A Spot of Pre-Flight Dovetail Practice

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A wide chisel helps to locate the tail board for transfer to the pin board

I thought I would get some dovetail practice in before I fly out for the Kentucky Dovetail Death March ™ later on this month, and this presented a perfect opportunity to start making drawers for the express lathe stand. The inclusion of drawers was a key part of the original design for the lathe stand, as not only will drawers provide a home for lathe tools and other small items (a workshop can never have too much storage!), but using the lathe stand as a storage unit also adds mass, which keeps things stable when turning larger workpieces. Originally I had intended to domino drawers out of ply – a construction method that is quick, efficient and perfect for a workshop storage unit. But as I wanted to do some dovetailing in preparation for my trip, it made sense to dovetail this round of drawers at the very least.

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Chamfering the leading edges of the tails for ease of assembly

So far I’ve made three drawers of varying depth and tail spacing – changing the dovetail spacing for each drawer offered some good practice after a few months of cutting only bench-sized joinery. One drawer will hold my lathe jaws, allen keys, and smaller tools which become indespensible when you use a lathe. The deepest drawer will hold my scorp, splitting wedges, and a few other chair making tools which need a separate home to my Anarchist’s Tool Chest. The final drawer is much shallower than the others, and will house story sticks and patterns accumulated from past projects.

 

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A sharp block plane is a wonderful thing for cleaning up joinery

I cut the dovetails the same way I’ve cut every dovetail joint (and the way we will be doing it next week). After a year of mainly working on bench-sized oak timber, the 3/4″ pine for the drawers worked ike a dream, and it was nice to work at a different scale and tolerance. Once the glue had dried, I cleaned up the dovetails with a sharp block plane to see how the joints had turned out and was quite pleased. Once I am back from Kentucky I will clean up the rest of the surfaces with a smoothing plane, fit ply bottoms to each drawer, and give them a lick of paint (probably the green I used for the saw cabinet). With some clutter out of the way, it will then be back to the Roubo bench build. The autumn promises some enjoyable woodwork!

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Three drawers. They need a final clean up, but the joinery is strong and these will provide plenty of storage in the lathe sand

On a separate note, I will be at the Lie-Nielsen event at the Lost Art Press storefront on Saturday – if anyone finds themselves there, then do say hi (I’ll be the jetlaged Englishman).

Apron Maintenance

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Before – nearly three years of accumulated grime

My Texas Heritage ‘shop apron has seen a lot of heavy use in the nearly-three years I’ve been wearing it. And with my class at the Lost Art Press store front now imminent (I fly out in just over a week’s time) I thought it was about time I gave my apron a bit of a clean. I discussed the best approach with Jason, who was able to give some helpful pointers.

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After brushing and using an air gun to remove dirt

The first stage of clean up was to gently brush the apron down to remove the bulk of the grime. I then used an air gun, fed with 20psi from a compressor, to remove any stubborn dirt particles that had become embedded in the fibres of the apron, as well as removing the inevitable detritus from within the pockets.

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Hosed down

With most of the dirt removed, I hosed the apron down with cold water, being sure to empty the pockets out afterwards to avoid stretching as the apron dried (the waxed canvas pockets are very effective as water collecting vessels!). The canvas cleaned up quickly and very well, with just some stubborn patches of PU glue remaining (that stuff will likely survive the apocalypse), and while it is looking cleaner it still shows signs of being worn and used. Which is exactly how it should be. I fully expect that this apron will outlast me, which is a testament to the quality of Jason’s work.

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Cleaned up

 

A Welsh Stick Chair for the Apprentice – Reprise

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The completed chair in situ

Long time readers may remember the stick chair I was building for the Apprentice, based on a child-sized 18th century chair held in the collection at St Fagans. That build stalled last year when my first forays into steam bending a comb proved to be unsuccessful. I didn’t abandon the build, but it went on the back burner while I built a steam box, and then all of my workshop time was absorbed by the article for Mortise and Tenon, and the Roubo bench build. But I never stopped looking for an opportunity to finish this chair. While I was processing stock for my stick chair for the M&T article and some other projects, I found within one of those huge oab slabs, some curved grain which matched the curvature of the comb for the Apprentice’s chair. Jackpot – no need to steam bend stock (although with the steam box now complete, I am looking forward to steam bending chair parts in the near future). I cut the comb out of the slab, and set it aside while I finished ther chair for M&T.

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Painting the chair

With the M&T chair (and article) complete, I managed to find some time to clean up the comb with spokeshaves, and did the final glue up for the Apprentice’s chair. The chair is made with oak from three different sources, and there is not enough consistency of colour across the various components to use a clear finish. So original my plan was to milk paint the chair green to match the green Chesterfield armchair I sit in. On reflection, I asked the Apprentice what colour she would like the chair, and we looked at some milk paint samples until she settled on Sweetheart Pink by Real Milk Paint. After quickly placing an order with Tools for Working Wood, we were ready to finish the chair.

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Painted, burnished, and oiled

I thought it would be fun for the Apprentice and I to paint the chair together, and she eagerly assisted me with the first coat. Milk paint often takes several coats for a consistent finish, and I applied a further three coats in the evening. Once we had a good consistent finish I burnished the paint with brown paper, and then ragged on a single coat of Osmo Polyx. The Osmo deepened the colour of the paint a little, and also emphasised the texture of the underlying wood (particularly the facets on the legs and sticks). The comb had some striking grain, and so I deliverately left that unpainted to add some visual interest.

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A satisfied customer

The chair now resides in our lounge, next to my reading chair, and the Apprentice seems to really love it. She is also facinated by the idea of making furniture, and so hopefully it won’t be too long before she joins me in the ‘shop.