Sunday, May 10, 2015

Finished Nightstands

Sorry about the lack of posts lately, I have been very busy and I have been pretty much buried in schoolwork the last few weeks.  I finally had some time to write a post on the work I have been doing recently.
The nightstands in their rightful places
I finally finished the nightstands.  Sorry I don't have any pictures of the process of building or finishing them.  I promise I will do better to document the process for the projects I do from here on out.
The tiger maple nightstand matches the maple bed frame
The tiger maple nightstand was a lot of work, but I learned a few things to make my next project with tiger maple a little easier.  As expected, the figure made it very difficult to handplane because anything less than 55˚ or so created a lot of tearout.  I needed to use my No. 6 with a toothed iron to prevent it.  Next time I work with tiger maple I will use my No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane with a toothed iron, and I won't have to constantly switch blades on my No. 6.  To make matters worse, the boards kept cupping and twisting after I had dimensioned them.  I don't think I let the boards acclimate long enough.  A good rule of thumb for acclimation is cut your boards to rough length and width and let them sit for at least two weeks.  I only gave them a week or so. Lesson learned. I'll make sure to let my boards sit for much longer next time.

I used my favorite finish for tiger maple on this nightstand.  To prepare the surface, I scraped any areas with tearout, then raised the grain with some water and sanded to 400 grit.  This was an essential step because I used a water based aniline dye.  I used W.D. Lockwood's amber maple thinned down a fourth of the recommended concentration.  I brushed on five coats and wiped down the access as soon as possible so that only the figure soaks in the dye, followed by light 400 grit sanding.  After that, I ragged on two coats of a 2:1 blend of polyurethane varnish to mineral spirits, rubbing it down with #0000 steel wool. Somehow that always makes the figure really pop.  Then, I added a coat of paste wax.
Cherry nightstand and its companion, my cherry bed frame
The cherry nightstand went much smoother.  It is an easier wood to plane, and it's more stable.  I still stickered the boards after rough dimensioning them and let them sit for the proper two weeks to acclimate.  The one caveat to working with cherry is that you need to be aware of how brittle it is.  I had to make several repairs to blown or chipped out areas because cherry splits very readily.  This is something you need to be careful about with any species of wood, but cherry is even easier more susceptible to spelching than others.

I decided that I wanted to french polish this nightstand.  French polishing is a very labor intensive process, but it is very rewarding.  I prepared the surface by scraping any torn-out areas, and sanded to 400 grit, but there was no need to raise the grain this time, because I was not using a water based finish.  I will make a dedicated series of posts to explain the method, but here it is in short.  Step 1: fill the pores.  This can be done a few ways, just brushing on shellac, using pumice stone and shellac, or paste wood filler.  Step 2: body up.  After the pores are filled, move the applicator over the surface in a figure eight pattern across the wood.  You should add alcohol and shellac to the applicator in equal amounts.  Step 3: spirit off.  After the shellac has cured, use a fresh applicator doused in alcohol to remove any oil on the surface of the finish.  Or, like me, you can cut corners and just wipe down the surface with mineral spirits.  I do not have the room to make a more detailed lesson on french polishing right now, so I suggest that you search the internet and Youtube to get a more in-depth explanation of the process, and soon enough I will post my own method here on the blog.  

So that's what I've been up to lately.  I will be back soon to update you all on what else I am working on.  On Thursday I am flying to Amana to go to Handworks.  It looks like a great line up of demonstrators there, and an intriguing presentation by Roy Underhill on the axe.  Last but not least, as you all have probably heard, the Studley tool chest is on exhibit nearby.  It sounds like it's going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it, so I am very lucky to be able to go and see it.  I am super excited and I will report back with news on the weekend. Happy woodworking!