Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Woodworkers Wood Turning Hanging Tool Chest

I am a woodworker and not a woodturner. I also get the sense that most woodturners are not woodworkers. (There are of course notable exceptions especially when it comes to Shaker furniture.) The reason I've come to this conclusion was because of how difficult it was to find any pictures of cabinets for woodturning tools. Most turners seem to throw their tools in some PVC pipe and call it a day. I only intend to do simple projects and pieces for furniture when I'm turning and I didn't want my turning tools ending up all over the shop. This includes the tools and the lathe accessories.
After some research I worked out the features I felt I needed.
1) Enough room for my starter turning set.
2) A couple shelves for checks etc.
3) Some drawers for bits and pieces.
4) A door. (To keep the woodworking dust out.)
The dimensions came during the design process. The tools had to be spread out enough to get your fingers around them and I wanted at least one spare spot. This meant a width of 20". I figured a 1.5 to 1 ratio was good which left the height at 30". After that it was just a matter of picking inside dimensions that fit the tools.
I purchased a Forrester finger jointing blade and used the 3/8" size for the joinery. The drawers were are pinned lap joints with a hole for a pull. I sized the drawers based on a few accessories I needed to store. The door panel is a terrible piece of shop grade plywood that I cleaned up by filling the holes and using a half can of old spray paint. The door handle is a traditional ring pull. I've done a few turning projects since this was created and it's very nice being able to put all my tools away when I'm done and not have to worry about them. I now realize I need to do the same for my woodworking tools. 

A Pair of Hope Chests

This past September by brother got married and I decided I would make them a hope chest. I wanted something that wasn't too big and there was a plan I'd seen in Fine Woodworking that I thought would work well. The original plan called for cherry which is a joy to work and was the look I was working for. It was also an opportunity to try out shellac for the first time. The picture in the plan looked great with brass hardware however the combination of the design, finish and hardware gives it the appearance of a coffin when closed. (Three people mentioned it to me.)
Although I'd done a hope chest in the past and none of the techniques were new to me I wanted to be very precise in my joinery so I decided I would make two. The first would be in poplar which is much cheaper and with a painted finish it didn't matter if I made minor mistakes. (Or major ones like when I cut a tail in the wrong direction.) I did both pieces at the same time, one machine set up at a time. It probably only added about 25% in time to make the second and now I have a spare to hand out as a gift to someone else. I'll have a separate post on how I finished it.
I tried a few new techniques on this project. The first was using a table saw to do the cuts that would ordinarily be done by a handsaw. After that it was all hand tools. I don't use a hand saw often enough to keep it perfectly straight so it saves time and improves accuracy and this joint is much more prominent then a drawer that remains hidden away. The other technique that I was planning on but never got to was to use a shooting board for the mitres. I didn't get a jack plane in time but I've tried it since and it makes it much easier to sneak up on the final fit.
The final new technique for me was using shellac. I was planning on using boiled linseed as a base coat but I've previously learned my lesson about using oil on the inside of a chest. (11 years later and it still has a distinct smell.) Shellac will apparently cover the smell but I didn't want to chance it and I liked the look of just orange shellac. Application by brush was not too bad but I consistently got lap marks on the corners after each coat that had to be rubbed away with steel wool. Next time I'll spray it.

End Grain Cutting Board

Every woodworking blog has a post about creating an end grain cutting board so I won't bore you with a lot of details on this one. In it's simplest form it's pretty straight forward. Glue a bunch of pieces of wood together on their end, sand and finish. Should be easy and in many ways it is. That doesn't mean there isn't a lesson or two to be learned on your first one.

Lesson #1 - Material Use - I've made quite a few long grain cutting boards. They're popular at Christmas and they make good use of the scrap material. As long as the piece of wood is as long as the cutting board you are creating, glue it to another piece and you're on your way. End grain boards are a bit different. They are typically thicker so there's more volume and you lose a bit since you have to make so many cuts to piece it together. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought though. Once I figured out the thickness of the final board and the thickness of the pieces that were going into it the total length of the starting boards was perhaps twice what I would have done with an end grain board. Not quite as efficient but at least I could still use scrap pieces.

Lesson #2 - Sanding - My main message here is to avoid at all costs. There is a reason end grain boards are more durable and it shows when you start to sand. It would take hours by hand and not much quicker using an orbital sander. There are two good options that I've seen. One is a block plane, that some believe is named for it's ability to plane butcher blocks flat. The other is an thickness sander.I only have the former so it was an easy decision for me.

Lesson #3 - Glue it up flat - In some ways this is a subset of #2. The flatter you glue things up the less sanding/planing you have to do. You also end up with a thicker cutting board in the end and it's a lot easier to keep the whole thing true if  you're careful with your glue up.

The one I did above was maple and walnut with a mineral oil and wax finish. I didn't bother with warming the mineral oil and melting in bees wax but I think I will next time since it will reduce how frequently I have to renew the finish.