The final back board is now fitted, which means that the casework for the Boot Bench is now complete. This feels like quite a milestone after six months of work.
Fitting this board was similar to the others (it is after all just a 1/2″ thick tongue and groove board) with a few additional steps to reflect the fact that is was to go between two boards which were already fixed in place. After processing the board to final thickness I selected the best side to face into the casework, as this will be the side that is viewed when the client puts their shoes on the shelves, and shot square the end that fits into the rebate in the top. As I’ve written before, I like sizing components off the rest of a project wherever possible, and if I can get away without using numbers to measure then I’m always happy. To bring the back board down to the final width I decided to dispense with my rulers and instead use the hole in the back to determine the width. To do this, I cut the tongue on the left hand side of the board, and laid the board in place with the shoulder of the tongue lying against the edge of the adjacent board. This gave me a good indication as to how much material needed to be removed before I planed in the groove on the opposite edge of the board.
Once I had brought the board down to that rough width, I planed in the groove and tried a test fitting, which told me that the board was a little too wide to allow for expansion gaps on either side. Tongue and groove joinery is pretty forgiving for this sort of test fitting process, especially when using a dedicated plane like the Lie-Nielsen No.49 where the fence is held in a precise and repeatable position to the cutter and where the plane stops cutting once a predetermined depth is reached. Reducing the overall width of the board was a simple matter of taking a few full length passes from each long edge with my jointer plane, restoring the depth of the tongue and groove with the No.49, and then test fitting the board, repeating until I had a clean fit with even expansion gaps on both sides.
After finishing the board with shellac and wax I used a 2lb lump hammer to knock it into position. I’d previously not thought of using a hammer of this weight for furniture making, but after Chris wrote about the benefits of wielding the sort of hammer that would make Thor proud, I thought I’d give it a go. The lump hammer crushed the end grain of the board a little, but I had anticipated this and left the board over-length so that any damage could be trimmed off.
When fitting the other back boards a portion of each shelf had been visible, which made locating the pilot holes for the cut nails easy. However with all the boards now in place, the shelves were completely obscured. My nightmares recently have been full of images of missing the edge of a shelf and pounding a cut nail into open air within the casework. To avoid this, I placed a large (50″) straight edge against the cut nails holding the other three bac boards in place, and located the pilot holes for the final board off the straight edge. This approach worked a treat, and I’m pleased to say that all 32 nails in the back fit neatly into a shelf (and breathe a sigh of relief).
I want to roll the boot bench around my workshop floor as little as possible. And so while the the carcase was face down, I took the opportunity to clean up the back edge of the sides and top with my No.3 smoothing plane, and to apply two coats of shellac. I then stood the carcase upside down (on top of a pile of moving blankets to protect it from the concrete floor) and trimmed the back board ends flush. As a finishing touch, I cleaned up a small amount of squeeze out from the bottom shelf, and then chamfered the feet to ensure that no fibres blow out when the boot bench is moved into position in the client’s home. I’m sure there are more satisfying things in life than chamfering edges with a block plane, but I’m not sure I’ve experienced any.