Friday, December 12, 2014

Hand planed moldings for my dresser.

After a somewhat lengthy layoff from my woodworking (thanks to my equally strong passion for old cars!), I have returned to the shop for a couple of hours each of the last two days. I still have a rather large project to complete, namely my c.1720 Massachussetts polychrome chest of drawers. When I left off, I had completed the case and was beginning to sort out the drawers...

One of my favorite features on this piece, other than the wild paint scheme of course, is the molding on the drawer fronts. This piece will require about 32 feet of the narrow molding and about 16 feet of the bevel molding for the drawers. I had made one of these molded drawer fronts on Wednesday night but didn't take pictures of the process. I thought perhaps this would be an interesting thing for the readers, so I documented the process on the second shallow drawer.

The previous drawer front in place
To start, I took a piece of pine and jointed the edge. I then used a marking gauge to lay out the width of the molding to be struck (line darkened with pencil for photographic purposes).

Bench hooks and holdfasts make holding this 8 foot board easy
 After that, I grabbed my John Green molding plane (you can see it on the bench in the above photo) with a profile that is substantially similar to the original molding. Starting at the far end of the board and taking great care to maintain the spring angle, I began to stick the molding. You can see it start to take shape in this picture.

Taking shape

I then work the molding backwards along the length of the board, taking great care to maintain the orientation of the plane. This is one reason why I like to establish a deep section of the molding at the end; it gives me a reference to reset the plane if I should let the plane slip later on.

You can see some of the waviness inherent to handmade moldings

Even with this great care taken, the molding will not be precisely the same from one end to the other. This is one of the obvious hallmarks of truly handmade furniture and it is essential to make authentic looking reproduction pieces.

Molding ready for sawing
Now, the molding is removed from the mother board with a rip saw. The sawn edge will then be cleaned up with a plane.

Sawing 3/4" pine is quick and easy. I like to leave a
whisper of the line to take off with the plane later

Molding ready to cut into sections

Now, because the molding cannot be guaranteed to be absolutely the same down its length (even with a dedicated complex molding plane), it is vital to cut the mitered pieces in order from the molded stock. This ensures that the profile is substantially similar on adjacent pieces, minimizing the potential for visual discrepancies at the miters. Of course, the final corner will not follow this pattern, so some finessing of the fit there may be required.

I don't use a traditional miter box in my shop. Instead, I simply have a opposing pair of 45 degree cuts in my sticking board fence. I used these to make the cuts as needed to complete first one side of drawer, then the other. The moldings are nailed into place with headless brads from Tools for Working Wood.

We don't need no stinkin' fancy miter box!

First side complete at 8:18pm

Second side complete at 8:45pm

Despite the apparent complexity of this work, it is quite fast. The time stamps from my photos say that I took nine minutes to stick the profile on 8 feet of molding, 3 minutes to saw the molding free and clean up the back, 41 minutes to miter and install the molding on the first side, 27 minutes to do the second side, and nine minutes to plane the edges of the molding flush with the outside edges of the drawer fronts. I'm not sure a power tool could speed up any part of this process and using the proper vintage tools gives the right feel to the completed pieces.

Drawer fronts sitting in the case

Next up is making the beveled moldings for the deeper drawers, followed by more of the narrow molding for the same. Then its constructing drawers (simple since these are just nailed to together), and then on to paint!

Still need to decide on the front feet...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wooden plane mouth openings

This post is prompted by a thread on Woodnet, in which a fellow woodworker asked how wide a mouth on a wooden plane can be and still provide good results. I took this pictures of my user wooden planes (one shop made, two vintage, and a modern premium smoother) to illustrate.

The whole lot of user wooden planes

Mathieson try plane

Mathieson fore plane

Shop made jointer plane

That is a 1/4" wide chisel used as a gauge block. The shopmade jointer (single iron) has an opening of just about 1/16" of an inch. The Mathieson fore plane (double iron but not set up as such) has an opening of slightly more than 1/4". The Mathieson try plane (double iron but not set up as such) has a mouth opening of slightly less than 1/4". I do not have the precision measuring tools (virtually pointless in a woodshop) to measure the mouth on the Old Street Tool smoother, but if I had to guess I'd say its less than 1/4 of the opening on the jointer plane.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A real c.1780 Pennsylvania slant top desk

I was lucky enough to win a c.1780 stained maple desk from Skinner a couple of weeks ago. I had the desk shipped UPS Freight and, despite the best efforts of the truck driver who rolled the box end over end up to my porch, it it arrived undamaged on Friday. I couldn't be happier to own a legitimate piece of American history.

My desk in my library. That chair is an early 19th century Windsor which I re-seated.
This piece exhibits showcases many characteristics of typical period work. The joinery on the case bottom, even accounting for wood shrinkage, would not pass muster in most shops today. 

The case bottom. Missing one glue block.

Get the truck boys, plenty of room here.

This side is slightly better but still plenty of "errors" in the work.

The slant lid shows significant tearout that has been there for 230 years without people worrying about it.

Oh no! Tearout!!

The case is 42-in high, so you can see how wide the backboards are.

Overall, it just has the right feel for the time period, which is exactly what I try to replicate in the pieces of furniture I make. It clearly has had some repairs which I will document as well, but overall it is a very nice piece.This will be of great use to me in my home, and will be an outstanding reference piece for my furniture work.

If you would like to see more, let me know. Just for kicks, I may build a copy of it, so I may make measured drawings available if there is enough interest.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

MWTCA meet at Tillers International THIS SATURDAY 7-12

Just a heads up that MWTCA Area C is having their annual tool swap meet at Tillers International this Saturday. Starts at 8:00am and runs through lunch (which is provided for the cost of admittance and is usually some of the best barbecued chicken you'll ever have). You have to be a member (or the guest of a member) to attend. The cost is about $15.

For those of who you have never been to Tillers, here is a little about them (from the Tillers website):

Tillers International is a 501(c)3 IRS non-profit organization for international rural development, specializing in farming with oxen. Based in Scotts, Michigan, USA at our Cook's Mill Learning Center, Tillers offers classes in appropriate technology farming techniques, draft animal power, blacksmithing and metal work, timber framing, woodworking, cheesemaking, and many other farming and artisanal skills. Tillers also hosts interns, both international and domestic, and international guests for intensive periods of hands-on training. Whether you're looking for a new hobby, a new land or skill-based livelihood, or an opportunity to contribute your knowledge and skills to an international project, Tillers welcomes you and offers myriad unique, educational opportunities. 

They have a working blacksmith shop, small tool museum, a great woodshop full of hand tools, and they will sometimes get the oxen out for cart rides while MWTCA is there. In connection with the meet, there will be guys selling and trading tools, usually about 10-15 of us will have large tables full of everything from Stanley #1s, infills, wooden planes, chisels, etc. It is a great place to score good quality user tools at a steep discount from the antique stores.

I highly suggest you make it up to Scotts, MI for this meet this Saturday. If you're going to make it, let me know and I'll give the meet organizer a heads up. And if you need a member to sponsor you, just comment here or email me.

Hope to see you Saturday.