Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sense of Progress

I really feel like I made quite a bit of progress over the past few days.

I assembled and tested my vacuum veneer press kit that I got from Joe Woodworker. Several trips around town were necessary to pick up the special PVC pipe and the tap I needed, but once I had everything in hand it came together reasonably quickly. It looks a bit like a scuba tank or something, but it uses the tanks to store vacuum created by a venturi. Very cool! I am actually now in the position of being ready to do some veneering! Wait - not so fast. I better do a test piece or two first just to get the hang of it.

A very generous neighbour had given me several long planks of walnut last summer. They were from his nephew who had them milled out of a tree on his property in Oregon many moons ago. They sat outside the neighbour's house for several years and were much the worse for the exposure to the elements. I finally got them all cleaned up, cut out all the splits and wane-y pieces, then ran the remainders through the jointer and planer. There are some very nice pieces, although the longest one is only about 2' long! Since they were air dried and not kiln dried, the colour is gorgeous, really deep chocolate browns, with purple and other dark colours mixed in.

I also had a couple chunks of locust that I cleaned up. One piece that I had been given by a friend, I cut into a dozen blanks for planes (or whatever) about 2 x 2 x 12 inches each. I noticed that it was starting to crack so I thought this would be a good way to relieve the stresses. The other piece I picked up on the beach last winter, I was going to do the same to it, but I noticed that it had not started to crack, and it has some beautiful small ray flakes on one face, so I just cleaned it up and arranged to store it better. It's about 12 x 12 x 3 inches, I split it out of a larger piece and the one face is 'quartersplit'.

Lastly, I finally got some wheels put on one of my Alaska mills. These should really reduce the amount of effort required to push the saw through the log, as the wheels will just roll along the side of the log and prevent the saw and/or various parts of the mill from rubbing on the side of the log. I am keen to test it out, the design is different from other wheel designs I have seen.

Happy new year to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Console Crisis

I found a bit of time recently to make a bit of progress on the consoles for the bookcase. (Consoles are the little doo-dads that hold up the shelves.)

Unfortunately I made several false starts on them, but think that now I am back on track.

My initial thought was to go with two piece brass shelf supports that Lee Valley sells. These are not too bad, but I was hesitant to use them because I thought they would be quite visible and contrast-y with the panels and the shelves, they are not adjustable, and I wasn't sure if they were appropriate for a heavy bookcase.

So I thought I would make my own consoles, and I was inspired by the ones made by Craig Johnson on his cabinet here.

I thought I'd make them out of some left over elm from the panels, ensuring they blended in as well as possible. I also thought that rather than carving them as one piece items, I'd drill the backside and glue in a piece of dowel, the other end of which would fit in the hole drilled into the panel. Voila - easy!

I decided that I would make the dowels myself out of a scrap of a very hard wood that I had, greenheart. It's not much to look at, but a very very hard tropical wood, so this seemed like the perfect application for it. since I don't have a lathe, I made the dowels by driving a piece of greenheart through a hole drilled in a piece of iron. Needless to say the resulting dowel was like a piece of spaghetti, plus it had these strange 'hairs' or barbs on it. Time for plan B - I bought a couple pieces of dowel made of birch.

Lee Valley brass shelf pins, home made dowel, elm console prototypes.

Then I made up several prototype consoles out of elm. I quickly came to realize that on a small item like this, the coarse grain of the elm was not really working. So I rooted around and found some teak that is close to the tone of the elm, just a touch darker, and I think it will work.

I decided to take a break from fooling around with the consoles themselves, and made up a jig to drill the shelf holes. It took a bit of care to make sure that the holes were as deep as I could make them without going through the other side of the panels!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Woodslabbing Timeout V

Slabbed up a couple of cedar logs recently. On Thursday by myself then today with a friend. I am sure they are all from the same tree, the logs were a bit misshapen and kind of rotten one side. I got 9 slabs in total (well 8 plus two half slabs). The biggest was probably 28" wide by nearly 8 feet long. There are still two more big pieces left, enough for probably the same amount again. Plus a crotch pieces that thought I might work at later. Unfortunately it had quite a large crack in it, perpendicular to the best way to cut the crotch. So I am not going to bother with it in light of that.

