Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Creating the Cap Rail

When we last met, I had finished making and gluing the plinth on to the pulpit. The next step is to cover the upper edges of the pulpit with the cap rail.

The cap rail is made up of 11 boards 3/4" thick by 2 3/4" wide. They get mitered where they meet at the corners. Since the corners in the center rear are cut off, they get mitered at that point as well. It gets even more complicated because the pulpit is made of 3 carcases that are bolted together. And there are handles, to boot!

The pieces that sit on top of the handles need to be wide enough that they cover the corner posts, but they also need to be narrow enough that a person can get their hands into the handles and hold on. This means that:

  • The pieces for the wing carcases need to be 2" wide at the rear, then narrow to the thickness of a 3/4" piece of plywood by the handle holes, then widen back to 2" near the point near the miter point.
  • The pieces for the center carcase need to be 1 3/4" wide at the rear, as that's the width of the rear post, then narrow to the thickness of a 3/4" piece of plywood by the handle holes, then widen back up to 1 3/4" near the miter point.
  • The pieces for the center carcase need to widen to 2 3/4" at the front in order to have the proper over hang that the rest of the parts have.

I had originally designed a complicated shape on the end of the front pieces for the wings where they meet the center pieces. They essentially needed to be mitered in two directions. That is, they needed to be mitered to go around the corner of the wing, and they needed to be mitered to meet the overhang on the center carcase. The picture below is a top view of the pulpit, generated by SketchUp, showing the pulpit as I had originally designed it, and it shows what I'm talking about.

The next picture, also from SketchUp, shows the shapes of the center carcase parts. One side is a mirror image of the other. The top piece in the picture is common to the wings. The pieces for the wings are similarly shaped, but wider because of the wider post. The other part is shorter & almost triangular in shape (see the picture above).

As always, I got started by cutting the stock to rough size, jointing, and planing it to thickness. I cut the pieces for everything except the parts that cover the ply partitions that meet 3" wide; I cut the other parts 4 1/2" wide. It was my intention to get the wing pieces & the center pieces from the wider boards.

I started by making the parts for the wings. I made the parts that go over the ends & the front first & mitered them. I used my Osbourne EB3 to cut the miters. I could have used my miter saw, but this worked just as well, and was more convenient, as my miter saw was in the shed.

At first, I decided to miter the front pieces for the wings in one direction only, instead of in two, and just let them meet the center carcase at a butt joint. The wings are only bolted to the center carcase, after all. So I cut the end of the front square & to length and then cut the miter for the mating part. And I made an error.

It turns out I cut this part 1/4" too short. I didn't have my drawing in front of me & I forgot that there is a 1/4" thick faux rail that overlaps the corner. Now I had to make up that 1/4", and I didn't want to just remake the part. I had extra stock, but I've gone through enough at this point, and I was trying to use parts that were cut consecutively from the same board. This makes the grain nearly continuous as it goes around the top.

So I ended up changing the shape of the part that covers the ply partition. I make it longer & added a tongue 1/4" wide that would make up for the missing 1/4" of length of the front piece. And I decided to go ahead & miter the front piece in both directions. This effectively shortened the length of this tongue.

To make this shape, I first added a tall auxiliary fence to my miter stock miter gauge. I then nibbled away about 3/8" to 1/2" of material near where the base of the tongue would meet the miter I needed to meet the front piece. I could then remove the rest of the material to form the tongue by making a stopped rip cut, and the material would fall away free.

I then set my table saw's blade bevel angle to 45° and made the miter cut. Next I returned the blade to 90° and cut the stock to width. This formed a piece from which I would get one half of the handle and the short piece that meets the front piece.

Next I took out my Osbourne EB3 & determined the miter angle that I needed to use to cut the miter piece from the handle piece. That turned out to be exactly 12°. I set the EB3 to that angle. I now determined where I needed to make the cut and carefully lined that point up with the blade. I cut the mitered piece free, and then I turned the remaining piece over (placing the face that had been toward the blade toward the miter gauge) and made the mating miter cut.

To keep everything balanced, I had to make both wings identically, so I repeated these steps for the other wing.

Next, I had to make the parts for the center section. I used a similar procedure, except that I attached the blanks to each other using double stick tape. I made sure the upper faced of both boards faced each other. This allowed me to make both parts for the center section at the same time, and each would be a perfect mirror of the other.

I had to make these parts twice. The first time through, I had made everything perfectly, but then I went & cut the miter for the front piece backwards. There was no way out of this mistake except to remake the parts, which I did. Also, I separated the two parts from each other before I cut the 12° miters, to make sure that the miters were in the right place!

At this point, I attached all of the parts that needed no further shaping to the wings. That is, the parts that all met at a 45° miter. I used glue & pocket hole screws to attach these parts to the carcases. Putting them on the carcase now would protect them from being dropped accidentally & getting banged up.

The next step was to produce two templates for the handle parts. To do this, I took two pieces of 3/4" ply scrap and cut them a little wider than the parts & a few inches longer. Next, I took some measurements from the pulpit & decided where I wanted the curves to be. I transferred the measurements to the ply & drove brads into the proper points.

Next, I took a piece of oak scrap & cut a strip about 1/16" thick from it. I threaded the strip through the brads and that was my curve. I traced the curve with a pencil onto the ply. Then I removed the brads and went to the band saw. After cutting the waste away, I took them to my drill press & installed my 2" drum (the biggest I have). I then sanded everything smooth & to the line.

After the templates were done, I was able to use them to cut the shape I needed out of the stock & pattern route the parts smooth. I then took out my 3/8" radius round over bit & rounded over the edges that needed it. I then did some sanding to blend everything together & make everything smooth.

It turns out, though, that I didn't make the dip I needed in these pieces deep enough -- they overhung the handles by about 1/4". So I took out my card scraper & removed the extra material. That was followed by some more sanding.

