Category Archives: Design

Table Legs & Terrific Technique

IMG_1883The LVL desk build continued with the legs. I milled 8/4 material, then joined two pieces to form four 3-1/2″-square legs. Square wouldn’t do, so we decided to taper the 28″ lengths over 24-1/2″, leaving a bit of square at the top. Tapering legs is best done at a jointer, if you ask me. As long as you hit your layout lines, you can nail each leg so that they are all tapered exactly. It took only minutes to taper all 16 sides.

Still, the legs didn’t have the right look, so we decided to chamfer the corners. But how do you stop the chamfer at the perfect location? You don’t. We trimmed the corners along the legs entire length; that left the square portion at the top end tapering out of the cut made at the router table.

IMG_1885To join the legs to the top, we went with a simple idea – dowels. If we would thought of this at the beginning, we could have drilled the leg ends while the blanks were still square. But, of course, we didn’t, so the set-up was a bit more involved. I rotated the table on my drill press, clamped a straightedge in position then centered the 1-1/4″-diameter bit in the leg, which was clamped to the straightedge. (Told you it was more involved.) Holes were drilled about 1-1/2″ deep because the arm of the press came down onto the rotated table to stop the cut. That wasn’t enough of a hole in my opinion. Afterward, each hole was set another 1-1/2″ in depth, and dowels were glued in.

For each leg to fit tight and flush with the bottom surface of the tabletop, it was imperative that the 1-1/4″-diameter holes drilled through the top be square to the large flat surface. IMG_1892There’s no better tool than a router for this work. I don’t, however, have a router bit that diameter, so there was no way to plunge the holes as you would when knocking out adjustable shelf pins. The next idea worked perfectly. drill through the top in the correct location using a smaller diameter drill bit (in this case I used 3/4″), then enlarge the hole using a top-mount pattern bit. All that’s needed is a scrap piece of plywood with a hole drilled exactly to size; that’s easy with the drill bit already in the press.

IMG_1891To use the jig, clamp the plywood piece in position on the table’s top over the previously drilled hole, slip the router setup into the hole with the bit’s bearing riding along the plywood cutout and rout a perfect matching-size hole in the top. To get through the entire 2″ of top, we had to remove the plywood and repeat the steps using the trimmed portion of the hole as a guide. Easy, peasy!

IMG_1897With the holes drilled and the dowels sawn for wedges, we slipped the legs into the top, spilled a little glue into the sliced dowel then drove walnut wedges to bring everything tight. The final look with the dowels and wedges trimmed look good. Plus, there’s no wobble in the table, especially after the glue dried.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Desk Build, Jigs, Joinery, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

No Day to Spray

AntiqueBackWhen I got up on Saturday morning, I knew there was a huge possibility that in the shop I wouldn’t be doing what I planned. I was going in to spray the final coat of shellac onto my clocks; I’m looking to darken the overall appearance just a shade more. The humidity was high which means that there was a chance for the finish to blush, or turn cottony white with moisture trapped in the finish.

Instead, I decided to work on the backboards for the two clocks. On most antique clocks, the backs run top to bottom and are not attached to the hoods, so the hood can be removed. The stacked series of three photos at the left show a typical clock back (click on the image to make it bigger).

Generally you see a main board that runs the full length with ears attached at the base and hood areas. That requires a board or panel that’s 90″ in length and 15″ wide. I could have done that – may due it if John and Joe (brothers for which I’m building this clock) want to go with the antique design.

The second clock, however, is for me (at least at this time), so I’m going at it differently. IMG_1767I’m running the boards across the back from the bottom up about 50″ just as would be seen on a case piece of furniture. I then plan to turn the upper board so its grain runs vertical. To make the transition, I’m using a tongue-and-groove joint. It’s a bit more work and will need a few additional fasteners (nails I suspect), but I can use short pieces of scrap cut off from other projects. Frugal, huh!

To make this happen, I first added a shiplap cut to each of the milled, over-long, random-width boards selected for the back. IMG_1768I began at the bottom – the bottom board was cut on only one edge. From there to the 50″ mark (it doesn’t have to be that length, it’s just what I chose based on the number of pieces I had to use and the width of those pieces), I fit and positioned each board. The top board – also shiplapped on one edge – was taken back to the tablesaw for the tongue portion of the transition joint. I then slipped the top horizontal board in place and added a couple of clamps to hold things secure.

IMG_1771I had to get the final length measurement of the vertical board, so I had to stand the case upright and add the hood. With that measurement in hand, I cut the groove portion along the bottom edge of the panel, and laid out the exact spot where the back needed to step out to fill in the extra width of the hood.

