Pennsylvania Secretary

I built this Pennsylvania Secretary back in 2004. It was an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine by Ronnie Bird. I fell in love with the idea of making a piece as complicated as this with it’s intrical cubbies and drawers.

The door panels and desk lid were all sliced from a single piece of 2″ thick walnut. I sliced the wood by hand with my hand saw because the 13″ width of the wood was too wide for my band saw that could only rip stock 12″ wide. I remember it being a major pain the ass.

I used a bread board edge on the lid so that it wouldn’t warp. The joint works well because seventeen years later, the lid is still perfectly flat.

I cut the curvature of the drawers on a band saw and smoothed them with my oscillating drum sander. The panel on the small door was a piece of crotch walnut.

There are a few hidden compartments inside the desk where I kept my silver dollar coins that my Mom gave me before she passed away. The columns slide open to keep important documents but I never stored anything in them.

The drawer fronts were sliced from a single piece of curly walnut that I laminated onto a walnut substrate for each drawer. I cut the cabriolet feet on the band saw and then glued each side together.

The lid opens up to act as a working desk but it actually sucks as a desk. The lid is too high off the ground for my liking.

I built the sides and case with 7/8″ thick walnut with red oak secondary wood. I used red oak because I had a boatload of it when I bought a bundle of it from the company I used to work for. They sold it as oak fence boards so the quality of the wood was not the best. I didn’t care because it was seconday wood but it made the piece extremely heavy. I should have used white pine or poplar instead.

I used plywood on the back and drawer bottoms because the expense of making it was getting out of hand. I paid over $600 for all of the brass hardware and the walnut cost me over $800.

As nice as this piece is, it’s been used as a junk drawer all these years as we just store a bunch of crap in it. I used to store my cd collection in the top cabinet but I sold a lot of them a few years ago on half.com when I was uploading my collection into a digital format.

The secretary has been sitting in our garage ever since we got hit with the tornado last year. After the tornado, we had to take all of our furniture out of the house and into pods in our driveway while our house was being put back together. When everything was done, we never brought it back into the house because it’s too big and heavy to move.

I currently have it for sale on Facebook Marketplace for $1800 but I’ll be surprised if anyone buys it. It’s not an antique so it doesn’t have any value in that way and no one buys big pieces of furniture like this anymore. I may have to donate it or just keep it in the garage.

The secretary was fun to make, but I wouldn’t make it again. All it’s good for is to take pictures and show people “look what I made.”

Console Table

I made this table for my wife last year but never blogged about it. Kind of stupid to call yourself MVFlaim Furnituremaker if you never blog about making a piece of furniture. While I was building it, I took a bunch of pictures of the process and intended to show all the steps, but apparently a bug crawled up my ass and for some reason, I deleted all the photos I took. I guess I was having a bad day. So, I had to search my Instagram account to find some pictures to load here.

The five foot long table is a common table you’d find in any furniture store. The table is really nothing special. In fact, the most unique feature of the piece is the drawer fronts with chair caning panels.

I simply made three drawer fronts with a rabbet in the back. I then glued chair canimg on a plywood panel and stuck it in the rabbeted recess. Since the drawer fronts are stuck to the front of each drawer box, the plywood remains stable inside the rabbet and doesn’t move around. I had photos of the entire process but that bug was in my butt pretty far up so they’re gone forever.

I fitted the carcass together and glued and screwed the bottom rails and shelf.

Joinery I used was mortise and tenons I cut on the table saw and chopped with a 3/8″ mortising chisel. The top rail was joined with a hidden dovetail.

Legs were cut from 2″ square poplar boards I glued up and tapered on the band saw. I then cleaned them up with my smooth plane.

This is the table before Anita painted it dark gray and applied the gold handles. Maybe the next peice of furniture I make I’ll be in a better mood and won’t delete the pictures of my progress.

Resizing another Shelving Unit

I was in the process of building another shelving unit for my wife’s new booth in Milford, Ohio. She originally asked me to build it four feet long. However, once I started to attach the shelves to the unit, she wasn’t too thrilled with the overall dimensions. I asked if she wanted it cut down to 36″ long instead of 48″, but she was afraid that it would be too much work. I assured her that I could cut it down without much problem.

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I slapped the unit on top of my workbench and carefully measured where the rails were to be cut. I then grabbed my Festool plunge saw and rail system, clamped it to the lines and ran down the rail cutting as deep the blade would go.

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I then flipped the unit off the bench and cut the two attached shelves in half.

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After one side was free, I unscrewed the pocket holes and broke away the rails with a hammer. I then cleaned the side up with a random orbital sander.

