Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shaker Step Stool...part 1

It's been a few weeks since the last project wrapped up so it feels good to dig into something new.  The step stool designs I had been playing with just weren't exciting me, I like them but there is something missing still.  Last week I ran to the hardwood supply at lunch to check out their monthly specials.  They had cherry and birdseye maple on sale.  In the future I should probably plan on going before the very end of the month so the pile isn't quite so picked over, but I did manage to find a couple boards that I liked.  The cherry had nice color but had some defects and the maple had pretty heavy birdseye figure but again had some large defects.  It occurred to me that this wood might make a really nice shaker style step stool.

Something Like this.... but with the birdseye maple for the steps.  This evening I got all the pieces milled.  One of the longer cherry parts had a slight bow, not sure yet whether I am going to try and deal with that or not. I think that once everything goes together it should be slight enough that it won't cause any problems.

All the pieces laid out on the bench.  I'm not certain about the proportions yet, I might make the 1st step a bit lower, it is at 10 inches now.

Images of the two side panels to be.  These won't be glued up until after the dovetails are cut for the steps.

It is a bit hard to see in the picture but this board had some pretty consistently heavy birdseye figure.

This should be a fun project and will be a good bit of practice cutting dovetails.  

Monday, April 29, 2013


A necessary chore before getting started on the next project.  I recently upgraded from sandpaper on granite tile...aka scary sharp..to a diamond plate and water stone combo.  So far it is a huge improvement in both ease of use and results.

After hours of reading about other people's systems and agonizing over which dubbed to start with I decided that I just need to get something and start experimenting.
I ended up buying a DMT Duosharp coarse/extra fine and the Norton 4000/8000 combo.

First the DMT... I am really liking how quickly it cuts for the respective grit size and how even of a scratch pattern I am getting.  I do think that I will likely pick up an extra course plate to speed up the grinding as I do not have a grinder. It does seem to cut much better if it is kept nice and wet to help the swarf flow out of the way.

My main reservation with the Norton stone was that the 4000 grit needed to be soaked prior to use.  This hasn't turned it to be much of an issue as I seem to do quite a bit of sharpening whenever I get set up.  Being able to just throw some water on the 8000 and go to work is nice for a little touch up while working. 

The only complaint so far is that the 8000 grit side of the stone had a pretty bad crown to it.  10 minutes with some sandpaper and the DMT and it is mostly flat but the corners are still a bit low. This is visible in the pictures.  Since the lowest spots are almost 1/32  low I am just living with it and not using the corners.  I figure I will eventually wear down the middle of the stone enough that it will be truly flat across the whole face.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Did the Romans have tiger maple?

This past weekend I was able to spend some time in the shop and got a picture frame put together.  The frame was for a print of a painting that I did in high school.  I am glad that it finally has a home and think that the final result really works well with the art. It is made from a great piece of curly maple and some walnut.
 The miter joints came out pretty well. They were cut using the Incra miter jig that I picked up while finishing up the cabinet.   It is really amazing how much of a difference a decent miter gauge makes. I am having some issues with blade deflection.  Not sure if its time to have my blade sharpened or its just my saw reminding me that it wasn't designed for precision work.

The miter joints are reinforced with a spline which made the glue-up quite a bit simpler. Getting all four corners to line up was still a bit challenging.  Working with the curly maple I am really coming to appreciate the benefits of a high angle smoother.  I have a smaller smoothing plane that I have back beveled to give a higher effective cutting angle.  There is a remarkable difference when smoothing figured wood.  I am glad I used my narrower smoother as it still takes a bit of muscle to keep it moving. 

This project was a great opportunity to work on my card scraper sharpening as well as there was still some tear-out, even using the higher angle smoother.

The frame is finished with a coat of danish oil and then several coats of shellac.  After sanding the shellac lightly I applied a coat of paste wax and called it good.  

We have a few more items that need frames.  One is a print of an old map that I think would look great in a Greene & Greene style, mahogany frame.  I think a darker mahogany color would be nice so I may use it as an excuse to experiment with dyes.  

I am thinking maybe something similar to this...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The thrill of picking the next project...aka things I hate even more than painting.

...and the reality of what's on the list.

