Monday, March 11, 2013

[Adirondack Chairs] - A Slight Detour

The girls school has their annual basket raffle to raise money for their field trips, so I took some time off from finishing the Schoolbox to build Adirondack Chairs for the raffle. I got a great reaction to the chairs that were built out of Cedar last year, so this year I thought I would take it to the next level and do them in Sapele Mahogany. I've got to be honest. I found working with Cedar much more difficult. It chips and dents just looking at it.  and a lot of time was spent fixing little issues. And it wasn't really that much cheaper than to using sapele.

No pictures of the build progress this time as I was pressed to get these done. I finally tracked the amount of time spent to build each chair from beginning to end and was amazed at how much time it takes. I clocked in at roughly 40 hours each. But that wasn't racing to get them done either.  I tried to work efficiently without sacrificing attention to detail. I'm a firm believer in the "Go slower .... it's faster" mantra. And I still have all of my fingers. I'm sure I could cut down that time with more careful attention to process, but this is for fun anyway.

Here are the details:
- Chairs are made of Sapele Mahogany
- Stainless steel carriage bolts and screws
- Titebond III Waterproof glue
- 2 coats of McCloskey's Man-O-War Marine Spar Varinsh (Satin Finish)

So it's back to finishing the Schoolbox, and another project that I started and never finished.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

[Schoolbox] - The End Is In Sight

Ok. So it has been a while since last post. I'll blame it on the Holiday's. Work has been sporadic on the box. However, I have been able to made progress and have managed to take some pictures along the way. So this will be the condensed version of the progress.

I left off last time with building the small partition which acts like a removable shelf. I cut the partition 1/8" oversize and created a stopped dado with a router plane. 

After fine tuning the partition fit, I also fitted and attached the bottom to the partition with a little glue and some cut nails.

Next was the installation of the butt hinges. I had planned to do an entire post just on installing them. However, that 'll need to wait for another day. 

I chose to mortise the hinges with a router and an exacto knife. Temporary screws are holding the lid on until the good ones can be installed after the finish is applied.

To align the hinge mortises, I positioned the box lid where I wanted it and then carefully created  tick marks on either side of the box mortise with an exacto knife.

Here is a picture of the finished hinges. The screw holes were drilled with a vix bit to ensure they are perfectly centered. They are ready to accept the finish screws after the shellac is applied.


My first try at butt hinges came out fairly well after a lot "hand-wringing". I'm pleased with the effort.

With the hinges out of the way I turned my attention to the decorative molding around the lid. This step was trickier that I thought it would be in order to get nice tight corners. Since the moulding is installed lower than the thickness of the lid, clamping was a challenge. 

Getting the proper length and angle on the molding was tricky with the chop saw. I have to remember to build a 45 degree fixture for my shooting board so it's easier to sneak up on the fit.

The next job was to mortise the latch for the lock in the inside of the lid. I made this job more difficult that it needed to be by not tackling it before installing the lid moulding. I marked out carefully with the exacto knife again and used a combination of small router plane and router. I planed down a piece of would that served as a rail for this operation.

And here are a few pictures of the Schoolbox thus far. 





So on to the final stages. I need to do some file work on the key hole with the escutcheon installed, and then start final sanding prep for the shellac finish.

Thanks for looking. 
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

[Schoolbox] - Attaching the Bottom and the Quiet After the Storm

The Hurricane Sandy chaos has finally subsided a bit, and I'm able to take a break from feeding the gas generator. We were among the fortunate. The destruction just 15 minutes north and east of Freehold is truly frightful. We only lost a few trees and suffered some fence damage, and lost power for only 4 days. It seems frequent and violent storms are the new normal in the Northeast. This is the third time in 2 years we have lost power for multiple days. I learned with this storm that there is definately a type of fatigue that occurs from the stress of a situation. You don't even realize it when you're living it. For those who haven't seen the devistation along our shore. We hope everyone is safe and has a speedy recovery.

I counted my many blessings, put on some relaxing music, and dove back in to the Schoolbox. For just a little while I was able to forget about the destruction left by Sandy.

