Saturday, February 27, 2010

Table Making- Ready to Finish

The leaf is a good fit.

I measure the space and shape blocks on the side sander.

The blocks are glued and screwed to the skirts, and screwed to the tabletop.

Here's the table assembled, two leaves stored.


Base and chair by David Wigelsworth.

I mark the table and leaves with corresponding numbers, to make it easy to find the best layout.

The table is then torn down for sanding and finishing. All parts are stamped as they are disassembled.

When the rails come off I have access to be able to put blocks behind the table skirts.

The bottom of the table top is sanded at 120, then the top is sanded 120, 180, and 220, on the stroke sander.

I break the edge with a hard block and sandpaper. I prefer a flat break to a rounded one, a flat one reflects light like a facet.

Now it's to the finishing room for oil and lacquer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Table Making- Assembly

I use Z-clips (table floats) to fix my skirts to the tabletop to allow for wood movement. I have a spacer that I use with the plate joiner to make the slots. I centre one slot on each skirt, and two as close to the corner block as the tool will allow.

I use a clamp to bring the sides square to the ends, and a depth gauge to centre it on the table. When it's aligned I screw the ends down.

Then the z-clips are fastened down, keeping the skirt parallel to the rails.

A piece of poplar scrap is milled flat on one side to use as a guide for mounting the leaf skirts. I work one leaf at a time, being careful to maintain the grain across all three leaves. The poplar is clamped to the table skirts, and the leaf skirt is centred and screwed down. We're at the end of winter, the leaf will be expanding from here on. I can go almost all the way across the leaf with the skirt with no fear of it interfering with the table closing.

Keeping the grain continuous and the gaps tight gives the best appearance.

Next I make outriggers. These parts are the mount for the rails, serve as leaf storage, and make it possible for the table to be disassembled from the top.

The thickness of the extension rails and top, added to the height of the base, is 29". The outriggers need to be 1" thick to make my completed table 30" tall. I want to raise the middle 3/4", this leaves just enough room to slide my leaf between it and the bottom of the table. Raising this area as much as I can helps hide the leaf skirts when they are stored.

I start by milling 8/4 walnut to the 1 3/4" thickness and long enough to span the distance between the rails. I then mount my full dado stack in the tablesaw to create the step.

The blade is raised to 3/4". The fence is set so that from it to the left edge of the blade is 1/8" more than the rails are wide. I use the mitre gauge with a poplar backer board to eliminate blowout. I start with the very end of the stock, working my way inward. Clearing this out first means there is no material between the blade and the fence, eliminating kickback. I do this until my stock is 1/8" from the fence.

I climbcut the last 1/8". The stock is pushed tight against the fence and drawn, slowly and under control, backwards across the blade. Never climbcut more than 1/8", as it becomes difficult to control.

Both ends of both outriggers are cut like this.

The result of the climbcut is a razor sharp shoulder, free of blowout.

I mark and drill for the hanger bolts that fix the outriggers to the base. I mount them, and check how well the leaves fit while in storage.

They are a little tight, so I rip them down and champher the outside edges.

I then remount them to the base.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Table Making- Corner Blocks

I'm a big believer in corner blocks. I'll use them as structural reinforcement whenever I can. The mitre is inherently a weak joint, and susceptible to breakage because of people pulling on the skirt to open the table. A block is necessary in this situation.

I think the difference between hand and factory made is in the details. Shaped corner blocks are one of the things I do to make my furniture stand out from pieces that are mass produced.

I start by milling two pieces of scrap 6/4 walnut. I then layout my blocks, two per piece, leaving room for the kerf between.

I then clamp the pieces together tightly, to avoid slippage, and use a 3/4" forestner bit to drill a hole between them.

The pieces are then reversed, and the second hole drilled.

The mitre saw is used to cut the parts from the stock.

A mark is drawn in the recess, 1/2" from the top, on both sides.

Two 3/16" clearance holes are then drilled.

The edge sander makes quick work of sanding the show faces and lightly champhering the edges.

A spindle sander drum and a hand block break the edges of the recess.

The skirt mitres have set up enough to be able to be gently handled by now. I glue and screw the blocks into position. Normally I use four screws, but these skirts get too thin for more than two. A folded piece of sandpaper acts as a shim to prevent the block being lower than the bottom edge of the skirt.

The joinery is cleaned up, glue squeeze out removed, and the bottom edge of the skirt is given a heavy break with sandpaper.

I like details like this, hidden from casual observation. They are like a treat for a person to find, a reward for study and observation. When found they become a secret shared between maker and client. They are a hallmark of quality and conscientious craftsmanship. I like to think they won't be noticed until the table has lost it's novelty, and will reignite the excitement felt when it was a new addition to the home.

Table Making- Skirt Assembly

I started the day by cutting the leaf skirts to length. I start by squaring the best end of the stock on the mitre saw. Then I cut to length using a stop block set to the same measurement as my leaf width. I do leave a gap in the skirts, as the seasons change I want the table to close before the skirts touch, but I think a gap bigger than 3/32" gives an unrefined look. The difference between the leaf width and the skirt length is made when I dress the ends of the skirts to remove the saw marks. When using a stop block on the mitre saw it's important to let the blade stop moving before it's raised to prevent damage to the stock.

