Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Real World Can be Frustrating

We all know the expression "strike while the iron is hot."  Just as well you must also strike while the glue is hot.  There are plenty of videos on the internet that discuss in length hammer veneering.  What experience teaches you is there is a lot of work behind the scenes when it comes to a proper veneer application.

Today, I began hammer veneering the cherry onto the Chest of Drawers, but something went horribly wrong.  I think the glue was not hot enough, or too thick of a consistency; therefore, it lost it tack. The veneer turned into the mountainous landscape you see below.


The veneer did not stick onto the substrate and began curling up.  Despite all my attempts to get the veneer to stay flat, I ended up with it peeling up at the sides, and air bubbles underneath the surface.  I even tacked down one end to keep it from lifting off an sliding around, but it didn't help.  After several curses, I cleaned up, melted the glue back down, and took a break.

A little later I picked up a piece of flat, plain sawn wood cherry, honed my smoothing plane, and took a stroke across the board.  Instant relief.  I continued to plane away, producing a bundle of pink-orange shavings by the time I was finished. 

When all of your hard work and planning crumbles down before you, it seems like the end of the world.  It's ok to curse and yell, but I know at least for me, I need to remove myself from the situation and find something to take my mind of the stress and pain.  Today that was planing a piece of cherry.  

In that moment, nothing was wrong, and the product of my work was what I might consider perfection.  Although it wasn't a project component working well, just having something go right reassured me that there are things I am able to do correctly, which will help me rebound from this and start fresh tomorrow.

Tomorrow I'll have to cut three more veneers, and make a fresh batch of glue because I used almost all of what I made today on this one case side.  But I will go into it with a positive mindset, and hopefully produce a result that I am satisfied with enough to put my name on.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Joiner and Cabinetmaker Chest of Drawers – Part 5



I milled the stock for all of the drawers, and I sharpened all of my tools for dovetailing.  The first step with the drawer parts is to plane a groove on the inside face 3/8 of an inch from the bottom edge.  I used my plow plane with a 1/4 inch wide iron.  It's tricky to adjust the depth of the cutter, and the fence has a tendency not to move back and forth and remain parallel, so I tune it in on a piece of scrap.  I also dialed in the depth stop on the test piece.

Testing out the plow plane settings on a piece of scrap
After that has been done, I use my marking gauge and mark the baselines for all of the tails.  Then I use my shoulder plane to cut a rabbet freehand on the ends of the tailbaords, on the inside face, just like I did on the case.  After that, I set my marking gauge to the new thickness of the tailboards, and scribe the baselines for the pins.

Rabbeting the ends of the tailboard
With the rabbets cut, I can gang cut the tails.  The process is the same as before, but this time the tails will be visible.  There is a half tail at the bottom of the drawers that provides support for the drawer bottom groove.  The back corners have 1/2 tails fewer than the front corners.  I made the rear dovetails wider with larger spaces between them to make the joints at the back go by faster.  The dovetails at the front are going to be visible, so I used narrower spaces between the tails to give it a more aesthetically appealing design.  The drawers are going to get a cherry face applied to them, so I used through dovetails to make this process go by faster.  

Sawing the tails

Removing the waste between the tails with a coping saw
Chiseling to the baseline
I then transfer the dovetails to the ends of the pinboards with a marking knife.  I used a pencil instead of a knife to scribe the square line down from the pin.  I find that if I have to trim the sides of the pins, a knife line traps the chisel in it, even if I want to remove waste before the knife line.  A pencil line gives me the freedom to pare away material right where I need to.  I saw the pins with my dovetail, and cope out the waste, then chisel the rest of the waste to the baseline.

Sawing the pins

Coping out the waste

Chopping to the baseline
After chopping to the baseline, I test fit the joints.  I carve out a bevel on the inside corner of the dovetail to make inserting the dovetail easier, and it also prevents the hard corner from mashing the pins, or the pins from crushing the corner of the tail.  Even though half of the pinboard's faces will be covered by the drawer face application, it is a good practice.

