Friday, August 30, 2013

Chest of Drawers - case construction

I started work on the chest of drawers the other day, and I seem to be doing pretty okay with it. Frame construction was fairly straightforward. I got a little shut out in terms of materials since I was planning on using oak plywood with oak hardwood edging, drawer fronts, and moldings, but when I went to go buy wood, they didn't have any oak ply. I picked up a sheet of birch ply instead and got some #2 pine for the solid parts. I milled up everything pretty quick, and my Marples blade is still working great.
The outfeed table finally gets some real use. 6' pieces no problem.
 My outfeed table for my saw has been more of an assembly table than anything else mostly because I usually break down my plywood by making the rough crosscuts first. This is partly out of laziness because I don't want to carry huge pieces of ply into the garage. This time, however, I worked out my cut list to minimize the waste, and so I ended up making a 6 foot long piece and used the remnant piece to make the solid bottom. Needless to say, the outfeed worked great. 6' pieces of ply go through the saw like butter and sit comfortably on the table after the cut and don't need additional support. I suppose if I use a couple of roller stands, I could easily rip cut a full sheet of plywood. I have to organize my back bench so that it makes a good staging area to start these cuts.

Dust Frames.
After sizing out the sides, I built the dust frames that make the compartments for the dresser. Since I'm not using solid wood for this, I decided to make the dust frames pieces wider than I normally would so that it wouldn't sag. I probably should have put cross-members on all the frames, but the bottom two don't seem to be bothered much by the lack of a center rail.

Cutting out the dadoes and rabbets for the sides was a simple procedure once I got the dado set up to the right width. I worked out a cutting order for the sides, and got to work. Since my sides were cut up square and both pieces matched, assembly went through without much hassles until I got to the back.
Dry fit looks good.
It all fits!
Cutting out the back piece turned into a bit of an adventure because this piece of furniture exceeds my maximum rip cut in both dimensions, so the smart person would have sized the back in two pieces. Me being not quite so smart, figured out that I could sort of manage the rip cut with the fence way off at the end. Not smart...I'm lucky I didn't get a kickback and send the piece of plywood out the back of my garage. The piece of wood was also too wide for my panel cutter. Let's just say that next time, I'm making the back in two pieces and seaming it over one of the shelves.

Aside from that adventure with sizing the back, the assembly went pretty well. I got to test out my narrow crown stapler that I got from Harbor Freight. I have to say that for being a tool that didn't cost me more than $30, it performs great. I suppose part of its good performance comes from the Senco staples (that I think might have cost more than the tool).

I spent some time today working on the finish details. Since this piece is Shaker-inspired, I wanted something a little more on the classic side. I also wanted to try out some dye on this project. Since I was online buying air inlet caps for my brad nailer and finish nailer, I noticed the site I was on also sold aniline dyes. I picked up a bottle of cherry rosewood and pilgrim maple. I wanted to give this a shot since it was water based and the colors seemed to take a lot faster than the stains I can find in the store here.
It sure goes on strong...I hope that I don't regret this.

It looks good with finish on it and under the light.

Aside from the blotchy part near the knot, it took on the pine well.
I do like the ease of use of the dye. I do also like the fact that 1 ounce of dye power makes over a quart of usable liquid dye. Considering the coverage of this stuff, I think the sample batches I made will last me a while. I think I'll go with the maple color for this project since this is Shaker style and the color seems more even between the birch ply and the pine on the maple than the cherry rosewood. I do have to say the cherry rosewood is beautiful. I'll definitely have to save it for another project.

I didn't do much milling of stock today since I was testing out finishes, but I did manage to build the edging for the case and put it together. I spend the rest of the evening sizing up the drawers and I'll probably build those tomorrow. After that, I have to size up the top and build the base. I should be able to finish the woodworking on this by Sunday, then I have to finish it.

Nadine seemed happy with it even though it's only about half done, but she'll finally have a place to store her kimono stuff once it's finished. I do have another dresser I want to make, but I think a bookcase might come first. I'd like to get all my books and stuff back in my room. I still need to make my nightstand too.

So many little time and so little good wood available. I could really use a surface planer so that I'm not limited to wood from Home Depot and Lowe's.

Pine edging is applied. Time for some sanding and more sanding...and drawers.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The power of cheap...

