Monday, December 25, 2017

North Bennett Street School Toolbox

Tool box door panel
I have been very busy attending North Bennett Street School full time, and Massbay Community College part time, so I have been inactive on the blog lately.  I finished my first furniture project at North Bennett Street School, and I am excited to write about it. After finishing the 20 drafting exercises, and the five full size furniture drawings that are required of first semester students at NBSS in the Furniture and Cabinet Making program, I began drawing the tool box.

I decided to use poplar for the case, web frame dividers, shiplapped back, and door frame, walnut for the drawer fronts and door panel, and I used soft maple for the drawer sides, backs, and bottoms.

After I cut all of the project components to rough width and length, I milled them to within 1/8" thicker than the final thickness.  I prepared the case sides, top, and bottom glue-ups with spring joints for strength, just like I did with the Chest of Drawers earlier this year.

Match planing the case parts for spring joints
I was able to use just one clamp for each panel.

After taking the case parts out of the clamps, I milled them to final width and length, and planed the inside faces of each of the panels.  Then it was time to dovetail the panels together with through dovetails.  

Sawing carcase dovetails
The case is filled with four drawers for tools.  The case separated into compartments with web frame dividers.  I don't have any media for cutting the stopped dados, building the web frame dividers, or cutting the slot dovetail divider; however, the Chest of Drawers project uses the same joinery on a larger scale, and in solid wood that didn't get painted over later, so this post documents those processes, except it was all done by hand.

Tool box case with web frame dividers in place
and the drawer fronts fitted into their openings
In my drawings, each of the four drawers were the same width.  My thought process was that it would be more efficient to make all of the drawers the same width, and the top and bottom drawers equal length, and the middle two drawers equal length as well.  In reality, each drawer turned out to be a different width and length from the other three, and each drawer had to be fitted individually.  I should have realized that would have been the result, and I could have used planning the tool box as an opportunity to experiment with proportional spacing of drawers. Oh well.

I built the tool box drawers with traditional dovetail joinery.  Half-blind, or lapped dovetail at the front, and through dovetails at the back corners. 

Gang cutting the tails
Chopping out the waste between the tails
Sawing the pins
Coping out the waste between the pins 
Chopping to the baseline

Sawing the pins on the drawers fronts
Chopping out the waste for the half blind dovetails
I documented the time it took me to do each process, and it was about an hour and a half per drawer, so I managed to final mill the drawer parts, fit all four drawers, and dovetail together three of the four drawers in a day. 

Three drawers in the dry fitted stage sitting on top of the case.
The fourth drawer's components are sitting inside the case.
I finished up the fourth drawer the next morning.  Gang cutting the tails drastically reduced the time it took me to cut the dovetails on the drawers.  Also I skipped the 140 trick on the tailboards, which further reduced the time it took, and I don't believe that it came at the cost of sacrificing how well the joinery came out in the end.

All four drawers fitted into the case, with the drawers bottoms in place.

I turned the drawers pulls on the lathe, rather than buying them.  This gave me the ability to customize their design.  They had to fit in the case between the drawer fronts and the interior of the door, without interfering with the positioning of the door.  It was good practice turning a set of eight matching drawers pulls.  They didn't come out perfectly identical, but I have that experience under my belt for next time I have to do it.  Unfortunately, I didn't tale photos or film any of that process.

After the drawers were finished, I made the frame and panel door.  That was a straightforward process, something I had done before, but this time I didn't have to do the majority of the milling of the stock and the joinery by hand.  That resulted in a very accurate door, which came out remarkably flat.

The finishing process for the tool box was a multi-step process.  I have wanted to use a pore filler compound on a project for a long time, and this was a great opportunity to give it a go. I taped off all of the surfaces on the drawers that I didn't want to get pore filler on, and applied a washcoat of varnish on the walnut drawer fronts. After it dried, I grabbed a can of water based pore filler, and a bottle of Transtint orange dye. I measured out an amount of the pore filler compound and mixed the dye into it in a spare container until I was happy with the color.  I used a plastic spreader to smear the compound into the large pores of the walnut.  I let it cure overnight, and sanded it back the next morning. The door panel was finished before the frame was glued together in order to finish the entire surface of the panel, and to avoid ruining the door frame, which got a painted finish.

Finished tool box
While the pore filler was drying, I brushed on a coat of black milk paint onto all of the poplar surfaces that showed.  Then I brushed shellac on the drawer bottoms.  While the finished dried, I returned to the bench room to continue work on the shaker nightstand project that my semester was working on as a group.  I hope to post about that project soon.  I was also working on an original design of a pair of country federal nightstands in addition to the shaker nightstand.  The toolbox case got a second coat of black paint, followed by two coats of thinned red paint.  The effect that I created with this was a burgundy shade of red, with a sort of antiqued or distressed appearance due to the black paint showing through the somewhat transparent coats of red paint on top of it.  I believe it complemented the dark walnut drawer fronts and door panel.  

After sanding back the pore filler on the drawer fronts and door panel, I continued adding coats of varnish to the walnut components until I was satisfied with the luster.  I then proceeded to brush shellac on the rest of the drawers' surfaces, followed by paste wax.  The case received a coat of shellac on the inside and two coats of varnish on the exterior, and it was waxed inside and out.  Once the door panel was finished, it was glued into the frame, which was then handplaned and fitted into the case, then painted.  After it was painted, I inlaid the escutcheon.  The escutcheon was a very exciting process.  I cut a diamond shape from a scrap of walnut and inlaid it into the door over the lock's location.  I framed the walnut diamond with holly stringing.  Before I permanently installed the lock, I drilled a hole for the key, and ragged on two coats of varnish on the door, then some paste wax.  
Detail photo of the escutcheon
I'll add a few extra photos I took after I filled up the drawers with my tools.

Here is a video of my process building the North Bennett Street Tool Box.  In all, I had a great time building this process, and I learned a lot about case construction.  I have so many resources available to me at the school, and the instructors are incredibly helpful.  I am looking forward to the next projects I build at school, and all the other lessons I will receive at the oldest trade school in America.

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.