The last operation before I could attach these parts to the carcases was to cut the parts to length using a plumb cut. I used my bevel gauge to get this angle & transfer it to the miter gauge. And when that was done, I attached them to the carcases.

I put the carcases together & I then did even more sanding & some planing to get the parts smooth & aligned & level. I wanted everything to feel like one handle when the carcases are put together.

The following pictures show the finished cap rails. The first is a 3/4 view from the right front side.

Here's a shot showing the handles.

Looking down on the center section.

And another shot of the handles from the other side.

If you look closely in these pictures, you can see that I also made & installed the lectern support blocks with their shelf pin holes. The lectern will be hinged at the edge closest to the speaker. The shelf pins will then support the lectern & any notes the speaker has at the angle of their choosing. Or they can leave it flat & put a laptop computer on top,

We're getting very close to the end now. Next up, the maple trim goes on.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Here a Plinth, There a Plinth . . .

Time for another update on the pulpit. I'm getting near to the end of it now!

Just to remind you where the pulpit project stands so far: I've got the three carcases put together. I've modified the carcases by cutting off the rear corners on the 4 ply partitions. I've made a design change to add handles at my pastor's request. I've actually made & installed the handles into the ply partitions. The next task to tackle is to make the plinth that goes all the way around the bottom of the pulpit.

For those of you who don't know what a "plinth" is, it's the sub-base that goes all the way around the bottom of the pulpit. It's made of thick boards that are mitered at the outside corners. An ogee trim molding will wrap the bottom, hiding the joints between the plinth & the carcases.

The stock for the plinth I had was 6/4 by 9" x 48". It needed to be thicknessed to 1 5/16" thick. And, of course, I needed to rip the three boards in half before I could joint them. The stock had a few ugly black knots on a couple of the boards, and one board had some perfectly round holes about 1/16" in diameter. These looked like bug holes. The holes weren't growing & there was no dust near the board, so I'm pretty sure the critters were dead. I've never had any wood with such bug tracks in it before, so this was a bit different for me.

After ripping, jointing, and thicknessing, I ripped everything to 4 1/4". The final width needed to be 4", but I wanted to leave some room for adjusting the alignment of the grain, if needed. Next, I cut a 3/4" wide by 3/8" deep rabbet along one edge of each board. The way the pulpit is designed, this rabbet matches up with the 3/8" rabbet I cut on the bottom of the corner posts. The rabbet also give me more gluing surface.

After cutting the rabbet, I had to figure out how to cut up the boards to get the parts I needed. I went back to my SketchUp drawing & took the dimensions from it. Then I imported these into CutList Plus & had it generate the layouts. Then I began to cut the stock.

Because the corners were all mitered, I figured I'd use my 10" chop saw to get good 45° cuts. So I went out & I bought a new 10" thin kerf cross cut blade to use on the chop saw. I mounted the blade & ripped a ply scrap about 36" long to 4 1/2" wide. I intended to use this scrap as an auxiliary fence to back up the cuts on the miter saw & reduce tear out. Then I mounted the auxiliary fence to the saw.

That's when I found that my chop saw doesn't have the capacity to cut through anything that tall. So I tried ripping 1/2" off of the auxiliary fence. The saw cut through the aux fence, so I marked where I wanted to make my first cut on my stock. I put the stock in the saw & lined up my marks. And that's when I found that my saw can't cut all the way through 4 1/4" wide stock, either.

So I removed the new blade from the chop saw, put the chop saw away, and mounted the new blade on my table saw. I then titled the blade to 45°. Some test cuts confirmed the blade was at a true 45°. And I started cutting.

Rather than trust the dimensions on the plan, I tried to determine the length by placing the stock against the place it had to go & marking it. This worked great, yet somehow I managed to screw up one piece in the back of the pulpit. I cut it too short.

The pieces on the back of the wings have one mitered corner & one cut at 90°. The piece in the back on the center section has two 90° corners. When I cut the piece for one of the wings, I measured it. And it came out 5/8" too short.

I didn't discover the problem until after I'd cut the rest of the parts. I just didn't have the stock to remake the part. And given that I am no longer gainfully employed, I didn't have the cash to go out & buy a new piece of stock.

So I tried cutting a miter on the short end & cutting a miter on a piece whose grain matched very closely, in order to make a ship lap joint. I used 5 minute epoxy to glue the two parts together. The end result is a very good match, so the joint should be easy to hide when I get to the finishing steps.

After getting all of the parts to rough length, I then spent about a week or so just trying to get all of the outside mitered corners to meet properly and the parts cut to proper length. It turns out that the corners of some of the posts weren't perfectly square. So even though everything is parallel, I had to carefully remove material, and in some cases add it, in order to get the corners to fit properly.

Once the parts all fit together properly, I had to shape the feet on the plinth. This took a couple of days to complete, given the number of parts. I made a template out of 1/2" MDF and used it to trace the shape on to each board in the proper places, namely, at the mitered corners. Time to cut the shape.

I used a 1" Forstner bit to drill out the arc in the corner where the foot transitions into the bottom, then I used my table saw or band saw to remove the waste material. I used the table saw for those parts that had a foot on one end, and the band saw for those that had feet at both ends. I used a 1" chisel to clean up the transition on those parts that I used the table saw to remove the waste.

After sanding everything, I finally started gluing the parts on to the pulpit. I used glue & clamps only, working with one piece at a time. I'd let it sit for 30 minutes or so before I started on the next piece.

Here are some shots of the pulpit & completed plinth. First, the whole pulpit from the front:

The right wing end:

A close up of the center front:

That's enough for now. Next time, we'll go over the cap rails, which I should finish up today.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Of Mice & Men & Design Changes, Part 2

When last we met, I had finished making the handles for the pulpit that my pastor had been asking for. They are made from four pieces of red oak, with oval shaped cut outs in the middle. To remind you, here is a picture showing what we're shooting for when it's all done.

