27 April 2010

Cabinet making - 3

This is part of a series of posts, inspired by the New Yankee Workshop (NYW) presentation Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, about alternative cabinet design and tools use.

This week it is the NYW presents Kitchen Dresser - Program #204.  It is cabinet making,  but nothing complex here,  glued panels put together with dados, glue and brad nails. No need to redesign for missing tools or to avoid laborious techniques. To cut the curves a jigsaw is used and the predefined toolset can be used for all the operations unless I missed some details.

Back to the Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106.  I look at internal frame used to assemble the top.  If the bottom used a case frame the top uses a flat frame attached to a rabbet on the sides.  The frame is made with full length grooves and stub tenons.  As the frame is to thick for outgoing screws it is screwed from atop to the rabbet.  Part of the frame is cross grain to the panels,  what can be a problem.
If I look at the Ikea solution the frame is reduced to two spacers (the top is shown left) between the sides to keep them parallel and to be used to mount the top and the back. There goes the need for grooves and stub tenon.  The easiest way is to replace the dowels and hidden screws with pocket holes and maybe some gluing.

That's it, next time I look at the doors and the front frame of the #106 project project . As for the drawing sketch, it's handtools only,  no slick powertools like sketchup.

25 April 2010


Visiting friends, I had the chance to see the blossoming pear orchards.  Even if pear trees can go up to 30 years,  there is not much wood to it.  They don't make them like in the good old days any more

The old days are sometimes still there, here a picture of a full size pear tree taken last week (also conference type).  According to a very old neighbour,  that tree was already old when he was young.  If true, that sets the tree in the 19th century.  The trunk is straight but twisted,  so there is not much valuable here.

I also looked at the church tower from 1720.  I came for the timber work of the roof of the main building,  but that was much too dark to see anything.  So I got some pictures of the internal frame holding the clocks.

Some pictures of furniture made in the local workshop one or two generations ago.The reddish tint of the wood is attributed to ox blood.

Another example, with much nailing here.  I didn't  check how the drawers where made,  my guess is simply rabbeted and nailed without any dovetailing.  The sculpting is added on top and probably does not originate from the shop.  The side panel's are not framed but no cracks here.

To finish, a factory (?) made oak washing table.

22 April 2010

Cabinet making - 2

This is part of a series of posts, inspired by the New Yankee Workshop (NYW) presentation Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, about alternative cabinet design and tools use.

After one week program #106 is gone from the website replaced by program  #203 Butler's Table.  Interesting is that in #203 the biscuit joiner is introduced to help glue up wooden panels.  After some research I discovered a site (normstools.com) fully documenting the tool usage at the NYW.
#111 introduction Pocket holes
#203 introduction Biscuit joiner
#301 introduction Bessey K-body Clamp
The sequence shows that techniques that I proposed as alternative (biscuits and pocket holes) are not available yet for #106.  The Bessey K-body Clamp reference is to remember that gluing panels without a full set of those clamps is a (two seasons) possibility.

Gluing up panels.
I already discussed Step 1 Fixing the bottom to the side panels,  now I go one step backwards,  I look at the panel.  My first reaction is to use veneered plywood.  But,  it is not a certainty that it is cheaper to find the right amount and colour of plywood.  If I want to make panels,  I will probably need to straighten the boards as I will have bought cheap wood and will have to pay the price afterwards.

I probably need a jointer to straighten boards before gluing them,  but it is not in my toolset.  Thinking about it I see some possible alternatives:
  •  Re-cut the joint with a (guided) saw.  For example fix the two boards and run the circular saw over the joint. Or even use a hand saw,  the joint must not be straight but just parallel.  (The NYW proposes the table saw as an alternative to a jointer in #204)
  • Use the router completed with a long stiff fence as a narrow 20 mm  (<1") jointer
  • Hunt the internet for a jointer-less solution ....
As I miss good clamps,  using biscuits to glue up boards seems a good idea.  And maybe it even helps when warped boards are used.

