CET Action Auction

It’s that time of year again. Time for my local PBS station to hold their Action Auction where they auction off a bunch of items from donors around the Cincinnati area. Nearly every year I donate a shaker style table to them. The first few years, I made these tables out of nice cherry, however, the past couple of years I decided to build them with southern yellow pine to save on the costs. I make these tables out of a single 2 x 8 x 8 I buy from Lowes for around $6.00. I wrote a blog about it a few months ago. http://wp.me/p1gfza-d2

I painted the table using chalk paint which is a limestone based paint that is popular among people who repurpose and paint antique furniture. The paint leaves a chalky feel on the surface and with a bit of sanding, gives the piece an aged look. My wife, Anita, stenciled the lettering on for me to give the table a little bit something extra.

As you can see, the joinery is extremely simple. The stretchers on the top and bottom of the drawers have mortise and tenon as well as dovetail joinery, but the sides are simply pocket screwed together. The table is not going to be under a tremendous amount of stress so I opted not to mortise and tenon the sides to the legs in order to save time.

The custom work is left for the drawers. They are put together with hand cut half blind dovetails, but you can’t really tell since the sides are painted. I probably spend more time cutting those dovetails than I do on the rest of the piece.

It’s a simple piece that will be a nice little accent table in someone’s living room or foyer. The Action Auction takes place in a couple of weeks and my table will be auctioned off sometime during the weekend. The table should do well since painted black furniture is really popular right now. Anytime I make a bookcase for my wife so that she can sell it in her booth, it sells within a week. All I know is that it’s fun to see my furniture on TV.  I really don’t get anything out of it other than a good feeling from helping out my local PBS station that continues to keep The Woodwright’s Shop on the air.

Empire Dresser

My wife won this Empire style dresser this week at an online estate auction site for a mere $50.00. When we went to pick it up the guy who ran the auction was telling us it was probably built around the early 1800’s and was a cross between Empire and Federal styles. The dresser was beautiful with its carved columns, mahogany veneer and old brass hardware.

The dresser was in pretty good shape with the only major damage being the bottom drawer was broken off. Fixing the veneer and making it match with the rest of the piece would be a challenge so my wife and I are thinking of taking out all three bottom drawers and turning the dresser into a wine bar with storage for wine glasses and bottles.

While taking the drawers out I was looking for a makers mark just in case this is some rare piece made by famous cabinetmaker. The last thing I want to do is to retrofit some dresser that if left alone and restored could be worth $20,000. Unfortunately I found no makers mark but I did notice that the piece was made by hand.

The drawers were made with hand cut dovetails and the bottoms were chamfered into grooves in the drawers side. No plywood was used which gave me a clue that the dresser was pretty old. Plywood wasn’t being used in furniture until around the 1920’s.

I also noticed that not that much care was taken in cutting the drawer bottoms. One of the bottom’s edge was wavy and looked like it was cut with a bow saw. Why the cabinetmaker didn’t use a hand saw to rip down the bottom is baffling. Maybe he was in a hurry or didn’t have a hand saw around at the time but, it looks like crap and wouldn’t be considered top-notch craftsmanship by todays standards. However, it was perfectly acceptable back then. Maybe there wasn’t as much scrutiny about how things were built as there is today. If I did something like that, all my woodworking friends would call me a hack.

  

I also could see where the cabinetmaker reused boards that he first cut dovetails for as the drawers backs. The back and the sides are simply nailed together with some finish nails. It’s possible he was planing on dovetailing the back of the drawers but changed his mind for some reason. But nevertheless, apparently back then if the part was not being shown and was hidden from the customers view, then nobody cared what it looked like inside.

The back of the piece gave me another clue as to its age. There were two pockets drilled to accept screws to hold down the top. As I unscrewed one of them, I saw that the screw had a point at the tip. Due to increased machinery technology, manufacturers didn’t start making screws with points until the 1840’s. Before that they were simply blunt and craftsmen would have to pre-drill the hole.

So my guess is this piece was probably built between 1840-1920 by a local cabinet shop who didn’t bother signing their pieces. With no makers mark, there is no way for me to determine who actually built it. I searched the internet for “Empire dresser” in Images to see if a similar dresser appeared with no luck. So in the end, with its major damage to the bottom drawer, I think it’s safe to retrofit this into something new.

