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March 28, 2001

Well, before I get to the hall bench, another project has captured priority. I'm building a nightstand for my sister, who is graduating from college in a couple of months and has no furniture to call her own.

I'm working from a plan in the Better Homes & Gardens Furniture Projects book that my grandparents gave me for Christmas, but with fairly substantial modifications. The joinery in the book is all done with dowels; I am using mortise and tenon for the frame of the table and dowels to join the frame and table top together; also I am using dovetails for the first time in the drawer. The plan calls for the sides to be made of 1/4" slats running between a top and bottome stretcher -- I am using 3/8" dowels instead, because it will be much easier to cut mortises for the dowels than for slats. And I made a slight modification to the frame, so that the legs rest on trestles instead of on the floor.

But the major difference between my table and the BH&G table will be visual, because of the materials I'm using. The plan calls for making everything out of oak. I went to the lumber yard last weekend thinking I'd like to use flame birch, because I had seen some very pretty pictures of a flame birch end table on Badger Pond -- However the lumber yard did not have any with good figure. So I looked around, drooling at a few overly expensive pieces of curly cherry... wound up getting a board of purpleheart and one of yellowheart, both surprisingly cheap for beautifully figured wood. I'm making the table's legs and top out of purpleheart and the sides out of yellowheart -- the dowels on the sides are oak but I think will blend in with the yellowheart okay, finished with tung oil. Anyways this will be a very colorful table.

So this week has been my first week working using my new workbench, and I'm loving it -- I've just about got all the tenons cut for the apron and stretchers. This weekend I will visit my friend Mike's father and use his table saw to cut the purpleheart for the legs -- once I get the mortises cut in that I'll be well on my way.

April 1, 2001

I ripped the legs yesterday, and glued them together to double the thickness. Today I jointed them, using my Stanley #4 1/2 plane -- this was the first time I used the bench plane that really felt successful.

April 2, 2001

Cut the first pair of mortises tonight; there will be six pairs in all. I was able to get them quite square and straight, using the mortise chisel I bought from Garrett Wade. (I roughed out the mortises with a drill, and used the chisel to get them even and clean.)

I've got big plans for shaping the legs. We are going to Toronto for a vacation in the middle of the month, and I'm planning to get a couple of tools at Lee Valley, including a drawknife and a set of spokeshaves. My idea is that instead of just rounding over the corners of the legs, I will carve them into columns, narrow and rounded at the middle and square at the ends.

April 3, 2001

The joints for the first side are complete!

April 7, 2001

Took more pictures today, I finished cutting the mortises in all of the legs. The whole frame of the table will stand up now on its own, and it seems quite square and even. Tomorrow I will drill mortises for the dowels that connect the top and bottom rails, on the two remaining sides. I am using the plain maple/birch dowels that you can buy at any hardware store; at least without finish on the piece they seem to go pretty well color-wise. I am not sure how tung oil will affect the yellowheart rails; but I think after finishing the dowels and the rails should both be pretty evenly yellow. I am not going to glue the dowels in to the rails; the friction between them and the mortises should hold them in place, and they will not be under any particular pressure.

Besides drilling those mortises and sanding the rails, which I want to do before I assemble the sides, I am pretty much at a standstill with this project until our trip to Toronto. In Toronto I'm planning to pick up (among other things) a drawknife, which I'll use for shaping the legs and base, and a dovetail guide, which I need to build the drawer.

April 29, 2001

I've been using the drawknife and spokeshave that I got in Toronto, shaping the table legs -- they look almost credible at this point. I've glued up the legs with the sides (side = top rail + bottom rail + dowels connecting them) and am now shaping the trestles on which the table will rest. When I finish them I will be ready to glue up the whole base, and start on the drawer.

Today I cut one of the ends of the first trestle. The cut is the first complex curve that I have done, and it looks like this:

I laid it out by tracing a 2 1/2"-diameter circle intersecting the top of the trestle perpendicularly 1 1/8" from the end of the workpiece; and another one intersecting the bottom of the workpiece perpendicularly, very close to the end of the workpiece, so that the two circles were tangiential to one another in the middle of the trestle's height (the height is 2"), where the tangent is at about a 45* angle to the horizontal. I started cutting it with a coping saw, which quickly proved to be the wrong tool to use for sawing through a 2" width of yellow heart; I switched to my rather beat-up Japanese trim saw and found that it worked quite well, if slowly.

May 1, 2001

I cut the other end of the trestle today (and found out that this curve is called a Cyma, though still not sure if it would be considered Recta or Reversa); a nice reference for moulding names can be found at the Traditional Building weg site.

And I started in on cutting the curve in the length of the trestle. This is a bit of an involved process, as the curve changes in direction (i.e. from concave to convex and back) in three places. Here is an illustration of the process:

This is the square block, with the shape to be cut out of it. My first step was to cut the ends, as I described above.

Then I marked on the workpiece the points where the direction of curvature changes. These are (A) the beginning of the curve; (B) the maximum depth of the concave section; (C) the transition from concave to convex; and (D) the intersection of the convex sections. I cut a kerf into the workpiece at each of these points except (A), which I marked with pencil; the depths I used were (B) 1/2", (C) 3/8", (D) 1/2". These cuts serve two purposes: when I am cutting, they stop tearout; and they let me know when my cut is sufficiently deep.

I marked out the curve freehand, using the cuts I had made as a guide, and started carving.

Tonight I cut the first (A) - (B) section, and it looks quite nice. I only need to worry about the look of one side, because the inside is not visible.

May 11, 2001

Finished the base a few days ago -- now I am working on the drawer. Nearly finished! I'm hoping to finish the table in time to display it at the Long Island wood show next month. Today I've been cutting dadoes for the drawer to slide along -- labor-intensive! I am just using a chisel to dig out the dadoes. Right now I have them both roughed out, just need to deepen them a little and make the sides square. I have cut dovetails to join the back and sides of the drawer together, I still need to resaw the piece for the drawer bottom, and to carve my signature on the front of the drawer. Then I will be ready to add the table top on, and the piece will be done, pending a little sanding.

May 20, 2001

I finished the table last weekend; was meaning to wait until the photos came out and then post pictures here. Unfortunately most of the pictures from this roll did not come out, including all of the pictures of the finished table. I will take more pictures and post them in a while.

May 27, 2001

The pictures came out -- take a look!