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I then flipped the other side of the unit back onto the bench and re-drilled the pocket holes to the shortened rails. For the two shelves that already had plywood nailed in place, I had to bust out the plywood with a hammer.

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After about twenty minutes, the shelving unit came back together a foot shorter. I cut the remaining plywood to the new measurements and installed them using cleats on the inside of the rails.

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Now it was time for the antique shutters to be screwed onto the sides.

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After a coat of black paint, the shelving unit looks really nice in her new booth.

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The Furniture of The White House

Last week my wife and I decided to take a trip out to Washington DC. She had never been there and I went there on a summer trip when I was in the seventh grade. She booked tickets to go to the White House by contacting our local congressman, Steve Chabot, several weeks in advance.

We arrived at the White House at  7:15 am and stood on the outside by a fence before our tour began at 7:30. The guards made us walk into a fenced corral only to make us leave ten minutes later. None of us knew what was going on until we saw the Secret Service walk down that corral with bomb sniffing dogs after we left. Once we passed that part of security, we had to go though three more security check points before we were ever allowed inside.

The first piece of furniture I saw was a china cabinet with a bunch of presidential plates inside. I whipped out my phone and took as many pictures of the furniture as I could. A lot of the rooms were roped off so I couldn’t get too many close up details of most of the furniture.

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Here is the detail of the cabinet’s molding.

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Here’s a shot of the hand cut dovetails on the drawer. What’s going on with that bottom dovetail? It looks like I cut that one.

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Detail of the finial.

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More details of the cabinet.

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Nice round table with a piece of glass to protect the top.

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Mahogany deck and chair inside one of the rooms.

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A nice hall clock stood on top of a small set of stairs.

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A closer look at the clocks face.

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A nice drop leaf table with a piece of glass fitting over only one side of the drop leaf.

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A mahogany chair sitting in the room with a closeup of the chair’s detail.

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Another table with a piece of fitted glass to protect the top.

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Inside the Red Room with a couple of chairs and what looks like a round game table which I doubt was unless you were playing Q-Bert.

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This secretary desk was my favorite. This stood on the back-end of the Red Room.

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A long dining table where President Trump holds dinners with guests. He was planning on having his birthday dinner here later that night.

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Another side table outside the dining room. Notice the plastic on the bottom to protect the table’s claw feet from visitors.

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Even the doors are made incredibly well with a beaded detail down the edge.

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After we left the White House, the Secret Service rushed us across the street as they didn’t want anyone lallygagging around in the front. After our tour, we walked down the street to a Starbucks to get some coffee where we found out that while we were inside the White House, it was the same time that some goofball loser shot the Congressman in Alexandria, VA which was one of the reasons for the heightened security.

 

Revamping a Dining Table

About twelve years ago I built a dining table from the plans out of Woodsmith magazine. While it served it’s purpose, it wasn’t exactly the nicest thing in the house. I made the top out of a piece of low-grade oak plywood that I bought at Home Depot. Not only that, but the table was huge being 44″ wide. My wife Anita asked if I could make a new one, or at least make a new top that was more in style. We decided that making a new top out of southern yellow pine and try weathering it making it look aged.

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The easy part was buying four 2 x 10’s, ripping them 9″ wide by six feet long and gluing them together. After they were glued, I planed the tops of the boards straight removing all the mill marks in the process.

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After the top was planed and sanded with 150 grit sandpaper, Anita applied mixture of steel wool and apple cider vinegar onto the boards to tone down the yellowness of the southern yellow pine.

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We thought it would be a good idea to stain the top while it was already on the table. I removed the original top of the table and flipped over the base onto the new top to decide how much I would need to cut the sides down.

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After messing around with the legs for a few minutes, I decide that the sides should be 24″ wide.

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I cut the sides to 24″ and rerouted the dado on both boards for the corner brackets. I then used pocket screws to re-attach the sides to the legs.

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Using metal corner brackets, I simply attached the top to the base. The new top made the table look more like a farm table.

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Anita then stained the table with Special Walnut, then Classic Gray stain from Minwax.

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Once dry, she applied hemp oil and gave the top a good waxing. She then painted the base with grey chalk paint. When done, it looked like a completely different table.

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A close up the table you can see how the southern yellow pine took on a deep rich tone. You can also see how the original black paint shows through the grey paint after Anita sanded the base a little bit. This has been one of those projects we should have done years ago.