Not entirely sure what kind of cedar they are. My guess is Monterey Cypress, which is a somewhat common street tree here in town, although it is endangered in its native habitat. Had a lovely mild aroma, I think is kind of a cinammon spicy kind of smell, my friend thought it more like tobacco. In any case definitely milder than our local red or yellow cedars, I would say milder than Port Orford cedar too, but most similar to that one.

Some of the boards have some nice grain in them, good colours and nice straight grain. Others are a bit gamey with knots and wild grain that is not particularly attractive.

One of the saws is running well, the other is giving me some grief. I have been having problems with the chain getting quite loose very quickly It also makes some disturbing noises when it runs, it sounds like the sprocket or the clutch. The motor itself seems fine. I have been using it just for the first cut, then switching to the other saw for the remainder of the cuts.

Hopefully this will be the last of the slabbing for a while. I need to get back to the bookcase and I also need to build a bigger storage area in my backyard for more slabs!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Woodslabbing Timeout IV

Did some more woodcutting today, this time I was lucky to have a couple friends join me.

The extra hands were handy for the new 60" mill that I had not used before. The thing is heavy and hard to start the cut with!

We scored 6 40" wide slabs from a crotch piece of the same box elder tree that I cut up a couple weeks ago. Also got 6 nice pieces of birch. I wound up with two of each. I think I have enough box elder now to last me 100 years!

Bookcase?? I have the console design figured out now, I just need to make up 25 of them! Plus some spares.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Woodslabbing Timeout III

After several days of trying to make it happen, I was finally able to get down to the beach and slab up another log, albeit a short one. Pulled off seven 2" thick slabs plus a 4" thick one. That thick one was to try and 'box' the heart of the log where there was a large crack which is visible in the picture.

This one is maple, likely a street tree from somewhere in the city. This one had been attacked by some kind of fungus so that the wood turned from white to the spectacular organey colour. This is the first stage of spalting, which often introduces many beautiful colours and patterns into the wood. If spalting is allowed to go too far the wood will become soft and punky, no good for woodworking. This one is in the early stages, and the wood is still very solid.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Proof of Slow

Well progress progresses in fits and starts. I managed to get all the elm veneer edging on on the notches of all five shelves. Plus one of them I have all the rest of the edging on it. The other four are still in progress. My small shop and lack of clamps became a real issue with trying to do this part of the project.

The following photos are of the one shelf with all the elm edge veneer on. They show pretty clearly the plywood, the alder bake ins (seems like a lifetime ago that I did them!), and the elm veneer. I have to be careful when I am trimming the elm edgings to make they are exactly flush with the plywood surface, otherwise it may lead to gaps when I glue on the top and bottom veneers.

Nothing has yet been done in putting the veneer press together, or making any decisions about what to use to hold up the shelves.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Woodslabbing Timeout II

There was a 20' long old growth Douglas Fir down at the log dump recently. I cut off a 7' length and slabbed out 7 nice 2 1/4" thick boards yesterday (gave one to a passerby who had pitched in with the saw and also given me a bunch of gloves). They are about 2 feet wide. Doug fir is normally not associated much with fine cabinetmaking, but this log was just too nice to turn down. I had picked up my two saws from the repair shop, got all the chains sharpened the day before, and the rain held off nicely for my son and I to saw away for three hours.

Saw was not cutting well on the left board! Too many ripples.

The fir turned out to be surprisingly hard to cut, the saw did not want to self feed much, I really had to push hard on it. I had sharpened the chains with a smaller diameter file, so I think I need to go back to the larger file, as well as look at the raker depth.

Nice tight growth rings!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finished Baking!

Well I FINALLY got all the bake ins finished for the shelves. You can see that I did three of the four edges, plus the various fussy notches. The last edge will be the front of the shlf and will have a sapele piece glued to it, no need for a bake in.

The veener press and vacuum arrived, I need to assemble it. And I think I should drill the holes for the shelf supports so I can fit each shelf exactly to its place. However, I am dilly-dallying on what type of shelf support to use. The ones I have used in the past from Lee Valley seem a bit lightweight, but any others I have seen look like crap. What to do, what to do.

Also started planing down some of the elm strips that will be used as edgings on the shelves.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Woodslabbing Timeout

Squeezed in a couple days of slabbing up logs recently.

First one was a Manitoba Maple (AKA Box Elder). It poured rain on me for the first hour or so, but I carried on and was rewarded with a Subaru full of wood! Ten slabs about 2" thick, maybe 4' long, and ranging up to 30" wide. A really nice haul and probably some of the most colourful wood I have found. I was awestruck after I finished the first cut and flipped the top waney piece off to expose the colours!

