Category Archives: Design

My Night Cap

#5024-01There are times when I need to get into the shop just to have fun. That time generally rejuvenates me so I can get back to my projects with a renewed vigor. If that fun time also happens to be something I need for one of my projects, I consider that a bonus. This week was a bonus. I needed to make a piece of inlay for the tall clocks. In the photo you can see, on the original Egerton clock, the piece of inlay I needed to make, the Night Cap perched on the post. This post is more pictorial that text filled, but you know what is said about a photo.

Step one was to develop a pattern for the inlay. I could have drawn the design free-hand, but it’s easier to pull the image into SketchUp and trace over the lines. After I had the plan, I spray-glued the images onto a piece of scrap holly and cut the pieces at my band saw.

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When I had the pieces cut out, I smoothed the edges as best I could using a disc sander and fine rasp before moving on. I also made sure the two pieces fit together nicely. I wasn’t worried about a super-tight fit because the separation would better show the delineation between the two pieces.

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Using a bench hook, I sawed the pieces into thin, usable slices. I like my Japanese saw for this cut. It’s thinner kerf saves material, and the small, finer teeth make the task easier.

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Sand-shading is great. There are few techniques as simple as this. And the results add a crap-load to the overall look of your work. The only pieces in this design that get shading are the small ovals.

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To inlay the pieces into my stock, I have to excavate the waste. This is really where a router becomes valuable. I positioned the pieces to my backer, then carefully traced around each piece with a sharp pencil. With a 1/16″ straight bit loaded into the tool, I set the depth of cut then hogged out as close to the lines as possible.

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Afterward, I used a small carving gouge to tweak the inlay area to my layout lines. I tested the fit of my inlay to the excavated hole, then trimmed any needed spots. (I want a tight fit, but not so tight as to break my inlay.)

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With the areas cut away and trimmed to an exacting fit, I added glue into the recess and hammered the inlay pieces into place.

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The rod for the Night Cap holder couldn’t be easier. I used the same 1/16″-diameter bit, set the workpiece flush with the edge of my bench then used a guide fence on the router to cut the line. The rounded ends from the router bit worked great against the small ovals to complete the design. A piece of string was cut to fit, a small amount of glue was injected then I hammered into the recess.

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At my table saw, I set the fence and raised the blade to trim the edges for more string banding. The pieces were cut to size and I mitered the corners using the reflection in the back of my chisel to set the angle – too easy. Glue to hold and blue tape as a clamp, then let it dry.

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With the glue dry, I sanded each face – I built two of the pieces – then cleaned up the edges with my block plane. Before I install these on the clock hood, I’ll thin the assembly somewhat. The two pieces are a bit different. So, are the results perfect? No way, I wouldn’t expect that. Was it fun to do? Hell yes. Every once in  while you need to get into the shop to just have fun.

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Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Hand Tools, Inlay, Methods of Work, Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tips, Tall Clock

To Copy, or Not to Copy

As woodworkers, we are always on the lookout for interesting pieces to build. SAMSUNG There is, however, a need to be mindful of what you study, and what you copy. Are we doing right to copy poor designs? Shouldn’t we know enough about an item to know what is correct and what’s not before we pull the trigger and copy that piece.

Here’s a quick example. Check out the photo of the shutters. These are fiberglass shutters, so you know that this design had to have been studied extensively. I would bet that prototypes were made – perhaps many of them – prior to a final design being selected. The shutter looks good against the brick facing. The contrast of black against the white windows is dramatic, for sure. So what’s the problem?

If you get close-up to these shutters, you see where the design falls apart. The first thing you should notice is the grain direction. SAMSUNGThe field of the raised-panel design has the grain running vertically, from top to bottom. But the beveled portion shows something strange. The grain around the panels runs perpendicular to the field. I have yet to find boards in which the top 1/8″ has grain running one way and the remaining thickness is rotated 90 degrees. It could have been a veneered panel, but a shutter meant for outdoor application would not have been veneered. If this were my company, I would be kicking someone’s butt. (If you really want to kick this company, how about the bead? The bead should be mitered at the rail/stile intersection.)

How and when do we make this call when building furniture? Obvious problems should be easily addressed, but what about small problems? C447One of my early pieces was a corner cupboard that I copied from a friend’s collection. If I remember correctly, the cupboard had an Ohio origin and was in paint – the fact that it was painted may have played a part in the problem. The upper door had a two-panel design. The larger panel on the bottom of the top door was oriented as we believe correct today – the grain ran from top to bottom forcing movement from side to side. The top panel, however, was rotated 90 degrees to force the movement top to bottom. (I can only guess that paint hid this reversal for many years.)