Because the glued-up panel had set in the shop for some time,there was a small amount of warp I had to deal with. Here’s a great shop tip: To straighten out the panel, I clamped a straight piece of stock across the panel width keeping the clamps above the height of my saw fence, then made the cuts needed to form the groove.

The ears were cut at my band saw, then trimmed to length at the bench using my handsaw. To final check and tweak the fit, I joined the tongue and groove, then slide the assembly into position. Below you can see how the transition works. Because the top panel extends down the clock’s case, there are more than enough places for fasteners. This setup should work great.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Transformers – Furniture in Disguise

I’ve always been fascinated with furniture that expands to become something totally different much like the transformers that appear as cars or trucks then become huge robots. I look at these transformers as I do pieces with secret drawers and compartments – it’s a surprise.

During a recent trip through a couple of auction catalogs, I noted a few examples that I thought I’d share. Interestingly, these auctions were and are in London and are of English antiques, This makes me wonder if woodworkers in the United States back in the day were not as creative as European woodworkers, or just didn’t have the customers for or the time to build these hidden gems. You can, of course, find examples strewn around the country, but the largest number of these pieces seem to come from the Old World.

Gateleg

The first example is not as strong of a transformer than the two pieces coming later. It’s an English Gate-leg table. The leaves flip up and two not-so-hidden swing legs pull out to support the leaves. I like this design because when not in use, the table sits compactly out of the way, yet it is not easily tipped over do to its significant base.

GeorgeIII_Writing-Dressing_TableClosedNext up is a smallish two-drawer stand that when looked at, you know there is something about it. You obviously see the added leg fronts. And the drop-leaves let you know that the tabletop grows in size. The question then becomes: What else is in the cards for this stand. This is where it gets interesting. Would you expect that this stand transforms into a writing and dressing table? Check it out.

GeorgeIII_Writing-Dressing_Table

My last example is magnificent. It does, however, fall short of  Roentgen furniture pieces, which are the utmost in secret compartments and transformation. Vanity_ClosedI spent quite a while looking at these photos. I’m amazed at what lifts, slides, turns and flips to open this George III Satinwood, Mahogany and Indian Rosewood-Crossbanded Dressing Table. The auction information states that it is circa 1790 and probably by Sheraton. And the entire piece is listed as only 39″ wide. Oh, make sure you notice the feet. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Vanity

I often get asked if it’s OK to glue up feet and legs. My standard reply, which I might need to rethink, is no because you’ll see the glue lines. If, however, you assemble alternating wood species as shown here, you can make it work – at least Mr. Sheraton did.

If you have examples of furniture that transforms, add a link in the comments section. Let’s see what we can find.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Antique Pieces, Design, Secret Compartments

One Becomes Three

Photo courtesy of H. L. Chalfant Antiques in Wets Chester, PA

Photo courtesy of H. L. Chalfant Antiques in Wets Chester, PA

When talking about antique chest of drawers, “chest speak” often mentions drawer layout to describe a piece. You’ll read in a magazine advertisement, in an auction catalog or on a web site that it’s a three-over-five design, or a two-over-three-over four design. What is being described is the number of drawers stacked over the next bank of drawers. The first example would be three drawers set in the top row with five full-width drawers set below. The second example would have two drawer in the top row, and three drawers that make up the second row, with four full-width drawers stacked below. (The top rows are often reversed as shown in the opening photo.) Combinations are endless, but you don’t often see numbers get out of hand.

There is something to keep in mind as you look at drawer layout. Is the bank of drawers actually divided into two or three drawers, or is that a single-width drawer made to look like it’s divided? If it’s a single drawer made to look like three, what’s an easy way to duplicate that if you were building the chest? One way is to use an ovolo router bit.

An ovolo bit is similar to a roundover router bit, but there is nothing attached IMG_1599to the bit to guide it path – no pilot (that’s a throw-back design) or bearing such as what we have on most roundover bits. In the right-hand photo you can see the difference between the two different bits that basically cut the same profiles. Both router bits shown have a 1/4″ roundover profile. (Click the photo to enlarge the image.)

The way to use an ovolo bit is to first profile the edge of your drawer front using a roundover bit. Next, chuck the ovolo bit into your router, set the depth of cut to match the roundover profile, clamp a straightedge to the workpiece and run test cut. Measure the distance from your straightedge to the exact center of your ovolo profile. You’ll need that as you layout for the cut in your drawer front. (With my ovolo bit the width of the completed profile is 1″.) Layout work can be tricky. If you don’t pay attention, it’s easy to get the faux fronts a bit off in width.

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Once the layout work is done, measure from the layout line to where you need to set your straightedge, clamp it in position and you’re ready to divide your drawer front. Work slow as you rout, it’s easy to flip out the profile as the router bit enters the cut.