Planing the panels
The NYW uses a belt sander in episode #203 when planing boards,  but it can be done with a random orbital sander, and that is in the toolset. Or after seeing the fww Surface prep: power sanders against handplanes where power tools where not at their best,  I am tempted to add as an alternative a #5 handplane and a scraper (with burnisher) to the block plane of the toolset.

20 April 2010

Gueuze Cantillon

Gueuze is for beer what spalted wood is for timber.  Gueuze brewers age their beer in long alignments of oak barrels (mostly old wine barrels) in dusty old buildings.  When brewers went from wooden crates to plastic to transport bottles,  the wooden crates became  available at a low price.  This is one of those survivors used to store wood scraps in my workshop.

The Gueuze Cantillon is one of those spontaneous fermentation beers of the Brussels regio.  Apart from their beer stock, the biggest  asset of Gueuze breweries is supposed to be the accumulated 'dust' in their old buildings and cellars containing the local natural ferments.

Geuze is a type of lambic, a Belgian beer. It is made by blending young (1-year-old) and old (2–3-year-old) lambics into a new beer, which is then bottled for a second fermentation. Because the young lambic is not fully fermented, it contains fermentable sugars, which allow the second fermentation to occur. Lambic that undergoes a second fermentation in the presence of sour cherries before bottling results in kriek, a beer closely related to Geuze. (Wikipedia)

Lambic: Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic beer is instead produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste. (Wikipedia)

16 April 2010

Cabinet making

After looking at the New Yankee presentation about cabinet making  Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106 I looked if it can be done with a 'minimal' toolset,  in this case the I Can Do That toolset and some more (a router).  And considering that I have access to a wide array of technical solutions, even within the minimal toolset; what alternatives can be used on the proposed construction.

Step 1 Fixing the bottom to the side panels. After cutting the two massive oak side panels two frames are added to the bottom and the top.  The bottom frame is butt joined with screws and glue and fixed the same way to the side. Technically there is nothing difficult to the proposed solution. On a different note, I would prefer that everything is of the same material (massive oak or plywood) and orientation.
The bottom frame is not really necessary as the side panels are very sturdy and can support the cabinet,  but:
  1. It helps to fix bottom plate to the side panel.  The panels are held together without any screws visible from the outside.
  2. It holds the side panel in position while the other sides are added to the cabinet.

Alternative 1: Dado
The side board is thick enough, I can dado the side over the full length. Once the bottom glued,  the sides are held together and the bottom is supported over its full length.  As a router is available it is not really a problem.  Making a dado of the same width of the as the bottom thickness is probably not easy.

Alternative 2: Dowels
Glued dowels or unglued with hidden screws like Ikea.  Here again no frame.  Also a limited support for the bottom as only the dowels are supporting it, apparently that's OK.  Technically I don't have the precise machines used by Ikea.  I can make a hardwood template like Krenov.  But I need a way to drill perfectly square holes.  This probably means I need a drill holder or a drill press.

Alternative 3: Pocket holes
Line up pocket holes from under the bottom. Used with glue it is gluing without clamping.  I would probably favour this solution.

Alternative 4:  Biscuits
Close to a dowelled solution but with more room for error.  And it'savailable through the toolset.

12 April 2010

Medieval carpentry - 2

Second posting in a series about medieval carpentry.

By chance a second visit to a medieval looking castle, after Bouillon I made a fast, closing time, visit to the Gravensteen of Ghent, where late 19th century romantics decided to rebuild a factory back to its medieval castle origin.




Specialized throat cutting equipment and even one of those revolutionary skewed blades.

10 April 2010

Cross-grain construction

On a French (mad woodworkers) website someone mentioned that the US Norm Abram website airs older programs.  Great, as I had never seen any of his videos. The program of this week is: Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106.  The program is fast paced and handles the whole project in half an hour.  To do that it doesn't show any machine setup and dry fitting and it is great on fluent transitions where from looking to a detail on the model the camera transits to the table saw where the piece is directly cut,  or from cutting over to gluing.

