17 December 2013

Back trouble

I know what you're thinking…(and it's not ''did he fire six shots or only five?")  Neither is it a slipped disc, crushed vertebrae or the indefinite need to use a walking stick.

It's the back panel on the latest Alan Peters cabinet, a simple enough affair of two panels, three stiles and a couple of rails, something I've done many times before, but has it gone together without a hitch?

Has it buggery!

I've had to remake the whole bloody thing at least twice, including both panels and all the frames as the cock-ups have been too numerous to catalogue.  My only excuse is that with the Christmas excitement about to dawn, I haven't been 'in the zone'…

 Yeah right..some who read these tales of woe will no doubt nod their heads,  quietly smirk to themselves and whisper that '' the silly sod rarely is''

However, we progress and the latest version is currently being glued.  Not the final gluing I hasten to add, but the current cock-up as a false 5mm  Domino has been glued in place because I failed miserably to check that the machine was set correctly, so the resultant slot was 2mm too low.  It'll just be flushed off when the glue has set and then re-cut.

With a little luck and a following wind, it ought to go together by the end of the day.

Don't hold your breath though….

08 December 2013

Arise Sir Tribe

Open almost any woodworking mag these days and you'll be inundated with useful 'tips', most of which will set you back an arm and leg and many of which are as much use as a chocolate bloody teapot!

The best one I've seen is definitely worthy of a swift mention here and can be wholly attributed to my friend Chris Tribe.

It concerns cramps and cramp heads.   For years, I've used bits of 6mm plywood with a slot cut out...

…so that they hook over the bar.  Works quite well, but does have the slight problem of...

…cramp inversion.  Turn it upside down and they fall off, so either you need to fix them to the job (with masking tape) or fix them to the cramp heads (with yet more masking tape), both of which are a veritable pain in the backside.  In addition the cramp itself is prone to fall over, which is intensely bloody annoying so instead of paying a king's ransom to some nefarious tool company for supports, simply make...  

…your own.  Blocks of scrap wood with a slot milled down the middle.  How simple is that?…and you've still got some 'folding' left to spend down the pub in the evening.

To return to the cramp heads, here's the solution.  The 'fork' has now been cut off and some offcuts of nice thick leather glued to the face, but here's the cunning bit.  The reverse….

….side now sports an 8mm rare earth magnet, set in flush with the surface.

This means that your cramp heads stay in position...

…no matter which way the cramp is orientated.  Clever n'est pas?

 See Chris's full Utoob clip for more enlightenment.

23 November 2013


A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the verticals on the latest cabinet were veneered ply, shown above, but the horizontals were solid, presenting a distinct jointing problem…one will move and the other won't.  My solution is to have some unhappy, cross dowels in the vertical bits into which would eventually go some rather large screws.  To accommodate the movement of the elm, the pan-head screws will...

…be free to move in large slots.  The big bit shown above the slot will eventually be filled with Indian Ebony, which may or may not be glued in, as I'm just trying to get a couple of brain cells in line (or not as the case may be) to work out how to make them removable in case the screws will ever need a 'tweak'.

Tricky…deviousness required.

22 November 2013

The Coolness...

Some time ago, Popular Woodworking in the USA ran a competition so I decided to enter my little Robert Inghamish box that I made a few years ago.  I didn't expect to win anything, but surprisingly, my friends in distant climes quite liked it, so it came first in one of the competition categories.

There were quite a few good books to choose from on their website…however the ones I wanted I'd already bought years ago, so when I was re-directed to the Lost Art Press there were a few there that:

…I thought were well worth dipping into.  As many know, I do like parcels and this morning the nice FedEX man wrapped on the door with a package all the way from the USofA.  Inside were my three books and even better, the Schwarz...

…had autographed one.

 How cool is that?

17 November 2013

Jointing Juxtaposition…troisième

A very kind reader of this nonsense, who's obviously got far too much time on his hands, pointed me last week towards this web site where there was a much more sophisticated version of my rather crude doweled joint…the tiny pic has been lifted from that site.

I thought I'd have a go and you can see that I've used elm this time and all the dimensions, including the 'round over' are about right…even the horizontal section is an off-cut from the actual job.

It looks identical to the previous attempt:

…but when it's pulled apart you can see that the shelf locates into a double housing that wraps around the leg.  All told, a much better (and possibly stronger) solution.

12 November 2013

Jointing Juxtaposition…le deux.

When you don't have a scoobies what you're doing, which like me, is most of the time, it's a pretty sound idea to tread cautiously as it's quite plausible to end up at the far end of the creek, submerged in the 'sticky stuff' up to one's hat band without the proverbial means of propulsion to extricate oneself.

