Cherry Entry Table

A little over a year ago some good friends of mine got married. I promised them a wedding present, but seeing as how we had just moved, I told them it was going to be a bit late. A bit late turns out to be a year and a few months. I did finally deliver though!

It is a cherry entry table that sits in their foyer. I made it somewhat tall because you would be standing next to it when you put things down, and narrow so it didn’t obstruct their entrance. I spent a lot of time at the drawing book coming up with ratios and ideas. I mostly stuck with them as well, only adjusting the width of the frame slightly.

It all started with a large 8/4 piece of cherry. I wanted this thickness for a bookmatched table top, thicker legs, and wrap around apron that all matched. I had some sapwood to deal with, but was able to mill most of it away and hide what was left on the inside of the aprons. Below are the three hunks that made up the entire table.

I cut the legs out first and milled them all square. I put down painter’s tape and marked out the location of the mortises. The tape is a copy of Mike Pekovich’s blue tape trick for dovetails. I still haven’t cut dovetails that way, but it sure does make mortises obvious. I mark everything with knives, then peel away the center section that will get cut.

Next I went around with a paring chisel and undercut the edges to help the chisel register on the sides and not cut any wider than is needed. Then it is just a matter if slowly chopping from one side to the other and back until you start to reach the proper depth.

The mortises all went pretty well. I made the legs extra long so I could cut some test ones and chop off the excess. After I had all the mortises cut I did the tenons. I used a similar tape technique to help visually guide the cuts. I cut a number of test ones and was happy with my progress. When I finally got to the last round I was going to shoot pictures of the process. Everything fell apart. Despite all the practice I couldn’t cut straight to save my life. I ended up cutting the whole frame down a little from the original plans because of the screwed up tenons. These two pics are all that remain of the process.

Once I finally decided they were good enough, or just gave up on trying to cut more, I dry fit everything together. Some of the fits are looser than I wanted, but It ought to hold together. Baby baby hold together.

With the legs cut to length I could go about tapering them. Probably a quick job on the bandsaw, but I went for the scrub plane. It made a huge mess, but was a good workout.

The outside two faces of the legs are straight, the inside two faces taper in almost up to the mortise at a ratio of 2:1. This gives the tape a really slim light appearance and guides the eye to the top.

Speaking of the top, I glued it together early in the project. The top side is bookmatched and has a lovely pattern that looks like angel wings. To further lighten the design I did an underside chamfer. The ratio was 2:3 with the thickness of the table top being subdivided into 3. Two units were removed from the edge leaving a thinner profile, and the slope went back 3 units. The layout is done with dividers and a marking gauge, so I don’t know the actual dimensions, just the ratios.

This chamfering was tested with the table top left extra long so I could get the hang of it with a few extra practice cuts. With a bevel up plane it was really easy. I made super thin (around 0.01″ or just a few sheets of paper) edge grain shavings. I have focused a lot on learning to sharpen in the past, and it is paying off now.

With the lines drawn I was able to accurately plane away the material and hit both marks just by eye. No special jigs needed! I did the end grain sections and proceeded to the long grain portions.

The last thing I had to do before finishing and assembling was put in some hardware to hold the table top down. A big flat sawn piece like the table top will want to move with the seasons. Trying to stop it is folly. Using the figure 8 brackets with oversized holes, I can attach the top to the apron and allow it to shift slightly with moisture movement. I started by drilling the first one on the outside face… DOH! Probably my only permanent mistake of the project aside from some slight dimension changes.

With everything setup I could glue the parts together now, then apply finish as I have often done in the past. Instead I finished everything in pieces. It made finishing easier because the small parts are all simple and don’t have hidden corners. As long as you keep it off the glue surfaces, everything will be fine. As a bonus, if you get glue squeeze out it comes off the finish easily. Waterlox’s wipe on varnish is a joy to work with.

After that all that was left was to screw the top on, buff with some wax, and deliver to the still happily married couple.

Little Bushy South

This project was completed in July at the old house, but I had to keep it under wraps so it could be a surprise to someone.  My wife’s grandmother was a British war bride.  She met her American husband at Bushey Park outside of London where he taught air sea survival for the 8th Army Air Force.  When the war was over they moved to Michigan (his home) and eventually had a farm called “Little Bushey”, after the place they met.  We had talked about calling our new place “Little Bushey South” as a tribute to that.  I thought a sign was in order, and no wood could be better than the family wood.