On to attaching the bottom to the sides. Now keep in mind this project is supposed to be built with 19th century methods. So attachment of the base is with hide glue and cut nails. Grain orientation of the bottom runs from front to back as discussed in "The Joiner" to account for seasonal swelling and shrinking. However, I went with a left to right grain orientation because I don't think this box will experience a variety of temperature changes. My air conditioning goes on in March and doesn't get turned off until November.

First step is to apply hide glue to the front and a bit down the sides of the bottom. This should allow for some expansion and contraction since the remainder of the bottom will be attached with traditional cut nails. At this stage the bottom is left proud of the sides and will be made flush with the sides after it is attached. 

You can just about make out the hide glue facing the front of the box

Clamping the bottom to the sides after gluing just the front

While the glue was setting up on the front, I began installing the cut nails. Here I'm using 4d headless brads that I was able to purchase in small quantity from Tools for Working Wood.  I carefully drilled pilot holes for these nails on the diagonal. Nailing on the diagonal is a way to get a little more strength.

Cut nails have a wedge and it's important to configure it to match the direction of the grain

Dividers are used to get exact spacing after the left-most and right-most nails are in 

Nails are angled for extra holding stremgth then nailed home with a nail set

Once the bottom was fastened, it's now time to get it flush with the sides. For end grain I made sure I had a good sharp blade and moistened the ends with denatured alcohol. 

A trick learned from Chris Schwarz. Using denatured alcohol to soften end grain makes planing it easier

Lastly, I used my Lie Nielsen Jack plane to clean up and flatten the outside of the box.

Lie Nielsen Jack plane made quick work of flattening the box

Tails look pretty good


Next step is to install a removable self inside the box. Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

[Box Joint Jig] - Final Assembly

Over the weekend I was able to complete the micro-adjustment feature on the Box Joint Jig. I have to admit, I never thought building a jig could be this complex, or this fun! There were many new techniques I'd never tried, and many challenges as well. All the better. Hopefully, I will get many good years out of this jig and the work I put into it will pay off.

First, I milled a small piece of hard Maple down to size. Believe it or not, this was a new skill learned. I'd never ripped anything down to 1/4" thickness on the table saw. I'm a hand tool guy! I would have ripped it by hand normally. But I'm going with the machine thing. A home-made (sacrifical) push stick was really handy to make this cut. Next I drilled holes on the drill press for the micro-adjustment mechanism as per the plan. 

I then marked the hole locations and made a simple square right-angle jig (another jig for making a jig) that I could attach to the Box Joint Jig in order to hold it upright on the drill press table for drilling holes for the micro-adjuster rods in the end grain. These holes need to be good and straight as they are 2" deep. 

A near disaster occurred when attempting to install the threaded inserts used to accept the threaded rod. The threaded insert has what looks to be a notch meant for a screwdriver, when in actuality its purpose is to allow the insert to seat itself straight. So I wound up installing it incorrectly the first time.Thank goodness when I flipped it the right way it went in straight and held properly.

I installed it the correct way by screwing the insert into the threaded rod and then then held it in place with a few nuts. I took the threaded rod and chucked it up in the drill press. Then, it was a simply a matter of aligning the pilot holes with the threaded inserts and using hand power and a little downward pressure to screw in the insert.   

Yet another skill learned.  

One other thing to keep in mind. If you order the hardware kit from Shop Notes, make sure you measure the length of the adjuster rods they give you. I spent "waaayyyy" too much time trying to figure out why the jig wasn't adjusting properly. It turned out the the adjustment rods that came with the kit were 2" longer than the length required. Once I cut them to the right size, no problems.

Here's a side view of the micro adjuster mechanism. Works beautifully.

And a shot of the back. The last step is to attach the jig to the miter gauge. I'll do that on the Saw Stop at class.
Here's a shot of the business end of the jig. The wider gap is where the dado blade passes. The jig allows you to control the distance between the dado blade as well as the width of the pins. 

The hardboard is what backs up the dado cut and is replaceable when you cut a different size dado.  So mission accomplished! Cannot wait to put it to use when I begin building the Saw Cabinet!