I want continious grain across these skirts, as they come off the saw I label them.

I then mark for mounting screws. I draw a line the width of my squares blade across the ends of the table skirts and both ends of the leaf skirts.

I set my marking gauge to half the width of the bottom of the skirts.

I mark the tops of the skirts in the same way, being sure to reference my gauge against the back of the skirt.

I now counterbore the bottoms of the skirts with a 1/4" Lee Valley brad point bit. These are excellent bits, sharp and accurate. They will cut a clean exit hole with no blowout. They are the best woodworking bit I have ever used. I lift the bit repeatedly as I make the hole to clear chips, to prevent bit wander. The hole is drilled to 3/4" of the skirts top.

A 3/16" clearance hole is now drilled from the top. Careful layout ensures the two holes meet accurately.

The skirts should be as ready for finish as possible before assembly. I don't want to risk breaking the mitre joint during surface prep. I use a mitre gauge in the edge sander to remove the saw marks.

I use my handplane to clean off the tablesaw marks and layout lines from the skirt bottoms.

I do the same on the small flat at the top of the face.

The skirts profile makes it hard to clamp the mitre in place. I use yellow glue in the biscuit slot, and hold the joint closed with my hand. Cyanoacrylate is applied to the top of the mitre, and after fifteen seconds the bond is strong enough to hold while the glue dries.

I then leave the joint to set up while I make corner blocks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Table Making- Skirt Clean Up

Table sawn coves are fun until it's time to clean up the profile. The hundreds of deep cross grain scratches will take hours to sand out. The right tool for this job is a gooseneck scraper.

I bought this one on sale last fall, this is the first time I've had the opportunity to use it. I began by jointing the edges square to the faces with my Lee Valley Jointer/Edger. This is a nice tool, but a shopmade jig can be easily made to hold a file square to the scraper or saw. I clamped the jointer in a vise, and used a rolling, sliding motion to joint the edge. I use an old bench for this type of work, I don't want metal shavings anywhere near my woodworking bench.

I then stone the edge on my 1000x waterstone. This soon wears a groove in the stone, rendering it useless for honing blades. I reserve one edge for scrapers only, and use different shims to avoid previous grooves. I use the same rolling sliding technique until the file marks are gone.

I then clamp the scraper in the vise and use my Veritas Tri-Burnisher to roll a heavy hook around the perimeter of the scraper.

I put on a pot of coffee, tune the radio to CBC, clamp the skirts between the dogs, and get to work. Tablesawn coves are notoriously difficult to clean up completely, a low angle desk light makes it easier to see surface flaws. I scrape the saw marks off, then refine the face with sandpaper wrapped around a rubber oscillating spindle sander drum. I work my way through 120, 150, and 180 grits.

From there it's to the tablesaw to rip off the ledge I made for the coving process.

It's now time to mitre the skirts to length. I use the mitresaw for this process. I start with the end skirts. First I trim off the best end.

I use the same spindle sander drum as a clamp pad. When mitering on the chopsaw a clamp must always be used, as the blade will want to pull your stock into the cut, making it inaccurate. I cut into the face of the skirt, so blowout is confined to the backside.

I clamp on a stop to cut the other end, making my end skirts the same length. I cut them so there is an inch reveal between the top of the skirt and the beginning of the roundover.

It's important to me that my side skirts have continuous grain across the two halves. I chop the full length stock in half, marking the mating parts.

This cut now becomes my reference end. I register it against a stop and mitre the other ends, making all four parts equal in length. They are also cut to a 1" reveal to the start of the edge profile.

Most people open and close their tables by grabbing the skirt and pulling. I warn customers against this practise, but I build for this type of abuse as much as possible. For strength as well as an alignment aid while glueing, I put a biscuit in the mitre.

I start by securing the skirt in my end vise. A mark is made 1" from the top of the skirt. The risk of the ends of the slot being exposed is high, so I skew it to top where it won't be seen.

I want the slot closer to the inside of the corner than the stock fence will allow, so I use transfer tape to adhere a 1/8" shim to it. I leave a small gap at the bottom so I can still see my registration mark. The fence is tipped to 45°, all the lock knobs are tightened, and I check to be sure I'm cutting for a #10 biscuit.


Plate joiners are dangerous. The blade is hidden giving a false sense of security. I've seen a co-worker nearly loose a thumb to this machine. Always clamp your stock.

This procedure is paticularly risky because the point tipped screws on either side of the blade do not engage the stock. These screws resist the rotation of the blade. Because the blade does not have this resistance there is a tendancy for the machine to pull to the left. Do not have your hand beside the tool. Use your left hand to plunge the cutter, slowly so it does not grab. Your right hand secures the fence to the top of the stock. Do not wrap your fingers around the work piece, if the blade emerges from the other side you will be hurt.

That's as far as I got today, the afternoon was taken by a delivery. One of my favourite things about repeat customers is the opportunity to visit previous pieces in their new home.

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I'm a woodworker on the Canadian prairie.