A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Building for Engineers 101

KUBISK Night Stand
After finishing the dining room set for the eldest, it was time to start on the bedroom suite for the youngest. I threw out the question and the design discussion started with a trip to the local furniture stores. They had some general ideas of what they were after, but it was not clear enough for me to sketch anything out. Coming back from the furniture store gave me an idea and it was refined by sifting through hundreds of Google images and emailing ones I thought were close. We finally had a design theme and I had settled in my mind on construction techniques. Then a small casual question came out of nowhere - "Can you cantilever the top?" Wait, what?

This really should have been no surprise, as we all know, engineers are put together a little different than the rest of us. Being one to never walk away from a challenge I set about designing a cantilevered pair of night stands in the cubic design theme we had chosen.

Metal brackets to support the top, with
slotted holes for top wood movement.

The key challenge obviously was how to support the top and make it as invisible as possible, joining end grain, even with dominos would not be strong enough to support even a short 5/4 cherry top. Enter my friend Joey - the machinist. I went to him with my idea and we designed a bracket that would sit under the top and inset into the side. They showed up a week later and as usual they were perfect, I cleaned them up and painted them black to match the hardware and installed them in the base.

Festool Domino Changes woodworking in small Bedford shop...

A test fit-up with Dominos.
Another test fit-up for the top,
 looks pretty level!

To me this entire bedroom suite project was going to be a big one and I have been thinking about the Festool Domino Tool for a while; this project with its rectilinear joinery suited the domino perfectly so I picked one up.

What do I think of it?

In short, why did I not do this years ago? While traditional mortise & tenon has its place, this type of joinery has no peer. It has clearly picked up where biscuit joiners have left off.

As the first pieces of the set, the night stands were for me a chance to work out the joinery on the rest of the pieces, and as such it was a design-build project. The dominoes made test assembly and rework a breeze. Compounding with the top design and making most of this up as I went along, this was a very challenging project - my favorite kind!

Time too valuable to spend it dovetailing twenty large drawers...

First drawer side

Another tool/jig I have been eyeing since it came out last year was the Leigh RTJ400 Router Table Dovetail Jig. Unlike router dovetail jigs of the past  which require the piece to be held in the jig and the router moved over it to create the dovetails, this jig uses a table mounted router. In my view this reduces the chance for driver error tremendously and is much easier to setup and use. I made one of the old style jigs 20 years ago and used it a couple of times, found it too finicky and relegated it to the shelf. I toyed with using it for the drawers for this project but abandoned it in favor of buying the Leigh jig. With only a few hours of fussing I was making drawers like a pro...
Drawers for two nightstands
Of course the drawer design I chose was not straightforward, and this jig is designed to do full height drawer sides and I wanted to have drawer side shorter than the front, allowing clearance for my joinery behind the face of the cabinet. In the picture above you can see on the cherry front the dovetails do not go all the way along the edge. This took a while to figure out, but worked perfectly. I will transfer this technique to the 12 drawers in the chest and dresser.

Building these two stands has allowed me to test out my approach for joinery, drawer construction and design cues, I feel very prepared to build the remaining pieces to complete this set. I think that these two little stands will be as much work as the dresser - with all the sketches and test cuts it took.

In acknowledgement of the square-ish shape, design and joinery combined with the elegant simplicity it brings, we are naming this set KUBISK, which is Scandinavian for cubic - appropriate don't you think??

The Requisite Beauty Shots - after letting the cherry bake out on the deck for a week or so.

KUBISK Night Stands with black edge pulls and change caddy in top drawer.

Another look at a fine set of KUBISK Night Stands

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

HANDWORKS 2015 - Now you have my attention...

I have been attending Woodworking in America (WIA) the last few years, which for several years was held in Cincinnati and last year in Winston-Salem. If you wanted to shake hands and chat with the top North American hand tool builders that was the place to go. However, in the past few years more and more of the best have been staying away from WIA, and in my view the value of attending WIA is diminishing. Its a great woodworking show, but not if hand tools are your main interest.

Enter Handworks... 

...in 2013 the first incarnation of a Hand Tool only gathering was held in the historic Amana Colonies near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. By all accounts it was a huge success and as a result is coming back as a biannual event this year. In all likelihood, at the expense of WIA, I am heading to the Midwest this weekend; like the hand tool lemming that I am, to see many of the players who have abandoned WIA. Some I will be meeting for the first time.

Studley Toolchest
There are also a few fellow online bloggers and acquaintances that I will be meeting for the first time, which is always a fun experience.

I have one woodworking poster in my shop and have had it as long as I have had a shop (over 25 years). The picture is of the Studley tool-chest which woodworkers refer to in revered tones. This tool-chest and the bench that goes with it will be on a very rare public display at Handworks 2015 and I have my ticket to see it.

A new book on the tool-chest has just been published and I expect that I will have to grab a copy. For me this artifact has provided much inspiration over the years, I am glad I am finally getting the chance to see it in person.

My sense is that this event is somewhat similar to the European Woodworking Biannual show held in Essex, in the South of England in September. Right now my plan is to also attend this weekend event which is held inside a  12th century wooden barn - yea 12th century!! I live in a province that was the first settlement of Europeans in North America only 410 years ago - we have something to learn about old stuff here!!

Looking forward to the trip and the chance to catch up with some friends; and perhaps make few new ones.