The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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All in the family

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Today, my wife helped me. She helped me a lot. Without her help I would have gotten little accomplished.

Today I decided to assemble the cabinet, and with that I also decided to stain the back panels rather than to try and do that after everything was already put together. My wife, who has much more patience than I when it comes to something like staining, did the grunt work. But before all that could happen I had to sand/plane much of that material in preparation for finish. I’ll leave out the boring details, and I did not take any photos, because if you want to see me sanding then I am both flattered and worried about you at the same time.

In any event, as I sanded those boards, my wife took them and applied wood conditioner. After a few hours we started the staining process. As I said in a prior post, I am using Mahogany gel stain for this project. If you have never used gel stain, you may want to take my advice and not follow the instructions at all. For instance, on the can it says something to the effect of “apply liberally, wait 15 minutes, and wipe off the excess”. I can say from past experience that 15 minutes is around 12 minutes too long. If you wait that long to wipe off the stain, you will need sandpaper to do it. So as my wife brushed on the stain, I stood by with a rag waiting to wipe it down. We got into a rhythm, and the after three back boards we did the shelves, the top board, the inside of the case, and the bottom trim piece. After a few hours of drying time, we applied a second coat, which goes on easier and you can leave on a bit longer, though I still wouldn’t use the time recommendations on the can.

I let the pieces dry for a few hours, took a break, and figured out an assembly procedure. With (8) dados, (2) mortise and tenon joints, and (2) rabbets, this case isn’t overloaded with joinery, but there still is a sequence that needs to be followed. Firstly, I predrilled all nail the nail holes. I used exactly (52) nails, and every one of them was nailed in a symmetrical pattern, so I had to lay out for each pilot hole. I then assembled the case by laying it on its side on top of the workbench, attaching the shelves and trim board with some glue, and nailing the top board to the underside of the top shelf. Once that was complete I assembled the three back panels and nailed them in place. After that, it was a matter of hammering and nailing. Though I’m pretty sure-handed with a hammer, I did have one miscue, so I had to break out the steam iron to fix it. Otherwise, the case went together without a hitch. One really good part about using dado joinery is the fact that if your dados are square, your case will be square. Dovetails may be stronger, but dovetails also have a propensity to compress, or be slightly asymmetrical, which can lead to an out of square piece of furniture. A dado joint does not work that way, and this cabinet is dead square all the way around.

The three types of nails used.

The three types of nails used.

Once the case was assembled I used the new block plane to trim the shelves flush, did a little light hand sanding, and called it a night. Next weekend I should be able to get the case sides stained and a few coats of wax applied. That should call it a completed display case. It’s actually been a fun project, and has turned out even more nicely than I had hoped. I’m most proud of the dado work, as they are all nearly perfect. But I can honestly say that everything has turned out according to plan (mostly) And it should have. This has been my first real furniture project in many months. I’ve had a lot of time to think about every little detail, and aside from changing the overall height of the cabinet, it has basically turned out how I imagined it would. Couple that with the fact that my wife helped me, and I have little to complain about.

Assembled and almost finished.

Assembled and almost finished. Note the front of the shelves where they were planed flush.

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4 Comments

  1. Greg Merritt says:

    Its looking great Bill!
    The staining looks like its coming out nice and even. Your gonna find that the Briwax flashes off and hardens fairly quick as well. So apply it a section at a time.
    Congratulations on getting your wife to help out in the shop. Mine just rolls her eyes when I ask. 🙂
    Can’t wait to see the finished product. Its going to look awesome.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Greg! I did a small test board with the Briwax and it didn’t darken the stain as much as I thought it would have. At the same time, the stain had only cured for a few hours so it still had a bit of tack to it. I’m not necessarily worried about any darkening, as I like the color, but I was expecting a bit more color. That being said, Briwax is potent, it smells twice as strong as the gel stain.
      I have to give my wife credit; she didn’t bat an eye. She actually enjoys staining and painting. We spent close to 4 hours staining (with a three hour break in between) But I think it gave my wife a good look into why it sometimes takes me all afternoon to woodwork. That, I think, was an even more important lesson.
      Thanks again!
      Bill

  2. Jonas Jensen says:

    Great job.

    I really like the look of the nail heads holding the shelves.

    Did you make a test piece since you found out that you shouldn’t trust the instructions for the stain?

    The only time I have stained something was with some powder that had to be dissolved in alcohol. Oh yes and also my shop stool that was stained with the Roubo experiment.
    Brgds
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jonas! I had planned on the nails from the beginning, nearly backed off, then came back to them. I was going to use nails regardless, so I felt that I may as well highlight them instead of trying to hide them. I like the look and have used it on shop projects in the past, but this is the first time I’ve used them on furniture.

      As far as the gel stain, I’ve used it in the past. I built matching end tables a few years back and used gel stain as the finish. I followed the instructions on the first table and found out the hard way that the gel stain tacks way to quickly to wait 15 minutes. I had to sand down the table top to correct it. The second coat can sit a bit longer, but not much. All in all I like gel stain because it usually leaves a nice and even finish, in particular on conditioned pine, which I’m sure you know can be tricky. Gel stain does not darken as much as a traditional stain, which is fine with me, though my wife does prefer a darker look. I plan on using dark mahogany Briwax as the finish coat-probably two coats-which will darken the case a bit more-and that’s probably about as dark as I want it.

      Bill

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