In the Queen's English…you're in the crap!

…and if you dip into this drivel fairly frequently, you'll have realised that it's a place which is not unfamiliar.

In this particular instance, I didn't have a clue how to make the joint between the legs (the upright bit, 50x26mm) and the horizontal bit, bearing in mind that there will be sixteen of these things to do (eight each side).

Having a delvation into the scrap box, I happened upon a bit of oak (from the Bow Fronted Cabinet) and an oddment of brown ash.  What you see in the pic above is a sort of a bastardised halving joint ...

…which works quite well, but the cunning part is that there's an 8mm dowel inserted down the centre which makes the whole thing quite rigid.  I've used a 6mm roundover bit in the router, but the actual legs will have a slightly greater one, perhaps 9 or possibly 12 mm.

The trifling little difficulty, as both parts are 'bare faced' is that the joints will need to be made really tight, then planed, sanded and finished prior to gluing.

That's a long way off though…plenty more 'sticky stuff' to fall into in the meantime.

06 November 2013

Joining Juxtaposition

The next big project is under way…a large, free standing cabinet with eight legs, in the style of the late, great Alan Peters, with a distinct element of Gordon Russell and a nod to JK.

The horizontal elements will be in solid elm, with the vertical sections being veneered and lipped ply.

The question that was causing me a bit of botheration was…

…how to join the two?

As any numpty will tell you, joining solid to man-made is fraught with difficulty, simply because the fore mentioned will move and the after mentioned won't, so somehow we have to allow for the movement.

So here's how I've done it.  Plan A, which should work.  Note the 'should'…..

Shown in the pic are the two vertical sections with three 22 mm holes at each end, each of which contains a chunky bit of sapele to act as a cross-dowel (it's actually quite happy to be there, but you'll no doubt appreciate the gag)

Across the top of the solid horizontals will be an elongated slot, to correspond with the positions of each dowel into which a large panhead screw will fit and engage with the dowel.  Between each dowel there'll be a 5mm Domino to act as a reference and it'll be glued into one half so that the other will be free to slide about in an elongated slot.

To cover up the slots above the panhead screws, there'll be  sections of Indian Ebony which will be raised and rounded…sort of a 'Green and Greene' type of effect.  Peters was known to have said that a potential problem could be turned into an interesting feature.

…which is exactly what I'm trying to do here.

Confused at the back?…stay tuned for yet more confuzzlement (and the inevitable cock-ups) as this one continues.

29 October 2013

The Double Square Cabinet

The Double Square Cabinet on it's new stand has been finished at last.  The new one is subtly thinner in all sections and has two end rails instead of just one as in the old stand, all surfaces have been made flush.  There are also 'feet' made from Indian Ebony...

…and the stub tenons are now raised, rounded and wedged with some more Indian Ebony. 

Drawer detail remains the same...

…with a view showing the rear of the cabinet as well...

…which is mirrored on the back.

The stand, although English walnut, is a slightly darker shade as it came from an altogether
different board.  Finnish is two coats of Osmo PolyX, followed by some of my favourite Alna Teak Wax.

Altogether, not too shabby and a big improvement on the original ash stand.

22 October 2013

How do you remove yours?

Excess glue that is...if you thought it was anything else, you've got wrong Blog!

I've seen lots of enquiries on various forums about the best way of removing the excess glue squeeze out...one such answer was to purchase a triangular hook scraper, the sort of thing usually used to rip off paintwork, which in my view is completely inappropriate for glue removal.

The pic above shows a corner of the new framework for the Double Square Cabinet with the glue squeeze out clearly seen...so why hasn't it been removed?

The very simple answer is that it doesn't need to be removed.  All the internal surfaces have been pre-polished and then waxed, and you should be able to see the smear of wax on the closest rail.  The wax acts a 'resist' in exactly the same way as in the process of making a fibreglass lay up, where the resist prevents the resin from sticking to the mould.

In my case a urea-formaldehyde glue (Cascamite) has been used which in a couple of hours will partially set to a jelly like consistency.  It's at this point...

....that the glue squeezy-outy tool is used.  This is just a piece of plastic ground (on the disc sander) at both ends like a double ended marking knife. Offer up the edge (or point, as appropriate) and you'll find the glue will just lift off in one long bendy strip.  Even if it sets 'glass hard' (after about six hours, or overnight) it will still lift away from the resist with no effort.

