Operators are waiting – call now

finished

Well, I did it.  I finished the St Jude Half Marathon.  I even beat my target time. Sorry if that sounds prideful; it was all for the kids.  Now it’s your turn.  If you made a pledge to donate based on my satisfactory finish, now is the time to follow-through.  Here is the info again, in case you missed it the fist time.

A big thanks to those of you who have already donated!

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I am participating in finished the St. Jude Memphis Half-Marathon to support the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As a St. Jude Hero, I have a personal goal to raise $150 for the kids of St. Jude.

Will you help me support St. Jude by donating today?

How your donation helps:

  • Thanks to donors like you, no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for anything, including treatment, travel, housing and food.
  • St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, by 2020. They won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
  • Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since it opened 50 years ago.

Please visit my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page to make a donation.

Thank you for your support!

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=2673290&pg=personal&fr_id=20064

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In other news, I’ll be back at the woodwork shop in Memphis again this Saturday and Monday night.  Saturday is a free demo on using hand planes, and Monday night is the hand plane basics class.  Check out their website for details.  Why not take a break from your Christmas shopping and drop by for some festive woodworking.  Reportedly they have a new fancy workbench, so it may be worth coming just to check it out.

Bob Jones

Crossing the line (for a worthy cause)

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As a child, I always looked forward to the St. Jude Bike-a-thon. It was a perfect combination of playing outside, free snacks, and the chance to win a prize.  The Bike-a-thon day was a big deal to my brother and me.  One year he fell off the top bunk bed and, when he finally stopped crying, he could only walk doubled over.  My mom said that we would have to miss the Bike-a-thon and he immediately stood straight up and ran out the door.  He may have been faking a little.

For anyone living under a rock, St. Jude is a hospital fighting cancer in children (and AIDS and other hopeless diseases).  They never turn kids away because of money, so they do a lot of fundraising.  The Bike-a-thon was a fundraiser and I remember being pretty good at collecting the funds.  Now I realize that it was easy because the cause was noble and I was a cute little kid.  I would take my pledge sheet around and fill it up with donations fast.  Times have changed as I have aged.  Now if a 36-year old man knocks on the door, no one answers.

So I’m going to cross a line on this blog and ask you, the readers (even you international types), to do something.  Consider donating to St. Jude.  I’m running in a half marathon in early December and I am having no luck in fundraising.  I guess I don’t have the same appeal as I had at age seven.  What gives?

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Hopefully I’ll be able to cross the finish line after 13 miles of running.  I’ve never run that far before, so it’s not guaranteed.  Here’s the professionally crafted wording, guaranteed to improve your gifting desires.

I am participating in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend to support the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As a St. Jude Hero, I have a personal goal to raise $150 for the kids of St. Jude.

Will you help me support St. Jude by donating today?

How your donation helps:

  • Thanks to donors like you, no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for anything, including treatment, travel, housing and food.
  • St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, by 2020. They won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
  • Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since it opened 50 years ago.

Please visit my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page to make a donation.

Thank you for your support!

Bob Jones

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=2673290&pg=personal&fr_id=20064

Recap errors and how I “fixed” them

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The dresser is complete and finished, but what about the rest of the story?  What happened in the background that caused me problems?  Mistakes.  Lots of mistakes.  With this post I’ll attempt to be transparent with my biggest mistakes and recap how I “fixed” them.  Maybe it will help someone else in their moment of frustration.

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1 – With a previous post I showed how to fit an out of square back.

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2 – In another post I showed how to fit drawer fronts to non-square drawer openings.

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3 – Mortise/tenon malalignment in the vertical divider.  Fix described in a previous post.

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4 – Splits in the vertical divider.  Fix? I planed both sides of the board (inside the case) smooth enough that the drawers did not stick during use.  The splits are still there, but not visible unless the bottom drawers are removed.

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5 – I also fixed a drawer front that was too short.  One word – veneer.  Can you see the thin piece of wood glued to the top of the drawer on the left?  Look closer.  While fitting the drawer front I removed more than planned.

