Monthly Archives: April 2012

Shaker Counter Top

This is a photo of one of the two known Shaker counters on which I based my counter in the June 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. As I looked at the photo, I concluded that it surely wasn’t a maple top as was the balance of the counter. No, this top looked more cherry-like in color.

With that determination, I built my top out of cherry. I finished the counter carcase using a mixture of half golden amber maple dye and half brown walnut dye – a mixture I use quite often since I tired of a straight golden amber maple color. The top I finished with my favorite dye for cherry, dark antique Sheraton which is actually a mahogany color in the Moser’s line of aniline dye. (I use Moser’s dye almost all the time.)

When the two parts were complete, and the top married with the base, I felt ill. The combination was so far from what I saw in my mind’s eye, I wondered if I needed stronger glasses. It would not work. I had to change the top’s color or wood. I chose color because it was much more work to change the wood. Or so I thought.

Samples closet to the bottles includes the India ink. I think coverage is better as is the color – less blue, more black. (With Moser's ebony out of stock in my finish cabinet, I turned to Transtint.)

First thing to do was to strip the top of its dark antique Sheraton dye. Pull out my #80 scraper and get busy. To my surprise, the top was clean in a short time, but I had to completely sand the surface a second time. With that complete, what would be the best look for the top. I looked again at the antique counter and began to see the top as if it may be ebonized. My top was cherry, and cherry is one of the better choices when ebonizing. Sounded like a plan.

I knew that using only ebony aniline dye would leave my top with a bluish cast. That’s not good. I went back and again read Brian Boggs’ article on ebonizing a finish (June 2009), but that procedure, even though the results are extremely nice, is too involved for my liking. I needed something easier.

I thought back to when contributing editor, Christopher Schwarz built one of his many benches and needed to fill in some larger cracks in his top. He used a two-part epoxy colored with India ink. Why not mix some ink in with my dye to see if I could move from blue to black.

I decided to use one part ink with 10 parts dye – I figured a 10% solution would be good to start. I didn’t want to simply ink the top. My results were, at least to my eye, better than the dye itself. One coat on the cherry added a great deal of color, but still allowed the cherry grain – and the slight reddish hue – to show through. I am very satisfied with the finished appearance of my top, and equally happy with the combination of the ebonized top perched on the “popping” tiger maple. Take a look for yourself – pick up a copy of the magazine.

Build Something Great!


1 Comment

Filed under Design, Finish Techniques, Shaker

Drawer Design Justification

This week I worked on the drawers for the huge secretary I’m building. I began with the idea that I would build these drawers using typical 18th-century construction techniques – drawer sides that are half-blind dovetailed into the fronts with through dovetails connecting the sides and backs, and drawer bottoms that slip under the backs and run in grooves cut into the sides and fronts. As I assembled the first drawer, I realized that these behemoths, being 47″ wide and 20″ deep, would be too much drawer for the 1/2″-thick drawer parts I milled. I needed a way to stiffen the drawers, and to add strength.

I turned to drawer slips. Of course, slips are an English design, so I had to justify my choice. Here is how I did just that. If you look into southern furniture design, English designs were held onto longer than any of the cities in the north. As I wrote before, this secretary is going to spend at least its beginning years outside Charleston, South Carolina, so why not use drawer slips along with the other distinctively southern features already added to the piece. It’s not a period reproduction.

That’s all it took.

Because I had ripped the drawer backs to 3/4″ less in width that the sides – something I do whenever I build drawers in an 18th-century manner, except very small drawers – I had to use 1″-wide pieces at the sides of the drawers to allow material above the grooves that catch the drawer bottoms. I decided to use 2 1/2″-wide stock at the center of each drawer, again for support and for strength.

The photo immediately above shows the pieces as seen from the front. Small tongues fit into a groove cut into the drawer fronts. As you can see, there is a lot of work in these pieces.

The photo to the left shows the back end of a set of slips. Each drawer requires a set. The outer slips notch under the drawer back while the center piece, being 3/4″ thick, also is notched at the top to fit just under the drawer back.

The opening photo shows a side piece installed in a drawer box. A small bead of glue is spread on the slip and tongue then spring clamps hold the piece in position as the glue dries.