I managed an hour or so in the shop the other night to get things cleaned up and put away after the frenzy of finishing on the Whiskey cabinet.  I decided to sort through the current lumber stash and take a look.  Hopefully having it all laid out will help in the inspiration department when it comes time to decide what to work on next.

But first...there are some house projects that have been ignored for long enough.

Today I spent more time than I would like to admit installing a new faucet set on our bathroom sink. Out with the nasty old brass fixture and in with the nice new Oil Rubbed Bronze one.  It turns out there is something I hate more than painting....plumbing. It is nice to have that out of the way and with all new drain parts the sink works much better.  

On a side note, the towel holder in that picture is really great.  The leaf is cut (plasma?) from steel and has a very unique look.  It is from an artisan back in VT that my parents sent us awhile back.   Payne Junker Studio

Another project that needs to happen soon is refinishing out dining room table.

As you can see it, the finish has seen better days.  I think I may be able to get away with just stripping the top surface and refinishing that...we will see.  

Some other, more fun, projects on the list are some picture frames from the curly maple and walnut in my stash.  I am thinking about going for something like this.

There is also a step stool in my future.  I have been playing around with a couple design. Below are some photos that I am using for inspiration and the models I have been playing with.

A little bit shorter with walnut legs and a cherry top.

This design has gotten a better reception around here.  I like it's simplicity.  Can't seem to find the original source on this one.

This is a take on the above stool.  Walnut top and legs with maple stretchers dovetailed into the legs.  I think the taper on the legs is a bit excessive but overall I like where this design is headed.

Feel free to leave comments and suggestions on these stool designs.  I've still got a ways to go.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It sure feels nice to finish a project...

I finally decided how I wanted to mount the pulls on the whiskey cabinet and got them glued on.  As I was finishing the cabinet with shellac I was also able to get a couple of coats on in an hour so that I could get everything cleaned up and the hardware installed after dinner.
All finished and hung on the wall, the french cleat system worked awesome.  This will definitely be my method of choice for future wall hanging projects. I am pleased with how the color of the Mahogany works with the dark red wall.   
The figure on the board that was used for the case is pretty amazing.  This picture doesn't really capture it
Already occupied.  Though too many of those bottles are looking pretty empty.  Its about time to start looking for some company for them.  I figure at least six bottles can fit in there at a time.

 Opening the cabinet requires a bit of a trick.  The pulls are too small to get enough of a grip to overcome the magnet.  A gentle push on the door though will cause it to pop out allowing a better grip and making opening the door easy.

A view of the magnetic catch installed under the shelf and the cabinet in its final home, right above the espresso machine/coffee station.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Getting a handle on it...

My next task will be to attach the door pulls.  They are small Ebony blocks with a slight back bevel on the outside edge.  I am considering three options.

First option is for the pulls to be aligned with the plugs on the center stiles.

Or moved just a bit inward.

Final option, which I think is what I am going to go with is to have the pulls close to the inner edge of the stiles so that they almost apear as a single piece. 
End view of the profile on the pulls.  They were made from left over plug blanks.  The bevel was  cut with a small block plane and then they were sanded up through the grits the same as the plugs.  I think I am going to use round toothpicks as mini dowels to attach there.

Making Ebony Plugs

The weather was so nice this afternoon that I decided to set up on the deck with a beer and make the rest of the plugs for the cabinet.  Here are some pictures showing the process that I have been using.

I was using some 80 grit sandpaper to start the round but found that the deep scratched took too long to polish out.  trimming the corners with the chisel first was much faster than starting with the 150 grit and gave me good results.

After trimming the shape of the plug was defined with 150 grit.

Shaped and ready for polishing. I followed up with 220, 320, 600 and 1000 grit.  If I had a grinder with a buffing wheel that would be a great way to get a really nice shine on them.

After the plugs were polished they were cut to length, ~3/8".

Each of the sides was then beveled slightly, starting ~1/16 from the low points on the corners.  

Finished plug.

9 plugs in just about 45 minutes.

A little dab of yellow glue in the hole and tap them into place so that the corners are just proud of the surface.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Last night I was able to get a couple hours in the shop and got the mortises for the door-frame plugs cut and the plug installed.  I am getting faster at making the plugs so the ones on the case should go pretty quick.  After installing all of the plugs on the doors I applied a coat of danish oil, I am still undecided as to whether I should just do a couple coats of Danish oil or whether shellac might look better.