When I copied the cupboard, I positioned the panel with its grain oriented vertically as it was in the other panels. Was I correct in doing so? It’s obvious that there was little danger in exploding the door because the piece I copied was an early- to mid-1800 piece. It had survived. Should we try and copy pieces as they were built? Or should we “improve” on the design by employing what we know to be better building techniques today? What would you do?

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Antique Pieces, Design

Scroll Pediments: On Clocks Anything Goes

High ChestScroll pediments are the front panels found at the top of some of the most impressive pieces built in the 18th- and early 19th-centuries. Furniture such as  Bonnet-top high chests of drawer or highboys (as shown in the left-hand photo), bonnet-top chest on chests and many period clocks have scroll pediments. It’s on these panels that gooseneck mouldings are applied. Scroll pediments, at least on the highboys and other chests that I have seen in books and museums, have the grain running from side to side. (Most scroll pediments attach to the pediment returns with dovetails.) The same holds true for many clocks. But that is not always the case.

Tall case clocks are different when it comes to how they were built in the late 1700s and early 1800s. On tall case clocks, you can find many construction techniques that leave a 21st-century woodworker scratching heads. Some period clocks – some very expensive period clocks – appear to be held together with little more than chewing gum and grime collected throughout the years.

#5024-03I have pointed out a few of the let’s say questionable construction techniques I’ve found on the Egerton clock that I’m working on. The scroll pediment is just another example. On the original clock, which at one time was for sale at $120,000, the grain of the pediment runs vertically. I know this because I have a photo of the back of the hood.

IMG_1058As I work on my tall clock, I am changing many of the oddities I found with the original, but as always the case, a few of those questionable construction techniques are being repeated. Case in point is the scroll pediment. I decided to keep the grain direction vertical. How this changes the building of my clock is most apparent as you work on the pediment returns. Dovetails, which are found on many of the period clocks that have broken-arch pediments, are not an option because the grain on the returns runs perpendicular to the scroll pediment. As a result, I attached the pediment and the returns with screws. I expect that nails were used on the original, but I went with screws (tightly fitted at the bottom and in over-sized holes at the middle and top for seasonal movement) for a more secure hold.

High_Res ScrollWhat is extremely interesting to me is that if you look at the front of the original Egerton clock you could not know that the scroll pediment grain runs vertically. You would, in fact, guess that the grain runs at a 45-degree angle because that’s the look presented at the front. A veneered face with fancy cutouts fronts the pediment.  The veneer grain is angled. (That’s a detail that I will add to my build.)

Build Something Great!

Glen

 

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Filed under Antique Pieces, Design, Joinery, Tall Clock

The Best Legs

Southern_Table_w_pencil_drIt’s taking longer for me to complete a project than it use to. Before, I would run through a project cycle in a couple of weeks. Today, with my other job nicking my shop time, I’m lucky to complete a project in a couple of months. Spending too long on a piece makes me slower and tends to drag down my interest, so I decided to begin a second project. While the time to completion on one project pushes farther out, I’m able to maintain interest and enthusiasm by switching between the two ongoing projects.

The second project I began this week is the above pictured writing table found at Colonial Williamsburg – my first exposure to it was in the book “Southern Furniture 1680 – 1830” (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.). I’m not sure why I’m so captured by southern furniture. I expect it’s due to the simplicity of the designs.

Grain Choices

This project build begins with the legs. As I pulled lumber off the rack, I thought about what makes legs look the best. My first thought is that it depends on the wood. I’m building this table with mahogany, and its feathered grain does not show a strong difference between flat-cut and quartersawn woods, especially in pieces that are 1 9/16″ wide. On the other hand, maple does show a strong difference when comparing the two cut types. So what do you look for? The photo above shows the three ways most lumber is cut, and how each would appear in a leg found on this table. When you see this, I hope it’s obvious which cut is better choice. It’s rift cut. In rift-cut lumber, all four faces of the legs closely match in grain appearance.

WrongCab - WrongIf you build using rift-cut stock, tapered legs look best, whether you’re cutting a two-sided taper or are tapering all four sides. An even bigger difference is found if this same philosophy is applied to cabriole legs, but you also need to align your grain in the right orientation with legs found on Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture. Here’s what I mean. If you align your cabriole leg so the foot is across the grain, as shown above and to the left, you get rings or circles at the knee of your leg. These circles are not appealing, but the issue is more than aesthetics. That circle pattern indicates a weakness as you slide down to just above the ankle. That’s where your leg can break as the grain crosses the narrow cut of the leg.