Once I had finished shaping the handles, I clamped one against one of the sloped sides and carefully traced it onto the plywood. I had all of the boxes bolted together, so I would make the cuts in the two sides simultaneously. After tracing the handle block, I carefully measured & cut a straight guide that the shoe of my jig saw could ride against while making the vertical cuts.

I then began to cut out the notch. The cuts I ended up with weren't as clean or straight as I would have gotten had I been able to make these cuts before the boxes were assembled, but they would have to do. I even had to cut some wedges to slip in between the notch & the block on one side. This was the first one I had cut; the second one came out much better.

Here's a picture of the better of the two cuts after it was cut & before the handles were glued in. As you can see in the picture, I did get some tear out. I own a cheap Skill jig saw, and my skill with it isn't terribly great. But that thing does jump around a lot & is hard to control.

After making the cut, I cleaned it up with my belt sander & a file. The sander wouldn't fit in the entire notch -- that is, it could only reach the forward most 3 inches of the bottom. This allowed me to get that area pretty flat, but I needed the file to work on the rear portion. With about 30 minutes or so of work, I was able to get the blocks in to the notches well enough that any final clean up could be done with a ROS or block plane.

Here's a picture of the finished notches with the corresponding handle blocks in place but not yet glued. As you can see in the photo, the notch was cut a little over size. Believe me, though, it was a lot better than the other side.

Because the fit of the blocks wasn't the greatest, I decided to use 5 minute epoxy to glue the handles in the notches. The epoxy would fill any voids & would even glue the end grain to the notches. The result would be a very strong bond that should hold up to even my weight pulling on it.

After gluing in the handle blocks, I proceeded to fill in the remaining spaces with stainable wood filler. I will probably have to give these areas some extra attention to get the color to match, depending on how everything looks after final staining. Here's a picture of the pulpit with both handles in place & wood filler applied.

While this completed all of the retro-fitting work that needed to be done, there is still work to do on these handles. The cap rails that go over these areas will have to be shaped to make the handles easier to grasp. But that will have to wait until after I make the rails some time in the next couple of weeks.

Next time: Mitering the Base Mouldings

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Of Mice & Men & Design Changes

Back in October, I decided that the lectern was too plain as originally designed. The design for the improved lectern appeared in my head almost as a vision. I could see what I wanted to do. So I put together the change in Sketch-Up in a couple hours. The picture below shows the idea I had.

Essentially, the lectern will be shaped like a tomb stone with a 1/4" wide strip of maple inlaid 3/4" in from the edges. And there will be a purple heart cross inlaid in the center of the field created by the maple inlay. I'm going to need to purchase an inlay kit for my router to do the inlay. Luckily, these kits aren't too expensive. These will also be my first inlays. I intend to practice a little before doing it for real.

Through out the summer, my pastor kept asking me to add "handle bars" to the pulpit design. At first I thought she might be joking. But she often feels dizzy while preaching as the Holy Spirit works through her and felt she needed something to hold on to, in order to keep from falling over.

After determining that pastor wasn't kidding, and after making the obligatory jokes about putting chopper handlebars & a seat on the pulpit so she could take the pulpit for a spin, I began to wonder exactly how I was going to meet this request.

A number of ideas presented themselves to me & were discarded. One was to actually get a set of motorcycle or bicycle handle bars & add them. That got discarded quickly -- I just couldn't see how to make that work. And I don't think anyone would take seriously any pastor preaching from behind a pulpit so equipped.

Then I had the idea for what I call the "towel rack". This would be two triangular gussets made of maple a full 3/4" wide rabbeted into the corner posts of the center box. Between them would be a rod or dowel made from purple heart a full 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter. This would give pastor a place to hold on. But this still didn't work for me. All the pulpit would need at this point is a pair of wheels in the back & you could tilt it back & push it around.

Then, one night while driving to the Men's Ministry meeting at church, I had another vision of a change to the pulpit. As originally designed, the boxes had nothing but square corners. I saw the pulpit with the inside corners of the center box & the adjacent outer boxes cut off at an angle. And our Elder Jack then suggested cutting an oval hole through the partitions.

This idea appealed to me so much that I started working on modifying the drawing that night. After a few hours work, I came up with the design shown in the picture below.

Since the partitions are made of ply, I first cut the corner off of one of the outside boxes. I then transferred the line to other outside box so they would be cut identically. I then cut the corner off of that box. Next I transferred both lines to the center box & cut those corners off. These cuts were made with my circular saw & straight edge guide. Because my straight edge guide uses a carriage to hold the saw, I couldn't get the blade low enough to cut all the way through the corner posts, so I had to finish these off with my flush cutting saw.

The boxes were then bolted back together & everything sanded with my belt sander. The photo below shows everything after all of these steps were completed.

The next step was to make the handles. I didn't just want to cut oval holes in the ply, as that would make the plies visible. Plus, I wanted to round over the edges of the hole to make the handle more comfortable to hold, and there just wasn't enough room to get a full size 2 1/4 HP router base in there at this point.

So I decided to make the handles out of solid red oak, cut notches to accept the handles in the ply, and glue the handles in. The next step, therefore, was to actually make the handles. Since the boxes come apart, I would have to split each handle in half & glue each in to a different ply partition after the notches were cut.

As you can see from the Sketch-Up image above, these pieces are parallelograms. I drew the shape on one of the ply partitions & set my bevel square to the angle. I then used the bevel square to set my miter gauge. It turns out that the correct miter gauge setting to cut the shape in the drawing is about 25°, give or take a few tenths of a degree.

So I took the two failed bottom rails for the center box & ripped them to 2 1/2" wide. I then cut them into blocks for the handles. After cutting 5 blanks from the two rails, I layed out the oval holes.