If you're in a situation where the glue has to be removed, then the best thing to scrub the joint with a cut down glue brush (almost a stencil brush) using a few dabs of water on the bristles...don't drench the joint or the water will  dilute the glue.  The brush is used damp, not wet.

'Dab' is the operative word!

Finally, wipe the joint with a dry cloth to ensure that any glue or water left behind is removed.

The process isn't difficult, but you'd be amazed how many people make a pig's ear of it.

14 October 2013

Domino delight...

With the safe delivery of the Ink Blotter project (for which I was paid a tidy three figure sum) I've begun to make the replacement stand for the Double Square Cabinet...

...as the original in ash was a mite too 'clunky' and the inset single rail at the end didn't look right.  The walnut has been drying in the 'shop for a couple of months now so that in the last couple of days all the jointing at the corners, sixteen in total (twin rails now at the end) have been jointed with 8mm Dominos.

Had this been done by in the normal way...chop or rout mortices, cut and fit tenons, I could almost guarantee that a few would fit well, some would be tight, others a bit sloppy and mating surfaces that ought to be flush would be high/low/cock-eyed or generally require some severe tweaking to get spot on.

Not to mention the slight issue of time...probably around two or three days to cut and fit them all.

Do it with a Domino and the whole thing, sixteen joints... completed, done n'dusted in 15 minutes and every one fits perfectly.

Expensive?...yes (mine was second hand though) but worth every penny (or $ or cent or shekel) particularly if you happen to be in business making stuff.  Even if you're not (like me) and appreciate the time saved, the Domino system is just about the best thing since 'sliced bread'...if you like sliced bread, which I don't, but you get the drift.....

06 October 2013

Blot on the Landscape.

Back in the summer (and what a glorious summer it was, for a change)  I was nattering to the editor of F&C, Derek Jones about this and that.
We happened to be at Pete Sefton's annual summer bash held during the hottest part of July and where we were it was particularly sweltering.

During the course of the day, he asked me if I'd do a couple of things for one of his clients, an old boy who wanted a desk blotter.  He apparently writes everything out in longhand using a fountain pen...very 'old school' but nothing, I should add, remotely wrong with that.  I still use my fountain pen very occasionally, usually at Christmas time for the cards.

To cut a long story sideways, this is the end result of that little commission, a desk blotter in faux suede and Indian Ebony as Derek's client stipulated that the wood used should be black.

Although it looks deceptively simple, each part had to made, fitted, polished and assembled separately as I couldn't afford to get the suede surface contaminated with glue or wax.

It consists  of a 6mm ply base with the faux suede glued down on both sides.  The corner pieces consist...

...of a mitred 'L' shape with 2mm veneer on the underside and 3mm on the top (really to indicate which is the upper surface) and by carefully building these corners I was able to make enough clearance for a sheet of  blotting paper to slip underneath.  The sides consist of 'U' section pieces of ebony glued onto the edged to cover the quite untidy edge of suede.

It's turned out quite well, so now I have to work out how much to charge for it...answers on a postcard?

22 September 2013

The Bow Fronted Cabinet

The Bow Fronted Cabinet has been finished and herewith a few pics of the final piece.  A couple overall showing the cabinet....

..with the door closed.

Opening the door shows the interior, with a fixed and moveable shelf, together with two small drawers....

...one shown open with turned Indian Ebony pulls.

Corner construction with through dovetails of differing widths with a final shot of the...

...rear panel detail, showing the hanging hole slots.

16 September 2013

Domestic Goddess?

I've been in the habit over the last couple of years of stamping my initials 'RJS' on the back of each piece that I do, but as well as that, I also got hold of a set of letter stamps from Axminster and punch on the date, which, if you know your Roman numerals, reads '2013'.

Clever stuff eh?

Except that your truly, being mind numbingly dense on some (most would say all) occasions became a bit 'X' factor happy and used said letter twice, whereas it should have been once.

Big...'Oh crap...how the bloody hell do I remove it?'

I was just about to feed the entire project through the bandsaw, when I remembered that salvation could possibly be at hand...

My very old and very trusty iron!

Dunk a bit of rag in clean water, set the iron to max-nuke capability and let the steam do the work.  As you can see from the pic, it's removed virtually all of the second 'X' indentation and you'd have to look very hard to see see any faint shadow of the previous letter.

I'm quite handy with one of these things and if like me, your work ends up with all sorts of dings and dents an old iron is one of the most useful bits of kit in the shop.

Domestic Goddess?...

The jury's still out.....

30 August 2013

TIT Co Ltd.

