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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Special Request Frame

One of my sons recently got married. He and his new bride wanted their license and the garter frame in a nice frame. A good friend of theirs done the matting. He asked me to build them a nice frame though.
I have built many frames. I tried coming up with something extra nice though for my son. I have seen splines on the outside edges of frames before for strength and started to go for that. While laying everything out though, I thought of moving the splines to the front face instead and using a contrasting wood for a dramatic look. After gluing those in and sanding them smooth, they looked so good I wanted to add more. Then I had an idea to add the two other splines in opposite corner, actually crossing over the glass. I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but I knew if it didn't look good I would have some real nice firewood. After seeing it though, I don't think this will be the last time I use this technique. I really like it. As a matter of fact, my wife has already said she wants some frame just like it.
I do want to discuss this "original" idea I had with this frame. I cannot remember ever seeing this exact style before. I am sure it has been done though. I've probably seen it and just don't remember it. I have several times came up with something that seemed original, only to remember later where I'd seen the idea before. People have been working wood for thousands of years. It is rare for any of us to really come up with something that has never been done before. Usually, my original ideas are something I have seen in the past, or some combination of different things I've seen thrown together into one project. It is satisfying though to come up with something on a project that you haven't done before. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.

"The Coast" Wall Hanging

Some time ago, I built a coffee table for my Mom. The top of that table had a three dimensional coast scene that is built up in layers. My wife loved that top. The problem is, having multiple sons, coffee tables at my house usually wind up either destroyed, or the instrument with which one of them gets hurt. So we do not keep a coffee table in our living room. Instead, I decided to make my wife a wall hanging using the pattern for the coffee table top.
If you'd like to see the coffee table, you can see it here. If you'd like to order the pattern I used for the coffee table, and this project, you can order it here.
To make the scene, it is built up in five layers. The first layer is the backer board. I just used Minwax water based stain that is tinted blue on a three quarter inch thick piece of cottonwood that measures twenty inches tall and forty inches long.
The second layer consist of oak for the rocky cliffs, pine for the sun and the sun's reflection off the water, sycamore for the other water waves, box elder for the clouds, and cottonwood stained pearl grey for the lighthouse.
The third layer is cottonwood for the birds, cottonwood stained green tea for the tree, cottonwood stained china red for the sailboat, and oak for the rest of the cliffs.
The fourth layer is sapelle for the posts, and cottonwood for the bird's bodies.
The fifth layer is the ropes around the posts, which is made of cottonwood.
This photo shows the frame. I was going for a shadowbox look. So I used two inch wide finger jointed oak. That is overlaid with one inch thick mahogany.
The portrait part of the project is finished with a single application of Minwax Gloss polyurethane. Then the frame got two coats of the same polyurethane and two coats of Johnson's Paste Wax.
The most nerve racking part of this project, for me, was getting the piece of plate glass that large home, and into the frame without disaster. I just do not have good luck with large sheets of glass. Luckily, I did not have issues with this one. Keep your fingers crossed though. I still have not hung it for my wife. So there's still a chance for disaster.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Boat Shelves

I've done these before, but my wife wanted a set, done in purple.
They are not hard to make at all with the plans. You can get the plans for all four of them here.
It is a four piece set of boat shaped bookshelves. I painted the hull of these boats purple. The smallest one is curio shelf that hangs on the wall. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Bell Tower Clock

This one is called the Bell Tower Clock. It is from the Berry Basket Collection. I apologize. I normally provide a link to where I purchase plans from on any project. The Berry Basket site seems to be down for the last couple of days though.
I built this one with cottonwood and a sapelle overlay. It was meant to be sapelle with just a cottonwood backer on all the fretwork. For some reason though, during the building process, I decided to go with cottonwood floor material on each level, and for the roof. It seemed to me to break it up into a two colored project and makes it look more lively.
It took me about a week to build it. It stands nineteen inches high, is twenty three inches wide, and eight inches deep. It does not have a finish. I sometimes decide to leave certain projects unfinished for personal reasons. For this one, I feel a finish will not look right on it on close inspection because it’s going to be near impossible to get it even in some of the crevices that you’d have to dive off into. Also, my wife, who is getting this clock for Christmas, has informed me that NO, I cannot have the Victorian Queen Clock back to put finish on. She likes it as is. Since this clock will be displayed on the mantle right next to that one, I think I’d better leave this one alone as well. I asked her about this idea, and she says she does not want a finish on this one either. She likes the plain wood look without a shine of a finish. If she’s happy, I’m happy.
I enjoyed building this one, as usual. I do love building clocks. This is the first clock pattern I’ve had in a long while though that I was not happy with. The bottom level, with the angles on it, does not look pleasing to me at all. My wife likes it, but she doesn’t understand my distaste for it. The pattern looks nice, but was impossible to cut as well as the pattern shows. Even with a #2/0 blade, the smallest I have ever used, the nose and mouth details could not be cut. There is just no way. So the facial details that look so nice in the pattern, do not come out as nice on the wood. Because of this, I would rate this pattern lower than most of the other clock patterns I have cut from.
You can look at the last photo to see a close up of the front panel of the area I’m talking about.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another Table.