I bought a pair of zero clearance inserts when I got my table saw because I did research into it and it seemed that for the optimum cut quality and safety, ZCI's are pretty much required. Since I only had one blade for my saw at the time, I didn't think I'd need more than one for a while. My saw is fairly well tuned, and so I didn't think that it would fall out of alignment any time soon (and it hasn't).

The issue came up when I sent my original combination blade off to be sharpened. So I wouldn't be laid up without a good standard blade, I bought an Irwin Marples blade. This blade is definitely worth the money -- if you want a good blade that won't set you back more than $50, I'd recommend you get one. But when I put it into my saw, I found out that the kerf isn't exactly the same as the Diablo blade I had in there. As a result, the cutout in my ZCI is now not quite right for either blade. The gap has widened to a little over 1/32" on either side, and for something that should be "zero clearance", it's not quite what I want.

My main issue with the aftermarket insert is that it costs about $30 with shipping. I decided that I should just make one of my own. I searched around my garage and found a piece of scrap MDF that must have been a remnant from making my router table. I ripped a 4" piece off the end of it and started working on making my own insert.

The nice thing is that there were a lot of instructions online from other owners of my R4512 saw. Several of them have posted their experiences making inserts along with photos. Using those as a starting point, I was able to put one together with some minor tweaking here and there.

The best thing about making these inserts is that I got to practice a few things that will make my woodworking better. The first is that it requires use of the router table. There were a few blind cuts and some flush trimming to do, and there was no way I was going to try and do that with a handheld router.

Threw on a coat of spar urethane to help protect it from moisture.
It took me a little over an hour to fit everything and make sure that it would work okay in my saw. It worked great, and now I have a proper insert for my Marples blade. I just got my Diablo blade back from sharpening (it's better than frightening), and so tonight I built another insert for that. I haven't cut out the slot in that one yet, but I'll get to that when I have to use that blade again.

The nice thing is that I can make about 15 inserts out of a quarter sheet of MDF. Considering that a quarter sheet of MDF costs under $20, I can make 15 inserts for a little more than a dollar each out of that quarter sheet. That's a heck of a lot better than almost $30 for one insert. I have to make a few for my stacked dado set so I can have a variety of inserts for different width dadoes and rabbets.

Now that I have these done, I know that I can get accurate, tearout-free cuts and I won't have to worry about thin strips falling in between the blade and the insert and getting thrown at my face at 150 miles an hour. I have to pick up the plywood and solid stock for the dresser I'm going to build, so I'll probably try to take care of that tomorrow after work.

Now I have a true ZCI for my Marples Blade.

Red insert for $30...MDF one for basically free...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The unintentional project

Since a dresser is up next on the docket for my bedroom, I want to design one that will work for what I need. Most of the plans I found online aren't quite right for my room because I want to have a certain amount of free space in the room, and many of the plans are either too big or too small. I found a couple that were close, but I don't want to buy a plan then have to make all sorts of modifications to the plan just to fit my needs. Of course the pseudo-engineer in my brain that I must have inherited from my dad said, "Just design one yourself." So, off to work I went.

I drew up a plan that I think will work, but just to get a general sense of scale for the piece, I decided to make a scale model. Looking at the easiest size proportion, it looked like 1/4 size would be the best. I found a couple pieces of 1/2" plywood scraps in my garage that were left over from building Chibi's cabinet and got to work. I tried to replicate the building techniques as closely as I could, and I ended up making a small two drawer mini dresser.

Not wanting leave it plain, I cut up a spare piece of maple I had lying around and made some veneer to cover the plywood edges. As I worked on it, it dawned on me that I should finish it all the way and see what it'll look like finished. I had to go out and buy a piece of poplar to make the drawers, but I figured that for $7, it wouldn't break the bank and I could make something useful of it.

I learned a few things while making this. The first is that end grain on maple is like rock and it's very difficult to rout. I could partially blame that on the fact that I probably was taking off too much material at once, but it's also because I was using a 1/4" shank bit and I didn't want that thing breaking off on me. After slowly building my 1/2" shank bit collection, I need more of those for edge forming. Those just feel more secure in the machine.

I also learned that I need to take some time to tune up my saw so it cuts straight and true again. It's pretty close, but I know that I have to make some small adjustments to the rip fence. I'm sure that because it's one of those that comes off and on and isn't built out of angle steel, all of the use I've been giving it has been slowly drawing it out of square, etc. As a result, some of my cuts didn't seem as precise as I wanted them.

