Progress and Setbacks

After getting some great answers about design ideas on the dresser top, I had a bit of a physical setback. On the day the post went live I was attending swimming lessons for my girls. With five minutes to go in her class, and five minutes before her older sister’s class started, my youngest got out of the pool jumped cross-legged and said, “Daddy, I have to go potty.” Classic little kid stuff. On the way back from the restroom she was shivering and shuffling her feet so I thought I’d be the hero dad and scooped her up to quickly get her back to class. I took two steps with her in my arms when I found myself slipping on the wet pool deck. I proceeded to fall flat on my back and right elbow cartoon-banana-peel style. I heard some crunching noises and I couldn’t take a breath. My immediate concern was my daughter who was completely unphased by the entire event. I, on the other hand, fractured two ribs, bruised my arm and shoulder, and couldn’t get a good night’s sleep for about a week.

It sucked.

But I’m feeling much better now. Still, it cut short my already limited shop time. Fortunately, I was able to think through things on the top. I read some articles, referenced my library, and reread the suggestions from social media. I’m extremely happy with where I landed (no pun intended).

I opted to keep the overhang “small” but when I incorporated the subtle curve, to mimic the legs, I had to bump it out more than the “small” amount I showed before. It was a great compromise. I asked for help on the under bevel and Tom Buhl gave excellent advice, which I incorporated (thanks Tom!). I tried a few different values but ended up with a 1/4″ flat after making a test piece from scrap cherry. The mock up literally took 3 minutes with a jack plane.

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Test piece in progress

Feeling confident, I beveled the underside of the top’s front edge. From start to finish, this process only took twenty minutes with hand planes.

The next day I went down to work on the curves. I made a mockup in cardboard but it really wasn’t helping me visualize things. I opted to just go for it on the real top. I had extra length so if I didn’t like the way it looked, I could try something else and still have room to spare. I busted out the jig saw and my new rasp from Woodpeckers (more on that later) to make short work of the initial curve.

That Woodpecker rasp is a beast. I’ve never HAD to take off this much material before by hand and I’m so glad for this impulse $17 purchase. Shaping the top at 65″ x 20″  over at the spindle sander was a non starter. The coarse, medium, fine, method was at work for only about 15 minutes. The one downside is that I nicked my finger using the rasp – I think I’ll put on some nitrile gloves next time.

After the curve was 90 degrees to the top, I moved on to the curved under bevel. I used a scribe for marking out the 3/4″ step back and altered between my jack plane and the rasp.

With one side done, I was able to put the top on and really gauge the reveals, and the overhang, and the feel of the piece. But it was late so I called it a night. The next evening, I went back downstairs to finish up the other side. After some tricky measuring (that I couldn’t capture on camera), I checked and double checked my measurements and fired up the jigsaw again.

Here it is set on the carcase and ready for my wife to come down and inspect. Her word(s), “wow.” That’s high praise.

The next task is installing the hardware and getting everything prettied up for finish. I feel so close…

 

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Top of Mind Design Conundrums

If my old man were here, he’d say: “stop lollygagging and get on with it.” He’d be right but I still wouldn’t be moving forward. Every step of the way I’ve found my paralysis by analysis disease rear its ugly head on this project. I reached out to the IG community for help and received some good feedback. I’m going to solicit the same from you.

My last design hurdle is what to do with the top? I’ll try to break it down into a three categories: overhang, under-bevel, and curves. First we’ll look at the overhang. I like the idea of a long(ish) overhang because I’ve been ogling images like this one from Darrell Peart on Pinterest.

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Inspiration piece from Darrell Peart

On the other hand, my lovely wife does not like this exaggerated overhang citing our daughters’ clumsy tendencies and the fact that it’s at eye level for one and shoulder height for the other. I snapped these two pictures to toggle between (sorry about the busy background).

Hold your thoughts for a minute as we discuss the next topic: under-bevel. I’m not sure if I’m saying that right but it’s the “large” bevel you see on the underside of Shaker tables and the like. Due to the relatively thin top (3/4″ thick), I was thinking of putting an under-bevel to help lift the piece and mask it’s thinness by actually making it thinner. Conversely, I did consider the breadboard ends in a Greene & Greene style as shown in Peart piece but it requires a longer overhang and it’s considerably more work than I want to do at this point. Again, hold your thoughts.