Bags are packed and in the words of the 60's tune, "I'm ready to go".  Ten nights in Barbados staying at the SoCo Hotel.

Luvly Jubbly!

26 August 2013

Sneaky Stuff...I & II

This cabinet, for some reason best known to itself, appears to be coming  together reasonably well.

To date, apart from one blindingly obvious 'cock up' there haven't been too many serious blunders and if all goes to plan, it should be finished reasonably soon.

That said, Plan 'A' was for the 'Titanic' to get to NYC in one piece.

However, it seems likely that nothing quite so calamitous is going to happen, so the pic above shows the back being fitted into the rebate. The very wide rail at the bottom will in fact, be behind the drawer unit, but if you look at the width of the remaining carcase side, there isn't enough space to fit the keyhole slot to hang the cabinet....something that's irritated me for a while.

Enter the first little sneaky 'fix'.  By gluing on another separate 50mm block slightly narrower than the rebate, it now...

...provides enough material to make the hanging slot and all I needed to do was to cut out a corresponding housing in the edge of the back panel stile.

I also thought it would  be a good idea to join the fixed shelf to the back panel...but how to mark out the  exact position of the biscuits slots?  The answer was surprisingly simple.

Enter the second sneaky fix.  Bang veneer pins, (arrowed) into the dead centre of the biscuit slots in the shelf, nip of the heads so they're just proud (gnats maybe?) and offer up the back panel.

A light tap with a soft maul as the panel locates is enough to leave a couple of tiny holes to mark the position of the corresponding slots.

Not so much 'righty tighty'...definitely 'sneaky beaky'.

21 August 2013

Righty tighty...more gnats.

Here begineth the lesson...fitting dovetails, part deux.  In compiling this entry, I make the not unnatural assumption that anyone taking the time and effort to read this will be able to cut to a line.  What follows are my own deductions on how this particular joint goes together, but you've probably worked it all out already.

Shown below is a gash off-cut of elm, split into two, with the shoulder lines marked and one dovetail cut, approx 25mm wide.  The shoulder line has been chiseled...I never leave them straight from the saw as the fuzzy edge is simply not accurate enough.

Once the tail(s) has been cut, use whatever method you like to transfer the tail(s) onto the other half to mark the socket(s).  I'm using a Robert Ingham jig here which I made a few years ago.

This, though is where the process gets cunning.  Many people assume that the end of the tail and the surface of the socket board should be flush.

Big, biggy mistake!

Dovetails go together by the shoulder line (arrowed above) pulling tightly against the inside face of the socket board and the only way to make this happen is have the dovetail....

...proud by half-a-gnats.  Once the socket has been cut, the tail should have some easement chiseled onto the inside leading edges...

...so that the joint can then be tested.  You'll find that as the tail is tapped into the socket, the shoulder line on the tail section tends to go backwards by the merest fraction, making the joint very, very tight...almost impossible to go together as the dovetail is now the same fraction larger than the socket.

Difficult to get your head round, but logical eventually!

The way to make the joint fit is to ease the sides of the socket with a wide paring chisel, just enough to remove...

...the saw marks and check to visually see that the sides are dead square.  Never, ever, try to ease the joint by paring the tails themselves...disaster awaits if you do that!
If everything has gone according to plan, you should find that the tail will tap down into the bottom...

....of the socket.  If it's really too tight, then take off just the merest whisper again with the paring chisel.  The joint shown above is unglued and you can see the slight projections which are planed off.

Dovetails seem to be the modern 'Holy Grail' of woodworkers today which is odd to me as there are a lot more difficult, cantankerous bits of joinery out there.

Ask any Japanese carpenter...

14 August 2013

Distraction...strike one!

Before the innermost secrets and wonders of making super tight dovetails are revealed (and it's not difficult) a slight distraction for your mirth and general entertainment.

I do suggest that you hold on 'righty tighty' to your seat as if your not, you'll probably fall off it!

The first pic (above) shows two bits of oak, the lower being the bottom piece of my bow fronted cabinet.  The dovetails have been cut and the housing for the drawer divider machined as well...so far so good.

The top piece is the fixed shelf.  Click on the pic and you'll see that the shoulders line up perfectly, the housing joint has been magnificently machined to a smoooooooth sliding fit in the cabinet sides and the stopped housing joint for the divider lines up 'spot on'....

....except that if you look really carefully and have been paying full attention, you'll also realise that the stopped housing on the underside has been machined from the wrong bloody edge!

Hands up if you've been there, got the T shirt, worn it till it's a frayed rag and then torn it up for dusters?

I told you sit tight...