Friday, July 31, 2009

Making the Legs - Part 1

I decided to start with the legs on my Mission style table. In my last posting, I showed the rough stock. The next step was to joint and plane it to the correct thickness, 3/4 inch or less. The process is simple in concept. You put the jointed face down on the planer bed and run the board through the planer, taking off a little wood with each pass. I took 1/4 turn on the planer handle each pass, which amounted to about 1/32 inch each time. But the rough boards were 1-1/4 inch or more thick to begin with and there were 14 boards. What that meant was a lot of passes in order to get the lumber correctly thicknessed. All told, it required about two hours to finish the job.

The biggest concerns were to avoid tearout and to minimize snipe. The reason I took such thin cuts (1/32 inch) was to hold tearout to a minimum. Snipe is another matter. I set up a roller stand to supplement the small outfeed table on the planer. While this took care of most of the problem, I still grasped each board as it emerged from the planer to hold it as level as possible. This nearly eliminated snipe on all boards.

It is fortunate that I planed a number of extra pieces. Some will be used for jigs, some for test pieces during setup of the router bit and some for extras to take care of any mistakes that occur. In addition, though, I found hidden knots and other anomalies in some of the boards that only emerged as they were planed. Thus, some of the extras will go to replace boards that now appear to be unusable as leg stock.

A word about my planer, shown in the photo. It is the entry level Sears Craftsman planer, a 12-1/2 inch planer with only two blades. Although I will probably replace it sometime, it does a very creditable job and I regard it as a good purchase when I was setting up my shop last year. I cannot see any defects in the quality of the planing it produces and the resulting surfaces are smooth, which is all I can ask of it.

Now that the planing is done, I will select which boards to use for leg stock and which for jigs, etc., and rip them to width. Then I'll be ready to make the jigs I need and to rout the edges of the leg stock, prior to gluing up.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Starting a New Project

Recently, I've started a new project--a Mission style table to sit beside my leather armchair. I've spent the last several weeks learning Google SketchUp, at least enough to be able to draw up a couple different designs to get the dimensions right. That wasn't easy; SketchUp has a steep learning curve. But once I got through it, I found it makes design a lot easier and more accurate. Probably, it is faster too.

Awhile back, I bought a supply of quartersawn white oak to use for the table. Now I am ready to start cutting and dimensioning the lumber into actual parts. The photo shows the stock that will make up the legs. Clearly, this 4/4 stock is not thick enough for the legs, which will be 1-1/2 inches square. So instead of cutting four legs from thicker stock, I'll be cutting 16 pieces to make up four faces for each leg. These pieces will be routed on each end using a lock miter bit so that when assembled four pieces will lock together into a single leg. The advantage of doing this is that the legs will also show quartersawn oak on all faces, making them much more attractive than if I had used a single board for each leg.

I've already jointed the boards in the photo. Next step is to plane them to 3/4 inches thick and make the two jigs I'll need to rout the edges. I'll plane that wood at the same time so the boards in the jig are identical in thickness to the leg pieces. I hope to have the planing done by the end of the week.

I will chronicle this project, the first of my own design, step by step in this space.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Reproduction 1820s Chairs

Yesterday, David Beach of Whispering Woodworks delivered three chairs he reproduced for us. The original, which is in my wife Betsy's possession, is one of a set of 12 dining room chairs that, along with a dining table, were crafted by a slave artisan in King and Queen County, Virginia, possibly as early as 1820. The whereabouts of the table and the other chairs is not known. They were dispersed among various family members generations ago and if they still exist are no doubt widely scattered.

The reproduction chairs, as is the case of the original, were handcrafted from curly or tiger maple. The finish of the original is not entirely certain since the existing example has been refinished, but the reproductions are probably close in appearance. The maple was treated with two coats of aniline dye to deepen the color and bring out the figure in the wood. This was followed by seven coats of varnish wiped on to create a solid yet low sheen finish.

The photos show the reproduction chairs, which will be given to my wife Betsy's children and her other family members.