Finally, I’m wondering about adding a curve to the outside edges of the top. Using the template from the legs, I thought I’d echo those curves. It’s hard to capture on camera but, you’ll get the idea (I hope). I masked out the area I’d chop off with blue tape.

Now that I’ve explained everything, here are my specific questions:

  1. Overhang – long or short?
  2. Breadboard ends – yes or no?
  3. Under-bevel – yes or not?
  4. If yes to #3 then what dimensions/ratios make sense? Where do I start the bevel or how much of the flat do I keep? 1/4″?
  5. Should the under-bevel extend to the back part of the top? Or should the back be flat and flush?
  6. Curves on the sides – yes or no?
  7. If I do curve the sides should they be circular or echo the slight asymmetry of the legs? Or do I bust out a French curve and pick something else?
  8. If I do the curve AND the under-bevel, how does that work? Some guidance on the dimensions and process would be helpful.
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Here’s a reference picture

The exercise of writing this all out has been tremendously cathartic. And truth be told, I’m leaning toward the following decisions:

  1. Small overhang (1″ or so max)
  2. Curves on the sides that echo the legs…the apex to the curve may determine the overhang
  3. Under-bevel all the way around including the curved sides

That being said, I’d really appreciate some critiques and thoughts before I start cutting things up. Please let me have it.

 

 

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Guiding Principles

In the early days of The Wood Whisperer Guild we used to have live chat sessions where we’d pick the next guild project. Back in 2010 I remember starting a “chant” of sorts in the chat room: chest of drawers! chest of drawers! chest of drawers! It took hold, and Marc did build a chest of drawers. I was always intrigued with this method of using center guides as shown in Marc’s design. Even back then I knew I wanted to try this method. I reviewed the video a few times just to make sure I had the process down.

But, first things first: I had to install the drawer bottoms. This was a relatively easy task with the exception of one drawer. I must’ve had a mishap during glue up causing a slight interference. Good thing I practice hybrid woodworking.

Next up was to create the center guides. I had plenty of maple scrap so I milled it up and got my dado stack ready for action. I’m still not real good with the dado stack; it requires a level of precision I’m just not accustomed. I’m not a dial caliper woodworker, but I got it close enough for government work. The tricky part was getting the grooves cut in the small pieces without having them lift up or me ending up in the ER. I reached out to IG community and got some good advice from Ben Strano over at Fine Woodworking. Here’s how I did it:

Now I had the strangely difficult task of installing the guides. Referencing Marc’s method, I shot a few pin nails in the drawer back to stabilize the piece. I didn’t want to risk the pins coming up thru the 1/4″ bottoms so I only pinned them in the back and then got creative with clamping. The smaller drawers weren’t too bad as I could repurpose the cut offs from the legs to act as clamping cauls. However, the larger drawers had me resort to power tools for help. See the pics below.

As is par for the course on this project, I had one more diversion. The middle drawer couldn’t accept center guides because the substructure didn’t allow for it. Therefore, I had to make some thin filler strips to function like typical drawer runners.

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Center guides were a no-go but side guides will work

Lastly, I tuned up each drawer so it moves smoothly in its cavity.

This brings you blog readers up to speed. Next up is selecting hardware and figuring out what I want for the top.

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The Drawers Fit (ish)

Looking back on the blog, I noticed there hasn’t been a post about The Dresser since the end of November. My bad. I will now try to quickly bring you up to speed from where my Instagram followers have been for awhile. I spent the first two weeks of December (in manageable one-hour chunks) planing down the drawers to fit in their corresponding cubbies. This took about an hour per drawer and caused my shop floor to look like this until the last weekend in January (seriously).

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Shop floor after many hours of shavings

 

Building the little jig shown here to hold up the boards while I fit them was invaluable. On my next chest of drawers, I’ll make sure to size the parts much more accurately. I didn’t want the drawers to be loose, so I over-sized in almost every direction here and there. Unfortunately, this method causes you to end up planing, and planing, and planing, and…Oh well, it was good practice and allowed me to take advantage of the dedicated sharpening station I whipped up. I touched up the blades on my jointer and smoother after each drawer. Having everything out and ready made sharpening a piece of cake.

Here are some shots of how I got everything fitted and ready for finish.

With the drawers fit and just a tad tight, I mixed up 1 lb-cut shellac and applied them to the the insides and the finely sanded bottoms. Still being a bit gunshy on the fit, I wanted to do final, final fitting after the bottoms and drawer guides were installed.

