Posts Tagged With: Blacker Table

cleared a small hurdle

When I started in on the top for the Blacker table the first thing I discovered was that the two boards I’d glued up for it had cupped.  There was roughly a 1/8″ cup over 22″.

Whoops, almost 1/8" gap over the 22" top width.

Whoops, almost 1/8″ gap over the 22″ top width.

Both of the individual boards appeared to have cupped slightly, but part of the problem was the glue joint.  So I decided to rip, re-joint and re-glue the top.  I used cauls to align the two boards for the re-glue.  After 24 hours in the clamps I pulled it and re-checked…it looks good.  Most of the top is dead flat, with a tiny bit of cupping at one corner.

It's flat!

It’s flat!

So I quickly but the tenons and assembled the top with the breadboard ends.

I roughed in the step for the tenons using a dado stack on the table saw, then used a rabbeting plane to dial the fit in just right.

I roughed in the step for the tenons using a dado stack on the table saw, then used a rabbeting plane to dial the fit in just right.

Layout for the tenons - there are four 1.375" long tenons on each end, and a continuous .375" stub tenon to help keep things flat.

Layout for the tenons – there are four 1.375″ long tenons on each end, and a continuous .375″ stub tenon to help keep things flat.

Success, breadboard ends are (mostly) done.  I need to do a little fine tuning and cut the slots for the splines still, but I'm on the downhill side of this.  I'll do the inlay on the top next I think.

Success, breadboard ends are (mostly) done. I need to do a little fine tuning and cut the slots for the splines still, but I’m on the downhill side of this. I’ll do the inlay on the top next I think.

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Blacker Table Top, The Plan

The next step in the construction of the Blacker table is to build the table top.  I’ve already glued up the wood for the main section, but need to run to the lumberyard for some thicker Sapele for the breadboard ends.  In my plans I originally made the top 3/4″ thick and the end caps 7/8″.  When machining the stock I left it thicker, at .930″ because it looked better, but that’s thrown a monkey wrench into my plans.  I need the end caps to be 1/8″ thicker than the top, which I can’t get out of 4/4/ material.  It also complicates making the fixture to cut the slot for the spline.  It seemed like a good idea at the time though, I like the extra visual weight of the thicker top.

I also decided to make the breadboard ends wider, going from 2″ to 2.5″.  This was in part aesthetics, and in part wanting more “meat” for the attachment screws.  The screws hide under the ebony plugs on the outside ends and drive into the tips of the tenons.  Since the tenons protrude 1.375″ into the ends, and I’ll need about a 1/4″ mortise for the ebony plug that leaves me a 1/2″ of wood in between.  Enough, but barely I think.  I may shorten the tenons by another 1/8″ just to be sure.

And finally, I did the layout for the inlay that goes in the top.  It is similar to the design on the legs, 1/16″ Silver wire for the main stem, 1/32″ wire for the smaller stems, silver and copper “buds” and Abalone leaves/petals.  It’s slightly abstract, but I like it.

Design for inlay on top

Design for inlay on top

Updated rendering with all changes

Updated rendering with all changes

So my to-do list includes sourcing wood for the breadboard ends, figuring out the jig to make the spline slots, making the breadboard ends and doing the top inlay.  I’m hoping to get the breadboard ends sorted out tomorrow and get on to the inlay by Sunday, but we have some family plans too so we’ll see how it goes.

 

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Leg Inlay Completed

This was a major milestone for me, in a couple of ways.

The most obvious was completing the inlay.  This was a fair amount of work and a lot of risk to the end product.  Every little twitch of the mini-router could have screwed up the end result.  By the time I got to the 4th leg I was feeling reasonably confident of the process.  On the first leg I didn’t feel in control routing accurately to the scribed line for the petals.  As a result I had some gaps, and several petals required a lot of knife work to fit well.  All things being equal, I’d prefer a perfect fit off the router, or at least a fit that ended up needing knife work to get a snug fit.  By the last leg I was pretty close.

The non-obvious part here is that I didn’t get caught up in the mistakes, even when something went badly wrong I just fixed it as best I could and continued on.  That’s a big deal for me, it’s all to easy to fall into the perfectionist trap where nothing is ever good enough.

So, here is the blow-by-blow without all of the analytical drivel.

I started by indexing the pattern to the part using the ebony plug location, then I added a sheet of Saral transfer Paper in between and traced the pattern with a ball stylus

I started by indexing the pattern to the part using the ebony plug location, then I added a sheet of Saral transfer Paper in between and traced the pattern with a ball stylus

The tracing is for routing the vines and general positioning of the petals.  It’s not nearly accurately enough to route the petals directly.  I used an awl to locate the dots, and traced a circle around the large 3/16″ copper dots to differentiate them from the 1/8″ silver dots.