The last thing I learned is that small projects are difficult to make and the tolerances have to be really exact. When you build a bigger project, if it's out of square by a little, it's okay and you can generally hide the errors. When you're working on something that's tiny, that 1/32" that it's out can really mess with things.

I am glad that I built this little mini-dresser. I think that Nadine can find some small things to put in it, and I know that when I get around to building the larger one, I will have a design that should work properly. I'm probably going to beef up the front edging to possibly make a full-fledged face frame and it will have 6 drawers total. I'd kind of like to dovetail the drawers together, but I think a locking rabbet may work just as well. Not having a dovetail jig also kind of helps make that decision...

I guess that I'll probably build the real dresser out of red oak plywood and solid edging. It's easily obtainable, and I won't run into the problem of having birch plywood sides with some other kind of wood as the solid wood that might become ugly as the piece ages. Since I don't have a surface planer either, buying other kinds of hardwood is not really an option since I can't plane it down to the right size and they don't sell S4S cherry at Home Depot or Lowe's.

I think I'll try something different with finishing and see if I can go with a two-toned look. Since most of the thing is maple, I think I'll stain all of that one color and pick a contrasting color for the poplar.

This was a real quickie of a project and it was fairly simple to put together, but I was able to get something useful out of it, and I think I might have the beginnings of a jewelry box design with the scale model.

Sometimes the best stuff happens unintentionally. I just wanted a scale model to work with, but I scored a nice piece of miniature furniture as a result.

Friday, August 16, 2013

All done..what's next?

I put on the last coat of poly yesterday, and I'm going to put the nightstand in the room today. Overall, I'm happy how it came out. I did learn that I should try to find better quality wood -- obviously wood from the Borg (orange or blue) isn't going to be what I'd like to work with on a regular basis, but since I don't have a planer, rough cut lumber isn't in my sights yet, so I just have to deal with that for now.

I am glad that I was able to make this nightstand quickly and without a lot of drama. I am finding that for every project I make, I almost always seem to acquire a new tool or parts for my existing tools. For this project, I got a couple new router bits.

I also am glad that with each project, I learn new skills. On this project, I learned how to layout and make mortise and tenon joinery and I also learned how to make tapered legs. I used locking rabbet joinery like I normally do when I make drawers, but this time I used a 3/4" front panel so I had to learn how to mill the locking grooves a little differently.

This project also got me to work on my finishing technique a little more, and I know that I have a way more to go on that. I have to be more diligent about my surface preparation by sanding enough and making sure I sand everything evenly. I also do need to work on my wipe-on finish technique. I do believe that these are all learning experiences, and that my future projects will come out better.

I think my next project will have to be a shop-related project. I have to make a dedicated table for assembly and finishing. Since I built Chibi's vanity, I realized that having a lower work surface would be a good idea. Even though this nightstand is just over 24" tall, I found that even that can be a little tall since my table saw sits about 37" high, so reaching around the top can be a chore.

I also need more storage for tools. I foolishly thought that my original set of cabinets would be enough. To be honest, they do hold everything pretty well, but over time, you can always make improvements. I'm finding that I want to keep my assembly and finishing tools in one place. That way I don't have to make trips around the garage to get things. I want it all in one place. Add on top of that the fact that pin nailer and stapler that I just got from Harbor Freight did not come with cases, and I now have a storage dilemma.

My goal for the assembly cabinet is pretty simple, I think. It has to be mobile, and it should have a good work surface I can use to assemble, sand, and finish my projects. I think that I'll build it in a similar fashion to my stationary bench, but I'll make it a few inches lower to give me some room to work so I don't put any pieces of wood through the lights in the ceiling of the garage. I want it to have a power strip so I can run my extension cord to it and run my compressor and sanders. It should also have some drawer and door storage for my nailers, compressor, and finishing supplies.

My next project for the room is going to be a dresser. I want to make sure that Nadine has enough storage for her kimono and all that. I think I've settled on a design, so I just need to start looking at the parts for it. I haven't decided yet what it's going to be made of, but since I researched and found that $130 for cherry plywood isn't a total rip-off, especially considering how much it must cost to ship it here, I might bite the bullet and use cherry plywood and solid cherry wood.

