Thursday, July 31, 2008

Up Next: Giant Built-In Cases

Up next is a set of cases roughly 12' wide and 9' tall with six equally-sized raised panel doors on the lower case. More on this project soon.


This week I installed the set of three built-in bookcases I've been posting about recently. Things were going well until I went to install the last piece of baseboard on the final case. I coped the ends outside in the blistering heat only to find that somehow my piece was 3/8" too short. Maybe I made a mistake...or maybe the heat outside shrunk the board! Naturally I didn't have any more baseboard with me, and so I had to drive back to the shop.

Other than that, the installation went well. I'm looking forward to seeing these cases once Reid and family have painted them and filled them with books.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sawtooth Supports Pt. 2

This afternoon I finished work on the shelves for the built-ins I've been working on. Under most circumstances I prefer to make shelves out of 1" thick poplar. I can't stand the thought of sagging plywood shelves in my customers' homes!

I thought I'd post a couple of pictures detailing how the shelves work with the sawtooth supports. See the shots below for details. All that's left on this project is some finish prep and then installation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sawtooth Shelf Supports

I've been hired by my friend Reid and his wife to make and install built-in bookcases in the alcoves created by the dormer windows in their house.  Reid isn't just any client--he's one of the most talented cabinetmakers I know.  He and I worked together in Harrison Higgins' shop in the 90's, and Reid's still there.  He can produce a truly fine set of chairs with his eyes closed, and as you know, quality chairs are the mark of a craftsman's skill. 

Because these cases are for Reid, I thought I'd make sawtooth shelf supports for them. These supports were a common method of providing shelf adjustability in the days before shelf pins and standards.  A strip with bird's mouth cutouts is attached to each inside corner of the case.  Cleats are made to fit the span between the cutouts, as you see in the photo below.

Once the cleats are in the desired position along the height of the case, shelves (which are notched to fit around the support stripts), lay directly on the cleats.

Making sawtooth shelf supports takes a lot more time than using pins or standards, but they add a nice handmade touch, I think.  

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Blade Hooks

The mantel is on hold for a little while because my clients (and dear friends) just brought home their incredibly cute first daughter! I cannot think of a better reason to delay a project.

As a result, I've had a little downtime in the shop this week. I've been meaning to install some hooks for bandsaw blades, and when inspiration struck yesterday, I started making a few out of old scraps of this-and-that. Here they are.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Next up is a simple mantel for the non-functioning coal fireplace below.  It's in a renovated house in Richmond's Jackson Ward.  Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pedestal Table: The Spider

Traditionally, pedestal tables have a steel brace called a spider attached to their undersides which serves to protect the joint between the legs and column from the stresses of being moved around on the floor.   When made properly, and with modern glues, the long sliding-dovetail joint that attaches the legs is quite robust.  Even so, over the years that joint is bound to suffer a lot of stress from the weight of everything above it including the tabletop itself.  The photo below shows the underside of the pedestal without a spider.  In it you can see the ends of the dovetail-shaped tenons that slide into corresponding mortises on the column.

The first step in making a spider is to come up with a template.  I like to make the central disk separate from the tines that attach to the legs.  That way, the tines can be individually tweaked until they're perfectly centered on their respective legs.  Once I have each tine where I want it, I attach it to the disk with a little spot of glue.

At the shop where I apprenticed, we always made our own spiders from 1/16" thick sheet steel, cutting the pattern with a metal-cutting jigsaw blade.  When I called my old boss Harrison for a couple of reminders about the finer points of spiders, he mentioned that he'd found a local metalworker who would make custom spiders for a very reasonable price.  Below you see the pattern I provided to Larry the Spider Maker and the spider I picked up at his shop this morning.  I was interested to see that the tines were welded on.

A spider should be attached to the pedestal in the four spots between the leg joints and in two spots along the underside of each leg.  I marked the hole locations with a center punch (actually all I had handy was a ground-down nail set) then bored the holes with my drill press set at a very low speed.  I was sure to use plenty of oil as I did so, and I used a scrap of plywood to protect my drill press table from becoming an oily mess.

After countersinking all of the holes, I used a bevel gauge set to the initial angle between the bottom of the column and the legs.  With the spider clamped to my bench I then bent each tine to match that angle.

Once all  of the tines were bent, I was ready to install the spider.

Here's a shot of the spider screwed into place with #10 wood screws.

Tomorrow morning I'll do a little bit more rubbing out and waxing of the finish, and then it will be time to move on to the next project!