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I haven’t made a piece of furniture in many months.
I’m not too happy about that fact. This has been my longest stretch without making a piece of furniture since I started woodworking. But I found that my hiatus did have one added benefit; it gave me time to think. In actuality my upcoming project has been in the planning stages for several months though I only decided on starting it a few weeks ago. But it has given me more time than ever to plan every joint, the assembly order, and all of the little details that are sometimes missed, not only in my head, but on paper. But the real “rarity” was my laying out every tool that I plan on using for each phase of the construction. I can’t recall ever doing that before. Of course, like most woodworkers there are certain things I do during a project that happen “on the fly”. I’m sure that this project will have some of those moments, but I think they will be few.
Friday afternoon I got to do something that I don’t often get to do: Go to my local lumberyard. For the record, this lumberyard is not a hard wood dealer. Though they offer some oak, maple, and cherry, most of their business is geared towards construction. What they do offer is very nice, clear pine, and that is what I purchased. The only mistake I made was not purchasing enough, and that only because it wouldn’t fit in my car. But I got enough for the bulk of the construction, which cost me $78.00. While I would have loved to build this project from oak, I chose pine because it was in my budget. $78.00 gave me both case sides, all 5 shelves, and the top and bottom trim pieces. The only thing I am missing is the 3 boards needed for the back.
Though I’m happy to have visited the lumberyard this past weekend, the real reason I am writing this post concerns my table saw. Anybody who reads this blog on a somewhat regular basis knows that like nearly every other woodworking blogger on the internet, when concerning woodworking, I often use hand tools. I’m not a zealot; I’ve said many times over that I don’t care who uses what. And I’m happy to say that it’s been a while since I’ve come across the “Hand tool vs Power tool” forums. While I don’t see the spiritual side to using hand tools that some woodworkers claim to find, I do enjoy using them. However, on Saturday morning I prepped all of the stock for this project, first rough cutting it to size and then sawing it to finished length and width. I did nearly all of that prep work using my table saw.
In approximately 30 minutes I had the bulk of that work finished. The only hand tool that saw action was the #7 jointer plane which I used to clean up the edges. Having that table saw saved me a lot of time this past weekend. It allowed me to get a lot of grunt work finished and still take my kid to her soccer game. In short, it allowed me the time to sweat the small stuff when the time comes; it allowed me speed and accuracy; it allowed to me start making furniture again, and it allowed me to once again be a real woodworker
So the woodworking mafia has effectively shut down my vitriol with thinly veiled accusations and threats of blackballing. My wife, who hates me, couldn’t really care less if I look like Captain America or Captain Crunch. And, I spend more than half of my waking hours at work. Life has not been kind to the SCW lately. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I can still woodwork, and that is exactly what I am going to do.
This past summer was pretty rough, and I’m not only talking about the weather, and for a while it didn’t seem like woodworking would be in the cards for the foreseeable future. But just as I was lamenting my lack of inspiration concerning possible woodworking projects, several ideas came to me at once. So for my next project I am going to make a narrow bookcase/display cabinet. I’ve always liked the look of Arts and Crafts style bookcases; I like narrow cabinets, and maybe most importantly, I have the perfect place for it. , So I researched a few common designs, combined the features that I liked, and began making some drawings and laying out basic dimensions of the case. I don’t actually plan on using the cabinet for books. A hobby of mine, which may sound strange to some people (which also drives my wife crazy), is framing and displaying historical letters and documents, such as the Gettysburg Address, the “Infamy speech”, as well as documents such as Declaration of Independence. Though I’m partial to material pertaining to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I don’t discriminate.
I would like the finished cabinet to be somewhere around 66 inches tall, 22 inches wide, and 11 inches deep. That should give me enough room for five shelves, with each shelf holding up to two standard sized documents, and/or a nick-knack or two. As far as material, I will likely use clear pine just for the expense (or lack of expense). However, I am going to Hearne Hardwoods next week for the Lie Nielsen hand-tool event, and if I can somehow afford it, I would love to pick up some quarter-sawn oak or possibly some walnut for this project, but considering that my budget is around $200 I don’t think that is going to happen. Still, I am going to attempt to make an accurate cut list and see what material may fall within my budget.
If I get my drawings finalized, and If everything goes according to plan, I should get this project up and running by the first weekend in October. So even if my wife hates me, and a bunch of woodworking geeks hate me, and I’m working myself to death. I don’t care anymore, because I’m going to be woodworking again, and that’s going to make it all better.
