Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oak Library Table

I'm sorry I've been away from the blog for so long, kind readers.  It's been a very busy time at the shop.  I've recently completed a suite of museum cases for our state capitol (more about that in another post soon), several stain-grade architectural projects, and a variety of smaller odds-and-ends.

Presently I'm working on the library table below.  It's in red oak which will be bleached and limed.  The photo shows the piece where I left it tonight.  Tomorrow I'll be refining some of the shapes a bit more and adding feet--almost more like big toes--to the ends of the bases.

For those of you who follow theses posts and wonder if I actually turned the big columns on my grandfather's old lathe, the answer is yes.

Here's a series of shots detailing the construction of the breadboard ends.  This first photo gives you a sense of the overall design.  A 3/8" stub tenon fits into a groove running the length of the breadboard.  Longer tenons are spaced along the tabletop's width.

During the penultimate dry fit I bore 17/64" holes through the breadboards and the tenons on the end of the top.  You'll see below how the outermost holes in the tenons are elongated to allow for the top's expansion and shrinkage.  In fact, only the two center tenons are glued for this same reason.  

Below you'll see the final joint with its pegs sheared flush with the top's surface.

Lastly, here's a shot of finish samples I'll FedEx to my client tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Amazing Shop Improvement!

Anyone who has worked through a Virginia summer without air conditioning will appreciate the photo below. I was reluctant to leave the doors open last summer as I'm constantly moving between shop and office. With steel gates like these, I can open the doors in the morning and leave them open until I leave at night!

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Gargantuan Jointer Next Door

I thought I'd seen some large jointers in my time, but the one pictured below, which is sitting in a field next door to my shop, is simply gargantuan. It's an American Woodworking with a 20" cutterhead, but the the tables are a full 27" wide. It has a huge oil cup, presumably because it's still got its original babbitt bearings. My 12" jointer is the same brand and of a similar vintage (ca. 1910), but was retrofitted with ball bearings at some point in its past.

This monster has a 7.5 hp motor. I've heard that enormous jointers like this one were frequently used in the casket making industry, but I've never found any more detail about how, exactly, they were used. I certainly wouldn't be comfortable shoving a 19" wide piece of maple across this thing's tables--would you?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Check Out Our New Web Site!

Bankston & Bailey LLC has a brand new web site!

Check it out HERE!

Site design by The Box Creative.

Programming by SkyBlueCanvas.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Interview with Yours Truly

Here is an excerpt from an interview fellow blogger Karl Rookey recently conducted with me. Click the READ MORE link at the bottom of the excerpt if you'd like to have a look at the whole thing. Karl intends this to be the first in a series of conversations with pro woodworkers, so check back at his blog regularly for updates. I'd like to say an enthusiastic thank you to Karl for inviting me to participate!


Interview with Tim McCready

One of the pleasures of having a public blog site comes from relationships developed over the Web. Somehow, people find the blog, and sometimes they comment. Sometimes comments become conversations, and sometimes (read "this time") those conversations lead to something more.

Tim McCready—long-time cabinet maker, author of The Wood Mechanic blog, and president of Bankston & Bailey LLC, a fine woodworking shop in Virginia—commented on one of my entries, and during the resulting off-blog conversation I mentioned wanting to start a series of interviews and shop tours with dedicated woodworkers. Tim agreed to be the first interview. I think when you read the interview you'll be happy he did.

How did you start woodworking?

I started woodworking completely by chance...


Friday, August 01, 2008

Final Pedestal Table Photos

Here are the final photos of the dining room table I recently completed. Thanks to Jay Paul for these terrific shots!

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!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pedestal Table: Photo Tour

Anything I may have posted this past week would have amounted to watching finish dry, I'm afraid. In fact, the table is not completely done just yet, but I thought I'd offer an update all the same.

Here's the top with its low-luster finish.  I wash-coated the raw maple with 1 lb-shellac then water stained the top.  Several additional wash coats of shellac followed.  I rubbed out the shellac with 0000 steel wool, removed any steel residue with Naptha, and applied a coat of Minwax Antique oil.  A day later I applied a second coat of oil.  Two days after that I rubbed out the oil with steel wool, buffed with burlap and achieved the final desired sheen by buffing with a soft cotton cloth.