Always have to clean after the projects are done.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Staining and Finishing

I got the woodworking done with the nightstand on Monday when I finished up the drawer. I didn't get much done with it yesterday since I actually had a sub job, but I did manage to get it stained in the afternoon. I let the stain dry overnight, and so today I got to finishing it. I have to say that the wipe-on finishing method takes a bit longer, but it definitely is much easier than hoping dust doesn't settle on the drying finish or trying to sand out brush marks.

 The stain worked out pretty well on the poplar. I can't figure out if that's just because the stain is good or I got lucky, but it looks good, and that's all that matters to me. I think that I can probably get all the finish on today, and then I can let it cure and bring it into the room tomorrow.

This might be the only project I've ever finished within a week, and I'm glad that I did. I really want to have a good place to put the lamp and alarm clock, so this will go a long way for that.

I'm sure I'll take some better pictures of this when it's all done and in the room. I'm just glad I was able to put it together fairly easily.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

You really can't have too many clamps!

I did the glue up for the nightstand today, and I learned that humidity does some wacky things to wood. It's been raining the past day or so, and some of my previously very straight pieces of wood were swelling and starting to cup a little. I was shocked at how fast this happened, so I decided I better get everything together before I have to sacrifice pieces and start over. Fine tuning the tenons went easily, and I didn't have too much trouble except for one piece that didn't want to seat, but some gentle clamp pressure took care of that.

Looks good on the dry fit.
Whenever I watch Norm, he always mentions that you can never have too many clamps. Being that I've never really needed more than 2-3 at a time, I figured that running out of clamps wasn't something that I would be encountering as a problem until I try to do something more complex. Apparently today turned into that day.

This assembly wasn't difficult in the least, however, it did provide me with evidence that you can run out of clamps. Since I only have bar clamps, I learned that it doesn't distribute a lot of pressure over a wide surface. Along with the fact that I probably cut my tenons a little on the tight side, I needed some persuasion with the mallet and a few clamps.

Before I knew it, my glued assembly was done, and my clamp rack was totally empty except for my spring clamps, my 12" bar clamps, and my 5 foot long pipe clamps. I was shocked that it took that many clamps to get things together, but I think that in the future, I'll be better about getting the joinery more precise. That should alleviate the need for so many clamps. I will have to buy and make a few more. Since I'm going to have to make a second table later for my side of the bed, I want to make sure I have enough clamps. I think some of my future projects will need clamps as well, so making sure my clamp rack is filled up a bit more would be a great idea.

I can work on the top of the table and measure up for the drawer now, so I might actually be able to finish up the woodworking on this today. I am glad things came together smoothly, so I'll have to work on making sure it finishes up nicely.

All in all, this project isn't that difficult. I'm sure that when I make a second one, It'll turn out much better.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Starting the nightstand

Wow, two projects within 9 months of each other. I'm not going to know how to act now. I started work on Nadine's nightstand last night and did some glue-ups to make the top and the legs.

I'm really thinking I need more clamps in the shorter range. I bought some pipe clamp fixtures to make some 5 foot long clamps, but now that I think about it, I need more clamps in the 24" range. The bulk of what I make is smaller than 4 feet, so I should probably invest in more 12" and 24" clamps. I think I should probably make some shorter pipe clamps. Doing glue-ups with my regular bar clamps is a frustrating experience. I'd like Bessey K-body Revo clamps, but since I can make a pipe clamp in a comparable size for $15 less per clamp, I don't think I need those quite yet. I feel like $50+ per clamp is a bit steep.

As a side note, I'm pretty steamed that Home Depot doesn't have Jorgensen clamps any more. I went there recently thinking I should buy more clamps and I found out really quickly that all the orange clamps were gone and were replaced with Irwin clamps. I'm sure they're not terrible, but then my clamps won't match up on the rack. As much as that shouldn't matter, it does.

I spent some time this morning trying out some finishes on the poplar I bought for this table. It's a pretty well-known fact that poplar isn't the prettiest wood and it generally gets reserved for a secondary wood and for painted projects. I figured I could save some money with the poplar, and if I can figure out how to stain it properly, then I can make some nice projects on the cheap (relatively). I worked up a sample piece so I could test out the finish.

