Monthly Archives: July 2014

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.)


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!



Filed under Methods of Work, Tall Clock

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).


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!




Filed under Uncategorized