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Why my Wife Hates Woodworking Magazines

I received the latest issue of a major woodworking magazine a few days ago and my wife Anita was flipping through it. She came across an article about making a cabinet that hid a high end mixer and in disgust, threw the magazine down and said “why would anyone make this piece of shit?” For years she’s been telling me that the projects in these woodworking magazines I subscribe to often have articles with outdated projects that were only popular in the 1980’s. I never really thought about it until she said that.

She does have a point. The writer of the article wrote that the “appliance garage acts like a cabinet effectively cloaking an unsightly blender.” I don’t know about anyone else, but my wife prizes her Kitchen Aid mixer. She would never even think about hiding it on her countertop. If anything, she would highlight it.

Don’t get me wrong, not all the projects in the woodworking magazines I get are outdated, but it does seem sometimes the furniture that are featured would look nice in my Grandma’s house. So much so, that when I look for designs of furniture that hip and popular, I often look at design magazines. Below is the latest issue of Country Living. When flipping through it, I came across several pieces of furniture that would appeal to a younger generation and would be fun to build.

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Here’s a nice deck lounge chair that looks like it would fit nicely on a cruise ship. The chair would be made out of weather resistant wood and would be a challenge to build with all the hinging and sculpted parts. This chair would look real nice on the cover of a woodworking magazine.

Here’s a simple bench made from reclaimed wood. These types of benches are real hot right now in the marketplace. In fact, anything made from reclaimed wood is hot. It’s hard to even find old barn wood on Craigslist in my area and when I do, the owner wants a premium for the wood. A project like this could be tackled in a weekend and would be a real hit with young women.

The real nice piece for me in the magazine is this architect’s desk that these ladies are sitting at. The wood looks to be made from stained maple or birch and apparently has some wrought iron hardware on it. It would be hard to draw a plan from this little photo, but it could be done. If a woodworking magazine featured this desk on their cover I bet it would be a hit.

These are just a few examples of the many furniture that are in these design magazines. If you have time, go to your local bookstore, grab a cup of coffee and browse through some of them looking for ideas. You may be surprised what inspires you. By the way, take a look at what is on the counter in the background on the cover of the Country Living magazine.

Making Chalky Textured Paint

If you’re familiar with Shabby Chic furniture repurposing, then you probably know all about Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint®. However, if you’re a woodworker who subscribes to every woodworking magazine out there, then you probably have no idea what Chalk Paint® even is.

Chalk Paint®, not to be confused with chalkboard paint, is a very easy to use paint that requires no sanding or priming to the wood. It is often used to revitalized antique furniture and leaves pieces with a warm matte finish. Simply wipe off the dirt on a piece of furniture and start painting. Its ease of use is what makes the paint so popular. The paint get its name from the chalky texture it leaves on the wood. The paint gives a piece of furniture a nice warm tone as opposed to the harsh look lacquer will often give. However, at nearly $40 a quart, the stuff is not cheap.

Annie Sloan is the British lady who invented the paint several decades ago. In fact, just recently her company trademarked the name Chalk Paint® creating a stink around the industry as there are several other companies out there branding their paint as a chalk paint, but only Annie Sloan makes the official Chalk Paint®.

Making paint with a chalky texture is not all that difficult. Many people will add an additive to latex paint like sanding grout or baking soda. Annie Sloan claims that the majority of her additive, but not all of it, is calcium carbonate also known as limestone. You can buy bags of calcium carbonate on Amazon for about $15.00. Each bag will make a couple of gallons of paint. Even though you’re technically not making Chalk Paint®, I found the additive to be close enough that it works just fine for me.

I bought a quart of Flat Black latex enamel at Lowes for about $10.00. Then following the instructions on the bag, I poured half of my paint into a container and added a 1/4 cup of calcium carbonate (limestone) additive to  the paint. I then added just a little bit of warm water to the to container to thin it out since the limestone thickens the paint. After stirring for a few minutes the paint is ready to use.

As you can see in the picture, the paint has a thickness to it. I simply brushed on a couple of coats waiting about an hour between coats. I then lightly sanded the piece with 320 grit sand paper knocking the paint off the corners and edges to give the piece a worn look. After wiping off the dust from the sand paper, I applied a wax to the piece to give it some sheen and to protect the paint.

Up close you can see how the piece is worn away a little bit at the corners and edges. What I like most about making this paint is that its intent is to make the piece look old. If the piece of furniture ever gets banged around and gets dings or dents on it, it will just add more character to the piece.

People who make their own chalky textured paint claim the biggest advantage is that you can make any color you want, which is true. However, my wife has found that the additive slightly changes the color of the paint. So if you go to the paint store and fall in love with a certain color, once you add the additive you may be disappointed with the color you end up with.

