Sunday, January 17, 2010

Preparing to Build the Winchester Chippendale Desk

Recently, I've turned my attention to preparing to build the Valley of Virginia Chippendale desk I wrote about previously. I'm taking the class in June and July from Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton, who teach at the Woodworking Workshops of the Shenandoah Valley, located in Berryville, not far from me.

The first task was to estimate the lumber I will need to build this desk. I'm going to use cherry for the casework and will probably use curly cherry for the drawer fronts and lid. The drawer sides and bottoms and other interior parts will be poplar. I happened upon a program called CutList Plus, where you enter the dimensions and type of wood for each part. The program then calculates layouts on the boards I'll be using and from that I'm able to estimate the amount of lumber I need to buy.

I hauled in a first load of poplar the other day and have it on the lumber rack and stickered. It should be ready to begin processing in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow I'll call some hardwood suppliers in the region to see if they have curly cherry in stock. My plan is to check it out in the next couple of weeks so it too can be acclimating to my workshop humidity level.

Although the course does not start until June, I'm counting on it taking me weeks to joint, plane and cut to size all the pieces for the desk. This all has to be completed before the class begins. I've put together a schedule that will allow me to do all this without rushing and so far I am on or slightly ahead of schedule. But I'll have to be diligent in order to keep it that way.

In addition to preparing the wood, I'll need to learn some new skills. The case is constructed with hand cut dovetails, so I'll need to learn how to cut these before the class starts. I've never yet cut one. And, some of the pieces of the cherry will need to be hand planed because of their size and in order to avoid tearout. I've purchased a good set of Blue Spruce chisels and several Lie-Nielsen and Veritas planes, so I have the tools in hand. Now I need to learn how to use them well.

I'll be updating my progress as I go along on this ambitious project.


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