Well, from what I've been told, and by the email I got from her, My Mom likes her table. As soon as I was sure of this though, I suddenly was made aware of another problem. My wife wanted one similar to it. So, since I am broke and trying to figure out what to make her for Christmas, that gave me a good place to get started.
This one is made of cottonwood. It is fifteen by twenty and thirty two inches tall. It is stained with Minwax Dark Walnut stain and then finished with Minwax Clear Gloss polyurethane.
I will finish this post out with some more photos. I was able to do the top, shelf and drawer front in the style that I wanted to do on my Mom's. I was disappointed that I could not do this on that table. I wanted to make my Mom's out of mahogany though, and I did not have pieces large enough to do it. I was able to do this on my wife's table, because it is made out of a cheaper wood, cottonwood. I had plenty of that on hand. Then, with the stain I used, I still think it turned out nicely. I hope to one day have the material though to do this in mahogany.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Simple Isn't Always So Simple

I have got to quit using the word simple when it comes to projects. My Mom needed a simple table to place upon it a small stereo she has. She provided me with the details of what she wanted and it seemed simple enough. See that word? Simple?
There is nothing complicated to any experienced woodworker about a table. Of course, I wanted to add my own spin to this table, but still, it seemed simple. There I go using that word again.
I started with the skirts. I decided that I really would like to include finger joints in the corners to add character to a simple design. This part worked fine. If you keep up with my blog, you probably remember the fancy finger joint, or box joint, machine I made earlier this year. I have used this machine on numerous projects now and it has got to be about the most useful jig I own, built or store bought.
Next, I wanted the legs to blend well with these "different" skirts. I notched the tops and middles to accept the skirts into the legs, making it all flush along the corner edges.
It's when I started gluing everything up that it all seemed to go south. I learned an important lesson with this project. Make sure your shop is warm enough before attempting to use Gorilla Wood Glue. The day I glued all this up, it was sixty degree. This is barely within the operating temperature listed on the bottle, but I thought I'd be fine.
After everything was together and I started sanding, I kept hearing an unusual noise. It was my glue joints popping loose when I racked the entire assembly around to sand the different sides. This created a problem. Most of the joints failed, but I still could not completely disassemble it to reglue everything. I wound up fixing this with a syringe of glue to get behind separated pieces and a 23 gauge pin nailer.
At this point, I was sure glad I had used finger joints at the corners. Without those strong finger joints, I don't know if this would have held together.
To tell the truth though, I was not happy at all. At this point in a project, I normally would have given up and started over to feel safer that things were right. I believe in doing things right, or not at all. The problem is though, I wanted to make this for my Mom out of mahogany, and I already knew that I did not have any more mahogany wide enough to redo these skirts. So I needed to push on and see this thing through.
Things got a little sturdier after adding stretchers. These helped push the legs tightly into the corners of the skirts so the legs did not have to depend so much on glue. They also are where the top will be attached down to, and the shelf underneath.
Then I started with the top and shelf and run into even more issues. I get ahead of myself sometimes. In my head, I had planned out this extravagant inlaid top and shelf. Therefore, I used particle board as a substructure to assure a dead flat surface to work with. What I didn't take into account was, with the angles my idea had me working with, every piece of mahogany I had to work with was either too short, or too narrow.
After a better part of a day trying to figure out a way to make it work, I had to come to my senses and change gears to something a little simpler.
I made quarter inch thick panels to cover the horizontal surface. I chose mahogany board with different shades of colors for a reason. Then I used a bevel jig on the table saw and ripped them at an eight degree angle so I could mix them up when I glued them down.
After all this was done, and the sanding was done, and the kicking myself for the mess this simple project had turned into, it was time for finishing.
No, finishing did not go well.
I have gotten better in the last year or so at finishing. For some reason though, this has to be the worst finish I have done in a long time. I planned on two coats. I wound up making three just trying to even out the unevenness in color that the first two coats made. When it was all said and done, there is no way to fix it, short of sanding down and starting over, and I know from experience that this is not a good idea either with shellac.
Of course, my wife says I'm worried for nothing. I am my own worst critic sometimes. I can see every single flaw on this thing though, especially in the finish. At this point, I need to figure out what I'm going to do. It will be sitting in my shop until I can get it to my Mom. In the meantime, I have to decide whether to chop it up for fancy firewood and try making another one, or living with it not being my best work and hoping my Mom will like it anyway.
I will have to look at it again in the coming days and weeks, when I'm through beating myself up about it, and come to a decision then.
I try to learn something with every project. The biggest lesson I have learned with this one I think, is to stop saying anything will necessarily be simple.

