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...