Test staining...
I've been a big fan of the Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stains. I like the fast dry time, and I also like the color it produces. From what I've been able to research online, it's good for keeping color even on hard to stain woods like pine and poplar. My experiences with it on my projects have been good, so I figured that I'll make my samples with that. I do have a can of regular Minwax stain, but I figured I'd save that for something else. I might use it for my other shop projects since I used it on my router table, so I could have a matched set of shop furniture.

Stain with a little bit of wipe-on finish over it.

Much to my delight the colors of the stain seem to work well on the poplar. I have some golden mahogany, traditional cherry, and black cherry. I'm not 100% on the black cherry since it seems a bit purple to me, but I'm glad the mahogany and traditional cherry came out looking so good. I'm probably going to go with one of those.

I also took the time this morning to mill up the legs and rough out the side panels. I did the layout for the mortises on the legs, and so I'm just taking some time to look over my plans and make sure that I have everything in order so that I can get the layout just right. I don't want to have to glue up any more legs or make any other pieces. I still have another piece of wood that hasn't been milled yet, but I don't want to use up too much of that. I do have a drawer to make and I want to select a good part of the last board for that.

I have to taper the legs as well, so I need to do the layout for that, but I'm going to take care of that later today. I want to cut the mortises first so I can have a chance to see where I need to make the necessary cuts.

I think the woodworking on this will go quickly, and so I hope that I can put the table together by the end of the weekend. Of course the finishing will take some time, but now that I have a process for that and this is a much smaller project than Chibi's cabinet, I think that it'll finish up fast and end up in the bedroom soon. Then we'll have a place to put the lamp and alarm clock.

Legs and sides milled up. The Marples blade is great!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jigs and more jigs

When it comes to woodworking "projects", I think I've made more jigs and fixtures for my table saw than anything else. My biggest project so far was definitely my router table, but it always seems that after I'm done making something, I use the scraps to build some jigs for next time.

After my router table was finished, I had some plywood left over, so I make a tenoning jig that rides on my rip fence and also a tapering jig so I can make tapered legs and stuff. Both of those were fairly straightforward and didn't require too much in terms of construction. I'm still waiting to use these two jigs, but since my next project (a nightstand) will require tapered legs and use mortise and tenon joinery, those are going to be put to the test soon.

Since I finished up my cabinet for my cat, I again had some plywood left over. This time I made up two box joint jigs. One cuts 3/8" fingers and the other cuts 1/4" fingers. I figured for my projects, that's pretty much all I'd need. I guess if I make a big project that needs it, I could put together a 1/2" finger version, but I don't think I need it yet, and I'm running out of scrap plywood.

Making this jig was fairly simple, so it didn't take me more than an hour and a half total to make both of them. The hardest part was setting up my dado set for the right sized cut. The Oshlun dado set I have cuts great, but it does have the slight annoyance of being designed slightly undersized. I realized this when I bought it and I didn't think too much of it because I figured I'd be cutting more plywood than anything else. Luckily for me, the set does come with a fair amount of shims, and so getting the right size groove dialed in wasn't too difficult.

I made some test cuts, and it looks like everything will work out fine. I'm trying to think of some kind of project I could use this on, and I'm thinking some small projects for my fiancee's desk at school may be the place to give these a test run.

I also sent my Diablo blade off to Dynamic Saw for sharpening, so I had to pick up another blade in the meantime. I got an Irwin Marples 50T combination blade. I think I'll do some comparisons when my Diablo comes back. So far, I love the way the Marples cuts. It's just as good, if not better than the Diablo. It cut through the maple I used for the jig keys much easier than my Diablo blade did and didn't burn nearly as much. Of course, my Diablo blade is a year and a half old and it's only been cleaned, not sharpened. I'm sure it's not as sharp as it used to be considering how much plywood and MDF I cut with it. For the price, I probably should have bought a new blade, but since I like the way my Diablo blade performs, it will be nice to have two good blades, and if I like the sharpening, I'll probably send my chop saw blade off too since that blade is even older than my table saw blade and I've cut a lot of stuff with it.

I'm looking into getting a new miter gauge since I'd like to have a better one. Since the locking knob on my stock gauge broke about a week or so after I got the saw and I had to make a custom knob, I've been looking into getting something better. That Osborne EB-3 is looking good to me and my birthday is coming up...

Jigs ready to go.

3/8" test in scrap MDF
1/4" test in scrap 1/2" plywood.

Ready for action! Probably should clean up the work area too...