fines, -5 points for sloppy work.  I had to sand everything flush to get this to look good, I’d rather the leaves were flush and the silver was just slightly proud of the surface, another -5 points for stylistic failure.  But it works, and at arms-length it looks great, so although I guess I can live with a solid B+ for my first effort.

 

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Fixtures and jigs and clamps, oh my!

For whatever reason, I’ve been in slow motion in this project.  But yesterday I had a couple of solid hours in the shop and made great progress.

The goal for the weekend was to get the leg indents, leg tip rounding, and cloud lift details added to the skirts and stretchers.  There are two ways I could think of doing this, both start with roughing the shape in using a pattern and a saw.  From there it could be chisels and rasps and sandpaper to clean it up, or a router template.  On the sconces I’ve made I used rasps.  This time I decided to use fixtures.

I showed the leg indents yesterday, this is the fixture I used to produce them.  The fixture sits over the leg like a saddle, has a stop block to position the leg, and a spacer to set the leg at a slight angle so the routed cavity has a depth taper.  The leg fits into the fixture which I clamped in my end vise, then I just route the cavity using a 1/2″ bit and a 1″ guide bushing.

Leg fixture for the "blacker indent" and template for the pillowing of the foot

Leg fixture for the “blacker indent” and template for the pillowing of the foot

Practice leg, good thing I had screwed one up earlier so I could use it to dial in the process.

Practice leg, good thing I had screwed one up earlier so I could use it to dial in the process.

Next up were the skirts and stretchers.  It took some head scratching to figure out how to lay out and machine the fixture.  I ended up using stop blocks and spacers on my tiny router table to cut the details into 3/4″ MDF, then used 1/4″ ply to make the positioning spacers.  The fixture for the stretcher was a little fussier as I had to accommodate shaping two sides of the stretcher.

Skirt fixture

Skirt fixture

Two-sided stretcher fixture

Two-sided stretcher fixture

To use these fixtures I fit the part, traced the edge of the fixture to the part, removed it and sawed away the waste – just leaving the pencil line.  Then the part goes back in the jig and I used a pattern routing bit to machine the final contour into the part.  I was careful to make sure I had the parts properly oriented, it would have sucked to cut the detail into the wrong edge of a part!

In the end, it worked out fabulously.  Making the fixtures took twice as much time as producing the details, but the overall time was faster than a hand-tool-only approach.  And the results are more consistent, because of the interplay between the skirt and stretcher any little deviations would be more apparent.

One skirt and it's corresponding stretcher finished

One skirt and it’s corresponding stretcher finished

I test assemble the table to see how it looks, and to verify that I did everything right so far.  Looks good to my eye.

Table base test assembled

Table base test assembled

I also mocked up the top.  It needs to be trimmed and breadboard ends added, but this is roughly the finished proportions.

Mockup with incomplete top...and lots of missing details

Mockup with incomplete top…and lots of missing details

Unfortunately the only piece of Sapele I have left is a 14″ wide 8 foot board, I don’t want to cut that up to make the 2″ side breadboard ends.  And the wood store is closed today.  I’m a little unsure what to do next.  Sanding the parts is obvious, but not a lot of fun.  The next “big deal” is the silver and abalone inlay, and I’m really nervous about that.  I don’t have enough materials for that part of the job either (unfortunately? fortunately?), but I probably have enough to do a practice part.  That might be a good goal for today.

 

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Blacker Leg Details

I spent an inordinate amount of time prepping the blade in my # 5 1/2 yesterday.  In hindsight, It took forever to get the primary bevel dressed in flat, I think there was a slight difference between the factory grind and the angle I use.  I also had to flatten and polish the back — I’d been using it until yesterday with the factory blade setup.

Smoothing the legs

Smoothing the legs

I wanted to use this plane on the legs because it has the high pitch iron, and this wood has a lot of grain reversals.  An hour and a half to dress the blade, 10 minutes to smooth all four legs.  The shavings are thin and fluffy, almost scrapings.  The legs and smooth, but not glossy like a planed surface.  A light sanding will polish them up nicely.

Then I started the detailing on the legs.  As they are to start, the bottoms of the legs are blocky and not very appealing.  The Greene brothers had some nice styling details, and I really like the treatment I’m using on the legs.  First I made a jig and routed an angled notch into the bottoms.  Then I cut a very slight taper and rounding on the tips.  I think it makes a great improvement.  I still have to sand the legs, breaking all of the edges on the four corners and the notches, and the legs will be ready for the inlay step.

