College Practical techniques

College course: Day 7

Great day at college today. Very productive and a good laugh to boot. As we have a break next week, the focus was on getting elements glued up and ready for when we come back in two weeks time.

One of the oiled panels I finished last week. Here it’s dropped into it’s holding frame and it’s ready for glue-up. Sash cramps keep things square whilst being glued, hopefully.
Both side panels of the cabinet, now made up and left to dry. See you again in two weeks.
The cabinet incorporates a shelf, two thirds of the way down. I dimensioned the wood for this (walnut again) and jointed it, so that when glued it makes up a solid panel, with grain matching nicely. The grain ‘crowning’ is upmost on the middle panel, but at the bottom on the outside two. This means as the panel dries over time and shrinks, the whole panel shouldn’t dish.
Same deal here for the top of the cabinet. Another triple-joined panel left to dry, and I’ll bring both panels back down to a flat surface when I return, so not much need to worry about glue overspill etc.

College Practical techniques

College course: Day 6

I’m almost embarrassed to add this latest post and call it an update. A very slow day at college on Friday, not helped by random ‘non-day course’ people taking up space in the woodwork shop and taking up the tutors time.

Well, the side panels were test-fitted together anyway, and I finally cut the veneered walnut board to drop into the frames. (Apologies for the terrible picture quality, I literally have the cheapest phone in the world).

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All good with the fit. The project was then pretty much abandoned, as I had a go with another couple of machines (spindle moulder and bandsaw) and did a quick build for something we needed in the house. Despite all that, I decided it wouldn’t be long before I’m gluing up these side panels, so I need to give thought to giving them, a GOOD RUBBING DOWN, and then OILING THEM UP. The tutor figured it made sense to get the boards finished, drop them in, then oil the frames.

The above shot is the panels having already been RUBBED DOWN with various grades of glasspaper. The tutor recommended ‘Osmo oil’, but having seen the prices, and talked to my friend Robert Vialle, I just went with what I had in the cupboard, a decent Danish Oil. Robert recommended at least five coats, so best get on with it.

Wow, this wood is going to look beautiful, even the woman in the mag looks impressed. Right, well the pictures aren’t going to change much from here on, so I’ll post some new stuff next week, once the boards are in. I’ll also have a bit more energy, hopefully, and will start dimensioning timber to create the cross rails to join the two side panels together. See if you can keep your excitement in check until then!

College Practical techniques

College course: Day 5

Good progress today on this little cabinet. The side panels are pretty much together, just awaiting the boards that will be cut to size and enclosed by the framing. Next time I’ll be cutting the board stock and will start thinking about making rails that connect the cabinet together, one side to the other, and getting this thing standing on it’s own feet.
I started out with setting up a router, to cut the rebates for the boards in the legs and also the cross rails. If you have ever read the blog before, you’ll know I try to do everything with hand tools. But, as in previous days, I need to take the opportunity to learn the set-up on these machines, as I’ll no doubt need to use them again at some point.

‘Oh infernal machine, your dust and noise displeases me greatly…’

I set up a fence for the legs to run through, but the magnetic clamps didn’t hold quite solid to the base plate. I added ‘G-clamps’ on the ends of the fence also. And a final check that the cutter was aligned with the mortices.

All legs and rails were run through with the final ‘face’ sides in the same orientation. This way I know my rebates are all the same distance from the edge. Here I’m checking the final board will fit into the panel frame, by slotting in a piece of scrap from the same board.

Once the rails are in the mortices, the panel will fit into the verticals and horizontals. Lovely!

Here’s a final panel, there’s no board cut to go into it yet, but I have chiselled out the final part of the mortices to house the haunches. All the joints close up nicely. There’s some minimal twisting on the tenons, but hey, I pretty much did this all by hand!

Second panel fitted together. While the legs were on the router with the correct-sized cutter in, I took the opportunity to cut the rebates for the back panel, which will be made from the same stock as the boards on the side panels.

College Practical techniques

College course: Day 4

Interesting day. If you are the one person that reads this blog, you’ll remember last week I was feeling a bit tense about my first ever mortise and tenon joints, and whether they would fit together. By all means scroll to the end of the post, but here’s how it went.

This is a cross piece from a side panel. It needs ‘tenons’ on the end, to fit into the ‘mortices’ (the holes), in the other pieces, which I made last week. When they’re fitted together, they will make really good, strong joints.

Taking the waste off the top side. Note the saw marks actually go back further to the ‘shoulder’, but when the side bits, the ‘cheeks’ are taken off, the reason why will be explained.

