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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.


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