Friday, December 8, 2017

Bistro Table, Part 3: Leg Shaping and Glue-up

The undercarriage of the table looks like this:
Bistro table undercarriage
The uprights get a long cove and the feet and top supports get some straight cuts.  The shaping of the uprights was straightforward.  I used a thin, bendable stick to mark the curve, starting and ending about 1/8" from the bridle joint miters.  Then I made some relief cuts,
Relief cuts down to the layout line
chiseled out the waste, and cleaned it up with a spokeshave.
Fairing the curve with a spokeshave
The feet and top supports were easy - just a couple of straight saw cuts, followed by cleaning up with a plane or chisel.
A foot with one of the off-cuts
After final surface planing of these parts, I did a dry-run of the glue-up.
Extra clamps make sure the feet and top supports are seated against the uprights
Did my best to ensure things were square, but I knew I could plane to squareness later.
Checking glued up parts for square
Four leg / foot / top support subassemblies in the clamps
When the glue had dried, I cleaned up the joints with a smoother.  I re-squared the parts that would support the top.  I'll be using some leg levelers on the feet, so it wasn't necessary to ensure squareness there.
Leg subassemblies out of the clamps
Marked one end as "top supports" and squared them
The four legs will be glued to a center "post".  I started by gluing two leg subassemblies to the center post.  Curved cauls were helpful in clamping the curved leg parts.
Two leg subassemblies glued to the central post
When that was dry, I glued on a third subassembly, and when that was dry, the fourth.
Last of the leg subassemblied being glued onto the post
Glue-ups are almost always interesting, in that you have to really think things through.  It was a small challenge to find good ways to clamp this up.

And here is the result - the undercarriage is complete.
All glued up
Next time: a really interesting exercise in making the subtop.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bistro Table, Part 2: Mitered Bridle Joints

Since the last post, I decided to take the plunge and go with the mitered bridle joints rather than standard bridles.  Today's post is about making them.

Recall that the mating pieces of the bridle joint will look like this:
The test joint
As always, successful joinery starts with careful layout.  I had stock accurately dimensioned and squared to 1" thick and 2" wide.

Making the tenon piece:

I started by marking the depth line on one edge of the tenon piece directly from the mating piece.
Marking the end of the bridle tenon with a light knife line
I used a square to guide the knife to deepen the line (and to put the bruising from the knife on the waste side), only marking where the tenon waste will be cut away.

Then I marked the 45° line that would define the tenon shoulder.
Lined up the combination square's blade with the corner of the workpiece
Seeing the corner well enough to judge how well the combination square lined up was challenging,
so I placed a piece of white paper underneath, which allowed better viewing
To mark the thickness of the tenon, I'm using a technique I just learned from Paul Sellers.  He uses a router plane with a fixed setting to mark the workpiece.


Marking the tenon thickness using a router plane
The same router setting is used to mark the mortise piece, but I"ll get to that later.  Next was to saw the 45° shoulders.
Chiseling out a channel for the saw to ride in
After sawing the shoulders, split off most of the waste ...
... pared close to the lines ...
... then used the router plane with the fixed setting to get exactly to the lines
Cleaned the shoulders with a freshly sharpened chisel
Et voila - the tenon piece is born
Cheek is a little rough - I need to pay more attention to grain direction when using the router plane

Making the mortise piece:

Decision time: do I make the 45° miter cut first, or saw and chop out the mortise first on a square workpiece?  I tried both ways, but in the end it seemed easier and faster to saw the miter first.  However most pictures below are from the "miter-last" method.

The mortise extent was marked the same way as the tenon had been marked, using the mating piece to get an exact line.  The 45° miter was marked in the same way as the tenon, too.  I used the router plane to mark the mortise thickness (same fixed setting as before).

This picture shows the mortise marked on a piece where I made the mortise first and sawed the miter later
I sawed the mortise walls and then chopped out the waste with a chisel.
Chopping out the waste
The key to getting this accurate is to have a helper piece to guide the paring of the mortise walls.  I prepared a piece with the same 1" thickness as my workpieces and formed a tenon with the exact same thickness as my mitered tenons.
Helper piece on left
This piece can be used as a guide to pare the mortise walls.
This piece can be used to guide a chisel to pare exactly to the layout lines
Holding the chisel tight against the helper ensures the right fit
Still needed some minor paring to tune the fit
Then I sawed to the 45° lines ...
... and cleaned up the end grain on the shooting board
I only got one picture of the "miter first, mortise second" method.  You'll have to use your imagination, but at least I got this one.
Using the router plane to mark the mitered end of a mortise piece 
I'm very happy with how these joints came out.  I got good, tight, square joints.
Dig it!  Good joint line and nice fitting tenon in the mortise
And they came out fairly (not perfectly) square
Next time I'll get into the shaping of these pieces and the undercarriage glue-up.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Bistro Table, Part 1: Design

We have a couple chairs sitting in the front patio of our townhouse that need a small table to go with them.  I don't know if "bistro table" is the correct name for this, but I'm using it anyway.
The location
She got some ideas from small tables we've seen around.
This small table was at a little cafe and we liked the top
This table was at a soccer stadium food area
I liked the base of the second table and the top of the first table.  So I got on Sketchup and worked out some details.
Sketchup model
The table is about 29" tall and the top is 24" diameter.  There are 32 top slats, for no particular reason other than that was how many the table above had and it looked proportionally good when drawn up.

