For the first time in a long, long time I was a “power tool woodworker” on Sunday afternoon. There was nothing momentous about this occasion, it just so happened, to happen.
To set the scene, several years ago (I don’t remember exactly when), I purchased a weather instrument kit from Lee Valley because it was on sale and because they were offering free shipping. I’ve always enjoyed the appearance of vintage weather stations and I thought it would be a nice idea to make one. So like all new project ideas, I planned on starting that one ASAP, and the kit was promptly placed in a cabinet in my garage where it sat untouched for around 24 months give or take.
In the meanwhile, I’ve managed to build up quite a stash of walnut, cherry, and ash, along with the prerequisite pine and poplar, and coincidentally I happened to see one of those weather stations at a museum recently, so I thought it would be a good idea to finally make my own version.
The original plan was simple: a walnut slab cornered and chamfered with a basic finish applied. So I used broke out the table saw to cross-cut and rip the slab to finish size. The news is all good; the saw cut smoothly and there was no hint of bogging or binding, and this on a 1 inch thick x 13 inch wide slab of well-seasoned walnut. I then laid out the corners and cut the first one with a hand saw. Of course I had to clean up that cut with a block plane, and then it dawned on me to use the table saw to cut the other corners. Why not? What was the worst that could happen?
Nothing happened, it took all of 2 minutes for the cuts to be made.
I then needed to plane the board smooth, as it was a true in-the-rough board. I used a jack plane first just to get the bulk of the work done, and I then went to my Stanley #4. For whatever reason, it didn’t seem to be producing the results that I wanted, so I decided to turn to my coffin smoother, which is a tool that I painstakingly and lovingly restored myself with many hours of labor (thank you Graham Haydon). The plane performed above and beyond expectations and it should have, considering I spent hours on the sharpening alone.
Lastly, I chamfered the edges with a block plane. Everything went so quickly I had myself a wacky idea: how about adding another panel, inset and raised above the walnut, in a lighter wood such as cherry. I had several nice pieces of cherry that would work, but rather than taking the risk of ruining them (in the sense that it wouldn’t look all that great) I decided to use a piece of scrap pine for a test run. So I went back to the table saw and quickly made the cuts. I then had to cut out the holes for the weather pieces, which required a 2 1/2 inch hole. My largest forstner bit is 2 1/8 inches, so I used a hole saw instead, and in the drill-press it worked just fine.
The most difficult part was accurately drilling two holes for dowels which would align the two boards. I used a combination square to set the reveal, taped the board securely with painters tape, and started the drilling. My plan was to use the scrap pine as a template, so I drilled through that board and around ½ inch into the walnut. Lastly, I quickly planed and chamfered the pine, screwed in two temporary spacers on the walnut, and installed the panel. (once the cherry is installed the dowels will not be seen)
All in all I like the look, though I do think it will look even better with a cherry panel instead of the scrap pine. When I removed the pine to apply a finish, it split a touch, not that it matters because it was only a temp solution, and I should have no trouble using it as a template for the cherry. The project came in at just about 2 hours, and I’m estimating that replacing the pine with cherry will probably be a 45 minute affair. I would have finished right then and there but the day was already getting long. Truthfully, I think maple would look even better but I don’t have a suitable maple board to use.
Regardless, it was a fun little project, and I think it will look great in the area I have set aside for it. Not to get ahead of myself, but this is the first in hopefully a series of projects to create my own little “dream” office area, complete with old manuscripts, candle holders, writing desks, and quill pens. Yeah, I’m a history geek; I admit it.