LVL Desk in a Weekend

Steve's deskIt’s a holiday weekend. Yeah. I have an extra day in the shop on Monday that I intend to fill building a quick desk with my younger brother. He’s looking for something a bit toward contemporary and I’ve sold him on using LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) for the top with legs that are simple to make; he wants inexpensive and quick. The most time spent – at least I hope it takes longer than other parts – is time building a pencil drawer.

I took two hours to rip, square and assemble the pieces of LVL for the top one night after work. That includes time spent watching glue dry. The process is easy. Here are the steps in case you want to play along (or build something similar down the road).

2M4A2152I began with two LVL beams that were 1-3/4″ x 11-7/8″ x 10′-0″. After chopping the beams in half lengthwise, I set up at the table saw to rip each piece to 2-1/8″. Of course, one edge was ran over the jointer to give me a square edge to start. Using a 50-tooth combination blade, LVL cuts easy. The beams I purchased had a bluish painted surface, as you can see in the photo. That worried me little after making the jointer pass. Then after ripping the pieces and turning them on edge, you begin to see the final surface. To make up the 30″ in width needed to the desk, I ripped all four half beams, which produced 20 strips that were 1-3/4″ x 2-1/8″ x 60″+.

2M4A2153From the table saw, I returned to the jointer to true one of the two yet-painted edges to provide a solid glue surface. A single pass flattened all but two of the pieces. Those two pieces were areas where the lamination overlapped causing a bump in the face. I ran them a second time in order to achieve a flat face. You still see bluish paint in the left-hand photo because only one face has been flattened (all faces run over the jointer knives are downward facing, waiting for the planer.

2M4A2156A ride through the planer was so easy. All I needed was to flatten the second face for glue. The planer I used is setup with a spiral cutterhead. Even though there were no problems with the three-knife arrangement at the jointer, the planer surface was smoother. (This is why, when asked, I suggest that the planer have the spiral cutter, but it’s not that important on your jointer – the jointer is seldom the last surface of your work.) The first pass was great except for, you guessed it, the two pieces that needed the extra pass at the jointer. When those two were feed through the planer, the final surface was untouched in a couple places. A send pass through the planer was required, but only for those two pieces.

To my surprise, the most difficult process in assembling the two planks for the top was the glue-up stage. Spreading glue on the 19 pieces (yep, I had one strip left over after attaining the 30″ width) was a pain. 2M4A2159I decided to lay the strips out as if I were gluing panels for a case side. With the finished face up, I then rotated each piece to a glue face. With the pack tight together, I squeezed glue up and down the face leaving small lines covering the surface. I spread the glue using a thin scrap of wood. Scraping along the length was no good, but across the pieces worked like a charm. With one side gooey, I flipped the strips abd slathered up the second side. I was amazed at how sticky the pieces were as I tried to align the ends – I needed a mallet to move the individual pieces. Than goodness I assembled the 19 pieces in two separate groups. When finished, I added clamps and let the half-tops set. All in all, I used almost 3/4 of a quart of glue.

Out of the clamps in 45 minutes and all that was left was to clean the squeeze-out off and make a pass through the planer to level the two surfaces. When slid together – I still need to assemble the two halves – you get a good idea of how the top looks. My guess is it’s even better when a bit of finish is applied. Next week I’ll walk through the legs. Get it?

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Best Glass Cleaner

IMG_1878Here’s a quick tip to clean glass panes or windows. Forget Windex Glass Cleaner. Forget those local community car washes that use newspaper to clean car windows. The best way to clean glass is with – wait for it – steel wool. That’s right steel wool. There’s no need for any liquid cleaner, but you have to use the right steel wool. You should use #0000 (four aught) steel wool.

I learned this tip from a friend years back. He was in the automotive repair and body shop business and was forever cleaning windows. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg (that’s Midwestern for joshing me, kidding me or otherwise telling me stories). As soon as I got back to the shop, however, I gave it a try. The results are great. I never turned back to any other method for cleaning my glass windows. Give it a try on your home windows, too. But make sure you’re not scrubbing any UV film coverings.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Four-squared Boards

2M4A2095I needed a single board for a project that I’m building in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The only surface I need to look good is the front edge which faces the front of my cabinet. With no milled lumber available other than a few natural-edge cutoffs, I laid a straightedge on two of the cutoffs to remove the natural edges, made cuts at a band saw, jointed the edges and glued the two boards together to make one. A great method to stretch lumber on a project.