Progression from boring to interesting

Progression from boring to interesting

I like how this is starting to come together, but I’m moving slower than I’d like.  It’s going to take me eons to finish this table if I don’t pick up the pace.

 

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Fallingwater Lamps Finished

I finished off the lamps I was building last night.  I don’t a great pictures of them though, they are hard to get a clear picture of, especially when powered on.  But I like them, one positioned on each of the bed.  It’s not enough light to read a printed book by, but since I read exclusively on my iPad it’s perfect.

One of a pair of Fallingwater lamps I finished

One of a pair of Fallingwater lamps I finished

There are a few things I’ll do differently if I make more of these, including fabricating a brass base instead of a painted wood base.  I might try ebonized walnut for the bottom of the lamp shade support too.  And finally, I need to get a better camera and lighting setup, I’d love to get some first class pictures of my projects as I complete them.  My iPhone does OK for in-progress shots 90% of the time, but it falls short for competed pictures.

Another view

Another view

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Falling Water Bedside Lamp Plans

I spent some time searching for a picture of an original lamp — I had to pick through a lot of copies of the lamp from official reproductions to creations by other hobbyists.  I found some decent images on Flicker.  My goal was to confirm that the plans I’ve drawn up were fairly close to the appearance of the original.

Bedroom at Falling Water showing two of the lamps

Bedroom at Falling Water showing two of the lamps

Close up shot of lamp

Close up shot of lamp

I think I’m close enough to capture the same effect as the lamp.  Their is an article on Popular Woodworking on building this lamp, but it doesn’t have the wings on the back, and the shade is attached to the base with biscuits, which I don’t like in this application.  Instead I’m planning on an insert that will be a slip fit into the inside of the shade.

It looks like the original is brass, and the bottom of the shade is black.  I’m not going to try to re-create the brass base, but instead just have a painted wood base.  If you build one of these please send me a picture, I’d love to see your version.  Here are my plans, I’ll pick up the materials for the base after work and see if I can glue up the bases tonight.

(click on image to download plans)

(click on image to download plans)

In the meantime, I put a (probably) final coat of finish on the shades.  If it looks even after it dries I’ll wax them and call it good.

IMG_2759

 

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Proud Papa

My son has taken to building “Rolling Ball Sculptures”, also known as marble mazes in the last couple of months.  He built one or two of these several years ago on a lark, and lately he’s revisited it with a passion.  He will go out in the shop any chance he gets, bending and twisting bits of 6 gauge copper wire to create complex runs.

His early projects were simple downhills, and with each one he’s added more interesting ball movements, gates and drops.  On this one he formed two copper pans from sheet — all without any coaching or guidance from me.  Everything is soldered together with common lead-free plumbers solder, which makes complex joints tricky without un-soldering something he’s done previously.  But he keeps at it, revising and modifying until he’s happy with it.

This track includes two completely separate runs, a ball switcher to toggle between two paths, and a ball lowering device he designed in addition to the two copper drop pans.  Pretty cool stuff.

Next he wants to incorporate a ball lift so it can continuously cycle marbles.  He’s started building a prototype lift, and it’s kind of challenging — but I expect he will figure it out before long.  I’m really proud of what he’s done all by himself.

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Weekend Update

I worked fairly steadily on the Blacker Table Saturday and Sunday, but there isn’t a lot of progress to show.  I started building the various jigs I’ll need to add in different details like the cloud lifts, leg indent and the spline for the breadboard ends.  Of course I don’t have the right router bit to use for these jobs, so I was stuck.

I also glued up the top for the table, this is going to be a fairly large table — smaller than a dining table but certainly bigger than a side table.  In fact, I scaled it so I could use it as an extension to a dining table if it’s set sideways.  I plan to make a matching dining room table in the future, but frankly I have so many projects I want to do I can’t imagine when that will come up in the rotation.  I do owe someone a bookcase…

Glue up for the top.  The finished size will be a tick over 22" wide by about 36" long with the breadboard ends installed.  This is slightly overlong still, and I'll hand plane it to level the glue line.

Glue up for the top. The finished size will be a tick over 22″ wide by about 36″ long with the breadboard ends installed. This is slightly overlong still, and I’ll hand plane it to level the glue line.