We'll see how it fares after two years drying. It does have some cracks in it so several of the boards will split, but it should still be amazing. Manitoba Maple does lose its vibrancy when exposed to light, so it is a good wood to put inside a cabinet where it is dark 99.999% of the time.

A week later I found myself staring at a 3' long section of an oak tree trunk. A short piece yes, but it was wider than my mill could handle, ie wider than 31". Got nine slabs out of it, each about 2" thick and almost totally clear, barely a knot to be seen. The grain is not really tight, and there is some splitting at the pith, but nice straight grained stuff, the QS pieces have nice ray flakes. I spent quite a bit of time peeling the bark off the log, I learned that oak bark is pretty tenacious!

The first photo above of the oak shows it fresh cut, the second photo was taken about five days later. The colour fading is quite dramatic. This is typical of many woods.

Two of my three chainsaws died that day (the Oak day) and they were off to the shop to be repaired. Meanwhile I made up a mill from the 60" chainbar I purchased last spring. It'll give me a 54" cutting capacity. Not that I find a ton of logs that wide, but I do regularly find logs wider than my 31" mill can handle, and I figure the extra width will come in handy for crotch pieces.

Photo below shows the cutting area with my cutting paraphernalia scattered around. I use Husqvarna 2100 saws for the slabbing. This model was discontinued over 20 years ago so parts are getting hard to find. But they cost 1/5th price of a comparable new one, so the economics still sort of work.

The one resting on the log has the mill attached to it, including the auxillary oiler on the nose. The one in the foreground had just died after giving me a bunch of grief, and the smaller saw on the lower left died later when the pull cord snapped.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bake ins

So this is one of the shelves, I started adding the smaller bake in pieces to the edges of the shelves. It is quite time consuming as it has exposed the lack of proper sized clamps in my shop. So it is going to take me several days just to glue and clamp. You can also see that I made a small cutting boo boo, but I think I can recover with a patch, as there is still veneer to go on top that will cover it up.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Well this pile represents my five shelves "in progress". On top are the big pieces of elm veneer that will be used for the tops and bottoms of the shelves. Under that the sticks are the alder pieces for the baked in edges. Under those are some smaller pieces of elm veneer for the edges of the shelves, and lastly the 3/4" ply that will form the body of the shelves.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Quick Trip and Starting the Shelves

I forgot to mention in my last entry that I was up to visit the Inside Passage School of Woodworking last Sunday. The reason was to drop off some wood that I had slabbed up last winter. About 40 slabs, mostly elm and maple, but with a few other odds n' ends including catalpa, Port Orford Cedar, old growth red cedar, and an unknown but very attractive cypress of some sort. Possibly Monterey Cypress. (My picture at the top of this blog is of me slabbing up the Port Orford log, of which IP received several slabs.)

The truck was overkill, but it was free so I can't complain! Here are the slabs all loaded and 'secured' in the truck. It took my son and I several hours to load it all up. It took the crew up at IP about 10 minutes to unload it all!

I have to say that my motives were not entirely altruistic - I am hoping to slab up more logs this upcoming winter and I needed to clear out some space in my storage area! My slab pile is moving from a one year rotation to a two year rotation, meaning that I will not be kilning and cleaning any up this fall. What I cut last winter will be processed next fall, clearing space for what I may cut next winter. Phew, that turned out to be complicated!

On to the shelves.

I cut out and fitted a shelf template out of plywood for the five shelves I need to make. The notches complicate things quite a bit, since I will be putting baked in edges on , then elm veneer over them. That way if the shelves are removed the plywood won't be visible.

So the notches need to be cut quite a bit oversized to allow for the bake in and the veneer. The shelves will be nosed with a piece of sapele about 2 1/2" wide on the front edge.

The shelves will be about 13" wide. Ideally there would be about 1 1/2" of sapele on the front, then 11 1/2" of elm veneer for the body of the shelf. This way the sapele edging would be the same width as the front posts of the bookcase. Unfortunately my veneers are not that wide, a kind of glaring planning error on my part.

Anyways I've got all the bake ins cut out of alder. I still need to trim them to size. First though I will spend some time cleaning up the edges of the plywood on the jointer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Still On Top!