RightCab - RightIf you orient the foot so it’s with the grain, as shown to the left, you get a much stronger and more pleasing end result. Notice there is no ring at the knee. The grain runs pretty much up and down the entire leg. That means there is no weak point at or above the ankle. This leg should not fracture during its life because the weight is carried through the leg as it follows the grain.

These are simplistic examples, but it should be clear that you need to watch the grain direction of your legs. If possible choose rift-cut lumber, and if you’re working up a set of cabrioles, make sure to point your toe with the grain. I know that it’s not always easy to follow these guidelines. If you find that you have a couple of legs cut using the best grain and a couple that aren’t, use the better legs at the front of your project. Ever hear the saying, “Put your best foot forward?”

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Back to Basics, Design, Shop Tips

From Veneer To Edge Banding

IMG_0350(A few weeks ago, I posted about veneer and how I purchased 2-ply crotch mahogany for my Egerton tall clock. This week, I’ll pick up from there as I begin tinkering with the base panel and door. If you want to better see the end results, click on the left-hand photo to open the image.)

My next step in building the panels is edge banding. To straighten the veneer edges and to expose areas to which my edge banding is glued, I turn to one of my router jig workhorses. IMG_0520There is nothing easier to use than a simple straightedge jig and a pattern router bit to get a dead-straight edge; Yes, the edge is only as straight as your jig. My jig is a 6″-wide piece of plywood with a 4″-wide piece applied on top – this particular rendition has pine on the top, but any wood or plywood works. After I build the jig, it gets a pass over my jointer to achieve that straight edge. From there I’m ready to work.

I marked my panel at 7/8″ from the edge, IMG_0521positioned the jig at the marks then clamped it in place. The extra 2″ of width allows easy clamping and any clamps are out of the way of my router base. I set my depth of cut to 1/16″, then routed the edge. After working all four edges – the bottom edge being 1-1/4″ to allow a matching 7/8″ after a moulding is attached – I was ready for banding.

Shop-made edge banding is way easier to work than commercially available paper-thin veneers, IMG_0573it’s easy to make and it is from scrap. These are all pluses when woodworking. After cross-cutting 6″-wide pieces to 1″ in length, I set up my table saw to rip 1/16″-thin strips. Make sure you do this using a zero-clearance table saw insert and a push stick of some kind. I also like a super thin blade for this, so I bought a 7-1/4″ saw blade that is dedicated to light work at my saw. Enough pieces were cut to wrap the door and base panel, along with a few extra.

Edge banding is wrapped around the field, IMG_0575but I also needed a few pieces for the top edge of the door that were longer due to the curved edge. I only need a few pieces, so I repeated the same steps with another piece of scrap. Those top-edge pieces require a bit of shaping to meet the profile. That meant many trips between the door and my sanders, spindle and disc. Spring clamps are great at holding profiled pieces as you fit additional pieces along the edge.

After the top-edge pieces are fit and the corners are trimmed, IMG_0581it’s time to glue the edge banding to the door. I contemplated hide glue for this, but my glue pot was  not hot and any hide glue I had was outdated or moldy. Not going to use it. I did have yellow glue, but I also had a bottle of Titebond “No Run, No Drip” glue. A shorter set time was good, so I gave the glue a try. I was surprised at how easy this glue is to use and how quickly it sets. I am very happy with the results. If you need a shorter setup time when gluing, I would try this product.

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Remaining edges are covered with the pieces ripped at the saw. Straight runs are too easy. Smear glue along the edge, slip a piece in place then add clamps. The glue sets up fast enough that I easily transferred spring clamps along the way. If you do not have a large supply of spring clamps, use blue tape. It works, too.

(Next week I’ll repair a damaged edge-banding corner, share a trick for perfectly matched mitered corners and install stringing in the door.)

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Inlay, Jigs, Routers, Shop Tips, Tall Clock, Veneer

Gorgeous Gams & Other 2013 Classes

I expect to have a busy 2013, so I limited my teaching weeks and weekends this year. Scheduled are only two classes that are week long, and one weekend class that begins on Friday. (Guess that would be a three day class.)

LegOnce again, Bob Van Dyke has invited me back to teach at his Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking (CVSW). April 5th through the 7th is Gorgeous Gams & Foot Fetishes: Its all about the Legs and the Feet- A 3 day weekend of fun and inspiration with Glen Huey. (Click here, then scroll about 2/3 down the page for additional class information.)

