Monday, February 25, 2013

Back in the Wood Shop

The raw materials, with the top already glued.
It has been some time since I have done any real wood projects. I had the opportunity to do a whole lot of projects and build a number of different things this fast spring, which brought great satisfaction to me. This past summer and fall however were super busy what with riding, racing and working.

The other reality was that the job was taking a whole lot of the wind out of my sails and had me pretty down. I find it really difficult to sit at a desk for nine or ten hours a day and do the same thing, watching life slip away, while doing something that I really didn't enjoy. I suspect that had I grown up 30 years later than I actually did that I'd have been labeled with all sorts of spiffy acronyms and would have been on numerous helpful drugs to correct those acronyms. As luck had it I grew up before society subscribed to pharmaceutical based homogenization.

Anyhow, I was saying that it had been since the spring that I had spent any time woodworking. I've always enjoyed making things, tangible things that you could see and feel. I suspect that was really my true calling and passion and am often remiss that I never ended up in a vocation that would allow and foster that. In  the past I would build things in my spare time. I'd always have multiple projects going either building stuff or working on the house or doing some other similar thing. When we got into bicycle racing, some of that tapered off. In the past few years as racing has gotten more and more serious and consumed more and more time, the side projects have been drastically reduced.

Underside detail of the rail/top and rail/leg/corner attachments.
This year with cyclocross heading into the extra innings that it did there was never any down time to use the creative side. With that, I made some time to start doing some stuff and have been acting on that. A few home projects here and there and a little bit of woodworking. I've already got a number of projects planned or in the works and I finished one up last week. Nothing too terribly difficult and nothing that I had't done many times in the past, but still something tangible and tactile.

We wanted a new end stand for the living room, one that would work well with the sectional sofa that we have and one that would match the decor of the room. Most of our furniture is made of cherry and the floors are rustic maple hardwood. It just so happened that I had a stash of 5/4 cherry that I purchased years ago for a project that never materialized. I also had a couple boxes of the maple flooring that I'd installed in the house when we did the addition back in 2005. All the I had to purchase was some 3/4 x 2" maple that I would glue up into the legs. Entire monetary outlay would be low, materials wise about $20.

Finished product sprayed with clear lacquer.

The plan was to make a simple four leg table using side rails that were notched for the corner blocks that secured the legs via lag bolts through the block. I'd used this technique, the same technique that is commonly used for dining room tables, on most all of the tables I'd built. It makes a good solid connection and a secure fit. I've also started using the plate joiner to drop biscuits in the leg/rail butt connection. This means that the legs don't come off but it also allows for perfect alignment of the interface. Without that, you get varying alignment which I find visually annoying.

I pulled the cherry stock I had, ran the edges over the bench jointer to face them, cut biscuit slots with the plate joiner and glued them up into a rough 1 x 3' table top. They were clamped up with a row of bar clamps and left to cure. The rails were made of the leftover rustic maple flooring which I ran through the thickness planer to remove the finish on (the flooring was pre-finished with clear baked urethane). I then cut and glued the maple 1 x 2" into 2 x 2" legs and clamped them up to cure as well.

The rails were cut to length and V-notched back from the ends a bit using a shallow set dado stack on the table saw set at a 45 degree angle. That required slight modification of the custom made blade fence but was easy to do. Eight quick passes on the saw and I had the notched insets for the corner blocks. Some more simple biscuit cuts in the rail ends and the legs and I could dry assemble the unit to verify the length I'd need for my corner blocks.

Do some measuring, drill some holes and assemble the rails to the legs via the corner blocks and it it all held together nicely. Next I needed to finish off the table top which meant finish cutting and then planing the edges and the surface slightly. A bunch of sanding to get the desired finish and it was ready to install to the lower. To do this I used the neat pocket hole jig that my brother got me for Christmas a few years back.

As it sits now, covered in stuff.
The rest of the table was very simple form wise with straight legs and only hand sanded edges to dull them a bit. I chose not to fully round or 45 them, both of which I have done in the past on other projects. The router stayed in the case and never got called into play for this project.

Once it was complete and assembled, I fired up the custom brand I'd built to stamp the underside and cleaned it off to receive the finish. For the finish I first applied a coat of lacquer sanding sealer with a brush. Once dry, I then sanded that out with steel wool, cleaned the dust off and shot a few coats of semi-gloss clear lacquer through the paint gun. This quickly dried to a clear, hard protective finish which I sanded any imperfections with more steel wool. A coat of furniture polish and it was set to go.

A fun little project that reminded just how satisfying it is to create something from raw materials. I'm hoping that I will have more to come shortly. I've got another end table I want to build, this one a cherry and oak combination to match a different room we have. I've also got an idea for a neat spiral cat tower that I think I may make.

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