Top is all glued up. Also figured out how to attach it to the frame of the bookcase to allow for some modest expansion and contraction. Should not be much since the whole thing is frame and panel construction. Made up the necessary little blocks, a whole day of rather fussy work.

The top frame is partially shellaced, needs a couple more coats.

Have finally started to turn my attention to the shelves.

Bought some 3/4" baltic birch plywood from Windsor Plywood here in town. It was pretty crappy. I should have looked more closely at it before I bought it, it was probably made in China. At least they will cut it for you, unlike PJ White. And I must add that they did about 6 cuts for me for free. So they are good guys. Too bad their product is not!

I ordered a veneer bag and kit from Joe Woodworker's web site. Looks like a nice kit, but not impressed with his shipping charges to Canada. Some assembly will be required when it arrives.

Also got some good tips from Nick Nelson, an IP graduate, about how to do the baked on edges and dealing with some notches that I'll need to make in the shelves.

Onward and upward! (Well actually downward, from the top down to the shelves.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Top This!

Well I have made some modest progress in the past couple of weeks, mostly relating to the top of the cabinet. Unlike the original design, I decided to make the top a frame and panel as well.

I got the panel cut to size, the edged rabetted, then the whole thing polished up and waxed. The frame is 3/4 glued up, as well as having had a bevel put on the front and the two sides. The rest of the panels in the cabinet are not rabetted, but I did so on the top so that items placed on the top will not sit below the front frame piece.

I really just need to get the final fitting done on the fourth piece of the panel, and then mount the whole piece. May happen tomorrow if all goes well.

I was already going over my veneer for the five shelves last night to figure out which pieces were 'worthy' of being top pieces and which were going to go on the bottom! I think one piece of the 5x5 Baltic birch ply will be enough to get my five shelves out of, with an extra to boot. Will also need to acquire a veneer press.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Summer's Over!

Well that was a crazy busy summer! Unfortunately, not busy with progress on the bookcase. But things are back to normal now, and I actually made a tiny smitch of progress.

I had been up to Robert's Creek this summer and popped into the IP school to say hello. I asked Robert about my plan to use oil or polish on the elm. I had also been re-reading The Cabinetmakers Notebook and in it observed JK's comment that oil is not an appropriate finish on elm as it does bad things to the colour. Robert suggested I consider just using plain Clapham's wax. Which I thought about and decided to use, as it easy to apply, non toxic, and I really like the finish I got on the elm with the 3000 grit sanding.

So I applied wax to the elm today. It darkened it up nicely, I think it goes well with the sapele. I also smoothed the sapele frame parts with 2000 grit sandpaper to remove any nibs and whatnot, in anticipation of giving them a final coat or two of shellac shortly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Veneer - Done!

I gave up on the idea of trying to take a test extra-wide veneer for now. Although I was close, further tweaking was still needed. I have some wide claro walnut that I want to get some veneers from for a future project, but that is a ways off still. For this project, since I decided to make the top of the bookcase with a frame and panel construction, I don't need any more **** veneer!

The elm slab planed down nicely to about 7/8", it'll be good for the top panel. I went out to PJ White's and bought some more sapele for the edgings of it and the shelves. I still need some 3/4" ply to veneer with the elm veneers for the shelves. The sapele is all cut oversized now, just waiting a while for it to settle then I'll take it down to its final dimensions.

I want to put a couple more coats of shellac on the sapele body of the bookcase, finish the panels, then assemble that part of it. Once that is done I can cut the shelves to the exact size, and build the top to the exact size as well.

BTW, here is where I got the idea for this bookcase from.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Veneer Craziness II

Well I haven't had a chance to cut the wide veneers yet. I did some testing and tweaking of the bandsaw fence, I think it is all ready to go now. Part of my hesitation is that I am reconsidering the use of veneer for the top. I think I would actually be better off making the top as a frame and panel construction, rather than as veneered plywood with edgings. The edgings would need to be fairly thick and picture framed onto the ply, I am nervous about how stable that construction would be.

I think what I will do now is clean up on my wide planer the wide slab that I was going to get the veneers from. It is kind of ragged from some test cuts that went awry. I should wind up with 3/4" thickness still.

I have an offcut of one of the elm slabs that is about 14" wide, but it's only about a foot long, I'll try peeling a veneer off of it to verify my bandsaw modification works. I may want to use it in the future.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Veneer Craziness

Well I got 12 of the 11" elm veneers cut out of the two slabs. I only need 10, so hopefully 12 will be enough! It went surprisingly well, with the proper blade and the machine purring like a kitten, it was just a matter of keeping the slab pressed against the fence at all times, and maintaining constant feed pressure to avoid stopping at any point.