The pedestal base will be made from 1" thick, 2" wide material - I first modeled with 1 1/4" thick, 3" wide material and it looked too clunky.  The uprights have a concave curve that I think will make it look more elegant.
View of pedestal
You can see there will be a ring supporting the top slats.  I'm probably going to make that from 8 pieces, mitered at 22.5° and joined like tongue and groove boards (or maybe more accurately like stub tenon and mortise).

I've been working on the joints of the pedestal.  In the model, they are bridle joined, with the uprights being tenoned into the feet (and top supports).  But I've been experimenting with a mitered bridle joint, that I think might look better.  It's just more tricky to get it to fit right.  So I did some tests in some scrap pine.
Standard bridle joint
Standard bridle joint, disassembled
Mitered bridle joint
Mitered bridle joint, seen from below
Mitered bridle joint, disassembled
Here's what they might look like in the model.
Standard bridle
Mitered bridle
I think the mitered bridle looks better.  But the added complexity might not be worth the effort.  What do you think?

For this project I have the last of some old redwood 2x6 boards that were once a part of a deck.
Raw material - knotty, weathered, painted, ugly,
but I know there's some beautiful redwood inside
Next time I'll get to some construction details.  Enjoy your Thankgiving - hard to believe the holidays are upon us already.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Visit To Winterthur

I'd heard of Winterthur and their recreation of the old Dominy woodworking shops so many times over the last several years.  So when visiting friends near Baltimore recently, I spent a day at the Winterthur Museum near Wilmington, DE.  I didn't know what to expect.  I thought maybe there was an old timey "living museum" with woodworking and blacksmith shops like I imagine Colonial Williamsburg might have.

Well, it didn't have the "living" part (unless you count the beautiful gardens and grounds of the estate), but it was extraordinary nonetheless.  I was mainly interested in the Dominy shops, but there was a huge mansion-turned-museum that no doubt held untold hundreds of fine furniture pieces.  I didn't get a chance to see that part - even if I did, it was on a guided tour, so I wouldn't have been able to spend quality time with the furniture.

The recreation of the Dominy shop was behind glass walls, which was a bummer, but I could still imagine all the work going on in there.
Great wheel lathe towards the front
(try to ignore reflection of a lighted display just left of center)
Beyond the great wheel, on the left, is the smaller of the two huge workbenches in the shop.
Workbench #1 held lots of planes: jointers, jacks, smoothers, a plough.
The wall behind the bench held many chisels and boring bits.
Note also the bow saw hanging from the ceiling
The workbench on the other side spanned almost the entire length of the room.  On it were candle stand leg patterns and legs in various stages of completion.  The bench has two massive wooden twin screw vises.
The larger of the two benches
Another view: turning tools closest, chisels, gouges, spokeshaves, marking gauges,
squares needed to make legs for a candle stand
On the far end were some interesting tools: screw box (or is it a tenon sizer?), a set of trammel points,
and a cross-shaped guide to lay out circles and ovals with the trammels
Next to them was a beautiful jack plane
View of great wheel lathe from other viewing area - look at that big trestle-style tool
rest in front of the candle stand top that is chucked into the lathe.
It was neat seeing all the tools of an 18th century workshop all around the shop.

The Dominy's had a second shop where they made clock and watch parts.  Not only could they make the large standing cases for clocks, ...
A tall clock case
..., but also they could make the gears and other parts for the clock movements.
Made in 1799, these clockworks were for the clock case pictured above.
The clockwork gears were made on this "gear-cutting engine".
The gear-cutting engine
You can see that the engine is powered by a flywheel.  The long stick on the floor is the treadle used to turn the flywheel.  I just love the ingenuity here.

Some of the furniture made by the Dominys was on display, too.  It ranged from candle stands to elegant high chests.
A very common product of the Dominy family
(that thing next to the rear leg is a leg pattern)
A rocking chair from 1790 - 1830
High chest
The high chest was interesting.  I'm not sure why it didn't break itself apart given the apparent opposing grain situation I saw in the lower side panel.
Why did the bottom side stay together?
The upper right side had a large split, but I wouldn't have expected that when there was no (apparent) grain direction problem (though I couldn't see how the side attached to the top due to mouldings).
Large split on the upper right side panel
I wish I could have gotten inside the Dominy shop just to soak up some mojo.  I still enjoyed it, though.  If I ever get back there I'll try to get on the tour of the mansion to see some other fine furniture.