As I assembled the pieces, I thought back to classes in which I’ve taught woodworkers proper milling techniques using machines. Step one is to flatten a face. In my system, step two is to use a thickness planer to create a parallel face. For some woodworkers, step two is to square one of the edges while at a jointer, but I disagree. If you square an edge, does that edge remain square as you flatten the second face, especially while flipping the board end-for-end during the milling process to keep the exposed surfaces at equal moisture content? There’s a chance that it doesn’t – if your board rides up on an elevated edge of the planer bed, or if a small chunk finds its way under one of the corners as you send the piece through the planer, you could change the squareness of that edge of the workpiece. That makes step three, for me, to then create an edge that is square to both faces. It’s at this point that I often run crossways of students in the class.

Many woodworkers feel that it’s necessary (step four) that you rip the board at the table saw. Is it? The answer is that it depends. If you’re simply joining two or more boards in a panel glue-up, it’s not important that the boards are ripped into a four-square configuration. Why waste the wood. Make your step four at the jointer. In fact, one of the best techniques for hiding seams when assembling panels is to cut a board for a better grain match, which removes the four-square measurements from your board. If however, you’re preparing a board for use in your project, then make your step four at a table saw. You need to think through operations and not simply be guided by a set of rules. We all know that rules are to be broken.

If you’re preparing your lumber using handplanes, you need to go about the work differently. You also need to answer a question for me – what the hell is wrong with you? Milling lumber is grunt work. Use a machine for the grunt work and use your handplanes for finish work. C’mon man!

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Tall Clock Fast Finish

IMG_1874If you’ve followed this blog for anytime at all, you know I’ve been working on two tall case clocks. I’m happy to say that one of the clocks is done. Mine! Why is the clock I built for me complete and the other for a customer not yet finished? The answer is two-fold.

If you watched any of the episodes of the New Yankee Workshop, Norm always built a prototype. Even though I was building two clock simultaneously, I worked out the details on  the clock I was building for myself before moving to the customer’s clock. (Believe me, there were quite a few adjustments along the way.) As a result, their clock is much better. I experimented on inlay, door design and most recently on how to best position the hood door; it took two attempts to get the location right.

The second reason my clock is complete while the customers languishes on is due to the clock dial pan. Many of these antique clocks had hand-painted dials. We’d talked about the dial many times, but it wasn’t until recently that final decisions were made as to what would be painted. With a decision made and the painter contacted, the customer’s dial should be completed in November. Step_1I, on the other hand, have not yet determined what I’d like to have painted on my dial. So how did I get my clock finished? I cheated.

I visited an antique clock dealer’s web site, selected a clock that I liked, checked that the dealer had shown a front-on view of the painted dial (where the red arrow points), then copied the dial into my computer. You can see the page at the right. (If you click on any of the photos, they will enlarge for a better view.)

Step_2Once the dial was loaded, I went in and stripped the interior of the image out using PhotoShop – I’m not overly experienced with this program, but I squeeze by. I pulled the interior out because I have a movement complete with hands that I want to use, so there was no need for the hands. Also, don’t have a sweep second hand (the miniature dial just below the XII) although those are very cool in antique clocks. Lastly, I didn’t want my clock signed by Aaron Willard from Boston (not that I wouldn’t be thrilled to own such a clock). With those steps complete, I manipulated the image to match the dial pan size and hit the print button.

And in case you think I’m pulling one over on you, below is a photo of my clock with the hood off. When I figure out the painting for the dial, I’ll make the change. But until then my paper cheat is going to work fine.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Hole in the Round

IMG_1867I learned this trick way back when I transformed countless wooden knobs into cupboard turns. I needed to drill the rounded portion or tenon of the knob – the part that generally was glued into the door or drawer – so I could insert a short section of dowel that would extend through the door. That dowel would have a wooden finger attached that would turn down onto a small wedge attached to the backside of the door. I could have simply purchased the turns, but the knob design seldom matched the other wooden knobs used on the piece.