Then I had to deal with the fact that my saw's resaw capacity is only 12"-ish, and I need a couple veneers that are 13 1/2" to use on the top. Obviously I could rip the slabs and simply use two 6 3/4" veneers, or I could just use the solid slab. Neither of these solutions seemed like the right thing to do though. What's extra frustrating is that later versions of my bandsaw (MM 16) have a 16" resaw capacity, while mine is only 12"!

So, I thought that if I removed the upper guides, then replaced them with smaller guides from a Chaiwanese bandsaw, I could get the resaw capacity I needed. In fact I did, with several inches to spare as it resulted in about 16 1/2". It took me most of the day to get the saw set up to do the cuts.

Unfortunately, although the cuts started out well, after only a couple of inches they started to wander and barrel. I tried cranking up the tension, different (new, sharp) blades, I triple verified that the new guides were square and true to the back of the blade, I tweaked the fence angle to account for drift. Nothing worked. I never did completely figure out what the problem was, although my suspicion is the cheap guides I used.

So I went back to the drawing board. Thinking further I realized that if I got rid of the table I would get the extra height I needed, and could still use the original guides! For some reason the lower guide can be dropped 3 or 4 inches below its normal position. So, I reassembled the original upper guides, made a note of the drift angle, then took off the metal table, dropped down the bottom guides, and jury rigged up a piece of plywood to use as a "table". Since the edge of the slab is less than 2" thick, the new "table" only needs enough width to support that. Voila 16" of resaw capacity for about 15 minutes of work! Obviously I should have tried this first.

The other thing to note is that if I combined the upper and lower modifications I would have 19 1/2" of resaw capacity. Also would need to figure out what to do for the upper guides! I think the saw would be fine, it has a 3 HP motor, and the blade is a 2 TPI thin kerf. Just need to do a better job on those upper guides.

So tomorrow will be the big test day to see if this will get me the two last veneers I need. I really want to get these cut out so I can move on to gluing the veneers onto the plywood for the shelves, then finally getting some finish on them.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Finish Plans

I got six coats of blond shellac on the frame pieces this week. The sapele is a bit open grained, and the shellac did not finish up that smooth. I guess I will need to touch it with a fine sandpaper and give it a couple more coats to be done.

For the elm panels, I decided against the ruby shellac and was actually leaning towards the boiled linseed oil, it really did a nice job of highlighting the interlocked grain on the elm. However, since the bookcase is actually for my wife, I decided to ask her what she liked, and she said that she preferred the look of the polish. I have to agree that it builds way better, and has a nice gloss finish. Polish it is. I just need to buy a gallon of Waterlox to cover all the panels I have!

I decided to do the shelves next, I want to pre-finish everything at the same time before I glue up. I didn't have enough elm left to build all (five plus top) the shelves out of elm, so I decided to build them out of elm veneer over a ply core.

I ripped my last two big (>24" wide) elm slabs to about 11" wide, which was quite a production. Since they were quite rough, I clamped a 2 x 4 on them to sue as a guide, then got out my 20+ year old skilsaw and ripped away! After a new blade things went much better. Next I jointed one face on my 12" jointer, then cut veneers about 0.100" thick on my bandsaw. I used some kind of crazy 1" wide Laguna bandsaw blade that I have had for ages, but wow did it do the job well. I need to cut the last three shelf veneers still, then I will have to modify the bandsaw to be able to cut the 15" wide veneers for the top.

Next week I'll go buy the plywood and glue the shelves up. They will have a sapele nosing on them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Test Fit

I had a very satisfying burst of progress over the past few days. I managed to finally get all the planer marks out of the boards, then went around the perimeter of each with a dadoed scrap piece to ensure a good fit between the panels and the dadoed frames.

I sanded each board up to 3000 grit sandpaper, so they are gleaming. I am almost tempted to put no finish on them!

Then I touched the edges of each of the frame pieces with 600 grit sandpaper just to remove any ridges left by planing the edges.

The test fit went well, despite the fact that I put a couple pieces in the wrong way. I was quite encouraged that a fairly limited amount of bashing was required, and it all seemed to fit in well and all the gaps closed up nicely.