PS. John you are free to use this jig whenever you'd like. So you don't need to rush to build yours now!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

[Box Joint Jig] - Assembly Part I

I'm taking a class in basic cabinet making offered by a local vocational school. The class is allowed to bring in suggestions for their own projects. So I thought about it and came up with a project that I could get some use out of.

A little background. I have a real handsaw problem. Buying them that is. Over the last couple of years, I've acquired some fairly nice old saws. And some really great new saws. The issue is they have no home. To keep them safe, they are nestled away in the basement in make shift or original boxes. So every time I need to cut, it's a trip downstairs to unpack. Then re-pack after I'm done. So I could really use a Saw Till.

Wait a minute! What does this have to do with a Box Joint Jig, which is the title of the post? The Saw Till will need to be joined at its corners. Now my first inclination is to put my newly acquired skill of hand-cut dovetails to the test. But since I'm in the class, and we're working primarily on machines I decided that learning to cut box joints would be an interesting and attractive way to go. So I thought I'd build a box joint jig first, in order to build the Saw Till.

I looked at a bunch of box joint jigs and settled on one from Shop Notes. This one looked fairly flexible, although a little more complex than a throw away jig. But hey, it's all about the learning process. So I decided to take it on.

Shop Notes even offers the hardware needed  for the jig. So once I saw this I jumped on it.

I have to admit, buiding this jig has been a challenge. It's introducing me to a lot of things that I've never done before. One of these was to cut 1/4" slots to accept the bolts for the adjustment feature. Just cut 3 simple slots, easy. But not as easy as it looks.

I settled on using a router to cut them. So I needed to make yet another jig . Now I'm making jigs for making a jig. I hadn't anticipated having to do that.

The jig for cutting 1/4" slots.The palm router runs between the rails and stop blocks are set to define the end of the cut.

Here is the result.
So I'm about halfway done at this point.

The front piece is going to be the adjustable mechanism, which will fit in the back of the fence which is behind it

There are more challenging and new techniques yet to be explored with making this jig. Like cutting metal brackets and boring new holes for them. See you next time.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

[Schoolbox] - Dovetail Assembly

It's been a while since the last post. I've begun a night-class in Cabinet Making at a local vocational school. I figured the class would help boost my confidence and familiarity. With the table saw in particular. I'm much more comfortable with a hand-saw than a table saw.

The class is for beginners. Most have barely touched a hand-held drill. But that's fine by me. A really nice group who remind me of myself when I was just starting out. At least I get 3 hours of extra shop time during the week. But I've already learned some really neat ways to work quicker on the table saw, so it's paying off. I will be posting the project I selected for the class here soon.

So work on the Schoolbox has been a little slow since the class started. This post deals with the glue-up and assembly of the sides of the box. Overall the assembly went well. The joints are nice and tight, no major gaps that need special attention on the outside of the box.

What did surprise me were gaps on the inside of the box that appeared during final assembly. I'm not exactly certain why these appeared, but I have my theories. I might have cut the joints too snug. During dry assembly, I did need to drive the joints home a bit. When I applied the glue, the joint must have swelled moe than I would have thought it would.

No gaps are noticeable on the outside, but a slight hint of gaps on the inside. That's after rapping as hard as I thuhgt I could get away with without marrring this pine. I'm wondering how to hide this, so feel free to suggest if you know of a way. Some possible solutions might be to make a thin molding, perhaps if I shellac the inside of the box that might help. We'll see

So here are some shots of the dovetail assembly.
Just before glue-up

Here I am being super worried about getting the first corner square

A different angle of the first corner after glue-up

Two sides down. Did you notice that I planned it so that the grain wraps around the box?

Assembling the last two corners.

A little closer before trimming.  Not too bad

After cleaning up with a block plane. Now we're talking!

I like the way the rings make the tails look.
So next step is to dress the sides and attach the bottom of the box. Cannot wait to try traditional cut-nails on the bottom.  Thanks for looking!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

[Schoolbox] - The Half-Mortise Lock

In the last post, I began dovetailing the sides of the Schoolbox. Mission accomplished! All the corners are fit, and I'm pleased with the results. Are they perfect? Not by any stretch. But I think I'll be able to deal with the small errors that were made. I chose not to write about it beyond some helpful tips for dovetailing, but I'll post pics when I do the final assembly. I am also going to reserve special post for the most frustrating part of the box to date. The keyhole escutcheon.