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I found a thin strip of color and grain matched cherry in my scrap pile.

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I glued the “shop made veneer” on top of the drawer front (yay for blue tape and liquid hide glue).  After a little clean up with a plane it was almost invisible when viewed from the top or front.

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6 – One more fix.  On one drawer I plowed the groove for the bottom too high (3/4 inch from the bottom rather than 1/2 inch).  That would have been easily fixed by make those slips 1/4 inch taller and the back of the drawer 1/4 inch shorter, right?  Well, I forgot about the back until after the drawer was glued up.  It’s no problem to fix this with hand planes.  I used a rabbet plane to remove that 1/4 inch.  Thankfully the bottom pin was really big so the joinery was not compromised.  This drawer will not be quite as deep as it’s mate, but I bet it will never be noticed.

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I think I did this 18 inch wide cherry board proper justice (side piece).  It determined the size of the case.

I did get a couple of things right.  The design proportions look good to my eye, the dresser fits in our bedroom, and it holds lots of clothes.  I was also able to make good use of some extra wide, beautiful cherry.  All-in-all, the project turned out great despite the multitude of mistakes.  My wife is happy with the piece and doesn’t know about any of these errors.  Hopefully, I will have the presence of mind to avoid the temptation of pointing out these errors to anyone who compliments the piece.  If you build things, you know how difficult it is to avoid these conversations.

“That is a really nice ____.  Did you make it?”

“Yes. Thanks, but I really messed up the ____.  Can’t you see it there, and here, and there?”

“Oh… yeah, I guess so, but it’s still really nice.  I would love to have one.”

“Thanks, but I really wish I would have taken more care here, and not missed this here…”

Next time, do yourself a favor and stop with “Yes, thanks”.  Your friends really don’t want to hear about these modest mistakes.  They just want to know if you will build them one for free.

Bob Jones

My Favorite Finish

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I think the semi-gloss sheen of cured BLO is just right for natural finish, solid wood furniture.  

My favorite finish hasn’t changed in years and that is probably because I haven’t tried many others.  I’m a low risk maker who prefers to stick with a process that has worked for centuries rather than any product that was mixed from unidentified ingredients.  A steady regiment of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) and elbow grease is just the ticket.

I’ve already written on this topic, so read that entry first.  In the time since that entry, I have picked up a few additional tips that have given me more consistent results.

 

fire

Thanks to my father-in-law for battling the blaze.

- Do not throw your oily (wet) rags in a garbage can.  They WILL ignite.  I lost my (plastic) garbage can this way.  It wasn’t even a hot day.  Since that incident, I dispose of my oily rags in a water filled ziplock bag.  

- After applying finish, try to wipe off everything you just applied.  Seriously, use more than one dry cotton rag and try to wipe it all off.  A thick layer of oil will gel and make a tacky surface.  A tacky surface will need to be removed with lots of forceful rubbing of a fine abrasive until the surface is no longer sticky.  Paper grocery bags and abrasive pads work for this salvage procedure but sandpaper is nearly useless because it will clog very quickly.

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- Apply 6 coats of oil or more.  Don’t skimp on this just because the surface looks nice after 2 coats.  It will look much better after 6 coats (or more).

- I wipe the whole surface with a rough cotton towel as the first step of applying a new coat and again as the last step after I have dried the new coat.  This process takes a lot of wiping, but it is not tiring because you do not need to use a lot of force, just a lot of motion.

Do not apply a new coat if you suspect the previous coat is still wet.  If you have the slightest suspicion that the previous coat is uncured, walk away for at least 24 hours.  Coating over a layer that is not fully cured guarantees a tacky finish.

- Expect this process to take a few weeks.  Sure, there are faster finishes that will work for less patient craftsmen, but I built this dresser over the course of a year and I don’t mind if it takes me a month to get the perfect finish.

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The dresser, all finished and ready to be filled with clothes.

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The dresser adds the next piece to the bedroom suite.  All that’s left is to replace the department store night stands, but I’ve other projects higher on my build list.  Think green woodworking.  