My ruby shellac flakes arrived the other day. I dissolved some into a 1/2 lb cut, and did a test with a couple coats padded on a piece of elm scrap. It was not at all what I wanted. No hint of red at all. So I took a much larger piece, scraped and sanded it up to 3000 grit so it is the same as my actual panels, and I'll use that to test out a couple other finishing ideas.

Oh yeah, I also still need to do the shelves and the top!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Still Cleaning up Those Wide Boards

Well, true to the slow woodworking theme, a week has passed and the boards are not cleaned up. I found the scraper plane worked well, but had to be adjusted carefully to avoid gouging with the corners of the blade. I got one side of a board out of before it had to be re-rolled.

I carefully scraped both sides of all four boards, but still found the finish was not as smooth as I wanted. In particular the thin bands of earlywood (or is it the latewood?) seemed to fuzz up quite readily. So I went over each board with fine sandpaper, ranging from 400 up to 3000. That took care of any fuzzing.

The 3000 really puts a mirror finish on, but it highlights all the flaws too. The flaws included some gouge marks on one board, and some areas on a couple where I had not taken out all the planer marks. So I had to go back and do a touch more rescraping, then resanding. There are also a couple knots that would probbly benefit from filling.

As of right now I have two of the boards done. The two others, maybe over the weekend? In the meanwhile I also bought some ruby shellac flakes. I could not find it locally, had to order it online, it came in about four days. My thinking is to put a couple coats of ruby shellac on the elm to see if I can move its colour a bit closer to the red of the sapele frames. I should add that the frames were done first, before I started this blog, and they are ready for their finish, which will be a super blonde shellac.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Scraper Plane to the Rescue

Well I got the new 1 1/4" cocobolo plane all made up, and after a bit of tuning it was flat and square and sharp and taking beautiful shavings off the test piece of elm. Also got the old 1.5" jatoba plane similarly tuned.

However, when it came time to plane the big elm pieces for the bookcase panels I ran into some problems. I could not get consistent shavings. Sometimes I would get nothing, other places it would work fine. I finally realized that with these wide pieces, they are not perfectly flat. Rather they are cupped, just a little bit, but enough that the plane will sometimes not make a shaving.

My fallback was my antique Stanley 112 scraper plane. After some tuning, I got a good hook rolled on the blade, got the blade set square, and started taking some beautiful shavings. It is a bit of work pushing it the whole length of the board without stopping. Waxing the bottom helps a lot, but I almost need to take a running start!

So my plan is to use the scraper to take out all the planer marks, then either polish up the surfaces with the planes, or hit it with 1000/2000 grit paper in the areas where it might need it.

I might also see if I can hold the boards down flat on the workbench, so that the planes work better. I have to be a bit careful now, as these panels will fit into grooves that I have already cut in the frame pieces, so I don't want to take the panels down past a good fit in the frames.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making A(nother) Plane

Well here is a snap of the 18" wide elm boards that I will be using for panels on the bookcase. I don't care so much for the knot on the bottom of the right plank, but I think I can get away with it. They are both wide but do have a 'gamey' look to them that is not uncommon with urban harvested woods. Definitely not a bookmatch!

So they were machine planed down to within a hair of the thickness I need (5/8"), my plan being to sneak up on the exact thickness with a handplane, test fitting them into the sapele frame as I go.

I've been grumpy about my planes for a while. I have a couple Stanleys (gasp) that I can get .001 shavings out of with a bit of fiddling. I also have a 2 1/2" Lee Valley bevel up plane that is probably my easiest and most convenient plane to use. The problem is that at that width it is exhausting pushing it through wood. I also have a 1 1/2" Krenov style plane, and two 1" wides ones, and although they can yield glorious (half a thou) results, I have yet to develop any good consistency with them. So, to make a long story short, I made a 1 1/4" plane out of cocobolo specifically for smoothing this elm. It was a bit of a struggle to get tuned up, but shavings were starting to come. Until I dropped it and one of the joints cracked loose, so I had to reglue it. That's what the photo is of. Glue session number two. I did clean the joint the first time and the second time both, with acetone. If it happens again I'll try a different glue.