Updating a China Cabinet

My wife bought this china cabinet at the Springfield Antique Show in Springfield, OH in September. It originally came with two glass paneled doors but she wanted to take them off and open up the top part of the cabinet for easy storage. We have a similar china cabinet in our dining room now and opening and closing the doors every time I want to unload my wallet and keys is kind of a pain in the ass, so taking the doors off permanently make sense to me.

You’ll see a lot of china cabinets with their doors removed in antique stores but most of them simply take the doors off and paint the piece leaving the sides of the case 3/4″ thin with the hinge mortises exposed and all. I knew I didn’t want to have that look, so I decided to add stiles to front to complete the case.

I started by milling two pieces of poplar 1″ x 1 3/4″ x 36″ and laid out where I wanted to rout fluting down each piece.

I then clamped the pieces in my modern Moxon vise and used a 1/4″ fluting bit to rout a flute about 1/4″ deep down the front of the stile. I opted to have three flutes 1/4″ apart down each stile.

The scrap portion of the stiles is key. Here I gauged where the fluting should go and then tested the layout. As you can tell, I had to move over the middle flute just a tad in order for it to line up evenly with the other two flutes on the side.

After the fluting was routed, I sanded the stiles and glued them onto the cabinet.

The reason I decided to use 1″ thick poplar 1 3/4″ wide is because I wanted to match the stiles to the top rail as it was 1″ x 1 3/4″. Had I used wood that was only 3/4″ thick it wouldn’t have looked as nice appearing like the stiles were an add on which I did not want.

The fluting on the china cabinet’s leg started up 2″ from the bottom so I mirrored the detail starting and stopping the fluting on the stiles 2″ from the top and bottom.

This is how the cabinet turned out. The fluted stiles gives the piece a nice added touch and finishes it off. It will be sold in my wife’s booth at a vintage designer’s market called “Over the Moon” in Lawrenceburg, IN near the end of the month. I think my wife secretly doesn’t want it to sell because she wants to keep it. I can’t blame her.

Using a Vacuum Press

Every once in a while I pull out a tool that I haven’t used in long time. I bought this vacuum press about ten years ago figuring I would use it all the time making custom plywoods out of exotic veneer but that’s never been the case. I think originally I saw David Marks use one on Woodworks and thought to myself that I had to have one. Even though I’ve only used this vacuum press about four times since I bought it, I’m still glad I did because now I need it.

I make thick wooden letters for my wife Anita. She paints them different colors and sells them in her booth. I usually make EAT which women display on their kitchen tables. The letters are made from 1 1/4″ MDF however, I can’t find a local supplier for 1 1/4″ thick MDF so I buy 1/2″ and 3/4″ MDF and laminated them together. Next month Anita is going to have a booth at a local Shabby Chic design show called Over The Moon in Lawrenceburg, IN. I figured I’d help her out and make more EATs and a few NOELs for Christmas. She sells them for $5 – $6 a letter which isn’t much but they are super easy and quick to make. Plus everyone she sells will help pay for the cost of the booth.

In order to laminate the two boards of MDF, I need the ability to properly clamp the boards together so that they press against each other equally. That’s where my vacuum press comes in handy. In order to maximize the torque of my vacuum press I built a clamping box for it. The box is nothing more than two 3/4″ MDF boards with grids cut on one side and glossy laminate on the other with the bottom board wrapped in a frame. The grids on the top help with air flow as the vacuum is working, and the laminate helps any glue squeeze out from sticking to the inside of the box.

Using the press is quite simple. I spread glue all over ope of the pieces I want to laminate making sure I get a 100% coverage. I get better results only spreading glue over one of the pieces and not both. When both pieces have glue on them, they tend to slide around when I put them in the box.  Once both pieces are stuck together, I place the top half of the box on top of them to act as the press when the air is removed.

I slide the entire box into the an industrial plastic bag with a nozzle on top and use a couple of wooden cauls to close the end of the bag. I then use as many clamps as needed to seal the bag so that it’s air tight.

I then hook up my vacuum press and turn it on for a few minutes to suck out all the air like a gigantic Food Saver machine.

 

You can see how tight the bag becomes once the vacuum starts working. After I’m satisfied with the pressure, I leave the boards to cook for a couple of hours. It’s important to turn off the vacuum and listen carefully for any air leaks that may be present. Notice the orange Jorgensen clamp at the bottom where I had to fold the plastic on top of itself in order to stop a leak. 

After a couple of hours, the boards come out perfectly laminated together. If you’re interested in learning more about vacuum presses, go to www.joewoodworker.com. It’s where I bought my vacuum and all the necessary accessories.