Today, while using more brass than wood for pulls, knobs and turns, I use the technique only sparingly. But it’s a great technique when you need it.

IMG_1868Begin by drilling a hole into a scrap that is sized to the diameter of the rounded object; generally that would be the knob tenon when making a cupboard turn. In this case, I’m drilling a hole in the center of a dowel, so in my example, I’m drilling the diameter of the dowel (shown at right). Drill the hole deep enough to allow the base of the knob, if that’s what you’re drilling, to sit flat against the scrap. (You should do this with a drill press to make sure the holes are straight and true.)

Change drill bits to the diameter of you’re new hole, and drill clear through the scrap using the center of the first hole as a guide to align the second hole. The idea is that the first hole holds the piece to be drilled in place and the second hole locates the exact point of the new hole. To put this in terms of drilling out for cupboard turns, the knobs would have a 1/2″-diameter tenon into which I would fit a 7/16″-diameter post. There was little room for anything but exact alignment.

IMG_1865To use the setup, insert the tenon, or short piece of dowel in this case, into the appropriate diameter hole, align the drill bit with the second diameter hole (as shown at the left) and drill down. It’s that simple. Plus, every time you use the jig, the results are the same (as shown in the opening photo). And it doesn’t matter what diameters you use, as long as the second hole is smaller.

Put this trick into your pocket. Some day it will come in handy.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Confidence is Key

Cherry Highboy copyA show about stained glass made my dovetails better. Yes, it’s true. I’ve told the story many times, but I don’t recall if I’ve written it in this blog. Here’s the abbreviated version. I was deep into watching a TV show about stained glass. As I watched, I was amazed at how easy stained-glass makers cut and broke the glass they used. Grab a good-quality glass cutter, etch the outline of what they wanted then snap the piece free right at the line no matter what its shape. They had confidence.

The next day while in my shop facing a stack of 11 drawers for a high chest of drawers ready to dovetail (shown above), I decided that I too should have the confidence to cut dovetails better and quicker; I had to find and use that confidence. That day I completed all 11 drawers and they were the best dovetails that I had ever cut. Confidence is the key.

IMG_1842Since that day, I have had confidence in cutting glass as well. I know it’s going to snap at the etched line. That’s what it’s suppose to do. Yesterday, I put my confidence to the test. I cut the glass to fit the tombstone design on the Egerton hood doors. Plus, to make the job even more challenging, I used reproduction glass that has waves and imperfections in the glass.

Adj_Door copyThere is a key to making this work. The secret is in the door. Take a look at the backside of the door (you can see it better in the inset photo). If you look close, you’ll see how the corners of the frame are rounded. Years ago I tried to keep those corners square – that was almost an automatic failure when cutting this design for a door. (I did have a glass expert cut a panel for the first hood door I built and he used a sander to square the corner.)

IMG_1846To get the glass cut to fit, I begin with a panel that’s sized to fit the width and is cut to the final length but without the tombstone cut. Next, lay the rectangular sheet into the door frame with its bottom edge in the frame and the top section riding just above the arched portion of the door. From there, take a permanent marker and trace the design of the tombstone door onto the piece of glass; complete both halves (the apex of the arch should terminate at the top edge of the cut glass panel.

IMG_1848Now it’s time to make the cut. As I score the glass, I listen to make sure the cutter is etching the glass. If you do not hear the etching noise, you’re not going to make this work. With the glass scored, it’s time to put to use that ball shape that’s on the non-business end of the cutter – before I began cutting glass, I wondered what that ball was for. To snap the glass, hold the corner firmly with a slight downward pressure then tap the underside using the ball end. If you watch closely, you can see the etch turn into a break right at the scored line. Be patient, but have confidence.

IMG_1849In a short amount of time, the piece snaps off and you’re left with half of the tombstone top cut. The first half is the easiest because if you don’t complete the job, you begin again. The second cut is when you need to summon all your confidence. If the second cut breaks in a less-than-acceptable location, you toss the panel and the completion of the first half. But with your confidence at an all time high due to the adrenaline pumping through your body with the first half cut, you cut and snap the second half in no time. All that’s left is to make sure the piece fits the door. (I had to nip a small piece off the second piece of tombstone glass cut for door #2.)

