Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Simple Tool for Checking Diagonals for Square

During the glue-up of my recent curio cabinet project, I couldn't use a tape measure or any other straight rule when checking the carcase for square.  That was because I had sides that were not flush with the top and bottom - they were set back about 1.5".  So I made a simple tool with stuff I had on hand.  I've used two sticks before to measure inside diagonals, but they never seemed accurate enough due to slippage.  I'm not sure where the idea came from, but it hit me all of the sudden and I wondered why I hadn't thought of this before.
Veritas mortise/marking gauge and the diagonal measuring tool
The Veritas gauge comes with a little piece that locks the two rods together so that you can get the exact same mortise width in different locations relative to the edge of project parts.  I measured the two rods at 5/16" and wondered if I could lock two pieces of 5/16 dowel rod together using the mortise gauge locking piece.

I put one end of each dowel in a pencil sharpener so that they fit tightly into corners.  Slipped them into the locking mechanism and turned the thumb screw and it worked great.  The two dowel rods stayed where they were supposed to.
Checking one diagonal
And the other
When the gauge fits the same in both diagonals, you know your project is square.

Sometimes it's the simple things in life that make me giddy.  This one did!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Curio Cabinet, Part 5: Finishing Up

Next up was hinging the door.  I purchased some nice Brusso hinges.  They were damned expensive, but I wanted some good hinges to take the weight of the glass and wood door so that it wouldn't sag and scrape the bottom as it opens and closes.  So far, these hinges have performed perfectly.

I worked on the door first, marking the hinge recess carefully with the hinge in place, then mortising with chisel and router plane.
One hinge mortise chopped in the door
When the two hinges were on the door, I placed the door on the carcase to allow an even reveal at top and bottom.  Then marked the hinge recesses and chopped and chiseled them out.
Marking the carcase for the hinge mortises
And here is the door hanging on the carcase
With all the glass in this project, I thought I should pre-finish the components before gluing up.  So I planed, scraped and/or sanded all surfaces, gave 3-4 coats of shellac, and added a coat of paste wax.
Areas not to receive finish were taped off or avoided with the brush strokes
Having finished the sides and the thin strips that would hold in the glass, I could nail the strips in place.  I pre-drilled the nail holes in the strips so that these thin pieces would not split.  The 3/4" nails were just a bit smaller in diameter than my smallest drill bit, so I used a nail with its head cut off and point sharpened like an awl as my drill bit.
Nailing on a strip - thin plywood used to protect the glass
After installing the glass and the holding strips in both sides and the door, I could glue up the carcase.  It didn't want to be perfectly square, so I had to angle the clamps slightly to bring it into square.
Testing one inside diagonal ...
... and the other diagonal
I made this inside diagonal gauge to check for square.  Due to the overhang of the top and bottom, I couldn't measure accurately enough with a tape measure and these sticks worked great.  I'll write about them in a separate post later.

After that, I added the door pull.  Sometimes a task that seems so simple can have complications.  I had to recess the screw head on the back of the door (3/8" hole to a specific depth).  I needed a 3/16" through hole to accept the screw threads.  I ended up starting with a 1/16" pilot hole, drilled as square as I could drill it.
Marked the location and then drilled from both sides to get a square through pilot hole
On the back, used the pilot hole to guide a 3/8" auger bit
I then drilled a 3/16" hole from the front to take the screw and wound up being a bit off-center, but I rectified that with a small round rasp.  In retrospect, I could have used a 3/16" auger bit that probably would have followed the pilot hole better than the drill bit I used.

The door will be kept closed by a magnet inset into the front edge of the right side.  The magnet attracts the screw head of the door pull and this seems to be working nicely.

And here she is, with shelves in place.
Very happy how it turned out
Full frontal view
With door open
Left side showing hinges
And finally, in place on the wall, filled with the wife's collection of unicorns and other curios.
Tada !!!
The wood for this project was recycled - it had been a someone's shop-made cabinet and I got it for free on Craigslist.  They said it was mahogany, but I think it's sapele.  Rob Porcaro of the Heartwood Blog recently did a series of posts on mahogany and its impostors.  Sapele is not a true mahogany,  but it was a joy to work!  It sawed and chiseled like butter, but it dulled my plane irons quickly.  I wonder if it's a wood that has silica in it - something known to dull irons quickly.

There were several "firsts" for me in this project.  The ones I can think of at the moment (and there were probably more) were:

1. First project incorporating glass
2. First project from sapele
3. First time using the mitered bridle joint (for the door)
4. First time using h&r planes (rounds only) to mold the top on three sides
5. First time using Brusso hinges - they work as advertised

Wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Curio Cabinet, Part 4: Door Joinery and Assembly