Completed tracing

Completed tracing, I’m really happy with this transfer paper approach.

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The Abalone petals are temporarily glued down to the leg to make is possible to trace around them to provide a lint to route up to.  I tried using a knife versus a stylus, the knife felt much more accurate, although it was a lot harder to use to trace the outline of the shell.

The three remaining legs traced, Abalone petals temporarily glued down, and petal outlines knifed in.

The three remaining legs traced, Abalone petals temporarily glued down, and petal outlines knifed in.

Once the outline of the shell petals is knifed in I pop them off (that is the intent with using Duco — to provide a imperfect glue up so it can be taken apart).  Then I go over the knife lines to deepen them.  When I route the petal cavities I remove the waste to within maybe 1/32″ of the knife line (less than 1/16″ at least), then slowly sneak up to the line.  As I get close to the line it tends to want to pull the last little bit off right up to the line.  After the petals are excavated I route the stems freehand.  It turns out that a little wiggle in the routed line isn’t visible once the silver is inlaid — it goes in straighter than the wobble in the line and looks fine.  Finally I drill the holes.

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All of the excavation work done

I glue in the petals first, as they may require some tweaking of the opening to get the shell to fit.  By the 4th leg I was either right-on or very close on all of them, only requiring a tiny bit of knife work on the tip of the opening where the router bit won’t reach.  I bought a for-real scalpel and blades from Cincinnati Surgical, it works really well.  The blade is much finer and more flexible than either an X-acto or Swann-Morton craft blades.  I use “super glue” to glue the inlay into the cavities, then do a wash over all the parts with the same glue to fill any little gaps.  I set the depth on the router to leave the inlay about .010″ above the surface of the wood.  The hardest part of this is the short lengths of 1.32″ Silver wire, it is a little tricky to get it into the groove and cut to length.  The dots end up being a little taller than the rest of the inlay at this point, which is not a big deal.

Inlay glued in place

Inlay glued in place

I leave the glue to dry for several hours, then use a Bastard file to level the inlay with the surface of the wood.  Original G&G work would have been slightly proud of the surface I think, but with my glue-fill procedure that wasn’t an option.  I filed until the surface was level, then sanded it through 220 grit.

Flattening the inlay

Flattening the inlay with a file

Tow legs done, one more to go...

Three legs done, one more to go…

The next step is to glue up the base, and then start on the table top.  I guess I have a small boatload of Ebony plugs to prepare too.  I should be able to get pretty close to having the construction done next weekend.

Finished inlay, mocked up with skirts and stretchers

Finished inlay, mocked up with skirts and stretchers

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Inlay progress update

I’m working up to doing the inlay on the actual legs for the Greene & Greene table I’m making.  This is a near reproduction of the serving table from the Robert Blacker house, and the inlay is my biggest challenge in the project.

So to get ready for doing the inlay I have a laundry list of stuff to get ready.  My own personal Sysyphus in three parts.  First off, I wanted to cut all of the Abalone shell for the petals.  I printed several copies of my pattern, cut out the petal patterns, glued the pattern to the shell and glued the shell to some 1/8″ plywood so I had something to hang on to while sawing.  The ply also supports the shell really nicely.

Patterns superglued to the Abalone, the shell is Duco'd to the plywood base.  THe plawood gets removed after sawing.

Patterns superglued to the Abalone, the shell is Duco’d to the plywood base. Tee plywood gets removed after sawing.

I got some new insights into sawing with the Chevy while doing this.  Any time I need to steer particularly accurately — like curves and reverses and when I’m starting to get off the line — the secret is to lift almost all the pressure from the saw blade.  Understand, that I’m never putting pressure on the blade, I’m always lifting the weight of the frame, this is a subtle thing.

In sawing out the parts I messed up two petals, somehow getting way out of control.  I re-cut these.  Overall I’m pleased with the shell cut outs,  I’m off the pattern here and there, but it’s a tiny amount and it doesn’t matter at all as long as the shell fits well into the cavity I’ll excavate for each part.  This went reasonably quickly, and with a little background music it was a pleasant way to pass some time.

All of the abalone parts cut out for the leg inlay.  There will be more for the table top when I get to that step.

All of the abalone parts cut out for the leg inlay. There will be more for the table top when I get to that step.