Carving out a bevel on the tailbaord
Since there were five drawers to make, I got into a rhythm and cut one drawer about every two hours. Gang cutting the tails makes the process much more efficient.  If I was to guess, I would say sawing the tails goes by in half the time than if I sawed each tailboard individually, especially since I gang coped out the waste between the tails. My sawing was warmed up, and I sawed as close to the knife lines as I could, and I sawed each cut plumb, so all of my dovetails came together with no extra fitting.  Before gluing the drawers together, I smooth planed the inside faces of the drawers, and cut off the bottom edge of the drawer backs, and I used the groove as a guide for planing away the saw marks.  
Smooth planing the inside face of the drawers

Gluing the drawers with hide glue

The next day, I fit the drawers into their openings.  First, I planed the bottom edges around the drawers to be coplanar, then the top edges.  I planed the drawer sides until the drawer fit into its opening.  Since three of the drawer fronts are longer than my bench is tall, I had to get creative with securing it to my bench for planing.  I resolved to use two holdfasts in the bench's leg, and a clamp across the benchtop.  Having a bench with legs flush to the top's edge is very important for things like this.  I definitely recommend for those looking for a new bench to build their own.

Planing the bottom edge of the drawers
Planing the drawer sides  
Usually one corner of the drawer was proud of the drawer's opening.  I scribed a line around the drawer with a marking knife to guide my plane when I planed the faces flush.
Scribing around the drawer

Planing the drawer front flush

Five completed drawers

Friday, May 12, 2017

Joiner and Cabinetmaker Chest of Drawers – Part 5



The back of the chest uses frame and panel construction.  Since I have already showed the process for milling stock and mortise and tenon joinery, the only new process to this segment of the project is raising a panel this will be a short blog post.

The finished frame and panel back
The first thing I do is cut a rabbet around the entire panel, as wide as the depth of the groove on the edges of the rails and stiles and cutting stopping when I have reached the width of the groove.  I will talk about cutting grooves by hand in the next blog post, because I wasn't pleased with the footage I took of the process while I was doing them for the back.

Cutting a rabbet around the perimeter of the panel
Then I take my jack plane and, skewing it slightly, remove material towards the bottom of the rabbet, and an inch and a half inwards from the edge of the board.  When I approach the bottom of the rabbet I take my jointer plane, skew it even more, and plane the angled part of the board until I am at my depth and have a flat plane all the way back to the line I scribed an inch and a half in from the edges and ends of the panel.
Starting to raise the panel with a jack plane

Following the jack plane with a jointer plane to smooth the bevels
It's important to cut with the grain when planing the long grain bevels, or else you'll get a ton of tearout.  For me this meant leaning across the board to plane it if I wanted to plane right-handed.  The jointer plane leaves a flat surface and a finer finish than the jack plane, plus in all, it took about ten minutes each panel start to finish so the extra steps, and one more plane iron to hone at the end is all worth it.

Cutting the long grain bevels

Friday, May 5, 2017

Joiner and Cabinetmaker Chest of Drawers – Part 4

The next step for the Chest of Drawers was initially going to be the back, but I decided to make the drawers divisions sit in blind dadoes, so the drawer divisions had to come before the back was put in. I cut the rabbets on the case sides before any layout was done for the dadoes.  I used my shoulder plane to cut the wide, deep rabbet, and worked my way down to the scribe line.

Cutting the rabbet with a shoulder plane

I marked out one wall of the dado, then put the edge of the drawer divider up to that line, and marked for the other wall.  I can't use a fractional measurement because I dimensioned the stock by hand, so it did not come out to exactly the thickness I was shooting for, nor were the two faces perfectly parallel.  I used chisels to do the coarsest excavation of the waste, and established a consistent depth with the router plane. 

