The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Plant Stand beginnings.

The past few weeks have left me with little free time, but as it were, when I did happen to get a brief moment or two of liberty I dedicated it my hopefully soon to be upcoming Plant Stand project. I could not find a plan that I liked, but I did happen to find a few photos on the internet that caught my eye, including one that I added on my last post. Working from that basic photo, I drew up a rough sketch of my basic idea. For that sketch I used the photo as the basic guide. I did not make the drawing proportional, and because I did it by nearly all by hand it is a little rough. For the final drawing I will use my architects ruler (it was in my desk at work when I drew up the first sketch) and do my best to make the drawing proportional.

Plant stand rough sketch.

Plant stand rough sketch.

Speaking of proportions, I’ve narrowed down the dimensions I’m looking for, but they will all depend on the final sizes of usable stock I come up with. I would like the overall height of the stand to be 38 inches, with a 14 x 14 inch base. I’m hoping for 2 inch square legs, and by laminating two boards together I should be able to get that thickness, unless I have to plane off more material than I think. If that’s the case I will shoot for 1 7/8 or 1 3/4 thick legs. The top will be 16 inches square which will give me a minimal one inch overhang. I would also like the top to be 1 to 1 1/8 inches thick. I want the stand to look very sturdy, almost stocky. I don’t care for the look of spindly furniture all that much. To soften it up I think I will taper the legs slightly (I really don’t like tapered legs much, either). I’m still not sold on adding a full bead to the legs. I will have to do a few more experiments on some scrap wood and see how they turn out; I do still plan on beading the aprons. Otherwise, this is a very simple design, which it should be considering where it is going.

The still hasn’t been cooperating. We had snow, and now it is expected to rain the rest of the week, so even though the rain finally cleared my back yard of snow, it is little more than a muddy swamp at this point. With the weekend forecast not improving that much, I may just have to bite the bullet and plane the stock down in my driveway. That operation will make a mess, but I’m tired of waiting around for the weather. Mother Nature doesn’t really give much thought to woodworkers without workshops in my part of the country. So I have to man up and drag my stuff out into the driveway and do a little woodworking in the cold and get this plant stand started. Besides that, if I run the surface planer in the garage my wife yells at me.

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Chest augmentation.

Tonight after work I completed my final sketch/design for my blanket and/or toy chest project. I’ve come up with a final dimension of 23 inches deep x 46 inches wide x 28 inches tall. I’ve added one new design feature that wasn’t included on my original sketch, and that is panels. But the truth is that the chest will not be paneled, and the rails and stiles will just be decorative 1/4 inch thick strips. Why include panels as fake as Pamela Anderson’s rack on a perfectly good and simple design? If you must know it is because of an episode of The New Yankee Workshop I watched online just the other day.

Latest sketch

Latest sketch

Though this chest isn’t an Arts & Crafts design, I was hoping to incorporate some A&C design elements. On the New Yankee Workshop episode, Norm built a replica of a Stickley original desk which just so happened to incorporate panels in the design. Since my chest design looks somewhat like a squashed desk, and since I really like Arts and Crafts furniture, I thought the faux panels may be a nice touch, and also do something to set the chest apart. So I drew up another sketch which included the fake panels, and on paper it looks like it may just work. Of course, Communism, friends with benefits, and the Phillies outfield also seem like they should work on paper. So before I commit to the idea completely I’m going to mock it up and see what’s what. Another option would be to just make the chest using actual panels which is a proven design element. I considered that, and while it wouldn’t really change the dimensions or overall look of the chest all that much, it would more than double the material cost if I wanted to do it properly; I’ll pass on that. If this one turns out okay, my next chest will get all the bells and whistles.

So the design is set and I have the material ready to go. I plan to begin on Saturday afternoon (I have work in the morning) starting with the legs. I hope to get the mortises finished, along with the chamfers on the feet and on the leg sides. Sunday morning I hope to get the side panels dadoed and ready to receive the chest bottom. I am guessing at around two hours each day. With those operations completed the rest of the chest should go together quickly and painlessly, on paper. If this chest build goes well I will have a proven design under my belt for future use, and more importantly it will get my wife off my back for the time being and give me the trump card I need to build my Arts & Crafts side table without any grief. That all sounds like a good plan, on paper.

Toy Chest Story

I’ve always considered chests the work van of the furniture world; they do a great job of holding things, but essentially it’s a large box that looks like a large box. Traditionally chests were painted, or decorated with ornate carvings and/or mouldings in order to take some of the blandness out of them. Because I don’t like ornate mouldings, and I have no carving tools or experience using them, in order for me to decorate a chest I either need to paint it, or change the design slightly more to my suiting. So today, I sketched my initial idea for a toy/blanket chest for my daughter’s bedroom.

If the drawing seems a bit familiar to those of you who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis you would be correct in that assumption. I basically took a page from the Arts & Crafts handbook, along with the sideboard table I desperately want to build, and came up with an idea for a chest that I believe would work like a traditional chest should, but at the same time please my sense of furniture proportion. I haven’t as of yet come up with any final dimensions, but I am leaning towards a chest 30 inches tall, 47 inches wide, and 23 inches deep. Before I commit to that I need to take a few more measurements in my daughters bedroom to be sure that the space allocated for it will be sufficient.

As far as construction details are concerned, I will use dado joinery for the case, probably along with a few pocket screws to basically act as clamps. The two decorative bottom stretchers will use mortise and tenon joinery. I will more than likely add stopped chamfers on the legs to soften them and keep the corners dulled, and the lid will have a traditional cove moulding to set it apart just a bit. I’m trying to work out a way to get some decorative head cut nails into the mix. Because the case will be held with dados and glued to the legs, I cannot technically use nails. But a few strategically placed nails could be used for decorative effect, possibly something similar to the ebony pegs used in the Greene and Greene style.

While I don’t think anybody would consider this design an Arts & Crafts piece, I honestly believe it could be in the spirit of it, with just a few of the right touches added that is. While I don’t anticipate this being a technically difficult build, I also don’t think it will be quick and easy. The little details that make all the difference will take time to do correctly. There will be some hand plane, spoke shave, and chisel work; I will probably use a router to make the cove on the lid, and the decorative stretchers will need to have tenons added as well as delicately rounded over to offset them from the square legs. Right now I’m going to guess at around 20 hours of bench time including prep work. The finishing time will vary depending on the choice, either paint or stain. The only real choice I have left to make is which material to use. It will be either birch plywood or edge glue panels, with the legs and the lid being pine either way. The plywood is maybe more cost effective, and certainly more stable, but I won’t make that decision until I know for sure what I am actually spending.

So this chest will be my next project. I need to make one more drawing, which I will do after I take my final measurements. With those measurements I can transfer the proportions to the graph paper, and that will give me a good guideline during the actual build. I have a very good feeling about this one, and I think it’s going to turn out nicely. In fact, I have a strong feeling that once it’s finished my wife is going to try to claim it for her own. I’ll try to remind her that I also have an idea for another chest (not Kate Upton’s unfortunately). That second chest may be her Christmas present, and getting the opportunity to build it may be mine.

Rough sketch

Rough sketch

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