Making a Roubo Style Workbench Part 3 – revisited

When I went to Woodworking in America Conference in Berea, KY last year I saw Roy’s Roubo bench. The bench’s back legs were splayed out because he had a tool tray at the back. When I went to shake the bench, it was a solid as a rock and I knew right there and then that I wanted to incorporate that feature into my bench even though I didn’t want a tool tray on my bench.

The legs of my workbench are made from 6 x 6 pressure treated post. I planed them down in a surface planer to about 5 1/4″ square as I wanted to remove as much of the wane form the post as I could. After surfacing them, I check to see how square the legs actually were. It turns out they weren’t square at all but rather each one was a rhombus. So I took each leg over to the jointer and squared one side to a face then returned to the planer to true them up to 5″ square.

I measured the back legs by laying a framing square flush to the top of the leg and measuring up 90 degrees to the top to mark where the leg hit 33 on the tape measure.

Now I was ready to cut them to length. The bench will be 33″ tall so the two front legs will be 33″ long since they will protrude through the top. I cut each leg using my circular saw flipping it at each pass and cleaning up the end using my low angle jack plane. I measured the back legs by laying a framing square flush to the top of the leg and measuring up 90 degrees to mark where the leg hit 33″ on the tape measure. I cut the leg to size with a pass on each side finishing up in the middle with a handsaw.

Back leg tenons are 2x 3x 4 long and are cut at a 20 degree angle. 

Bench top is upside down. Layout the mortises as accurately as possible.

I used a bevel gauge to align my drill and cut out the mortise with a 1 1/4 forstner bit. Drill half way through then flip the top over and finish.

I then laid out the tenons and cut them to size with my bandsaw finishing it up with my handsaw and chisels. Once I made the tenon I laid out the mortise on the bottom of my bench top. I used a 1 1/4″ forstner bit and drilled several holes at a 20 degree angle. Then I flipped the top over and finished the mortise from the other side. I pared to the line with chisels until the tenon slipped into the mortise with ease.

Once the back legs were cut, I laid out the rising dovetail on the front legs and cut to the lines using a back saw and trimmed to the line with a chisel. I then laid out the dovetailed mortise on the bottom and top of my workbench top and cut on the waste side of the line with a backsaw. Then I chopped away the center with chisels the same way you would chop out the waste material on a half blind dovetail joint. The trick in making a rising dovetail work is for the ability of the top of the dovetail to fit at the back end of mortise on the bottom (if that makes any sense). In order to truly understand it, you need to read Roy’s book “The Woodwright’s Guide; Working with Wedge and Edge” where he describes the joint far better than I can. I read over the details of the rising dovetail in the book but it wasn’t until I actually tried to make the joint did I fully understand how it is done. The best thing about the joint is that it looks impossible when you see it for the first time. The joint can not slide down nor can it pull out due to the double dovetails. The trick is the joint drops down at an angle.

Once all the joints were cut, I fitted them in the mortises and examined how well each leg was level with one another. Luckily they all lined up fairly well. Then, I flipped the bench over to see how well it sat on the floor. There was a little bit of rocking due to my basement floor not being level but when I cut the through mortises in the legs and temporarily fit the side stretchers, the bench became a lot sturdier. Next, I’ll work on the base and install a shelf to hold my air cleaner.

Disclaimer: Some people may be apprehensive working with pressure treated lumber since it contains the harsh chemicals ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary). If you’re uncomfortable working with pressure treated lumber, don’t use it. The main reason I decided to use it was for the additional weight it would give to the base. While building the base I did no sanding so there was no airborne dust present. In fact the only time I experienced any dust from the ACQ pressure treated lumber was when I emptied my dust collector bag from my surface planer.

I used to work for a pressure treated lumber company and have been exposed to CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) which was supposedly more volatile than ACQ due to the arsenate in the material. I handled CCA lumber on a daily basis for years yet I experience no side effects. I also experienced no side effects from handling the ACQ lumber i.e.; rashes, sneezing, congestion, etc. while building this bench as well as building my deck a few years ago. However that doesn’t mean you won’t. Use your best judgment if you decide to use pressure treated lumber.

As far as being in constant contact with the ACQ lumber, I believe it will be minimal at best. My top is built with regular southern yellow pine which is where I will be doing much of the handling of the bench. The base will just sit there undisturbed. I will have very minimal contact touching the base for any reason.