Mild Bout of Hubris

If, unlike this blog, you’re not stuck in the past, you may already have seen the final shot of the dresser all gussied up with hardware and a spiffy top. However, if, like this blog, you aren’t into short-form social media then you’ll have a to wait a few more posts. When we left off, I was finishing up the shaping of the top. Today we’ll talk about the final smoothing of the top. Hint: it took longer than I thought. Before even touching the surface I pulled out my secret weapon: a 38° blade for my Veritas jack plane.

[Mentally insert images of Wayne and Garth’s flashback phrases: diddly-oo-do-diddly-oo]

I naively bought this blade back in 2010 when I started my conversion from power tool junkie to hybrid novice.

IMG_1140At the time, I didn’t realize I could just put a secondary bevel on a 25° primary bevel. I thought I needed this blade for highly figured wood. I found this out, rather embarrassingly, when I asked a question to Chris Schwarz during a hand tool class. He let me know, politely, I didn’t need a special primary bevel. Nonetheless, the blade been an important part of my arsenal since then. It’s never failed me and always left a glass smooth finish.

[diddly-oo-do-diddly-oo-do-diddly-oo-do…back into the near present]

I sharpened up all my blades, including my trusty 38°, and set forth to smooth the top. At first I tackled the bottom hoping to get a mild cup out of the 2.5 year old glued up panel.

As I’d been reading a lot of Josh Klien’s M&T sermons at the time, I decided to forgo making the bottom look too pretty and flipped things over to smooth the top. Without taking any test passes on the show side, I went right after it with my jack plane and the 38° blade. Wispy shavings ensued.


Looking good, right?

But then the light hit the board just right and my heart inched toward my throat. Hubris. The pics below show the damage on the underside, which I took during troubleshooting. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the show side, which looked similar.

I tried to fix the problem; at first thinking it was plane tracks. I retracted the blade, and even took a file to the corners of the blade but nothing made a difference. Finally, I realized there were a few burrs on the plane bottom. I must’ve bumped it at some point and not noticed. I called it quits for the night and retreated to my library looking for a solution. Luckily, I’d just attended a Lie-Nielsen and picked up the updated Handplane Essentials book from PopWood. I found the answer to my problems in an article about plane tracks. I was pretty nervous but ended up taking a small file to my primo handplane. It worked like a champ.


With the burrs removed, I resharpened up my favorite blade, and went for a second attempt.

With the top looking great, the next thing was to refine the end grain on the sides. I used my regular curve tools but I busted out my newest arrival: the Festool Pro 5 Ltd. It made short work of the the end grain. This was a great test and I’ll admit to loving this this little sander!

Setting aside the lessons on hubris, I’ll end with its close cousin: carelessness.  As I sanded the end grain, one of the domino holes opened up. In fairness, there was really no way I could’ve predicted this in 2014 when I glued up the top. Nonetheless, it was annoying. But , at this point, I didn’t panic. I just let it go and busted out the Timbermate.


After all this, I feel more equipped to tackle these kinda problems in the future. And most importantly, the top looks amazing.

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Hardware is Hard

Believe it or not, the finish is actually drying on The Dresser. Yes folks, it’s really going to be over soon. The only thing left to do is install the hardware. This is where you come in, but more on that later. The process of picking the hardware started as a back and forth shipping effort between my lovely wife, me, and Lee Valley in November. It ended In February with her asking someone in a local Facebook group if they were a member of a special store club and then driving to their house to pick up the hardware. Now I know where they get the hard in hardware.

Normally, I’d provide a  list of the various options we tried but that would take too long. I ordered 16 different styles and/or sizes of hardware from Lee Valley all to find out they weren’t going to work. Our favorite is here (one “A’s” for the smaller upper drawers and two “B’s” for the larger bottoms).


Unfortunately, they were too big when I held up two and too small when I held up just one. Thank goodness they are doing free shipping now every two months or so.

We scoured the woodworking sources (Brasso, Horton, Londonberry, etc.) but nothing was calling to us. Or if it did, it wasn’t available in the right size and scale for this project. I contemplated, briefly, making my own pulls but I also value my marriage and I’m quite behind on the dining room table I bought the wood for two years ago (not seven years behind but behind nonetheless).

Finally, my wife suggested “normal” stores (i.e. where most people shop, like Target, Home Depot, or Wayfair). It got me thinking that I was being a bit snobbish about where I purchased the hardware. Ultimately went with these Dakota pulls from Restoration Hardware. Turns out they actually have a great selection of hardware…imagine that.

One of the frustrating aspects of this process was how to affix the pulls temporarily and then stand back to get a good look. I found this impossible to do alone. Any ideas on how to hold the hardware up easier? And lastly, does anyone have good techniques for installing the hardware? I know my wife will want them centered top to bottom but I’ve read on several instances of using 4:7 or 2:5 top:bottom ratios for hardware mounting. No matter what I decide I thought I’d make one, or two, jigs to install everything as I don’t want to mess this up. I was going to revisit By Hand & Eye and bust out my new Burn-Heart sector (I watched this video for an overview) if possible. But I do have multiple engineering degrees so a little bit of math really doesn’t frighten me. Anyway, if you have thoughts or techniques, I’m all ears.

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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.


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.


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.

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.


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).


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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