Originally, I planned to make the holes by drilling 3/4" holes at the ends with a Forstner bit, then clearing out most of the waste with the same bit. Then I'd clean everything up with my chisels. I also figured I'd use one as a pattern & use a flush trim or pattern bit to get all 4 holes identical. It's important that someone holding the handles doesn't feel any uncomfortable edges because of inconsistencies in the shapes when the boxes are bolted together.

Well, the first attempt didn't come out very well shaped. And the holes were a bit tight on my hands. And when I tried to pattern rout one of the other handles, I inadvertently made a climb cut & the handle split in half. Luckily, I was able to glue that blank back together & you can't tell where the split happened without looking at the end grain.

I decided the best way to recover was to increase the hole diameter to 1 1/8". This was the minimum size I needed to remove all traces of damage to the grain within the hand hole. This time, I did a better job of cleaning everything up & the handle came out much better, as you can see in the next photo below.

Next, I ripped the four blanks to the thickness of the ply and rounded over the hole edges using a 3/8" round over bit in my router table. The photo below shows the handle after rounding it over & sanding everything smooth.

That's enough for now. More on installing the handles next time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Momentous Week

This is going to be very short. I'll write something in the next few days about the pulpit.

This has been a very momentous week for the nation, and it turns out, for me, too. On Tuesday, we elected Barack Obama for president. A man who has no track record in a leadership position. I guess we'll see if we were right or not in time.

On Wednesday, I got laid off. Another victim of the faltering economy & globalization. This is the second time I've been laid off in my career. It's not as hard this time around, though I am going to miss all of the fine people I used to work with. I'm also going to miss the regular paychecks.

As of now, my woodworking future just got a lot murkier. I'm going to finish the pulpit, since I have just about everything I need for it. But I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing in the coming weeks after that. I do know I'll be looking for a full time job.

I just want everyone to know that since I've come to know the Lord, I know that He will take care of us & everything will work out even better than it was before. Of that, I have no doubt. It's just a matter of getting through to the other side.

At any rate, it's time for me to get into the shop & make some progress on the pulpit. Later, dudes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Some Assembly Is Required, Part 2

I had started writing part 1 of this 2 part report a few weeks ago. And then October got busy with things besides the pulpit. We had a revivalist, Dr. Gabriel Heymans and his wife Anita, visit our church. They ended up staying for two weeks, and I spent almost every night at church. I spent every night of the next week working on the center box, trying to make ground on it. I finally got a chance to finish part 1 over the weekend, and now I'm bringing it up to date.

In part 1, I recounted putting the two side boxes together and the issues I found with mis-cut panels for the center box. Now it's time to address the issue.

As I said in part 1, I decided to remake the rails for the center box in order to recover from my mistake. But first, I had to cut off the bottom rail I had glued into one side.

I didn't want to risk damaging the post, so I pulled out my Shark flush cut saw (the only hand saw that I have that I really trust myself with for this kind of work) and cut the rail off about 1/8" - 1/4" from the post. Next, I used a chisel to pop off the shoulders of the tenon that were left on the post. Since the joint there is end grain to long grain, they popped right off.

I set up my plunge router with the same 3/8" straight bit I used to cut the groove & mortise. I set it up for a maximum plunge of 1/2", as I did when I first cut the grooves. Next, I attached my edge guide & set it close to where I needed it. To fine tune the position, I placed the router in position & turned on the router. I lowered the bit down so it just kissed the surface. I then carefully adjusted the edge guide so the bit was cutting the wood I needed to remove and only that wood.

When I was satisfied, I made the two passes, the first at 1/4" and the second at 1/2", to re-establish the full length of the groove. This went perfectly well.

I then reset the maximum plunge of the router to 1 1/16". Everything else was left unchanged. I then remove the tenon material left in the mortise. This went well too. In fact, I found some stretchy glue residue left over in the mortise that I was able to remove with a chisel. I just had a little clean up to do with a 3/8" chisel & I was done.

I went out to Condon's & picked up a board that I intended to use to remake the rails. I wanted to get a 5/4 D2S board, but some how I miss measured at the yard & got a 13/16" D2S board instead. I did have some boards left from the original order that I was going to use to make the lectern, but I decided I could use them for the rails instead & use the D2S board for the lectern.

Incidentally, everything described from here on happened in the evenings after work the week of October 18.

So I milled those boards. Somehow, my Wixey digital planer height read out got about 1/16" off. And, of course, it was reading 1/16" higher than it really was. So the boards I milled ended up being 13/16" thick instead of 7/8". The trouble is starting already! I decided to mill the 3/8" groove off center & keep the narrow part on the inside.

I ripped the parts to width & cut them to length. I milled the groove by mounting my 3/8" straight cutter in my table mounted router & setting up the fence & some feather boards. This went OK and the grooves were done. Then I carefully cut the tenons. And I did the first dry fit -- a real dry fit. I didn't glue anything together before the dry fit.

The middle rails were fine, but the top & bottom rails were still too short! I forgot to account for the extra 1" of tenon on these parts when I calculated how long to cut the parts. Doh!! At that point, I knocked off for that day.

I went back to Condon's, and this time, I got a 10' long board that was a true 5/4 thick and about 4" wide. Actually, it's width tapered from about 3 1/2" or so to about 4 1/2". I had them cut it in half so I could get it in my Accord to take home. If I didn't screw up anything more, I would be able to get all the wood I needed from half the board, so this was to my advantage, anyway.

I cut the new board into pieces of rough length. I face & edge jointed, then watched the thickness carefully in between passes. I used one of the original rails to gauge the thickness as I milled & I stopped when they were about the same. I used my fingers to make that determination, not a ruler. The new parts are as close to being the same thickness as I can feel.

When I was happy, I ripped everything to the proper widths, but I still didn't cross cut anything. Next, I set up my aux fence on the table saw & mounted my dado set, at 3/8", to the saw. I set the fence 1/4" from the blade & mounted a feather board on the fence to push the stock down to the table. And I ran the parts. They came out great.