When it comes to assemble the massive (unframed) side panels to the bottom frame he uses a cross-grain construction. Maybe pine moves lengthwise as much as oak in width.  If not, the oak panels could crack. It is unclear if the original  piece of furniture he uses as inspiration has the same approach. The original top is more free standing and as it forms a basin, crack problems are probably resolved. The bottom frame gets not much attention,  making it unclear if it is similar to the model build.
[edit] Later on I found out that after the first season it is hard to catch any of his projects on a perceived cross-grain problem.

I have seen older furniture with a fully framed construction,  while others have unframed sides with cross grain constructions and sometimes large cracks.
Finding a way to avoid cross-grain structures is a recurring problem, unless particle board or plywood is used.

Example of cracked side panel,  the side panels are directly fixed to the bottom frame.

05 April 2010

Loft bed

My daughter has been asking for a loft bed for years.  I was as far as planning one when I got a second hand model (made by a well-known Swedish furniture maker) at less than the price of the screws.

To make things worse my daughter proposed to do all the assembly by herself,  so after the initial puzzle phase, I sat there as a third hand.

It is back to square one as thirteen years ago I removed a loft bed in the same room,  without posts then as it was hanging from the ceiling. The ceiling height in the room is 3m (nearly 10'), what makes it nearly appropriate for high beds.
 To my surprise Ikea loft beds are even available on the USA market with not much more than a  'Recommended for ages 7 years and older.' and beware of the hooks.

03 April 2010

Workshop shelves

At last, I did a little more clean-up in my workshop (spring is in the air?),  this time I set up new shelves.  The end result is certainly not up to average web publishing standards.  I added a large number of shelves within hand reach in the hope it helps to keep the work surface free of clutter.  I plan to add a free standing workbench and or mounting-cutting table to replace the two wobbly Workmates as a next step.

I made two shelves of hardboard sandwiching a light wooden frame.  But the result is not convincing as it is less sturdy and costs as much as cheap 18 mm ( 0,7") plywood.  Clamping was a problem as I can only easily clamp one side of the shelve when gluing. Finishing on the other hand was a pleasure as it was the first chance to set my (Anant) #5 jack plane at work.

01 April 2010

The ultimate smoothing plane

Setting my recently acquired Stanley 13-050 combination plane to its first tests I discovered a few wood marring problems with the plane on soft woods.
  1. The two skates will leave a track in the botton of the groove on the wood.  This is of no great importance as the bottom of the groove is seldom visible.  But this can be a problem for decorative cuttings.
  2. The depth gauge has sharp edges,  and this will show on the visible surface.  To avoid this I can file the edges,  but this will damage the surface treatment of the gauge.  An alternative is to glue a thin wooden or plastic slider on top of the gauge.
  3. Waxing the surface of the wooden fence greatly reduces friction,  but it leaves a waxed surface on the work piece. 
 That's the 13-050 part of the post.  One more thing, as I did not find a way to host a pdf of the manual through Blogger, a copy of the Stanley 13-050 manual is gracefully hosted by the Cornish Workshop in its combination planes section.

The ultimate smoothing plane
Writing this section I thought it was more appropriate to pre-date this post to the first day of this month.:-)

The wax transfer problem with the 13-050 gave me the idea for an improved smoothing plane.  I my workshop there is an old clothes iron (marked with a number 4). I used it once or twice to glue edge banding. And for the rest is there because it is a pity to throw it away and after 60 and more years of inactivity it can maybe claim to be antique.
But I can give it a new usage,  if I generously wax the sole of my iron I can then probably smooth the surface of freshly planed piece of wood without even the need of a sharp blade. To test the effectiveness of this ultimate smoothing plane I can compare the friction an a smoothed and un-smoothed surface of planed wood.  To measure this friction difference, I set an object on top of the surface and look under which angle the object starts to slide.

 Friction test with un-smoothed surface

Waxing the 'plane'

Friction test after the surface has been smoothed with a waxed 'plane'