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.