Friday, December 6, 2013

Gooseneck Facade Part 2

I had a fair bit of time in the shop last night, so I was able to get a lot of the facade done last night. This is a good thing, as my goal is to have this thing finished off by the end of the year and I know that carving the gooseneck moldings will take me some time.

Anyhow, I started with the remainder of the cherry board from which I cut my two case sides.  This is important as it will hopefully make the finishing process easier and more consistent. The sash door and moldings will also be made from this same board.

This board was stored under cover outside but still
got a little water. No damage though. Just a couple of stains.
I have two cherry boards that were cut from this same tree. The tree grew on the property of Tillers International and they were given to me by a good friend and former instructor there, Steve Stier.

I started rough flattening one side of the board, the side on which I will draw the pattern.  I will rough plane the opposite side as well, but will only really care about thickness and flatness where the facade board attaches to the case. Other than that, it will be whatever it will be. No need to get crazy about it.

Like my latest work holding device? Its an offcut from making
the seat for my '26 Model T. Works great!

Once I had that side flat enough, I straightened and squared the bottom edge. This is the most important part of the whole facade, as this part will determine not only the overall square "look" of the piece, but also how the sash door will fit and operate. It has to be straight and square.

With that done, I then simply lined up the bottom edge of my template with the square edge and traced around the template with a pencil. I then flipped the pattern over its middle line, lined up the edges again and traced the opposite side.

Flat enough in the areas that matter.
Any tearout will be removed via scraper at a later time.
With the line completed, I then cut the pencil line in with my favorite carving knife, which is sharp enough to sever the grain without applying any real force to it at all. This makes it easy to stay on line while providing me with a sharp reference line. 

Then, I simply cut in the square ends to the piece, staying just off the line so that I have material to trim plush with the case. Lacking a decent turning saw (the coping saw in the pictures was an experiment... no go), I then proceeded to use my rip saw to cut a straight line that is very close to the curve.  I just bought a table saw (a real table saw, not one with a motor) but I haven't sharpened it yet, so a straight line that is close is the best I could do, even on these gentle curves.  

A turning saw would have helped me to save a little material but this works very well
A couple of strategic cuts with my panel saw to sever the large waste and a couple of backsaw cuts to clean out the middle and I had a roughly shaped blank.

This thing has more curves than Jayne Mansfield...
One that was complete, I then took a chisel (a very nice EA Berg that was a Galootaclaus gift), and started to pare down close to the line. I will finish this work with a rasp, but large parts of the waste can be simply removed by making stopping cuts with a backsaw, then removing the waste with a chisel. 

If you try this technique, make sure not to chop along the grain with the chisel. You will blow out big chunks of the back side of the work. By along the grain, I mean the areas where the pattern line runs with or close to with the grain, such as the top curves and the bottoms of the side curves near the straight-sawn ends. Only pare in these areas and only with the lightest touch. Cross-grain work is actually easier and less damaging with this method. 

The strop is a 4" chunk of old machine tool belting. How cool is that?
Once I was close to the line, I called it a night. This weekend I aim to finish down to my line with a cabinetmakers rasp and then use a sash fillister to cut a perfectly square back face so that I can attach the piece to the case.  I probably won't attach the facade until I have the gooseneck moldings glued and nailed to it so that I can trim and rasp the pieces flush without fear of damaging the case.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Take 2 - Gooseneck Facade part 1

Apparently, something in my previous version of this post was corrupted. I got several messages informing me of errors. So here it is again...

I only had about an hour in the shop last night, so I wasn't able to make much progress on my cabinet. When I know I have a short time, I try to focus on getting one small step done.  This helps eliminate some of the frustration of having to wrap up shop work quickly. The part I chose to focus on yesterday was the facade template.

The original on which my work is based

As you can see, the facade is quite radical. It is very high in proportion and a little odd. That is one of the main reasons I like this piece. Having imported the photo into Sketchup and manipulated the image to get a fairly accurate representation of the gooseneck shape, I then printed out 1/2 the shape as a full scale print.

I then hold the pattern in place and, using a very sharp knife, follow the lines and cut slightly into the surface. Some people choose to glue the paper in place and cut to the paper line with the saw but I don't like to do that for two reasons. I don't like to get glue in my saw teeth and my method provides a clear, sharp cut in the wood so that I know exactly how far to smooth with my rasp.

Darken the line with a pencil and use the square on the end
After finishing the layout work, I took a coping saw (plain old school one, not a fancy $100 piece). and cut very close to my line. While doing this, one has to be very careful not to undercut the line on the back side. Your aim is to make a very close to square cut while staying 1/16" to 1/8" away from the line. This gives you plenty of meat to smooth out later.