How can you tell the drawer front is not really three individual drawers? Look closely at the vertical divider areas. You’ll see a small gap at the top of each divider if the drawer front is a single-width front and the furnituremaker was attempting to fool your eye.

Build Something Great!

Glen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Antique Pieces, Design, Power Tools, Routers

Dressing-up the Keystone

IMG_1394With the moulding installed around the arched opening for the dial, there’s one last detail on the hood before moving on to the goose-neck mouldings of the broken-arch pediment. The Egerton tall clock has a small keystone that separates the two pieces of the arched moulding. The keystone is made from solid mahogany, but the face of the piece is a small assembly of veneer. And by small I mean 5/8″ wide at the bottom, 1-1/4″ wide at the top and about 1-1/4″ from top to bottom. That’s not a lot of inlay, so I can easily get that from scrap pieces already on hand. (Check out the photo. You can see a picture of the original clock between the hoods of the two clocks I’m building.)

To get things started, I thought it best to lay out the design to better get a feel for the pieces and steps. That also made it easy to get the sizes of the maple veneer just right, IMG_1381and that made the work go much quicker. After I had the design, I snapped off pieces of the ebony stringing and cut the small pieces of maple from a leftover sheet of shop-made veneer – I’m tired of sanding through the 1/40″- or 1/64″-thick commercial veneer and vow to never purchase it again. To make sure things went as planned, I stuck the pieces to a piece of tape, then checked the size against the actual keystone.

I was now ready to stick the pieces to the keystone. With a thin layer of glue on the keystone, I positioned the veneer and stringing. IMG_1382(Again, I really like the Titebond No-Run, No-Drip Wood Glue.) A neat technique was to lock one leg of my spring clamp into my bench vise, leaving the other leg operable. This allowed me to easily move or reposition the keystone in any way necessary. At this time, I wasn’t concerned about the length of the pieces applied to the workpiece. I didn’t want them to run past the top and bottom, but I also didn’t need them to be perfectly aligned. After everything was placed and slide to its final position (moving the veneer pieces up or down influenced the overall width of the assembly so I could easily match the keystone face), I set the piece aside to allow the glue to dry.

The next step after the glue dried – about 10 minutes – was to saw the top and bottom edges to add the last pieces of ebony stringing. IMG_1384A marking gauge is perfect to scribe lines to which to saw, and I particularly like a Japanese saw for these types of cuts. With the assembly locked in the spring-clamp vise, I sawed the two lines then peeled the waste parts easily off the keystone. A little more glue was added before I position the two last parts to the face of the workpiece. After the glue dried I used a rasp to level and smooth the inlay, then sanded everything smooth with #180-grit Abranet.

The finished keystone is shown in the opening photo. It’s a small piece that adds significantly to the overall look of the clock. And that’s what inlay does, at least to my eye. Also, if you look at the opening photo you can see the first carved rosette that fits at the end of the goose-neck moulding. I ran through three alliterations before arriving at what I think will work. To get a quick look, I stuck the half-finished rosette in place, then stood back to make a decision. So far, so good. But there is more work to be done.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Inlay, Tall Clock, Veneer

WIA Class on Inlay

The purpose of my Woodworking in America session on inlay, “Understanding Inlay: A Key Piece in Connoisseurship & Identification” wasn’t to provide rules of thumb to discover the orientation of antique furniture – the idea was to give a few general guidelines that A1_New York Card Tablewould help identify from where a particular antique piece of furniture may have been built. We focused on card tables from the Federal period due to the fact that each major city built card tables from the simplest designs to the most intricate, heavily-inlaid tables. I emphasized throughout the class that the information presented should be grouped with other gathered information so one could draw a conclusion. That stated again, I’ll pass along a few of my comments.

The first and easiest way to identify a card tables point of origin has nothing to do with the inlay, although you could also establish the same origin if you studied the banding and pictorial inlays on the table. Here, however, construction techniques are a dead give-away. The table pictured above is from New York. We know this because of the fifth leg. In almost all cases, if you have a fifth leg, you are looking at a card table built in New York.

ACD_Dunton_NH TableLet’s get back to inlay. The most fascinating of inlay banding, at least to me, is what is known as lunette inlay. There was a time in our furniture study that whenever this inlay was found on a piece of period furniture, that piece was immediately associated with the father and son team of John and Thomas Seymour. Later, a similar inlay was found on other signed furniture not built by the Seymours. That caused dealers and collectors to question the attribution of the Seymour work. The table shown above is a signed piece built in New Hampshire, and not a card table built by a Seymour.