The side ‘cheeks’ of the tenon now need to come off to expose the central part, which will become the tenon. To make the cut very clean, and so that the joint closes up very tightly, I’m paring an angled cut across, leaving a ridge for my saw to run alongside.

Cheeky! Or not so, any more. Both sides come off, and you can now see the tenon, which will fit into the mortise. The top part, reduced in length, will also go into the joint, but that is a smaller part of the tenon called the ‘haunch’. This will be recessed into a shallower mortice, and will add stability and strength to the joint.

A quick test-fit, and joint is way too tight. My sawing seems pretty straight, but the tenon is about a millimeter too thick for the mortice. I take the opportunity to use a nice paring chisel I just snagged on eBay, to take some thickness off. I could also use a shoulder plane of course, but hey, it’s nice to try and hone your hand skills.

This short bit eventually needs to slot into the holes in the outside bits. (Technical terminology).

Ok, this is too exciting. The joints slide smoothly into the mortices, which is a success in my book. At the moment, you can see the joints stop at the haunches, and next week I’ll just need to continue a shallower mortice along this part, so the joint closes. I’ll probably do that by hand, taking out the extra with a mortice chisel the same width as the existing mortice. All four joints should then close up nicely.

College Practical techniques

Three weeks into my college course

My inbox has been flooded with two requests for an update on my college course, ‘Intermediate Furniture Making’. It’s a CASS course, run at the London Metropolitan Uni in east London. This course is possibly the best thing I’ve ever done, in a work sense. I’d recommend going back to college to everyone who has ever thought about it. Here’s a synopsis of my project so far.

My home for the next fifteen weeks, well, on Fridays anyway. I’m pretty blown away by the range of machines here. Whilst I consider myself an advocate of hand tools, learning to use these machines is going to be really useful for batch production and repetitive tasks.
This being my first project, (a small bedside cabinet), I found it hard to work on a scale drawing and to estimate the thicknesses for the various elements. I ended up doing a full-scale drawing on the living room floor. This really helped me to visualize the project and I made some fairly crucial changes I might not have noticed otherwise. I also realised I really need to learn Google Sketchup quite soon, to visualize more complex joints in 3D. I’ll save that learning process for winter. Please also note pink umbrella top right, which was waved around by youngest daughter, as she walked over my drawings as I worked. I bet Joseph Moxon never had this trouble.
Right, I’ve skipped forward a bit here. Having chosen walnut for the cabinet, I’ve dimensioned the elements for the two side panels, using a planer and a thicknesser. You could do this by hand, but as I say, this was a chance to understand how the machines worked. The thicknesser leaves a decent finish, although if you were doing this by hand, you’d start with ripping to size, flattening with a scrub plane, then gradual planing with jointer planes, fore/jack planes. Then eventually finishing with smoothing planes and scrapers.
Cor, look at the grain on that! This was an excitingly saucy ‘reveal’. As I split one piece of wood on a bandsaw, a really interesting area of burred grain was exposed. I need to make sure I show this area on a part of the cabinet that’s in full view. Pretty quickly I’m understanding about choosing wood for it’s best grain, and how to work the wood in different grain directions, rather than, well, going against the grain.
Ok, so my stock is dimensioned, and I’m starting to figure out my mortise and tenon joints. The parts with chalk on, are the tenons, they will slot into holes, the ‘mortices’, in the legs underneath. So I need to cut the holes, then makes sure the tenons fit nice and tight. Once again, I made use of another machine, a morticer, to cut square-edged slots, and moved onto the tenons, which I intend to mainly do by hand. An interesting tip here, when drawing your cut lines, if your marking knife lines don’t show up, (as here on dark-ish walnut), rub chalk into the line. All these old-school tricks, this is what it’s all about for me, we must not lose this knowledge!
Ok, time to start cutting. The faces you see here could be cut on a bandsaw, but I’ll probably do the whole thing by hand. Learning to cut straight is a skill I really want to get down. You can see that the depth on the right is shallower than on the left, to the ‘shoulder’ of the tenons, that’s because I want to leave a ‘haunch’ for extra stability. More on that later, let’s get cutting.
The ‘cheeks’ of the tenon have been cut. Lots of concentration, as I need to make sure I stay just outside my chalk line. If I don’t, the fit inside the (already cut) mortice will be sloppy and inaccurate. I’m learning it’s surprisingly easy to mess up your work at various stages. Never has the adage ‘measure twice, cut once’ been ringing so often in my ears. So this is where I am, back next week to slice the remaining cuts, and see if my tenons fit my mortices. Expect tears of joy or woe, depending on how it turns out. Either way, it will be emotional.