Detail shot of the apron with its vertically-oriented 
quarter sawn maple veneer and small cockbead.

The pedestal.

A view from above with the table in its extended position.

The underside with the table in its extended position.

The underside with the top closed.

Traditional table yokes hold the two halves together.  The leaf also has keepers so that the same yokes hold it in position as well.  Note how the keepers are at a very slight angle off parallel with the seam.  This pulls the halves together as the yoke is inserted.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pedestal Table: Beginning the Finish

Over the weekend I got started on the finish for the pedestal table I've been working on. The clients and I decided on a light honey color for the piece. At the point pictured, the table has been wash coated with a 1-lb cut of shellac, stained (with a water-based aniline dye), and topcoated with a few additional wash coats of shellac. I expect to build up enough shellac on the base today so that I can rub and wax it tomorrow. The top will be receiving a few coats of Minwax's Antique Oil, which I think creates a wonderful, tough, low-luster finish.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Veneering Curved Aprons

A few days ago I veneered the curved aprons for the table I've been working on.  Veneering curves along a large radius can be tricky, especially when there is no practical way to accomplish the task using a vacuum press.   I decided to break the veneering of each apron into several separate glue-ups.  This way I only worked about 1/4 of each apron at a time.  More on this in a moment.  

In the meantime, the photo below shows the set of tools I used for  this process.  In the picture you can see regular PVA glue, perforated veneer tape, a glue roller (or brayer), an Exacto knife, packing tape, a glue pallet, and a piece of sandpaper.  It's important to have all of the required tools close at hand before any glue is spread.

One of the most important tools in any veneering operation--but especially when veneering curves--is the caul one selects.  The caul helps spread clamping force equally across the entire surface of the veneer, ensuring good adherence to the substrate.  The trouble with cauls is that they almost always accomplish this task imperfectly.  Some people use thin packing foam, others use plain poster board, and many people use a layer of cork.  I've tried all of these with mixed results.  I was all set to buy a length of cork at the hardware store last week, when I saw a roll of the material pictured below.  It's sold as "floor liner" and appears to be the stuff you wipe your feet on before entering a building on a rainy day.  I immediately thought it would make a terrific caul.  The rubber material has just the right ratio of rigidity to give, and the "kerfs" along the backside allow it to follow a curve well.  Besides all of that, it's marvelously inexpensive and it resists glue.

I attached a piece of the rubber caul material to a length of 1/4" plywood with one centered piece of packing tape.  I had made sure earlier that 1/4" ply would bend around the radius of the apron without cracking.

Long before I spread any glue on the apron, I cut and taped my 3" lengths of veneer.  I had purchased quarter sawn maple veneer which came in three 8' lengths.  I used two of these lengths, cutting 3" pieces from each one, numbering as I progressed.  Thus I had two #1's, two #2's, and so on.  I then taped together four pieces, bookmatching the edges.  

Perforated veneer tape is still my choice for building-up any kind of veneer panel.  Getting the moisture level just right for the tape can be difficult, but I find that a sponge with as much water wrung out of it as can be done by hand provides just about the right level.

My next step was to figure out how to hold the apron substrate in position so that I could apply as many clamps as possible to it without causing it to twist and break.  I decided to clamp it on blocks to my work table in three places.  This felt pretty solid.

This next shot shows all the clamps in place squeezing the 1/4" ply, the rubber caul, and the veneer against the substrate.  Before I got to this point, I had masked the area of the substrate adjacent to the beginning of the veneer panel using packing tape.  That way, when I removed the clamps I could simply peel the packing tape, leaving glue-free substrate for the next panel.  I worked my way around the perimeter of both aprons this way until they were completely veneered.

Next, I scored along the back side of the veneer along the edge of the apron with my Exacto knive.  I then bent the veneer towards me, breaking its fibers.  A quick snap away from me, and the excess veneer broke off. After a light sanding with 120 grit sandpaper along the edges, my veneering was complete.

If any of this is unclear and you'd like more detail, just leave a comment, and I'll be sure to respond!