Next, I cut the parts to length. I took the length of the original top rail & added 1 1/4" to it. That's the length I cut the top & bottom rail stock to. Then I made the tenons on the end. They came out well, too.

Dry fit time. This time, everything came out the right length! Big sigh of relief!

Next, I made new front stretcher / shelf supports from ply. I ironed on some edge banding to hide the ply edge grain on the inside. And it's time to make new shelves. I cut the 4' x 4' half sheet of ply I had left over from remaking the other shelves into four blanks. No problems here.

I used some left over pieces from the failed second set of rails to make the edging for the new shelves. I planed them down to 3/4" thick and then ripped them to the right widths & cross cut them long. The space between the posts would be 20 1/4", so I needed them to be at least 21" long, if not 22".

I glued the edging on. I left them in the living room over night to dry on Friday night. It's gotten cold here in Westchester, and I don't think I can leave stuff in the unheated garage to dry and get a good bond. I've had enough go wrong so far that I don't need the edging to fall off if someone leans on a shelf.

On Saturday, I cut the notches in the new shelves. This time, I made a few changes to my technique. First, I put my stock fence with the tall aux fence still attached to it & put it in the right miter slot & made a pass. This established a width for ripping that piece of ply so I wouldn't have to remove the fence from the miter slot if I needed to swap miter slots. I then ripped the fence to that width & put it back on the miter gauge.

Second, instead of nibbling away the material, I set the blade height for one side and made one pass to establish one shoulder at that particular blade height for every cut that required it. Then I set the blade height for another side & made all of those cuts. I repeated this until I had all of the notches made. This time, they went a lot faster & came out real nice.

I finished up drilling the pocket holes I needed to attach the top rails to the boxes later. I had to drill these before assembling the box because I wouldn't be able to fit the drill & bit inside after assembly -- the top shelf isn't deep enough for the bit & drill to fit. Holes were drilled on the inside of the front rail, along the outside of the ply partitions where they will touch and will never be seen when the three boxes are assembled to each other.

Time for one more dry fit. Everything looked good. And I glued it up. And I finally got all three boxes assembled!

Here's a picture of the center box with the clamps still attached after I glued it up.

And here's the top shelf. The wood is still wet in the corners where I wiped off some glue squeeze out with a wet rag.

And finally, here are the three boxes, bolted to each other for the first time after the glue dried.

We're just about up to date. I did a little bit of work this week after work, but I'll leave that for next time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Some Assembly Is Required

The raised panels are shaped & finished. The frame parts are all made. It's time to do some box assembly! The crowd goes wild!

Well, almost. There's a few odds & ends in the way. You see, I found out during one of my dry assemblies that some of the shelf pin holes I drilled weren't deep enough. My fault for not testing my set up on my plunge router. I even missed a couple of holes on one post. Considering there were 12 posts that needed shelf pin holes, that's not bad. And I hadn't drilled all of the pocket holes I need, either. And there were a few parts that needed more sanding. And I found a couple of gashes had magically appeared on a couple of parts. And I still had to cut the notches on the 10 shelves I had remade a couple of weeks earlier.

In fact, I made a list of 31 steps I needed to perform in order to complete the assembly. These included things like cut the notches in all shelves, sand the shelves, disassemble a box, re-drill the shelf pin holes, etc. Hey, I'm detail oriented & anal, what can I say?

So I took a Friday in September off from work & got to item #1 on my list: Cut the notches in the shelves. And that took all day to do. So much for the best laid plans of mice & men, eh? I am happy to say that they came out much better than the last bunch of shelves I had cut.

To do these, I set my combo square to the depth of the front posts on one of the boxes and I used that to set the height of the blade on my table saw. I also used it to lay out the depth of the notches on the front corners. Then I set my combo square to the length of the notch, and I used it to lay out the length of both front notches on both top shelf blanks.

Next, I took my stock miter gauge, which still had the auxiliary fence I had installed the last time I cut notches attached to it, and I made one cut. Just one. And I took the shelf over to the wing I had used to measure everything. And the cut was too far from the corner -- it looked like I'd screwed it up again.

Blood pressure rises. A primal scream escapes the lips. Luckily, the kids were at school & the wife was out running errands. Time to break for lunch.

While eating lunch & cooling down, I realized that maybe I hadn't screwed it up after all. You see, the wings have one side made with 3/4" ply glued into rabbets in the 2" x 2" posts, and the other side was designed with 3/4" rails, but which I had changed to 7/8" rails. So the two front notches shouldn't be the same length. So after lunch, I held that shelf up to the other wing & sure enough, the cut was spot on perfect. Whew!

At this point, I abandoned laying out the notches. Instead, I just set my combo square for the length of the notch in question, put the body against the edge of the shelf & adjusted it so the end of the ruler touched the edge of the aux fence. Then I put a spring clamp on to hold everything in place & made a pass. Then I nibbled the rest of the stock away for that corner.

This worked very well. Due to the solid edging being wider than the ply's thickness, I couldn't do both front notches with the miter gauge in the same slot. I had to move it to the other slot & remount the fence to get the other notch done. I fumbled the order of cuts & had to do that about 2 or 3 times. But I got them done.

I had to do a little clean up with my chisels & some sand paper since I have an ATB combo blade mounted to the saw. And this did take all day. But I was feeling a lot better about the shelves.

The next day, a Saturday, I got started on the right wing. I disassembled it & did all of the items on my list for that wing. I drilled holes in the top shelves for brass cup holders. I drilled pocket hole screws in the top & bottom shelves to draw the posts in tight after assembly. I re-drilled the shelf pin holes, and drilled the two missing holes in the post that needed them. I sanded everything with my ROS & with 180 grit paper by hand.

All of this took a bit longer than just that Saturday, but it was time well spent. And when all of it was done, I did one last dry fit to see how & in what order I'd put everything together. All set for doing it for real!