I did one more practice mitered bridle joint before cutting into the "real" wood.
Practice mitered bridle joint
The practice joint came out fine.  Sellers espouses the use of a guide that helps pare the mortise walls to the exact thickness to fit the tenon.  But I've had no success with that method.  Making the guide is a cinch, but I can't seem to pare properly when using it, so I've been paring the mortise walls by hand.
Here's the left stile with mortise cut and miter ready to be cut
The guide lines from the marking gauge really help paring to proper width.  On one joint, I tried using the Sellers guide and ended up with a very loose joint.
Joint was very loose, fitting 3-4 thicknesses of paper.
That doesn't sound like much, but it was WAY too loose
I could have thrown out the stile or rail and made new ones, but I glued on a couple scrap pieces to the tenoned rail and then carefully pared the tenon to fit the mortise.
Pieces glued onto the tenon
Then pared down to a good fit in the mortise
After the door joinery was done, I used a 1/4" beading plane to bead the inner edge of all parts.  The back of the door needed a rabbet to hold the glass and because of the design, these had to be stopped rabbets.  These are fairly easy with chisels and mallet, but quite a bit more time consuming than through rabbets.  Fun, though.
My chisel grip
I hardly ever need to grip my chisels like this, but it really worked out for me here.  There's a lot I can learn about economical chisel work and proper gripping is one area where I can do better.
With this grip, I was able to place the chisel quickly and accurately
And after a few chops you get a feel for how many hammer blows will get you close to the line
This wood worked easily and the chopping was no exception.  The picture above really shows how the wood breaks apart for easy clean-up.
Paring to the gauge line with a nice wide chisel
After assembling the joint the corners needed a little extra work to clean them up and get lines to meet.
A corner cleaned up
Then I glued up the door and let it sit overnight
I just ordered the glass for the project, so I could fit the glass and make the little pieces that will keep the glass in place.  The door and sides both need these little pieces that I plan to nail in place.
Fitting the 1/4" x 5/16" strips that keep the glass in place
Here are the strips dry-fitted to the two sides
I'm just about ready to glue up.  I'm going to pre-finish some pieces that will be tough to finish with the glass in place.

Somewhere I made a mistake and the carcase is not perfectly square.  I think I know how I'm going to deal with it, but I might have to plane the edges of the door out of square to match the carcase.  More on that later.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Curio Cabinet, Part 3: Carcase Joinery and Shaping

Having completed the beading on the side panels, I moved on to the joinery for the carcase.  I cut stopped dadoes into the top and bottom to accept the side panels.
Dado in the bottom
The front of the side panels would extend past the dadoes by about 1/2" and I used the router plane at it's maximum setting from cutting the dadoes to mark the cutout for that.
Marking the cutout depth - being very careful as there was little bearing surface for the router plane
I don't know how it happened, but one joint fit poorly.  It was way too loose.  I ended up having to glue a few shavings to the part of a side panel that would be inserted into the dado.  My two sides are not exactly the same thickness, so I suspect that I used the wrong side piece when sizing the dado.  It's way too easy to make mistakes - checking that you're using the right parts when laying out and cutting joinery is key.
Here is the carcase dry assembled
Next, the top and bottom needed stopped rabbets to accept the back panel.  It's tedious to do this with hammer and chisel, but it goes fairly quickly.
Chopping away some waste
Paring to one gauge line
Then up in the vise and paring to the other line
Came out nice and clean
The sides got a through rabbet using the Recond #778 rabbet plane
The underside of the top was to get a cove moulding on the front and both sides.  This will be the first time I've incorporated this type of detail in a project using hand tools.  I had made a few pairs of H&R's some years ago and used them for this.  First I made a template of the shape.
Used a circle template to mark a quarter round of just under 1/2" radius
Last year after I had bought Matt Bickford's DVD "Moldings in Practice", I practiced making mouldings with some success.  But each one I did was with the grain.  For my current project, the profile on the two sides would be across the grain and I really had no idea how the planes would perform.  So I practiced on a scrap of hardwood (maple) and it came out very nice.
The practice piece with profile on cross-grain and long-grain edges
Then, ...
Used the template to mark the stock
Laid out the rabbet that would remove the bulk of the material
Cut the rabbet with a saw cross grain, chisel to split cut the waste and a wooden rabbet plane to clean up
Then used the moulding plane(s) to shape to the layout lines
Note that I used a backer board to keep the grain from blowing out at the far end
Very pleased with how it turned out
On the upper edge of the bottom, I put a simple 1/4" chamfer on three sides.
And here's the carcase dry-fit
Next I need to make the frame for the door.  I'll be using the mitered bridle joints that I practiced on.  I need those to be RIGHT!  To be continued ...

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Curio Cabinet, Part 2: The Sides and Design Considerations

The design that I've worked up for this small cabinet includes sides that house glass.
Sketchup rendition of the cabinet
There were a few things to consider with the sides.  First, since the door would have a bead on its inside edges, I thought it would be nice for the sides to match that feature.  Second, the sides will be housed in stopped dadoes in the top and bottom.  This second item made me think about how to construct the sides.  At first I wanted the sides to mimic the door construction, using mitered bridle joints at the corners.  But I thought about grain direction and thought there could be problems if the bottom and top rails were housed cross-grain in the dadoes.  It probably wouldn't have mattered in the ~4" span of the joint, but I decided to make the side panel as a glue-up.
Each of the two side panels was glued up from four pieces, all with grain running the same direction
With the side panels glued up like this, I could glue in small beading strips.  To make them, I first ran a 3/16" beading plane on a piece of stock.
Ran the bead
Cut off the beaded strip and planed the sawn surface
I planed the strip down so that the quirk was just revealed.  Not sure how better to say that, so see the pictures.
Then cut the bead to just over 5/16" depth
And CAREFULLY planed the sawn surface with the plane upside down in the vise
I used a 45° bench hook to cut the miters and cleaned up on a shooting board.
Sawing the miter
Shooting it to an accurate 45°
First two pieces fitted
Glued in two stages: first glued in three sides, later added the fourth side (shown here)
I'm very happy with how they came out.  I know the short strips are glued in cross-grain, but it's only about 2", so I'm not too concerned about it.
One side's beading complete.
The applied bead creates the rabbet on the back side that will house the glass.  And I'll use the thin strip off-cuts from creating the beads to capture the glass when the time comes.
The back side showing the rabbet
Next I need to mill up the top and bottom, chop the dadoes and fit the sides.  Until then ...