I hope you have enjoyed this build along.  Writing it up has been a lot of work, but fun.  Who knows, by the time I get ready to build another case piece I may need to refer to my own instructions.

Bob Jones

Complete this dresser!

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These final bits and pieces will become slips and muntins (centers) for the drawers.

In my last post, I mentioned that my drawer sides are only 3/8 inch thick.  It is a traditional English technique that looks great when the drawers are open and makes the drawer lightweight.  You may think that is way too thin for a full sized drawer side, and I suppose it would be if I didn’t add slips.  The slips double the bearing surface of the drawer slide and house the groove that contains the drawer bottom.

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Slips are easy to produce using a plow plane to make the groove (left) and a jack plane to make it the right size and add the user friendly radius to the top inside edge.

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End gain view of a slip (left) and muntin (right).  The muntin is especially useful for wide drawers because the bottom can be made of two smaller pieces.

Charles H. Hayward said that the parts of a drawer that can come into contact with hands should be rounded as a courtesy to the user.  I planed a radius on the corner of the slips and muntins that will be exposed in the final product.  The radius is not controlled, just made about right by hand and eye.  Making this radius with a jack plane is very fast – be aggressive – no fine shavings here.

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Blurry in the background is a wedge that kept the slip groove in-line with the drawer front groove.  Another approach is to form a tenon on the front of the slip.  Either approach is fine.

The slips are glued and clamped (or cramped for Hayward) to the drawer sides.  I hope you can see (on the left) that the slip is a little proud of the drawer side bottom.  After the glue cures, I plane the slip to be flush with the drawer side.  It only takes a couple of passes with the plane.

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I think a small smoothing plane works well for final fitting of drawers.  Remove enough wood so that the drawer slides easily in the case and then remove no more.  A tight fit looks nice.

With the slips in place, it is time for the final fitting of the drawers.  There should not be much to do since each piece was individually fit to the case already.  Holding drawers while planing can be a challenge.  I clamp boards to my bench that hang over the front edge of the bench.  The drawer then rests on those boards without any required clamping.  It is simple and effective.  To plane the front of the drawer, spread the clamp boards out.  Done.

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The end of this project is now close enough to smell the Boiled Linseed Oil.  It’s all details from here.  

The drawers need a stop so that when they are pushed in they will not go deeper than the front of the case.  In the image above I’m marking the thickness of the drawer front on the bottom of the case.  I’m going to glue a small slip of wood right behind that line.  It’s thin enough that it will not interfere with the drawer bottom, but it will stop the drawer perfectly flush with the case front.  There are other ways to do this, but this method is very simple and easily adjusted with a rabbet plane.

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Like I said before, radius or at least soften the edges that can contact the hands of the user.  A spokeshave works great on the inside and outside edges of the drawer sides.

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With the drawers complete and fitted, I went back to work on the top.  Here I am planing the sub-top because it needed a little flattening.  It didn’t come out as flat as I would have liked, but I made up the difference on the underside of the top.  Remember, when working with hand tools every piece of wood need not be straight/flat/level, they only need to fit nicely and look straight/flat/level.

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Here I’m finally fitting and trimming the real top.  That overhang will be sawn off and cleaned up with a sharp smoothing plane.  I’ve come a long way from the land of 10,000 decisions.  Next stop, finishing.  I’m too excited to sleep.

Bob Jones

I got it one piece at a time

But I sure hope it turns out better than the Pshyco Billy Cadillac. P1-1

Most of the pieces needed for the 6 drawers of my dresser. I’m working on the drawers of my eternal dresser project.  This is the point where I’m either going to finish this or burn it for heat.  The drawers are made up of 9 pieces each x 6 drawers = 54 pieces!  That may not seem like a lot to someone who is feeding pieces of wood through a drum sander and router jig, but when you are working each piece to size with planes and joining them with saws and chisels, it takes a while. The best description that I have read on making drawers was written by the excellent Charles Hayward in Cabinet Making for Beginners.  He covered the topic so well that any further writing is unnecessary.  However, since that book is long out of print, I will hit some of the highlights.