I got home from work on Tuesday & I glued the end panel together. This took longer to do than I thought it would. Unseen checks in the stock that I used to make a couple of the stretcher / shelf supports in that wing caused the wood to split pretty badly when I drove the pocket hole screws home, so I had to remake those. This time, I used ply scraps & ironed on some red oak edge banding I had left over from my DVD cabinet project to hide the ply edge grain.

I put it together on top of my table saw (I did put a drop cloth on top to protect the cast iron from glue drips). I squeezed a dollop of silicone caulk on to the edges of the raised panels & buried a Space Ball in each one. Then I spread glue on one tenon of the bottom rail & put it in place, carefully aligning it with the bottom rabbet on the post.

Next the bottom panel went in, then the middle rail, followed by the top panel & lastly the top rail. I spread glue on the tenons & in the mortices & put the other post on. I used three 24" K body clamps to pull the assembly tight. Next I spread some glue on the ends of the bottom stretcher and the edge that contacts the bottom rail. After using my spacer block & clamps, I drove the pocket hole screws home for the last time. Then I spread glue on the ends only of the top stretcher (this one doesn't contact any rails) and screwed that in place.

I had to put a long clamp vertically across the front of the assembly to get the top & bottom rails in their proper places, even with the ends. I finished up at about 9:00 pm, which is my usual knock off time when I work on a week night.

I'm happy to say that the assembly came out flat and square. Praise the Lord!

The next night, I worked on the final glue-up for that box. This consisted of gluing the bottom shelf to the bottom stretcher, keeping it square, and driving screws through the stretcher into the shelf. The front bottom stretcher was then glued & screwed to the bottom of the corresponding shelf edge, and then a pocket hole screw was driven into the post. Pocket hole screws were driven into 2 pocket holes in the front shelf edging (which is 3" wide). I then repeated this process with the top shelf, which used 1 fewer pocket hole screw.

At this point, it's time to attach space balls with caulk, spread glue on tenons & insert the rails & panels. This is the stressful part of the glue up, since you have to get the glue spread on all of the joints & everything put together & clamped within the glue's open time.

I got it done. I was busy working on it until 10:30 that night, but I got it done.

I then started to work on the center box. I took the box apart. I cleaned up a few gouges. I re-drilled the shelf pin holes. I even glued the bottom rail into one side. I did this because I had some trouble getting everything square & I thought having this glued into one side before doing the full glue-up would eliminate this issue.

Then I tried to do a dry fit. And I found that the panels I had made for it were 5/8" too wide! This meant that the top & bottom rail were 1 1/4" too short, and the center rails were 5/8" too short. Time for some more cursing. Pack it in for the day. And figure out how I'm going to fix this one.

Thinking about it, I saw I had two ways to fix it:

  1. Remake the rails longer
  2. Cut the panels narrower & refinish them.

Option 1 meant I'd have to cut out the bottom rail I had glued in previously and throw away the parts I'd already made. Not really desirable. Option 2 meant I'd have to strip the finish off, cut the panels narrower, re-route the raised profile, then refinish everything, matching any finish I'd left on. I found this idea to be daunting -- I'm OK at finishing, but it's not my strength.

At this point, I contacted Neil Lamens from Furnitology Productions via email to ask his opinion. He recommended I cut the panels down. His reasons were sound -- keep the project moving, and remaking the parts is expensive. I would have to buy more lumber. And machine set ups are difficult to repeat.

In the end, I decided just to remake the parts. Since this piece is being made as a donation for my church, the usual economics don't apply. I can just include the costs for the additional wood in the value of the donation at tax time. And frankly, it would take me a lot less time to remake the parts than it would be to just strip the panels down.

So I went out out & bought another piece of lumber. And I put the center box aside & put the other wing together. I needed to let that wood acclimate after all, and putting the other box together would help to keep some of the momentum going. Besides, I'd have to change the set up on my plunge router, which was set up to do shelf pin holes, and I didn't want to do that until I was done using that setup.

This one went together well and a little faster, having had the practice from the first box. While I was at it, I also drilled the holes for the bolts & the threaded inserts that would hold the finished boxes together. Here's a picture of the two boxes with the sides of the center box attached to each box.

The two boxes are about as far apart in the picture as the center box will be wide when finished, so you can get a feeling for how big the finished pulpit will be.

That's enough for now. Part 2 will follow soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Finishing the Raised Panels

The 12 raised panels for the pulpit have been flattened, thicknessed, glued up, cut to size, and shaped. Its time to put the finish on them so they won't show any unstained areas when the wood shrinks. And given that it was the middle of September when I started this, you just know that they'll shrink come January & February.

My finishing schedule had been established previously. To refresh your memory, here it is again:

  1. Sand everything smooth to 180 grit.
  2. Apply Minwax Golden Oak stain.
  3. Let stain stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Wipe off excess stain.
  5. Apply one coat of Zinser Seal Coat shellac, straight from the can.
  6. Apply one coat of gloss water based Minwax Polycrilic & let dry.
  7. Sand with 220 grit, just trying to lower the high spots & scuff up the surface.
  8. Apply a second coat of gloss Polycrilic & let dry.
  9. Sand with 320 grit.
  10. Apply a third coat of gloss Polycrilic & let dry.
  11. Sand with 400 grit.
  12. Apply one coat of semi-gloss water based Minwax Polycrilic.

When I was finishing the corner cabinet, I had used a package of Painter's Pyramids that I got for Christmas to keep the shelves & doors up off whatever I kept that item on & so I could do both faces & all sides at one time. The only problem was that I didn't have enough of them. So I bought another three packages before I began this project. I still don't have enough for this project, but I got by.

I had 12 panels to finish. I barely had the space to lay all of them out, never mind enough Painter's Pyramids. I had to place only 3 pyramids under some of the panels in order to do all 12 panels. It worked, but it's not quite as stable as working with 4 pyramids.