These walnut beams were picked up by my mother’s parents when she was very young.  They spent a lot of time around boats and they were used as ballast by someone.  No clue how old they were then, but our family has had them for 50+ years.

One of the beams had been cut down a few times, so I cross cut it to about 42″, and then re-sawed it to make a 1 inch thick slab.  I left some of the worm eaten edging because it is so good looking.  A little work with my jack plane had it smooth and revealed a gorgeous piece of walnut.


In order to make the text for this project I am using my plunge router and custom printed 3D letter templates.  I wrote up all the text, then broke each segment up into a size that could be printed.  They are keyed to fit together to keep alignment and kerning proper.  Letters like “e” and “B” have to be done in multiple segments.  The “B” below shows how I tackled this.

The plunge routing went reasonably well, but something shifted part of the way through.  My cuts were shallower when I went back and redid certain segments.  Not sure what happened, but next time I will make everything double tight.  I went back with a chisel and cleaned up the issue areas.  The bottoms are still not smooth, but aren’t as uneven as before.  That left me with a few accidental chipout segments.  See near the top of the “O”.  Also, the “h” was in part of a knot.  My colorant will want to bleed into those cavities, so I have to fill them.

I used some dark woodworking epoxy to fill these problem areas.  First I went carefully with painters tape and dammed up all the problem areas.  Next I mixed the epoxy and used a syringe to put just the right amount into the voids.  A little light buffing and the epoxy filled the voids but is really hard to see.

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I was going to spray paint this, then just plane off the top layer to reveal colored letters.  The bottoms are still uneven, so I opted to try epoxy.  I bought a big batch of system three epoxy with white color resin.  It worked really well.  No progress pictures because you have very limited time once the mixing begins.

The places I blocked the chipouts didn’t bleed, and only a little snuck in under the knot around the lower case “h”.  A syringe helped me pipe it into each letter, and manipulate the results.  The epoxy clung up at the sides and dipped a little in the center.  The result is a really awesome shiny 3D lettering effect.  It looks quite good on our new mantle.  I don’t really understand fireplaces in Florida, but this one looks picturesque.

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Bookbinding Press

During a visit to my crafty mother, I came across a good build to support her habits.  She showed me a series of bookbinding finishing presses.  I am not super familiar with how they work, but they looked a lot like a moxon vise.  I am planning out a moxon vise build of my own, so this would be a good learning experience and make a great gift.

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Traditional books have a lot of layers of material that need gluing together.  This helps keep it all clamped for various operations.  The side wings let you clamp it to a table, and with it hanging over the edge, any length book can be held.  The jaws will open to accept a 3″ thick book, and there are 13 inches between the screws, allowing for a very tall book.  5/16″-18 hand screws should provide plenty of clamping force.  The hand screws come out, so it can be disassembled and packed into a smaller space.


I started with the backbone and dovetails.  If something was going to get screwed up, it was the dovetails.  I need to cut a lot for an upcoming project and I am beyond rusty.  Mark, saw edges, fret away waste and pare the rest.

My dovetail transfer jig has already come in handy.  The pins look pretty rotten, but they should be very structurally sound.  Sorry mom!


With that taken care of I glued up two pieces for the front, and added another to the backbone.  One piece was taller than the other which eventually got planed to an angle.  That gives your fingers easier access to the book spine.

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I assembled the dovetails and put on side wings that let you clamp this jig to any table or workbench.

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When all the glue was well cured I put on a few coats of polyurethane in the hopes that bookbinding glue wouldn’t stick to it.  Felt pads on the bottom should keep it from scuffing any tables.  I pounded in some threaded inserts meant for wood.  They should hold just fine, but to be sure I sank a few screws beside them.


To run the threaded rods in and out you are going to need a stout handle.  I chopped some maple dowels down to size, drilled out for a 5/16 threaded insert, reduced the entry shoulder for a brass sleeve, then flipped it around, threaded it onto a 5/16 mandril, and smoothed out the back side.