I received a rather odd request from my wife the other day. No, not that (get your heads out of the gutter); instead, she asked me to build a bookcase. In fact, she asked me to build a “Jefferson Bookcase”. I know what a Jefferson stacked bookcase is because I can recall one being featured in Popular Woodworking magazine, though I can’t ever recall seeing any other real references to a bookcase as “Monticello” or “Jefferson” anywhere but PW magazine. In any event, this is odd to me because my wife rarely asks me to make furniture, and here I have not one, but two requests: a blanket chest and a bookcase, both of which were featured in a woodworking magazine.
There are two problems with the bookcase request. One is that I am building the blanket chest before I do anything else. We really need it, the materials for the project are less expensive, and it is frankly easier to construct and will take up less space in my garage as I’m building it. The second problem is the simple fact that I don’t like the Jefferson bookcase, at least not the incarnation from the magazine. To my eye it is an odd mix of utilitarian joinery and a frilly base that doesn’t compliment the design. I do like the idea of a tiered bookcase. Bookcases can obviously look boxy and sometimes need ornamentation to liven them up. The tiers can help break up the monotony and visually lighten the appearance of a large box without compromising the storage capacity or stability of the case. More importantly, they don’t need to be overly frilly to make them appealing. However, the only examples I’m finding of this design are more on the modern side of furniture design, and I generally don’t care for modern furniture.
So, if I want to make a tiered bookcase to make my wife happy, and I want the design to appeal to my own sensibilities (which are quite sensible) then I will have to build a bookcase of my own design. Because it is for my living room, it will probably lean towards the Arts and Crafts style. However, if I look through my books and see something in the Shaker style that I can modify then that is the route I will take.
When I build furniture of my own design it usually goes in three stages. The first stage is the rough measurements and drawings, the second stage is the finished drawing/plan, and the third stage is when I change a part of the design after I’ve already started construction. The rough drawings will take longest, usually around a week or so, because I will have to come up with something that will fit in the allocated space without overwhelming it, as well as being based around material that is easy to obtain, I don’t like gluing up boards to width if I can’t help it, so that may mean birch plywood for the outer case.
The good news here is I now have two projects to look forward to in the spring, and because one of them is already measured and planned, I only need to pick up the material to build it. I will also have the opportunity to do some sketching, which is prep work that I enjoy doing. Now I have a little work cut out for myself, and being that it is Winter, and it’s been below freezing for the past few weeks, this is the perfect time for me to get designing.
This past weekend was a good one for me, especially in the woodworking sense. On Sunday morning my wife and I applied the final clear coat to my Arts & Crafts bookcase project thus finishing the piece literally and figuratively. It turned out even better than I expected it to. There are a few minor dings in it that worried me, but seeing them with the case completely finished they add greatly to the character of the piece. I once watched an episode of This Old House where people had ordered around $50,000 worth of custom cabinets and one of the features that was added were some dents and dings and scratches just before delivery, because the customer wanted them to look like they had been used. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. To me, “character” such as that can’t be bought. The dings in my cabinet are there because they happened in the process of making them. I’ll remember how they happened because I was there when they happened, they are quite possibly my fault, but you didn’t hear that from me.
I have one very minor issue with the case: It is too big for me to move myself, and my wife, bless her, just isn’t strong enough to help me with it. I’m hoping that a certain father-in-law will stop by this coming weekend to help me get it into its alloted space in the living room. I’m sure my wife has already mapped out the array of knick-knacks, plants, photos, candles, and statues of Budda that will go on each shelf, but I’m also hoping to fill it with some books. And just when I thought my woodworking happiness reached its Zenith, my spokeshave arrived from Veritas. I haven’t gotten the chance to use it yet, or even hone the blade for that matter, but it sure looks and feels like a top quality woodworking tool. Even more good news came when I found that I had enough reward points to pay for nearly all of my Hock block plane kit, so I ordered that as well, thus picking up the two tools I really wanted to have before I started my next project, and I hardly had to shell out any money to get both.
I’m hoping to get the final details of my next woodworking project set in the next week or two. One project may supercede my medicine cabinet, and that is a carpentry project. For quite some time I’ve wanted to re-do the trim and wainscoting in my bedroom, and because the winter has been cold thus far I think it may make a little more sense working in the house and not a cold garage. But that hasn’t been decided as of yet. Either way, this year has so far started out in a great way. I’m hoping that it only gets better, but only time will tell.