Square cut, well off the line but close to it
All cut out
Now it is time to get the rasp and sandpaper out. You need to make the curves smooth and square while just leaving the line. This is vital because this template will be flipped along the central axis to make the two halves of the piece. Any deviation from square will make the two sides unequal. So, if you want to avoid a funky looking facade, make the template as perfect as you can.

Make sure you hold the template low in your vise while working on it.  This pine is ridiculously easy to snap across the grain and the last thing you want to do is take out a big chunk of the piece you are working on. Holding the work low in the vise will help prevent this, as will using a light tough with the rasp. Also, be careful not to take out chunks of the work on the back edge, for the same reason you want to make sure the edges are square.

Leave just a bit of the wood past the line, as you can see in the above picture. This will allow you to sand the edge perfectly smooth without going past the line.

All finished in just over one hour
This is the finished template. You can see that I left a little bit more of the wood past the line on the left side of the piece, near the square cut.  This will give me just a bit of meat to smooth away once I have the side molding installed, as I want the facade, the side molding and the gooseneck molding to all meet neatly at this point. This gives me a little "wiggle room" to smooth away once that work is done.

The total time on this template is just over an hour. As you can see, I made sure to write the name of the project on the template.  I save all my templates so that I can easily remake the piece should another client wish to own one. No sense in reinventing the wheel every time.

Next up, I will be using my freshly made template to cut out the facade from some cherry. After that, I'll start making moldings.  To make the gooseneck, I'll be following the procedures described in Making Period Furniture (Fine Woodworking On). So follow along!

Let me know if you'd like to see more project write-ups like this.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

William and Mary Escritoire Desk

Obviously, I am a fan of William and Mary furniture. The period between about 1690 and about 1720 (in America, anyway) produced some of the most beautiful pieces of furniture in the history of the art. From the staggering heights of a high chest to a simple book stand, William and Mary has something for everyone, yet is all too often ignored (thanks to PWM for helping to bring the style back to the forefront).

For some time, I have planned to build a close interpretation of the 1707 Edward Evans desk, now in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.  I have drawn up a sketch based on the photos found in Worldly Goods. Other projects have distracted me from this goal, but a recent conversation on the Society of American Period Furniture Makers forum reignited my passion for the form by linking to an incredible  escritoire recently sold at a Skinners auction.

The Edward Evans desk
Skinner desk closed
Skinner desk open 
Skinner desk detail 1

Skinner desk detail 2
 I think I have enough walnut on hand to build a very similar desk. I'll probably have to come up with some poplar and I will have to find a source for "screeter" hinges.  I will definitely use drop pull hinges rather than the brasses found on the Skinner desk. Once I'm finished with my gooseneck and a Chippendale table for a proposed article, I will restart my efforts on this style of desk. I already have the lower case sides planed up and waiting... but that is the easy part.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paring chisels are amazing

While working on my gooseneck cabinet last night, I noticed that there was a slight hump in the middle pine shelf board.  This is to be expected, given that the stock is prepared by hand and will almost never be perfect.  In most cases, it would be totally fine to leave it. This case, however, is not a standard case. This case is a case that will hold prized possessions, perhaps some rare books, or other delicate items. Anything other than a flat, smooth shelf surface will potentially cause damage to those items and it must be fixed.

I wanted to wait to remove this hump until the case was glued up so that I could ensure that the pine (which is made of a 2" wide cherry facing strip and a 9" wide white pine filler) would line up with the cherry perfectly. I glued up the shelf boards in situ after the case was assembled. To remove this hump, I turned to a trusted friend, a paring chisel.

No, I don't mean a chisel with a stubby blade and a long handle (these are not true paring chisels no matter what the ad men say). I mean a proper parer, one with a long, thin blade that makes Kate Moss look positively Reubenesque. One that is preferably made of a proper vintage steel that takes a ridiculously low bevel angle and is sharp enough to split atoms. My favorite chisel (the one I used last night) is an 5/8" wide, 3/16" thick, 8" long vintage Ibbotson with a boxwood handle. It has a sub-20 degree bevel on it... yes I have to sharpen it very often but it works so very well that I don't mind.

To make use of the chisel, I referenced the blade on the cherry front strip. Pushing the blade down into the surface, I raised the back end of the handle slightly.  This flexed the chisel a tiny amount. I then slid the chisel forward carefully at an oblique angle to the grain of the wood, paring halfway between with the grain and directly across it.