The bare wood got multiple coats of spray polyurethane, then when cured, I epoxied the brass sleeve on the handles, and the threaded rod in place.  DSC_1276.JPG

Jacked Up PushUp Bars

I built a set of pushup bars to go with my pullup bar from early last.  You grip them while doing a push up and it lets you dip down further than when using your hands on the ground.  That stretches your chest and gives a harder workout.  The only problem with them is that now I am flexible enough that my chest can touch the ground.  Time to jack them up a bit!  I started with the same 2×12 that they came from.

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It turns out old ratty 2x12s can be quite beautiful if you just give them a bit of planing.  Hand planing construction grade pine to make a piece of exercise equipment is probably some kind of sacrilege, but I like using hand tools when I can.  Besides, sanding is just the worst!

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I chopped this piece up to give two layers of material beneath each bar and glued.

All the load will be pushing down on these, so only a minimal joint is needed.  1/2″ dowels will be more than enough.  You drill in one side, insert these metal plugs with a sharp point in the center, align the other part and give it a wack.  The sharp points all transfer over the exact center of where you should drill to the mating part.

Some drilling, gluing, drying, and a fresh coat of boiled linseed oil later they looked smart.  Well not really smart, kind of chunky really.  If it were architecture I would call it brutalism.  Probably fitting for a room full of kettlebells.

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My beard touches easily, but my chest still has inches.  This is hopefully the last raise these will need for a long while.

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Pullup Bar

I have been doing kettlebell and bodyweight exercises consistently for over 6 months.  I love the speed at which it kicks my butt and have been getting progressively stronger at all the exercises.  Aside from a variety of bells none of it requires anything more than a small bit of space.  The two exceptions are pull-ups and Turkish get ups.  Pull-ups obviously require some kind of bar, and Turkish get ups involve large series of steps to take you from lying flat on your back to standing up straight with a kettlebell overhead.  It takes a bit of room.

The plan is to kick out my treadmill and build a dedicated kettlebell workout area.  I have a doorframe pull-up bar, but want to build a freestanding piece of equipment.  Might as well use this as a chance to do some woodworking.  Start with some nice (Super rough!) untreated 4x4s and get cutting.  Even though they were supposed to be kiln dried they were wet enough that my normal tenon saw bound up an inch or two in.  Had to break out a panel rip saw!

With guns that big my joints weren’t exactly surgically precise.  Along those lines I didn’t really have the right chisels for the job.  An old 2″ framing chisel helped, but my only other option was a 1″ bench chisel for chopping the waste out.  Still I was able to bang out some bridle joints to attach the upgrights to the feet.  Things were going swimingly enough I was able to shoot a little assembly vid!

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Before doing any glueups or serious trimming I assembled the uprights with the pull up bar at the height I thought appropriate.  This let me do some basic testing to see if I was on the right track.  It was shaky, but even without glue or fasteners it held me!  Last but not least it let me play with different widths to figure out what was right for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I started trimming excess and planning out the rest of my parts.  A shelf across the back holds kettlebells when not in use.  The shelf is dovetailed so it helps keep the assembly square.  All that weight comes in a lot of handy!  The right angle joints between the uprights and the feet got glued and pinned for good measure.  Everything else is going to stay friction only so it can be disassembled.

I tried trimming everything down as much as possible so it wouldn’t take up any extra space inside.  It looks compact, but beefy.

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I made one critical flaw though.  Those pins on the backside are pretty thin, and any force on them by the tails puts a lot of shear force along the grain.  It is a recipe for splitsville.

Yup, I was doing some assembly and it popped off.  I tried gluing and pinning it back in, but only managed to destroy the piece.  If I had made the foot extend a few more inches past the tail it would have been strong enough to survive.  Lesson for next time.

I installed some angled pegs along the back of the uprights to give myself storage hooks for grip trainers and other items.  The whole thing goes into the house easily, and assembles in a few minutes.  The pull up bar itself was pinned with some 1/2″ dowels though the upright from front to back.  That will keep it from rolling or working its way out.  The shelf and those pins are just held in with friction and gravity.  Assembled the device is too big to get through any doors, but by using carefully planned joints, I can take it apart to get it in and out of the house.  A coat of boiled linseed oil offers some protection and adds color to the pine.

All the wooden joints creak and groan and shift a bit when doing pullups, but it is super sturdy.  I might drill out the pull up bar and upgrade from a 1-1/4″ to a 1-1/2″ bar at some point, but for now this works well.  Those pegs along the back hold my chalk, a towel, and grip trainers.