While I was working I kept hearing this noise from the corner of the shop.  It turned out to be a scrap of Claro Walnut calling my name.  I surfaced it, then re-sawed it and glued up two lamp shades for the “Falling Water” bedside lamp.  This is after the first coat of True Oil has been allowed to dry and sanded back with 320 grit.  The miter joint on one of them has a tiny gap where I over clamped, but when it’s all finished I don’t think it will be noticeable.  I’ll make the bases out of MDF and paint them black (the original bases were metal).  Which of course I didn’t have in the right thicknesses either, so another trip to the big box store is in my future.  Playing with this design lead me to look at other Frank Lloyd Wright lamp designs, several of which would be really interesting to build.  But that’s a story for another day.

Two lamp reflectors

Two lamp reflectors

Another view

Another view

FW Lamp

CAD drawing for the lamp. I need a tiny bit of 1/2″ and 1/4″ MDF and maybe a short length of dowel to complete these.

 

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Greene & Greene Blacker House Table Plans

I worked yesterday on the Blacker table, and got the joinery on the base sorted out.  Today I’ll start making the templates for adding in the cloud lifts and leg indents.  As I work through each part of the table I’m updating my plans to correct any errors and add in missing dimensions or additional views that would be useful.

Since I haven’t finished the table I’d bet these aren’t the final plans, but I thought I’d share them anyway in case anyone wants to build this table.  The only missing information I’m aware of at this point is that I need to re-design the inlay pattern for the table top.  I don’t have a great picture of the design on the original, so I may have to wing it.  These are certainly complete enough for any woodworker to build from.  If you do build it, please send me pictures, I’d love to see how yours comes out!

Blacker House Serving Table

Blacker House Serving Table Plans

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Blacker House Table Update

I’m working my way through the mechanics of fitting the joinery for the table.  It’s nice to be able to get into the rhythm of a familiar process.  So far, no major screw ups.

Mortises all cut, this shows the staggered layout pretty well.

Mortises all cut, this shows the staggered layout pretty well.

I started the skirts and stretchers with a nice wide piece of 4/4 rough sawn Sapele.  My thought was to cut each skirt and stretcher from the same length of stock, so the grain match was consistent.  I’ve done that, but in the end this quartersawn Sapele is so uniform that it doesn’t make any difference.  I find it interesting to start with a big stick like this…

12.5" wide 4/4 QS Sapele board I'm using for the skirts and stretchers.

12.5″ wide 4/4 QS Sapele board I’m using for the skirts and stretchers.

…and break it down into accurately machined parts like this.  There was one section of the board that had a chunk out of the surface, which I was careful to avoid, so I had just the right amount of stock,  Since I have a small shop space, it also feels good to be using up material I have on hand, to free up that space.

Skirt and stretcher blanks milled up and ready to have tenons cut.

Skirt and stretcher blanks milled up and ready to have tenons cut.

Next up, the tenon get roughed in.  Again, fairly mechanical work.  My goal was to make tenons slightly over-thick so I can plane each one to fit exactly into a mortise.  I really had to pay attention to make sure I cut the staggers correctly and kept the stretchers matched with their adjacent skirts.

One skirt and stretcher pair

One skirt and stretcher pair

I have half of the joints fit, and am on my way out to the shop once I have some coffee and run my Saturday errands.  The next step will be to cut the cloud lifts into the skirts and stretchers as I move from doing joinery to working on details.

First skirt and stretcher assembly done.  It looks a little weird without the shaping done on the cloud lifts.

First skirt and stretcher assembly done. It looks a little weird without the shaping done on the cloud lifts.  I have a nice tight fit at the shoulders, which is what matters most for me.

Half way there fitting the skirts and stretchers.

Half way there fitting the skirts and stretchers.

For the moment I’m resisting the temptation to start another project, like the Frank Lloyd Wright lamps, so I can focus on this one.  But I noticed some Claro Walnut shorts calling my name in the corner of the shop yesterday.

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Falling Water Bedside Lamp

Brother Cadfael may have had one too many cups of coffee this afternoon.  He thinks this would be a fun project to build with some friends one weekend.  I’ve been wondering what to do with that Eastern Walnut I picked up…

CAD rendering of the bedside lamp from Falling Water

CAD rendering of the bedside lamp from Falling Water

FW Lamp

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