Using the router plane to cut the dados to a consistent depth

I then turned my attention to the joinery for the drawer divisions.  I used web frame dividers, and the drawer runners are mortise and tenoned into the dividers.  Since there is a dovetailed partition between the top drawer frame, the drawer runner in the center of the top drawer runner has a split tenon to go around the dovetail's socket, not through it.  The mortise was too short in length to chop it out all by hand, and still be able to efficiently excavate the waste, so I chucked a 1/4 inch auger into my brace, and bored out the mortise and finished up the walls with chisels.  


Boring the mortises with the brace

Squaring the mortise with a mortise chisel

The other drawer runners are joined with a joint similar to a mortise and tenon joint, but one wall of the mortise is free.  This makes chopping out the other six mortises much quicker.

Chopping the mortises on either end of the drawer divisions

Then I cut the tenons with my tenon saw, and cut the cheeks off with the flush cut saw and a guide block, just like I did for the tenons joining the top rails.

Sawing tenon cheeks

Once the mortise and tenons had been cut and fit, I glued the web frames together overnight.  The next day, I cut the slot dovetails for the dovetailed partition.  The dado is 1/8 inch deep, and serves mainly to capture the partition, and prevent it from racking.  The dovetail is only 5/8 inches deep, so it does not provide very much resistance to sideways stress.  I define the walls of the dado with a knife, and excavate the waste coarsely with a chisel, and establish the final depth with a router plane.

Roughing in the slot dovetail's dado with a wide chisel

Establishing the final depth with the router plane

After the dado is cut, I mill a small strip of wood that is as thick as the dado is deep. This is so that I can use one marking gauge setting to scribe the bottom of the dovetail socket, and the baseline for the dovetail because I can put the strip of wood on the end of the tailboard when I scribe the baseline for the dovetail. I have found that this is much more accurate than measuring the depth of the dovetail socket minus the depth of the dado.

The thin strip of wood is as thick as the dado is deep

scribing the depth of the dovetail socket

Scribing the dovetail's baseline using the strip of wood as a spacer

After the baseline has been scribed, I cut off the dovetail's shoulder, and pare away the waste to the baseline.

Sawing the depth of the dovetail

Sawing the shoulder of the dovetail

Paring to the baseline 

After the shoulder has been established, I mark out the slope of the dovetail, and saw the tail, and remove the waste.
Sawing the dovetail's sloped sides

Sometimes a little bit of paring has to be done to the slope of the tail, so I clean up the tails if I have to, then slide the tailboard into the dado, clamp it in place, and use a pencil to transfer the marks onto the dividers.  I use a pencil, because very little of the divider's edge will be planed away, so the knife line will most likely be left behind, and it will make it look like there are gaps in the dovetail.

Marking the dovetail onto the drawer divisions

I then square line into the dado, and saw the walls of the dovetail socket.  I pare away the waste with a chisel, but tilt the chisel towards the dovetail's slope, to help prevent any waster from bruising the corner of the socket.
Sawing the dovetail socket

Chiseling out the waste at an angle to prevent break out on the corner

I try to saw as close to the pencil line as I can without removing it.  It is difficult to trim the dovetail joint without cutting against the grain.  When a slot dovetail is assembled, the cross grain orientation of the joint means that there is little compression in the joint if there is any fat preventing a good fit.  Usually what happens instead is the fragile corners of the dovetail socket crack or break off, and this can also happen when disassembling the joint, so I try my best not to force the joint.

Dry fitting the slot dovetail partition. The pencil line on the left
of the tail looks like a gap, but will get planed away later

There is a specific order in which the divisions and the partition must be assembled and glued together.  First the case's four sides must be glued together, and then the case's edges must be planed around to make sure they are all coplanar.  After that, the divisions can be glued in, and after the glue has cured, the high edges can be planed down to the same level of the case's edges.  This ensures the drawers' fronts will be flush with the case's edge and the drawers divisions.  After the divisions have been flushed to the edges, the dovetail can be inserted, with glue if the fit is any bit sloppy, but it's not one-hundred-percent necessary.  After the dovetail has been fit, it can be flushed to the divider's edges.