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Get all of the pieces to rough size.  This means making boards 1 inch or more too long and 1/8 inch or more too wide.  Why oversize?  Because every piece needs to be perfectly fit in it’s place in the case.  If you can do this with your tablesaw, feel free.  Here I marked the final size of each piece in it’s place, then continued the mark with my panel gage.

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I final fit each piece with a hand plane and I check the fit often.  Accurately sizing each piece makes fitting the assembled drawers fast and accurate.  During this final fitting I make adjustments for any out-of-squareness of the case (especially drawer openings).  I generally fit the width (height) of each board, then mark the length (on right).

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I fit the drawer fronts following the same steps as with the sides.  Remember, my drawer openings are not perfectly square, so the drawers fit the opening.  If anyone studies my dresser with an engineers square, I’ll kick them out of my house. Drawer sides are best made from quarter sawn materials.  Unless you want to use white oak or cherry, QS material is really not available.  For this dresser and my chest of drawers, I made my own QS stock.  To do this, I bought a really wide cypress board that was cut near the pith (center) of the tree.  I cut it into drawer sides (length and width) and resawed 2 sides.  It worked pretty well since the sides need to be 3/8 inch thick and the original board was 5/4 (1.25 inches) thick. Once all 4 pieces of a drawer are fitted to the case, plow a groove at the bottom (inside) of the front.  Not actually on the bottom, go at least 1/4 inch up.  I made mine 1/2 inch from the bottom because these drawers are really deep and that makes it easier to hide the groove within the (dove)tails on the front.  Speaking of, I will not cover dovetailing the drawer, except two points.

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1 – The back is shorter than the other pieces, to allow the drawer bottom to slide in place.  It is level with the top of the drawer. Remember this when laying out the drawer.

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2 – Before you dovetail these parts that you have milled perfectly, PRACTICE on scrap!  Here is my first practice joint.  See any problems?  I practiced on 2 more to brush up on my technique before sawing my real parts.  

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With the 4 corners dovetailed, it’s time for glue-up.  I clamped my front board to the workbench and that seemed to help the process.  I liked the benefit of the thin sections of the front being supported while I hammered the sides into place.

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Check the glued-up drawer for square.  Check the length of the diagonals (right) and flatness (left).  Apply pressure to perfect the form.  Careful now.  Once it is square and flat, leave it alone for the next +8 hours. Phew! With all the drawers joined together it’s time to make the final bits and pieces, but that will wait for the next chapter.

Bob Jones

Bench Plane Classes – On the kitchen table

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Recent hand plane class / demo taught at the kitchen table.

I’ve posted about the hand plane classes that I teach over at the woodwork shop in Memphis, TN.  I normally teach in their workshop on a sturdy bench that is much too tall for hand plane use.  For the most recent classes I decided to use their “kitchen” type table in their showroom.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked as a workbench.  The top is flat and just the right height (or a little low which is better than a little high).  The only downside is mass.  While using a Jack plane a student had to keep the table from walking across the room.

We actually had 2 classes in about a month.  Both classes went great.  I’m always a little surprised when people come back to take the second class.  I guess they figure they got their money’s worth in the first one.  Thanks to my friends at the woodwork shop for inviting me back.

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Here is the Mr Lucky.  He won the hand plane giveaway.  Maybe that is what keeps people coming back?  Get that Stanley tuned up and ready!

Back to the point of this post.  A good workbench has a flat, solid top that is shorter than waist level.  What, you don’t have a workbench?  Go to your kitchen.  Attach some battens to your table with quick-clamps and get to work.

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Hopefully you can see the battens that were used as stops.  This method works well and is how I built my first couple of projects before my Roubo bench.

Speaking of classes, I’m making my schedule now for next year.  If any woodworking groups in Alaska, Hawaii, or Europe need a hand plane class and are willing to pay for travel, I’m open.  Just sayin’.

Bob Jones