In the next post, I’ll go into detail on installing the bottoms and creating the the center drawer guides.

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Fall Fun

Multitasking gets a bad rap. I was always the kid with headphones on listening to music while walking to class, playing Nintendo, or just about anything else that let me. As the gray hair count increases I find myself listening more to podcasts and using earbuds. But still, the innate drive to do more than one thing at a time fuels most of my daily life. To that end, I find I need multiple projects going in the shop. This isn’t necessarily due to my multitasking obsession but it falls in line with my two shop setup.

Twice a month I “work” a shift at my local woodworking co-op/club. This means I need to have a transportable project at all times. With the ongoing emphasis on getting The Dresser done, I’ve limited non-dresser projects. However, around the middle of October I got to the point where transporting the dresser components wasn’t really practical. The carcase weighs a metric ton and the fully glued up drawers are a pain to lug around. Plus the accrued hop rash over the past six years is substantial so there’s no need to add to it.

Good thing I have two little girls who love being in the shop. They enjoy crafts and themed decorations for both the interior and exterior of the house. I hopped on Pinterest and got to pinning. At the time I’d been consuming a lot of Reclaimed Audio, so I wanted these projects to incorporate reclaimed or discarded lumber.

The first project was quite simple and involved the girls heavily when it came to painting.

The second project took much longer than anticipated.We had a fair amount of oak flooring at the shop donated by someone. I thought this would be perfect but I should’ve thought through the ramifications of pocket-holing tongue and groove joints before starting. Oh well, it’s rustic, right?

The pumpkins still need a paint job but I’m saving that for after the dresser is done since they really can’t go outside for a while. I’ll update you when I put them up. I hope Tim, Bill, and Phil would be proud of this project. It’s less store bought items in our home and more time in the shop with my girlies; that’s a win-win indeed.

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Those Who Can, Teach

My local club asked me to teach a class a few weeks ago. I was both excited and honored. We settled on a basic cutting board class as it was geared toward those who’ve never attempted a woodworking project or touched a power tool. I was pleased to see the ages ranged from 10 – over 60. The 10 year old girl was truly the highlight of the day. I’d found out about her during some dialogue on the club’s Facebook page with her mom. She attended with her dad and made a stellar cutting board. Her presence flies right in the face of those who think the craft is dead and that girls can’t do whatever.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m uber passionate about getting young people, especially girls, into Making and doing things with their hands. This experience lit a bit of a fire to get into teaching more frequently. I need another activity like I need a hole in my head but there are certain things you can’t deny. Sometimes life  calls upon to do something and it’s best to just listen to the voice and see where it takes you. I’ll keep you posted if anything else materializes.

Here are some pics of the class and final results from the students.

*****************Update*****************

As luck would have it, I just received the following message from the little girl’s dad this morning. To say it made my day is an understatement:

“I just wanted to thank you once again for the setting up the cutting board class last month.  My daughter really enjoyed it, and just this morning was talking about how much fun it was and how she hopes she can go back.  I just wanted you to know that you made a positive influence on a little girl’s life.”

Jackpot.

 

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Blood Is Thicker Than Water

As discussed, ad nauseam, I’ve been trying to finish up The Dresser. The dearth of information here at the blog is due to the work I’ve been putting in on the drawers. Well, that and the holidays. I was hoping to document a few things while lounging on the couch but instead we’ve had the dreaded Christmas stomach bug visiting us this holiday season. Nice.

Anyway, getting back to Christmas: I’ve built at least one thing for the past seven or eight years. I thought I might break the streak until two stars aligned online. The first was a email from Rockler saying this bottle opener kit was on sale. The next was an email from my cousin asking for one in his stocking. My cousin and I are more like brothers so, I knew I could squeeze in one quick project.

The plans from Rockler are pretty self explanatory but I took a bunch of pictures, which I couldn’t post during the build without spoiling the surprise. Hopefully, you’ll find these useful if you decide to make them. It all starts with a knife scale of bloodwood and a few bits of metal.

It was an easy and fun build. Plus the little bit of metalworking got me excited to do more in the future.One lesson learned: I wasted a lot of epoxy just making one so I’ll definitely make them in batches next time.  And here’s a last piece of advice: watch this video from Lin over at Darbin Orvar (one of my daughter’s favorites). She has a few techniques I’ll be stealing for a production run in the future.

Merry belated Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

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