Making the edges of the case coplanar

Gluing in the drawer divider, with the dovetailed partition slipped in dry to make
sure the divisions are glued in the way they will set when everything is assembled.





























Saturday, April 29, 2017

Joiner and Cabinetmaker Chest of Drawers by hand – Part 3

With the case pieces milled to their final sizes, it's now time to join them together with hand cut dovetails.  In order to keep track of the parts, I mark a cabinetmaker's triangle on the reference edges of the boards.  In my opinion, it is the most efficient, easiest way to keep track of case parts for dovetailing.  

Cabinetmaker's triangles keep track of case sides

Before I lay out and cut the dovetails, I use the "140 trick," a shallow rabbet on the end of the tailboard to make it easier for the tailboard to register on the corner of the pin board when I am transferring the tails onto the pinboard.  I use either a shoulder plane, or No. 140 skew rabbet plane to cut the rabbet.

Using a shoulder plane to cut the shallow rabbet on the tailboard
I cut my dovetails tails first, and sandwich the two tailboards together to "gang cut them."  The most consistent way to mark out the spacing for dovetails is with a pair of dividers.  Since the chest was going to be veneered, I cut 6 very wide tails, and one half tail, which will cover up the rabbet holding the case's frame and panel back in place. I then used a combination square and dovetail marker to draw the angle of the dovetail, I used a 1:6 slope, and a square line across the end of the boards.

Laying out the spacing of the dovetails with dividers. 
Gang cutting the dovetails.
I use a coping saw and chisels to remove the waste between the tails.  In The Joiner and Cabinetmaker, Thomas uses a chisel to remove the waste between the pins and tail because the coping saw was not invented yet, but I used the coping saw as it provided a modern convenience. The important thing is that it is still a hand tool.
Coping out the waste between the tails.

This is as close as i try to get with the coping saw.

Cutting the shoulder.  It is important to use the full length of the saw.

Chopping to the baseline.
I propped up the end of the tailboard with a block of wood to make it easier to position it on the end of the pin board when I transferred the tails onto the pinboard.  I use a spear point marking knife to transfer the marks, not a pencil.  A knife has no kerf and you know exactly where to saw; whereas, a pencil can mark next to the nail not right on it, which could result in a gap.  Then I mark a line square to the end of the board to define the pins.

Transferring the tails to the pinboard with a marking knife.
I then saw to the baseline, cope out the waste, and chisel to the baseline.
Sawing the pins.
Coping out the socket.
Most of the time when you thickness lumber by hand, the faces of the boards aren't perfectly parallel. Usually what results from that is the pins on one portion of the joint are flush, and on another portion they are proud or below the surface of the tailboard.
Pins are proud of the surface of the
tailboard on the right side of the joint
Pins are flush with the tailboard on the left side of the joint.
The rails that hold the top of the case together have drawer kickers mortised into their edges.  I chopped out the 1/4 inch mortises with a mortise chisel, and cut the tenons on the kickers with my tenon saw. These joints are easier than mortise and tenons that join aprons to legs on a table because the joints aren't really seen, so the fit of the tenon's shoulders don't have to be perfect.
Chopping the mortise in the rail
Sawing the tenon
I cut the tenon's shoulder with a flush cut saw and a guide block.  Here is another modern convenience I am using that Thomas didn't have.  I knew that using the flush cut saw and a guide block would be an accurate way to saw the tenon's shoulder by hand, and leave only a little but of wood left to pare down to the baseline, plus I just bought the flush cut saw and I was excited to use it for the first time on a real project.

Sawing the tenon's shoulder with a flush cut saw and guide block
This Chest of Drawers is starting to take shape.  I was able to glue the top rails and the kickers together, but the rest of the case can;t be glued together until I cut the rabbets on the back edge of the case sides, and the dadoes for the drawer dividers, which I will cover in the next blog post.