Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flu Schmlu

Well, half the class was down sick throughout the past month, myself included, and it took me a while to feel like I made enough progress to post a decent update.

While trying to get my momentum back (and to procrastinate on another design decision) I made a 1/16" chisel. My dad gave me a set of old needle files he found in his shop, they have been perfect for making small chisels and knives, just the right size and keep a good sharp edge.

I did make one of these last year but shaft wasn't long enough to rest against the chopping block while chopping dovetails. The handle is leftover tulipwood from the plane I made earlier.

So by this time the boxwood was dry but the piece I was milling for the frame members was from a different plank than what I had already used for the rest of the cabinet. When I cut into it some curly grain pattern and strong prismatics appeared. The colour was also quite different and all this would have taken away from the piece on a whole. I had to decide weather to just go with it or spend time taking what I had left of the original plank and laminating a 1/8" skin over the curly stuff.

The curly pieces.

Original straight grain on the left, the other on the right.

I decided to do the skinning.

In the mechanical press.

The skinning went pretty well, no gaps and well worked out grain graphics.

The frames for the sides and doors are joined with twin floating tennons about 1/8" thick and one small dowel in front of what will be the rabbet for the glass.

Having never used it before, I wanted to experience the XY table on the boring machine. The process was fairly quick and easy.

I had to make a dowel centre out of drill-rod to locate the small dowel holes on each piece. Something I learned from Fergal last year.

The panels for the sides of the cabinet are located almost in the centre of the frame member. To transfer the dowel position from one piece to the other, I used a shim to raise the locating jig to the right position on the frame.

There was no dowel stock the size of the holes I drilled, so Robert showed me how to size them by hammering larger dowels through the correct size hole drilled into brass.

I used the same shim used for doweling to locate the position for the rabbet in the panels so it lined up with the rabbet in the frame members.

Rabbets cut, time to start putting on finish.

5 coats of super-blonde shellac and 2 coats of wax brought out all the detail and shimmer in the sycamore but left the colour looking natural.

There was a decent bit a progress over the last couple weeks but I still have a way to go. I discovered a bit of an issue today fitting all the parts together, the step between one panel and frame member is a bit uneven and it is pretty noticible. It must have happend while planing and I forgot to check it as I was going along. With the parts now all with finish on them, I either have to scrape off the finish and plane the rest of the members down to the same thickness or saw the skin off and find another piece with matching grain to glue back on. I'll have to wait until Monday and get some advice from the master.

Please visit the school blog as well to see what's going on at the school, we try to do an update every week or so.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Good News and Bad News

Progress has been somewhat stunted by the still wet Boxwood in the kiln. I pulled it out a few days ago, the meter said it was dry but when I cut into it on the bandsaw it did the banana. I need it for all the frame members for the sides and doors, maybe I should have made the cabinet curved, then all the bending would have been done for me, heh.

But.... the marquetry is now done and went pretty well! I don't have any finished pictures yet but here are some progress ones.

Cutting out the leaf parts.

Robert insisted that I move the scroll saw from the crowded and noisy machine room to his benchroom. It was a very peaceful week.

Joining the leaf-halves together. I think there were about 25 or more (It seemed like more).

Using the template to place the leaves on the background veneer.

I had mixed feelings about seeing the boxwood with holes in it. Seemed shameful to cut out pieces of it, but I think the results were worth it.

The finished veneers and substrates ready to go into the press.

Cutting off what will become the applied edges of the side panels.

I guiltlessly used the Lie-Neilsen #62 metal plane to surface the marquetry which worked very well. The shavings showed the leaf shapes in the boxwood.

A sort of breakthrough happened this past week. I have to admit that I was never really able to get completely enjoyable results from my wooden smoothing plane. Even after taking it to Robert a number of times to troubleshoot it, I just felt like there was something I was doing wrong. So I picked it up again to surface the top and bottom of the cabinet, determined to make it work, and something clicked. I honed the perfect edge on the iron (with a bald spot on my arm to prove it), was able to set it up just right, and the perfect, fluffy, full-length, full-width shavings came out. I was left with a flat, smooth, reflective surface with no ridges or track marks. It was one of the most satisfying and fun days I have had working on a project so far.
I don't know what changed, weather, attitude, ability, luck. It was the same day that JK's cabinet arrived at the school, maybe some of his energy was here with it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A little surprise in my sandpaper drawer. Had to save it from the bottom of Steve's shoe.

I made this plane out of a piece of Tulipwood while working on the box. The finished one is for doing edge treatment. The other half will be a compass-plane in the future.


Substrates and Veneers

Things are moving along at a slow but steady pace. I've done all I can do to procrastinate getting into the marquetry, so I will be starting it tomorrow. 
No major mishaps yet. The thickness planer gave me a little trouble and shrunk the cabinet by almost an inch with it's snipiness. One lesson I keep learning over and over again is to be flexible with the design so to be able to adapt when these things happen.

After having success with lumber-core substrates in the veneered cabinet I did last year, I decided to use them again for this piece. After gluing them together it can be treated as a solid piece of wood.

They are made of 3/4" strips of poplar, each strip is oriented so that the grain alternates.

The thickness planer has had a lot of use lately and decided to take a chunk out of one of the substrates. It was repaired by gluing a snipe-shaped piece in the divot and flushing it off.

Once the substrates are cut to dimension, they are cross-banded with commercial aspen veneer.

These will be the two side panels, and top and bottom of the cabinet. "Bake-ins" were glued over the end-grain of the top and bottom before the cross-banding went on to provide a good glue surface for the edges that will go on after the veneers.

Sycamore veneers.

Boxwood. See the fourth one from the right?...planer ate it.

First critical glue-up!

Friday, October 9, 2009


A big load of wood came to the shop a few weeks ago which included several big planks of curly sycamore. After scrubbing one of the planks, I soon decided to use it for the interior of the cabinet.

It took a long time to decide on a wood for the exterior that would go well with the sycamore. I kept avoiding the boxwood as it was unimpressive at first glance and quite pricey, but after revealing what was under the plain, rough surface, it turned out to be a perfect match.
Sadly the boxwood turned out to be pretty wet still. The first few slices were checked and almost curled off the bandsaw. It is in the kiln now. It feels like I sent it to the hospital, checking on it every day, making sure it is getting better, hoping for a speedy recovery.

"Mock it up"

Just happened to have a cabinet-sized box under my bench to use as a starting point for the dimensions for my current project.
Glass doors with glass on the sides and a panel of marquetry within a frame.

Laying out the sycamore leaves for the panel.

First project of the year

I wanted to do a warm up project to get back into working with the machines and tools after a summer off. It was a great feeling ,after spending so much time last year on a similar size project, to finish this one in two weeks. I am pretty happy with the outcome.

Like my first box, I used lacewood and mendocino cypress, the bottom is arbutus.