The last photo, at the right, shows how the center piece is installed. The tongue is glued in the front groove while glue and two nails hold the piece at the back. One thing to make sure of, if you use this technique, is that your drawer boxes are square. Once installed, drawer slips tend to hold the drawer as it is – you’re not going to use your drawer bottoms to help square a drawer.

I am very happy with the results of the added slips. My drawers tightened up nicely and the added strength is welcomed. Can you imagine how these drawers would have reacted if a single drawer bottom were hung in the 1/4″ deep grooves? Even if nailed solid along the back edge, there would have been trouble. And once the bottoms are in place, the look of the inside of the drawers is clean.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Design, Shop Tips

Different Woods

Because I posted the breadboards end router technique video Wednesday, I thought I would be self-serving with this post and show the first group of custom order mallet handles to ship out.

Arranged on my bench, I was in awe of the wood types selected. As a group, woodworkers are as individual as people are as a whole. The only woods selected by more than one customer was cocobolo – I too, like this exotic – and Honduran Rosewood.

Included in the group from left to right are Tiger Maple (not an exotic, but he wanted his handle without my company name. Still trying to figure that out!), Blackwood, Honduran Rosewood, Black Palm, Cocobolo, Zebrawood, a second Cocobolo, and a second Rosewood (another without the company name).

Below is a look at the actual mallets. By the way, WoodNet folks please take notice. I have dropped the dot com from the handle engravings. After reading your thoughts, I agree that the company name is enough. The best person to listen to in business is your customer.

Happy Easter, and Build Something Great!


Filed under New Products, Shop Tool

Shaker Counter Breadboard Ends

I cannot remember the last time I built a table or larger counter where I didn’t use breadboard ends to help stabilize the top to lessen warp, and to hide end grain which dyes or stains darker.

Of course, these ends can be added to a top in several different methods. I’ve seen ends nailed in place – it’s my opinion that these were simply to hide end grain because there is little in place to keep a top flat. I have seen other breadboards also nailed in place that use tongue-and-groove joinery which is a step better to reduce warp possibilities, but still lacks in good holding power. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some woodworkers attach ends using a sliding dovetail joint – all hail the woodworker that has too much time on his hands.

The method I prefer employs both a tongue-and-groove design to keep the top flat, and mortise-and-tenon joinery. The best of both worlds. This design, however, requires more work. A wide tongue, which is made at each end of a table top, is shaped to form the tenons. A matching breadboard end is then fit in place.

To form the tongue, I use a router and a straightedge guide. To create the tenon effect, I outfit my router with the proper bushing and router bit then complete the work as shown in the video below.

Build Something Great!
Glen D. Huey


Filed under Jigs, Routers, Shop Tips

Door Mortise Tips

Last week I wrote about tombstone doors. As I began the post, I left out an important piece of information. Not about the panels, but information about the door frame. It’s information that helps you steer clear of a problem.

If you mortise by machine and go at it as I do, you try and set your mortise chisel and bit to the exact center of the door stile. Many times you’ll need to adjust to find that middle. Sometimes you actually hit the point you’re after. Or do you?

How you work also influences your end results. On shorter door stiles, you plow one mortise then slide your workpiece to the opposite end to plow the second mortise. This is the correct method of work because even if you miss the center, you are cutting each mortise an equal distance from the front or rear edge. The real problem here is that your stiles and rails will not align – there’s a step between the two faces. If that step is minimal, you can simply sand the two surfaces flush.

However, if you’re working on long stock, you may plow one end then rotate or flip the workpiece end for end in order to plow the second mortise. If you work this way and you missed the center of your stile during setup, you plow one mortise slightly off center toward the front and the other slightly off center toward the rear. That builds a twist into your frame, and that is something that is usually not discovered until you install your door. And the longer your door from top to bottom, the more twist you build in.

How do you eliminate this problem of twist and steps? Simple. Plow a mortise into your rail, slide the piece to the opposing end then cut your second mortise. Next, rotate or flip the workpiece and mortise a second pass at the already mortised areas. In the above photo (click the photo for a better look) , you can see the miniscule amount I was off. That little bit would have set a twist in my doors that would have cost me time in the shop adjusting hinges for an unsatisfactory fit. What sounds like extra work actually save hours of fussing as you fit your doors.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Shop Tips