As I got this boulder to the top of the hill I looked ahead at the next steps.  Then legs need to be sanded and have the edges rounded before I can start in on the inlay.  Lots of little cleanup tasks to do.  I’m not a fan of sanding, I’m thinking of splurging one of these days to get a HEPA vacuum and sander combo as I really hate getting covered in fine wood dust.

As the boulder rolls down the hill I was thinking about transferring the inlay layout to the leg.  For the practice piece I used a technique I’ve used before.  I covered the wood in blue tape, then used spray adhesive to glue the pattern to the blue tape.  That works OK for routing the grooves and positioning the petals relative to the stems, but it’s a “fail” for scribing the outline of the shell pieces to the wood.  So I am going to try transfer paper to trace the pattern onto the wood.

I did a quick “test” to see how the stuff works, and it surprised me.  The transfered marks are clear and crisp (crisp enough for routing the stems and positioning of the petals).  They also don’t rub off, I was concerned they would be smeary like pencil or carbon paper.  I’ll Duco the petals to the wood and scribe around them to get the exact shape for the cavity I need to excavate.

Quick "test" with the transfer paper

Quick “test” with the transfer paper

Transfer paper and ball-end scribe.  The paper comes in half a dozen different colors, I got white and blue which should cover most woods I work with.

Transfer paper and ball-end scribe. The paper comes in half a dozen different colors, I got white and blue which should cover most woods I work with.

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Cutting the shell

Holy Abalone.  I’m really nervous about doing the inlay for this table I’m building.  I’ve never done inlay on a real project, and this feels fairly risky.  It could ruin the table or it could make it great, and the difference is how nicely the inlay fits.  So, I have to either do it or not, and I’m going for it.

The first step is to cut out the 32 little pieces of Pau Abalone for the petals.  The shell blanks are maybe 3/4″ by 1″ or so — they are irregular shapes.  I cut the pattern out with a scalpel, leaving the line.  I also quickly realized I don’t have enough shell for the job.  Rats.

Some of the patterns cut out.  The inlay goes on the front faces of the legs -- only four sides total.  8 unique pieces per inlay design, 32 pieces total then.

Some of the patterns cut out. The inlay goes on the front faces of the legs — only four sides total. 8 unique pieces per inlay design, 32 pieces total then.

I super-glued the patterns to the shell, trying to orient as many per blank as I could — while avoiding the boring areas of the shell.  This stuff is really pretty, but a bit spendy, about $50 per ounce and I’ll need a bit over one ounce…assuming I don’t screw any up.

Patterns glued down.  At least patterns for three legs, more Abalone is on it's way.

Patterns glued down. At least patterns for three legs, more Abalone is on it’s way.

I have two options for cutting these out.  I could use a jeweler’s saw and bench hook, or the chevalet.  The problem with both is hanging onto the little pieces of shell.  It’s really brittle, and using the jeweler’s saw I’ve had pieces snap off, plus I’m more comfortable with the chevy.  But how to hang onto these?

I made a cup of skull & crossbones espresso and thought about it.

Pirate Espresso

Pirate Espresso

What if I glued the little shell blanks to something so I could hang onto them?  I had a scrap of 1/8″ plywood in the shop, leftover from god-only-knows-what.  I tried gluing a shell blank to the plywood, and cutting the whole affair out.

Blanks glued to thin plywood

Blanks glued to thin plywood

On your mark, get set

On your mark, get set…

and go!

and go!

It actually works pretty well.  The wood gives me something to hang on to, and does a nice job supporting the shell so it doesn’t crack while I’m sawing it.  I’m even using the coarse 32tpi blades, look at me go!

The trick here is to use a glue that just barely holds the shell to the wood.  Duco seems to be the ticket, it dries pretty quickly and with a little care seems to hold the shell well enough to cut, but still pops off easily.  It’s the same stuff I’ll use to hold the cut shell in place on the leg to scribe around them.

Duco, cheezy glue is the key

Duco, cheezy glue is the key

The sawing goes fairly quickly, when I get a little block of shop time I should be able to knock these out in less than an hour.  This is also pretty low risk, I might ruin $5 worth of Abalone with a bad cut, but until I take a router to the table legs I’m safe.

The first three petals cut.  I'm not exactly on my line in a couple of spots, but since each one gets scribed and fit individually it's OK as long as the shape is not distorted.

The first three petals cut. I’m not exactly on my line in a couple of spots, but since each one gets scribed and fit individually it’s OK as long as the shape is not distorted.

I need to figure out a few more things before I pick up the inlay router, so I have a few more experiments to try still…

 

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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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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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