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I have two small square pieces of glass that also fit into the hood. After the tombstone cuts, square cuts are a snap. That’s glass-cutting humor.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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A Teaching Week

The past two Sundays (the day I regularly post) I was either on my way to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, or on my way to New York city for a day at the Metropolitan Museum. Today I’m sharing photos of the class. In coming posts, I’ll share photos from the Met and from the Connecticut Historical Society – where we first discovered the class project (read more about that here).

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Class began with a brief discussion of how to pull leg patterns from photos using SketchUp, then the class made patterns and began their legs. IMG_1777After layout, everyone took turns at the band saws so they were immediately plunged into leg work.  In expectation of the legs taking two days to wrap up, head schoolmaster Bob Van Dyke arranged a trip to the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) for Tuesday afternoon. (If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit CHS, do yourself a favor and do so. The staff is first rate and CHS is very reproduction-craftsman friendly.) If you plan to build this lowboy from the article in Popular Woodworking Magazine (February 2014, #209), I suggest that you take an extra 1/8″ off the leg pattern before you begin. When I saw the original lowboy at CHS for the second time, I realized that the legs on the antique lowboy were much finer, giving it a lightness that I missed while sizing from the many photos I had.

IMG_1781After the legs were shaped so far, a trip to the lathe was in order. Turning the feet and pad took a long time for the class – seven class members was 28 individual feet to turn. Everyone survived without problems, Right Jon? Here you can see Janice using pair of outside calipers to bring the foot to diameter. In all we used two caliper setups and only four or five basic turning tools. And it was nice to have a variable-speed lathe to work on; there’s a lot of wobble when you first turn the leg to shape the foot.

IMG_1801From the lathe the next step was to mortise the legs for the aprons, back and ends. While this work can be done while the leg is still as a blank, I think it’s better to actually see what the leg looks like before making a call as to where it will fit. After the legs are shaped, you can easily see which legs look best – those go to the front, while others move to the back. We had two mortisers setup and working, plus I demonstrated how to use a plunge router to do the work. Of the seven taking the class, only one used a plunge router for his mortises. (It’s great during classes to use tools you don’t have in your shop, as long as you know how to do the work when you’re at home.) One additional hint is to make sure that you’re cutting to the necessary depth – a couple of woodworkers had to make a return trip to the mortiser. Sorry I didn’t catch that sooner Mike.

IMG_1813By Wednesday everyone had knocked out the remaining outside case pieces and the lowboys were beginning to take shape. Jon spent extra time on his legs – he also noticed the finer look of the lowboy at CHS. After cutting the designs for the ends and front apron, we worked on bending the cock bead. I was happy that the bends for the longer end-panel beads went so well. Most everyone got those pieces bent using a soaked piece of wood and a heat guy set on high – if you take your time, you can feel the wood give up as it melts into position. If you apply the heat for a bit longer, you actually set the bend just as if you left a steamed piece in the mold until it dried. Smaller, tighter pieces were made using a router with a specifically paired guide bushing and router bit. (Read the article to learn the setup.)

IMG_1820Work on the inside of the lowboy went smooth, aside from the occasional misplaced screw pocket. There were a couple of hand-cut dovetail sockets that needed attention, but overall the class breezed through the interiors. As the cases were coming along, the lowboy tops came into focus. A little router work was all that was needed. It took, however, two passes around the top to get the profile complete. And with this project, the profile continued on all four edges; I checked the original lowboy to make sure. Many tops from the period are molded only on three edges.

IMG_1825Late of Friday and most of Saturday, drawers were the topic at hand. Of the seven in the class, three decided to build the drawers with the slanted sides and back – a challenging task even if you’re experienced in dovetail work. As you may have guessed from the opening photo, not all the drawers were completed during the class. As it is with many classes, there is homework. Also, most of the class members decided not to glue up their lowboys. Flat-packing the pieces home is much easier than trying to cram a lowboy into the back seat.

The class went great. I worked with a lot of talented woodworkers. I’m amazed at how good many of the folks are who take classes. If they had more time in the shop, their work could easily rival many of the top woodworkers in the country. Take a class. It’s fun and it’s sure to improve your woodworking.

Build Something Great!

Glen

 

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