So this post is dedicated to the installation of the half-mortise lock. I took a class not too long ago at the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop and my teachers (Mario Rodriguez and Alan Turner) have taught me well. I was able to recall some of the valuable lessons they passed on and apply them for this build. Install the lock prior to assembly. Always practice the install in the same thickness and material before the actual install. These were just a few of the many.

What I found interesting is how little information is out there about installing a half-mortise lock. Fine Woodworking had a decent article by Philip C. Lowe. I found a few online hardware retail sites that had decent instructions. And Woodcraft had a short video, but that's about it. All of them were helpful in parts, but seemed to be short on some of the details in one way or another. Even Chris Schwarz mentions that no one taught him how to install in "The Joiner". So this seems to be a skill with some common steps but adapted by the woodworker by trial and error. So I cut a sample pine board and worked out an approach.

So it is with my very limited prior experience, reading the scant number of articles I could find, and a few practice attempts that I present my method of installing a half-mortise lock. I'm sure there are many better ways to do it, but this one is mine. Please feel free to suggest better ways if you've got 'em.

First step that everyone seems to agree upon is to find the center of the box and mark in pencil. After this the steps begin to deviate. Do this on the front, top and back of the box front.

Marking the center of the box. This picture also shows the mark out for the lock body.
I cover that below.

Next I mark out for the width of the lock body. I do this by placing the lock on the top of the panel and aligning the key pin (or post) with the center line of the box front. Most instructions do remind you that some key pins are not in the center of some locks. So the lock is installed by centering the key pin.

With the key pin on the center line, I use a small combo square to lay out the width of the body assembly in pencil. In my practice attempts, I was overly concerned about getting this measurement super tight. However, too tight here meant I had trouble pulling the lock in and out for fitting. So I found that you can leave yourself a tiny bit of room here.

The key pin (or post) is used to center the key in the panel. Not the lock itself. With the post on the center line I use a small combo square to mark out the width of the lock body.

The next step is to mark the distance from the top of the box front to the key pin. I do this with my wheel gauge and make a mark on the back of the box front. This sets the location of the key hole. I use a scratch awl to mark the position of the keyhole and use the same diameter drill bit and drill the hole on the drill press.

At this point I also mark out for the width of the lip, which is the distance from the  back of the lock to the front of the lip.  
Marking out for where the top of the lock. This is one of the most crucial measurements. Take too much material here and the lock and box will not meet tightly. 

At this point I cut a series of relief cuts for the removal of waste for the lock body. This makes the waste removal much easier. In some references, the waste is removed by forstner bit, straight router bit, or directly by chiseling it out. I haven't tried these methods yet, but this one seems to work just fine.

A series of relief cuts to make waste removal easier.

It's important when paring out the waste that you continuously define the edges of the marked out area after a few paring passes.

I've defined the area to be pared out and continue to define that boundary every few paring passes.

Almost to the bottom for the lock body. At this point I switched to my small Lie-Nielsen router plane.

Once the lock body fits and the back plate and the lip fit snugly against the back and top AND the post fits in the pre-drilled hole, the next step is to mark them out and very carefully remove the waste. Enough for just the thickness of the back plate and lip. In my practice runs I tried a number of methods. The one that seemed to work best was to pare a sliver for the lip just to establish an edge and then switching to the router plane. The lip is fussy work, so go slowly and plan shop time when you are not in a hurry. The recess for the back plate should go very easily.

Here is the finished cutout. I seem to pick up alot of discoloration when using the router plane. However it was very easy to clean up with a few light passes with the block plane.

Here is the final product. A little gappy on the left hand side but I believe the fit to be tight enough with the human eye. This picture is more of a closeup.

Overall I think the locks fits pretty well. I will deal with the keyhole eschtcheon in the next post. Thanks for reading.