Hopefully the next post will be about starting to take out the planer marks and sneaking up on that perfect fit with this plane! As a back up plan I have got my scraper plane tuned up and ready to go, but I can see readily on my test pieces that the scraper does not yield as nice a surface as the plane does.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Best Layed Plans

Taking a break from the bookcase, I've made up some lists of projects that I currently have OTG (on the go). Of course these are not really underway in the sense that regular progress is being made, but they have all been started to one degree or another. They have all progressed beyond the thinking stage. I doubt that I will get them all done. Some, like upgrading the dust collection I really do need to do, others may quietly go away.

11 Shop Projects - improvements and modifications to the shop.

10 Tool Restoration Projects - I like restoring old power tools, I have a bunch queued up to restore. These are the ones I have started on. I have four jointers and am in the hunt for two more. I passed on a 16" jointer last year - no room!

9 Woodworking Projects - The stuff I build in my shop with my antique tools from the wood I harvested with my Alaska mill! Unfortunately this does not include the elm bookcase or the curvy piece I fancy building next. Nor does it include any that I have abandoned and do not plan to complete.

This may give some insight into why I chose the name I did for my blog!

Bookcase Beginnings

My wife had been very patient for several years as I embarked on a number of cabinets. Most of which wound up in the basement. I was reluctant to make anything for her early on since I wanted to wait until my skills improved to the point that we would both be happy with what I made for her! I guess as we saw the maple cabinet coming together it seemed like things had finally reached that point.

So she put in a request for a bookcase! Not the curvy cabinet I was mulling over in my mind, but I think I can do a bookcase. I did some research and presented her with several ideas. We both liked the frame and panel style bookcase by Peter Zuerner featured on the cover of the February 2003 Fine Woodworking. It was done in with cherry frames and shelves, and Doug fir panels.

I have a garage full of slabs that I chainsawed up with my Alaska mill. But I did not have anything wide and long enough to make the frames up. Unbelievable! So I had to swallow my pride and buy something. I chose sapele at PJ White.

Then for the panels, I agonized and agonized. I wanted to make each panel out of a single piece of wood. They are all 54" tall, the two large panels are 18" wide. I had some oak that would work, but the grain graphics were not right. I then seriously thought about compromising and glueing up some old growth red cedar I had. Beautiful tight (45 per inch) vertical grain, but it turned out that I could not get enough in a consistent colour. I had never really paid attention to the fact that red cedar comes in a range of hues!

Finally after exploring several other ideas, my eyes came to rest on some elm slabs I had harvested with a friend. I had already given several away and they had gone to good use, but I had enough left that I could get the four panels I needed. I wasn't sure about the colour match between the elm and the sapele though. The elm seemed too 'black' to me, there wasn't enough red in it. But when I put them together to see, I saw that it will work fine. The elm has enough brown in it that the redness of the sapele will look good with it. It's not too black at all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Goodbye Maple Cabinet!!

Well here I am . Six years into this wood working thing. I was inspired to do this blog by a number of blogs that I saw done by current and former students of the IP school.

I just finished this small cabinet for my sister. This is my tenth cabinet. It had a fiddleback maple door on it. I bought that piece. The body of the cabinet was Norway maple that came from a tree that was diseased and taken down in a local park - I harvested several huge planks over 30" wide from that tree. The remaining woods all had significance for my sister and I, they were either havested by me or the wood was given to me by family members or family friends. Arbutus, cherry, cypress, kiawe & crabapple.

Part of the ethos I learned at the IP school was to use a hand plane as much as possible to finish the wood, rather than sanding. Certainly all of the woods on this cabinet were eminently plane-able. I found planing the fiddleback maple was beyond my skills though. The arbutus, cypress, and crabapple planed very nicely, the cherry had some figure in it and he Norway maple had some interlocked grain, so were at the limit of my skills, but I was happy to get them done (mostly) with a plane.

The cabinet was supposed to be a Christmas gift. I 0nly missed it by five months, total elapsed time on this was close to a year. My sister came by and took it home with her to Kamloops a couple weeks ago. It was originally going to have only one drawer, but I made a boo boo and had to add a second drawer to cover it up. I kind of lost my passion for it with the second drawer still unfinished. It really did sit around for too long. But I buckled down and got that second drawer done finally, it all turned out well, she was happy with it and I was happy too. I thought the design was good, but I need to leave boxyland now and get comfortable in curvyland with my next projects.

Next up: Bookcase for my wife in sapele and elm, from a design I saw in Fine Woodworking. Won't have any curves on it either, but we need a nice bookcase (actually we need several) so that's a good enough reason.