ACC_Bradlys Seymour SimpleAs a woodworker, I wonder how this inlay was made in the period. (The left-hand photo is a close-up look at lunette inlay.) Was it laid up in a pack then sliced as was other inlay? Some woodworker think so. Or was it laid up a stick at a time? There is a camp of today’s woodworkers who think that was how it was done in the late 1700s. Regardless of how you may think it was made, it is a great piece of work and worthy of the amount of study it has received.

DE_Eagle PateraAnother area that I find interesting is to look at the use of eagles in pictorial inlay. The image at the right is a grouping of eagle patera  I pulled together from “American Furniture The Federal Period” by Charles F. Montgomery. (I highly recommend this Winterthur book if you are at all interested in inlay.) If you study the eagles, you’ll notice a few interesting things. First of all, Connecticut inlay – not just the eagles, but most of the inlay work found in this area – is very artistic and quite different from work found elsewhere. Pinpointing period work from the Connecticut River Valley and from Connecticut is rather simple.

Of the remaining eagles, take a close look at the inlay from New York. Notice how lifelike the eagle appears. This eagle looks bold, strong and very patriotic. The Federal period in which we’re looking is right after the Revolutionary war when New York was the nation’s capital, until 1791 when it was moved to Philadelphia before moving to Washington DC. Patriotism had to be extremely strong at the time. Was this strength reflected in the inlay produced at the time?

DEA_Bradlys_Eagle on ClockOne last thought on eagle inlay: If you study the eagles shown in Pennsylvania, Maryland and the South, you’ll see that each of the eagles have something in the mouth, a streaming banner. This could be a telltale of furniture from these areas. Shown at the right is a door from an antique clock. The clock is known to be from Pennsylvania. And the eagle has the banner held in its mouth.

This is just a taste of the what can be discovered when studying inlay. Over the next couple of months, I’ll present another post on what I’ve discovered about inlay. If you have some interesting information to share, please do so in the comment section below.

Build Something Great!

Glen

 

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Federal Card Tables

Baltimore Card TableI’m pulling together the information for one of my presentations at the 2013 edition of Woodworking in America. On Sunday, I’ll talk on the use of inlay to help identify from what regions Federal-period furniture was built. Also in this class, I’ll demonstrate how a few pieces of banding are constructed. Near the end of the class, out come the hot plates, iron skillets and sand because each person in the class – at least those willing to give it a shot – will shade and assemble a sand-shaded fan. It’s not too late to register for the conference, or to pick up a one-day pass, if you’re in the area.

During the period, string inlay – generally categorized as light and dark (no species given) – was found in all regions. So how do you differentiate between Massachusetts and Maryland? The answer is simple; you evaluate how the stringing was used. Another area where you begin to see differences between regions is as you study banding. And of course, pictorial inlay also helps identify regions.

One of the best ways to study and learn how stringing, banding and inlay can tell the story of where a piece was originally built is to study card tables. When these tables were built, the choices furnituremakers had available were limited to what they produced in the shop, but more often than not, they chose from what specialist had to sell – each region had its own banding and pictorial inlays. Sanderson Card TableYou should, however, be warned that you have to study antique or period card tables and not reproduced tables unless the maker was careful in his or her selection of material.

Today, we can have inlay shipped from all over the country, so it would be difficult to nail down where the pieces were built based upon the decoration. In the opening photo, for example, I reproduced a Baltimore card table and while I added the light string around the top’s edges, which is very characteristic of tables from Maryland and Baltimore, I didn’t pay particular attention to the diamond banding at the lower edge of the apron, or to the oval inlays at the top of each leg.

In the second photo, you also see light stringing used on the top. In this example, though, you’ll notice that the stringing is not at the edges of the top, but set a bit off the edges. A simple call to make – and please keep in mind that these rules are not always adhered to – is that this card table was not built in the Maryland or Baltimore area. In fact, this table is from Massachusetts. You need to look at other features to make that call.

The legs on card tables also provide a good indication as to where a table was built. Card Table UnknownPatterns and designs of bellflowers are distinct from region to region, as are the added inlay at the top of the legs. On the leg shown at the left, the icicle drop (segmented triangles of shaded light-colored inlay) is a good indication that the table was originally built in Connecticut, as that design is often found in the area.

Conversely, the photo at the right is more often found on tables from New York, especially if you study the design of the bellflower drops. The intersecting ovals that surround the bellflowers are found on other pieces from the same region. New York Card LegAnd while it’s possible to identify the origin of card tables and other furniture through the study of inlay, it’s always best to use additional information before making the call. If, for example, I showed you a picture of this last table, and you could see that there were five legs – the extra being the swing leg that supports the opened table top – you would be better informed and could more easily place this table in the New York area.

It should be a fun class. I hope you can make it.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Antique Pieces, Design, Inlay