I managed to get the stain, the shellac, and the first two coats of gloss & the in between sanding done working in the evenings after work. And then I took Friday off from work to get a number of things done.

So I moved all of the boards into my shed so I could get to the list of things I needed to get done. This list included things like cutting all of the notches in the shelves I remade (item #1), taking each box apart in turn, sanding all parts, fixing up a couple of minor mistakes, then assembling & gluing up the boxes.

I knew I wasn't going to get all of the items on the list done, but I ended up spending the entire day working on item #1 alone. And this time, I got all of the notches right. Though I did have a scare after making the first cut.

What happened was I carefully measured the right rear post on the left wing using my combo square and I transferred that measurement to all of my blanks, at both the right & left corners. Then I raised the blade on my table saw to the depth of the post, clamped the first shelf to a tall auxiliary fence attached to my saw's stock miter gauge, and made the first cut on the left corner of the shelf. Then I took the shelf to the left wing & held it up to the posts. And found that the cut was in the wrong place -- it was too far to the right.

Well, at this point, I thought I'd ruined another shelf blank, started swearing, and broke for lunch. While eating, I recalled that the notches on left & right weren't going to have the same dimensions because I made the rails 7/8" thick instead of 3/4" thick. So when I got back into the garage, I took that blank to the right wing & sure enough the cut was in the right place.

At that point, I ignored any markings & just used my combo square. What I did was I set the square to the dimension I needed by holding it to the post. Then I placed the square against the blank & slid it until the blade touched the edge of the auxiliary fence. I applied a spring clamp & made a pass. Then I used the "nibbling" technique to remove the rest of the notch. This way I only had to use 2 height settings, one for the notches in the front & one for the ones in the back.

Anyway, here's what 8 of the panels look like now that they're done. All of the finish is applied & they're just waiting to be put into the boxes.

Next: Some Assembly Is Required

Monday, September 22, 2008

Raising Panels, Not Cain

Now that the glue-ups for the panels are done, it's time to turn them into the 12 raised panels I need for the pulpit. To review, there are three different widths of panels in two different lengths. I need two of each width & length combination; if you do all the multiplication, that's twelve panels.

These are the first raised panels I have ever made, so I was approaching them with a little trepidation. Not a lot, but a little. My first concern was that my table mounted router wouldn't be strong enough to do the job. My second concern was screwing it up & getting huge amounts of tear out that I couldn't repair.

I only have two routers, a Bosch 1617 EVS with a fixed base only and a Dewalt DW-621 plunge router. Both are 2 1/4 HP routers; the panel raising bit I have is a full 3 1/2" in diameter. Most everything I've read says you really need a 3+ HP router to make these cuts. Not having the bigger router or the money to buy one, it was time to give the Bosch a try.

So I chucked the bit into my router. Using my combo square set to 1/8", I set the bit height for the first pass. Next, I set up the fence even with the bearing on the bit & I mounted a feather board on the fence to hold the panel down to the table. And I set the router to its slowest speed.

I made a test cut using one of the cutoffs I had from making the panels. The first pass went very well, better than I expected. The router didn't So I went to town on my panels. And again, the first pass was cake.

Next, I set my combo square to 1/4" & used it to set the bit height for the second pass. After resetting the fence & feather board, I made another test cut on the same piece of scrap. I found that the router struggled a little, but not too much. I was able to find a feed rate that kept the router from struggling & the wood from burning.

This somehow didn't hold true when I started running the actual panels. The router was easily stalled & kept stalling as I tried to feed the first board. I had a feeling that I had the feather board set too tight, so I removed it. If Norm can raise a panel without using a feather board, why couldn't I?

While this did reduce the tendency of the router to stall, I still had to be careful to keep it from stopping. But I was able to finish the pass on all the boards without any tear out or burning.

Time for the third pass. Again, I set the combo square to 3/8". My panels all started at 13/16", so I knew I had to do at least one more pass at 1/16". I set the fence back up & tried a test cut.

And the router really struggled. What I figured was that the increasing height of the bit was also increasing the length of cutter that contacted the wood. The result was increased drag on the bit as it cut the stock. The result was each increase in height would make the router easier to stall. The reason all of those articles called for a 3 HP router for this operation became clear.

I didn't want to lower the bit, so I started cheating. This was probably a very bad idea, but it got me through the next two passes. What I did was I held the trailing corner of the panel against the fence & held the leading edge 1/2" or so from the fence & fed a few inches through the bit. Then I'd place the leading corner against the fence & keep the trailing edge the same distance from the fence & finish the pass. Then I'd do this again, this time with the board about 1/4" from the fence. Finally, I'd make a full pass with the entire board against the fence.

The bit did bit into the wood a couple times, but I had more passes to make & all of the damage came off during the last "all against the fence" pass. At the end of this pass, the boards still wouldn't fit in the grooves I had made in the frame parts, so it was time for a fourth pass.

The fourth pass was made with the bit set to 7/16". It was similar to the third pass -- the router still slowed down a lot & was easy to stall. I ended up making the third pass like the second. At the end of this pass, the stock almost fit in the grooves, but it wouldn't bottom out. So I decided to take a fifth pass at 1/64".

The good news is that I was able to make this entire pass with the stock against the fence, no cheating. And at the end of this pass, the stock fit in the grooves fine.

Below are some pictures of how the panels came out. I only had room to set up half of them for these photos, but the other half are identical.

Next: Finishing the Panels

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Glue-up Madness

After deciding to punt on the shelves and remake them, I decided to leave cutting the notches for another day and got to work on what I had originally planned to do Labor Day weekend. That is, I got started milling the lumber for the 12 raised panels. But first, I had to pull out enough lumber for them.