The chisel references the front strip, keeping the paring chisel from cutting too deep into the shelf board. Once you've hit an area that needs to be removed, simply flex the chisel a bit by modulating the pressure used to flex the chisel. This will move the chisel forward slightly, allowing you to remove fine whisper-thin shavings. You can also simply push the chisel into the work with the handle, but you lose control so quickly that I do not recommend this technique, especially given the necessary proximity of your off-hand.  I have no doubt that my Ibbotson could just about take a finger off if it were stuck into the "right" spot.

Repeat the process until you've achieved a smooth surface. Any remaining fibers can be scraped away or simply hit with 220 sandpaper.  I hope this helps you to think beyond planes when faced with a tight space.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Progress on my gooseneck cabinet

Four day weekends are the best. Even with chores to do (taking care of chickens, spending an inordinate amount of time cutting wood and tending to my wood boiler), I still found plenty of shop time to work on my  unique little gooseneck hanging case. As I said in my previous blog post, not everyone "gets" this piece, but that's ok. Hopefully a prospective customer will too (this piece will be for sale upon its completion).

On Thursday morning, I began with two pieces of cherry roughly planed to size. I planed the boards to length and width and tried to get them both to a roughly equal thickness. This is a step that is usually unnecessary in hand work but any major deviation here would be readily apparent in a small piece like this. 

On this piece, my reference surfaces on each side are the front edge, the inside face and the top end. Following basic hand tool technique, all layout work is only done from one of these three surfaces.  These surfaces are carefully worked to be flat, straight, and square to each other and are the only ones that can relied upon.

I started the joinery work by laying out the tops of each dado for the dividers. This work was done with the boards sandwiched together so that all dadoes end up in the same place. Then, using a fence, I ran my 3/8" dado plane (thanks Lee Richmond!) through the cherry to make the necessary dadoes.

Once this work was completed, I began to rip 2" wide strips of cherry to make the front faces of each of the dividers. This accomplished, I arranged them on the sides to mark them to the proper length. After this was achieved, I marked out the 3/8" x 3/8" tongue on each end. I then sawed out the shoulder and split the cheek, leaving some wood just fat of the line so that I could plane it down to a snug fit with my shoulder plane.

Once this was done, I was able to dry assemble the case for the first time and see the composition of the lower case (excluded the ostentatious gooseneck that will come later...)

As a result of my careful layout work, the case is square and the joinery fits well with a minimum of clamp pressure. This will make the whole thing go together much easier at assembly time.

After putting the case together with clamps (no glue yet), I was able to rip out the white pine filler strips. No sense in using show wood for parts that will be covered by books and knick-nacks for the life of the piece. Remember to always sever the edge of your work piece when cutting joinery cross grain. Most joinery planes designed for this type of work will have a knicker ahead of the blade, but I find it helpful to sever the first 1/4" or so with a knife, as this helps prevent spelching (a fancy word for grain blowout).  I make this mark with my bench knife after pulling my moving fillister plane backwards, using the knicker in the plane to show me where to cut.

One of the main structural elements of the case (as well as the method of fastening it to the wall) is a pair of dovetailed French cleats. The top of each pair of cleats is dovetailed and glued (probably will get a nail as well) into the back of the case.  To begin this work, I laid out the 45 degree angle on the end grain of the cherry, then used a marking gauge to define straight lines where the angle intersects each face.  I then marked out the ultimate width of the bottom cleat, as this would have been difficult to do after cutting the bevel.  I then rip-sawed down the angle, making sure to stay neatly on the line on each side of the work piece. This completed, I simply planed each face a bit to clean up the saw marks, then I ripped the bottom cleat free of the mother board. This process was done twice, one for each pair of cleats. The top pieces were then dovetailed into the back edge of the case, leaving the bottoms loose for the ultimate installation in the customer's home.

The last thing to do before gluing up the case is to cut the notch for the secret drawer.  The original 1790 piece didn't have a secret drawer, but I really enjoy adding at least one to every project that permits it. So, behind the molding on the right hand side of the case, there will be a 1" deep drawer that fills the open space between the real top and the false top.  

To accomplish this notch, I marked out the 1" depth of cut with a marking gauge, then marked the 1" wide parts on each edge of the board. I then sawed the vertical lines with my carcass saw, then proceeded to cut angles that intersected with those lines, notching out pieces along the full width of the notch.  I sawed close to the base line before chopping and paring the waste down to my line. Just think of chopping a really wide dovetail and you'll understand the process.

Well, there you have it. After I notched the right side, I glued up the case. I still need to pre-drill and install some nails into the dovetailed cleats, and I might install some nails into the dividers, just to make sure they don't go anywhere. Not sure about that yet. 

I hope you enjoy this post. Next time I will be doing the gooseneck pediment and maybe even carving some molding...