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Addition To The Band Saw Line Up

Some of you may remember that late last year, and into early this year, I built a band saw. Since then, I have really put it through it's paces. That thing is a beast and has taken anything I have thrown at it without so much as a grumble. In addition to that, it has proved to be more precise than the several factory made band saws I have owned.
Now, the thing is, I built this saw in conjunction with a good friend of mine. Most of the work was done at my shop. My friend took his back to his shop back around the time I completed mine. I have been considering building another one of these.
Since getting used to a larger and better saw, I have been extremely dissatisfied with the performance of my old Craftsman saw. It is a good saw for general work, but mostly I have been unhappy with the lack of precision. I use this saw mainly for curved cuts, since I do all my re sawing on my shop made saw now. I always cut outside the line though and sand up to it, simply because I don't trust the precision of it.
So, when I mentioned this to my friend, he offered to bring the saw back to me. For various reasons, he has decided that any large work that he can't do with what he has, he'll just bring to my shop. I jumped at the chance to get this saw back to my shop. Since I know it is built identical to the other shop built saw I've been using for a long time, I know it is a great saw.
The first thing I had to do was build a stand for it. I made the stand you see in the first photo of this saw. It is just a simple square cabinet with three drawers. There's nothing really special about it. I made it quickly out of cottonwood.
Next I added a guard to it. I decided to do this one a little different than the other saw. On the other saw, I wanted overly safe guards. Because of my sometimes re sawing long or large wood, I sometimes need help on that saw, which is usually one of my sons.
On this saw, I will be using it for curved cuts and I'll be able to manage everything on it by myself. Therefore, I wasn't quite as careful with the guards. For this one, I wanted something simple that protects the operator, while still allowing easy blade changes. This is because, depending on what I'm cuttings, I'll be using more than one blade on this one, unlike the other saw that keeps a half inch re saw blade on it at all times.
So, I made this guard a hinged model with latches on the front to hold it closed when using the saw. This makes for easy blade changes. The saw is ready to use now. I just have to get a smaller blade. For the time being, it has the same half inch blade as the other saw.
As soon as I get the smaller blade, so I'll have a saw to cut curves, and as soon as a different friend can make it to Vicksburg, I've found a new home for the old Craftsman. I hope my friend gets as many miles out of it as I have.  Maybe one day I'll be able to talk him into letting me help him build a shop built saw as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Iron Horse Wall Hanging.

This is just a fretwork wall hanging I finished cutting today. I ordered the pattern from here at Wildwood Designs. It was not a hard cutting, but a lengthy one. I stack cut two and one time, but it took me about twelve hours to complete.
If you order the patterns for this cutting, you can cut it as a wall hanging as you see here, or you can cut all of the pattern and build a shelf out of it. The pattern, as ordered, comes with two different designs. They are each similar, but different in subtle ways. I didn't understand the difference in them to begin with. Upon closer inspection though, they depict trains from different time periods.  
Both of these are made of cottonwood. I left one unfinished and the other one I spray painted gloss black. They measure seven inches tall at the highest point and fourteen inches long.
One of these is going to a friend of mine who lives in another state, and the other one I hung inside my shop for myself.

Friday, November 2, 2012

More Loading Blocks

Some of you may remember the loading block I made for my Dad a few weeks ago. If not, you can read more about it here.
Anyway, I'd been wanting to make some more, but am just now getting around to it.
In the S.A.S.S. group, my Dad is Gunn Walker. The other block you see, is for a good friend of my Dad, Mean Matt McCord.
The top and bottom ones are made of sapelle. The middle one is made of glued up layers of sapelle and cottonwood. The letters are routed into the top. Then the recesses are painted black. Then they are finished with Watco Danish Oil.