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Rule To Sector Conversion

I have been reading a set of books that are directed at teaching the old methods of design using simple tools and ratios.  How did people build so many things and design such gorgeous furniture before industrial era tools and production?  A lot of it had to do with ratios.  They noticed basic ratios and proportions of the body, and used them to create furniture that fit our proportions and was decorated with ratios that are pleasing to the eye.

Getting ratios can be tough, but one tool helps a lot.  The sector.  I will start with a sector demonstration, then go through converting a ubiquitous folding ruler into a ratio tool.

SO!  Say you have this nice block of wood, and want to divide it into 3rds for some reason.  Instead of reaching for the fine ruler and calculator, take this pivoting stick with equal divisions on it and line both edges up on the 9s.

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Now you take your divider, (it looks like a compass, but only has points, no pencil) and line it up with the 3 marks.  The 3 to 9 ratio is also a 1:3 ratio.  The dividers are now set at 1/3rd of the width of that piece of wood.

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Line up one leg of the dividers with an edge of the wood and step in twice.  You leave a little pin prick in the wood as you step over.  Put a sharp pencil or marking knife in those divots left by the divider and use a square to transfer across the piece.

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Bam!  Divided into 3rds in no time.  Find the center point of something in a snap, set drawer pulls up 4/7ths from the bottom of a drawer face, or divide an area up to figure out how wide a mitered framing should be.  The possibilities are endless and require almost no math skills.  Now you know how an early 18th century woodworker could divide something up with extreme precision even if their ruler had nothing finer than 1/4″ marks.


Sector Construction

You can build a sector out of any two straight pieces of wood or other material, and a tight hinge.  I opted to start with a folding rule.  There are plenty to be had on ebay for ~10 bucks, and they look really nice when cleaned up a bit.  This one started with a lot of years of use, and a brass edge that was coming undone.

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I sanded a mountain of nasty finish and imprinted lettering off before getting to clean bare wood.  I fixed the splayed brass edge with epoxy and put a nice set of markings down.  The divisions I used are arbitrary, but they must come from the center of the pivot point, and must be consistent across the sector.

All that hard work didn’t really matter though, because a coat of spray lacquer lifted the sharpie text and bled it everywhere.  Now my lines are blurred beyond use.

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Pro tip: Don't use spray lacquer over sharpie!

Rule #2 Conversion

Luckily I am addicted to buying old tools on ebay and purchased not one, but two folding rules!  While the first one sits in time out, take another rule you haven’t ruined, sand it down, put equal marks on both sides, and use BOILED LINSEED OIL to finish it.  It will look great.

I left the backside unchanged so I could have a basic ruler handy when using my sector.

 

 

Half Lap Canning Crates

The pile of half-pint jars is starting to pile up in our home, so it is time for half-pint crates.  A while back I built some pint crates with dovetails.  They were good looking, but rather time consuming to build.  This time around I decided to break out my old No 78 rabbet plane and do all half laps.  First, the wood!

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I used 1/4″ plywood for the bottom, and was able to hide that plywood by using the right sized rabbet on the bottom.

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Rabbets with the grain are an absolute joy.  Simply clamp the wood in a front vice, start at the far end, and shave away.  The half laps were another story all together.  Even with a spur and a relatively sharp blade, there was a lot of chatter, tear out and fence wander.

DSC_0047The fences of my old plane did not want to stay put.  I tightened everything as much as I dared, but feared damaging old cast iron threads.  The result is that a lot of the half laps are gaped.  It might be worth carefully making a master part, in the future, so I can go back and reset my fences as needed.  Until then, here are some bottomless boxes!

DSC_0048I went nuts recently and bought a pile of old style cut nails from lee valley.  I put these crates together with “fine finish” cut nails.  They performed well and did not cause splitting even though they were close to the edges.

After a good coat of boiled linseed oil I cut some vinyl blackboard stickers out and put them on the fronts.  It makes finding your desired jam easier.  They aren’t as nice looking as the dovetailed crates, but they are very functional.  Besides, crates aren’t supposed to be super fancy!

These canning crates were brought to you by my Stanley No. 78!  80ish years old and still kicking some butt!

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