There is a lot to cover over the three days. Did you know you can get very accurate patterns from photos?  During the class we’ll rip leg and feet from actual furniture photos then learn how to develop those into full-size patterns. I’ll also show you how to shape cabriole legs. Where to start and what tools make the task easy and repeatable – we do want our four legs to match, right? After you get a leg shaped, it’s on to tapered legs. You may think you have a handle on tapered legs, but I’ll fill in a few blanks on what legs fit with what periods and I’ll demonstrate a couple techniques that are sure to add to your knowledge and abilities. And of course, we cannot bypass feet. An in-depth study of bracket and ogee-bracket feet is sure to bring discussion. Contact CVSW to register for the class.

SAMSUNGLater in April (April 29 through May 3), I show up at Chuck Bender’s Acanthus Workshops to teach the first week long class. Since Acanthus is in Chester County Pennsylvania, what better project could you build than a small chest that’s big with line & berry inlay. (A chest, by the way, that is featured in the June 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, in case you get closed out of the class.) This chest, attributed to Moses Pyle and built for Hannah Darlington, is part of the collection at Winterthur Museum. Not only do you build this chest during the week, but you may get a chance to see the original in a day trip to the museum. If line & berry inlay is your weakness, this is the class to take. Construction is not over the top, so we’re sure to finish the project. (That will make the spouse happy, huh?) During the class we’ll use both power tools and hand tools to inlay the piece. (Acanthus has been plagued by website difficulties over the past few weeks. If the class listing cannot be found, give Chuck a couple days to get things corrected and posted.)

CT LowboyRounding out the year, except for Woodworking in America in October, I return to CVSW to instruct a class building a Connecticut Lowboy. This piece, discovered in a backroom tour of the Connecticut Historical Society, stopped both Bob and I in our tracks. I immediately said that this would be a great class. Great minds think alike. Bob added the class to his summer schedule. The class runs from September 3rd through the 8th.

If you are a study of period furniture designs, you see that this lowboy is a transitional piece – originating as we moved from the William & Mary style into Queen Anne period. I especially like the high arched aprons and the molded profile around the drawers. Also, there is a very interesting building technique used on the inside of this piece.

(Might I suggest a “twofor” at CVSW. Sign up for the legs class then return to build a great lowboy. Contact the school for more information.)

If you would like additional information on these classes, please contact me or the schools directly.

Build Something Great!
Glen

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Filed under Antique Pieces, Design

A Look Back – Way Back

This is the last post of 2012. As the year ends, it’s only right to take a look back. I’m looking way back. Four decades back. It’s been 40 years since I’ve become involved with woodworking.

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As I dug through drawers in an older cabinet kept in my garage, memories of my first real project came flooding back. In one of the drawers I found the pencil shown above. It’s what I call a “first-grader” pencil – it’s the size of a convenience store cigar, about 1/2″ in diameter. Printed in black letters is “American Woodcrafters.” A now defunct wood supplier in Piqua, Ohio where Dad and I purchased lumber early on in our woodworking days.

I remember going there and walking around stacks of lumber housed in a concrete block building that, as I remember today, was a city block in every direction. In a small room adjacent to the warehouse area, my eye was drawn to a minimal stack of light-colored lumber with a bunch of lines running across the grain. I was mesmerized. What the wood was didn’t matter. I wanted some. After making my case, Dad allowed me to take a board home. Below is a box I made with that wood.

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Don’t laugh. I was 13 years old. Ah go ahead, laugh. The design is first-rate don’t you think? (Sarcasm intended.) In all my days since, I don’t think I have every come across a box built quite the same. Upon closer inspection you begin to see my affinity with power tools taking shape. My dovetails are tight thanks to a router and jig, but there are a couple gaps and a few well-placed wedges. And not a scribe line to be seen. At the back corner, screws are giving way to age, but I don’t mind.

I can’t remember what I used as a finish, but in a raking light, as you look across the top, you see scratches left from #80-grit sanding belts, or maybe I used #100 grit. Back in the day, I didn’t have a random orbit sander – I’m not even sure if they were in existence. For for the past 20 years, given my lack of skills, my box has lasted just fine while perched proudly at the top of my refrigerator.

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Years later I discovered that the wood I was drawn to was tiger maple. A wood that has become my favorite with which to work. In fact, when I build a project for publication, I often surprise editors if I opt to work with a wood other than tiger maple. Imagine finding something at an early age that plays a vital role in your livelihood as an adult. Was it a coincidence, or it was fate.  Best wishes in 2013. Until then …

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Jigs, Joinery, Power Tools, Routers