The lumber pile had a total of (16) 4/4 boards long enough left in it. I picked up all of them and brought them to the garage, where my jointer & planer have been since I started working on this project. I began separating the boards into groups, one group for the 4 wing end panels, one group for the 4 wing front panels, and one for the four center panels.

I began by face & edge jointing the boards for the wing end panels. These went fine & were straight within a couple of passes over their whole length. Then I grabbed the boards for the wing front panels. And I found that one of the boards has a good 1/4" to 1/2" bow.

At this point, I stopped what I was doing & went back & measured everything again. And I found that I had two boards too many. It turned out I could put the bowed board & another one aside & still have enough material to make my glue-ups. And these boards were much closer to be straight & flat than that bowed board was.

After regrouping the boards & setting the two extras aside, I began face jointing the wing front panel boards again. The four I had already done for the wing end panels were fine & enough for those panels. The remaining face & edge jointing went exactly like the first four boards had gone, with maybe only one or two extra passes.

I make it a habit to vacuum up all of the chips when I finish using a tool or an operation. I have no dust collection other than the vacuum, and I don't care to face my wife after tracking saw dust into the house. So after I was done with the jointing, I vacuumed up all of the chips. And found that my 12 gallon Craftsman shop vac was full. So I emptied it.

Next, I began thickness planing the first group of four boards for the wing end panels. I wanted to make all of the boards about 7/8" thick, but I couldn't get all of them planed flat until I got to about 13/16" thick. Close enough.

I began to vacuum up the planing chips again. And found that this time, I over-filled the shop vac. As soon as I took the top off, about 6" worth of chips that had filled the space between the bottom canister's brim & the very top of the lid spilled out & all over my driveway. So after emptying the canister & cleaning the filter, I vacuumed all of that up.

I layed out the boards in the order I wanted them, figuring I'd glue all 4 boards together & then rip the two blanks I needed, maximizing the off cut. I drew a big triangle across the boards after I got them arraigned as I wanted them, and I began edge jointing the edges to be glued. The fit was sweet, just as I'd hoped. Time to glue up.

I have a copy of the Henrik Varju "Planer & Jointer Secrets" DVD that I bought just before I bought my jointer. In that DVD, Henrik performs a 4 board glue-up, just as I had to do. What he did was he aligned the edges of three of the boards & clamped them together. Then he spread glue across the three edges as if they were one triple width edge. The time to spread the glue for the three boards was thus only slightly longer than the time to spread glue on one edge.

So I gave this a shot. Only I screwed up order of the boards some how, probably because I over thought it & didn't really see how simple it is to do. It wasn't until after I'd gotten the clamps all tightened down that I realized that instead of having the boards in 1-2-3-4 order, I had them in 1-3-4-2 order. And the alignment of the edges between boards 4 & 2 wasn't as great as I wanted it to be over its length, even with three cauls placed across the width of the panel.

So after the glue dried, I just ripped boards 1 & 2 off & glued them to each other. This worked out fine, as the two glue-ups I now had were each wide enough to get a panel out of. And the alignment between boards 1 & 2 was almost perfect.

After all the glue dried, I ran the two panels through the planer (they both were a little over 11" wide, and I have a 12.5" planer). One shallow pass on each face to make everything perfectly flat. Then I put the two panels aside.

I then repeated this process with the other two groups of boards. I was able to run the glued-up boards for the center panels through the planer as well, but the panels for the wing fronts were over 13" wide & I couldn't run them through.

I think I emptied my shop vac at least 2 more times while doing all of this planing. A lot of chips. But it's really cool watching flat, clean lumber appear out of a really rough board as it passes through the planer.

After all of the glue-ups were done, I then fired up the ROS & removed all of the milling marks, and I evened up the little bit of uneven edges on the widest panels (that I couldn't get with the planer). I do have a vacuum hookup for the ROS that I use, and that keeps the dust in the air down, but I still wear a dust mask.

After that, I ripped the panels to final length, then used my crosscut sled to first square up & then cut the top panels from each blank. These panels are all the same height, though the widths vary. I have a flip stop on the fence of the sled, so I just set that to the proper length & went to town. After that, I changed the stop setting to the length for the bottom panels & cut those.

This left me with 6 cutoffs. I used two of them to make some color samples. I have to finish the panels before I assemble the pulpit, so I needed the samples to find a match for a red oak cross that's already hanging in the sanctuary.

With all of that done, we're now at last week. On Thursday, I brought the finished samples to bible study & showed them to my pastor. We picked a sample for the final color. The finishing schedule will be:

  1. Apply Minwax Golden Oak stain.
  2. Let stain stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Wipe off excess.
  4. Apply a coat of shellac.
  5. Apply three coats of clear, gloss Minwax Polycrylic water based polyurethane, sanding between coats.
  6. Apply one coat of clear, semi-gloss Minwax Polycrylic water based polyurethane.

After this decision was made, I was ready to begin shaping the panels with my new Freud panel raising bit. We'll cover that next time.

Next: Raising Panels, Not Cain

Saturday, September 6, 2008

When in Doubt, Punt

When last we met, I was bemoaning the botched notches I had cut in the shelves for the pulpit. And I didn't know yet what I was going to do to try and recover from the problem.

Imagine the following scene. It's now Saturday morning on Labor Day weekend. After I got up, I was sitting in our living room chatting with my wife, Mary. I explained the situation with the shelves & the notches to Mary. And her response was, "Why don't you just go buy another sheet of plywood & make them again?"

I thought about it while I was getting ready for the day. I considered all of the work entailed in the solution I had originally planned. That is, removing the edging I had already glued on and then cutting everything so there would be a 1/4" gap all the way around the shelf, then gluing on new edging all the way around with mitered corners. Just remaking the shelves & cutting the notches more carefully seemed like a lot less work.

So I drove down to Dykes Lumber and I bought another sheet of red oak plywood. I had them cut it into two 4' x 4' halves. It was amazing how much easier it is to handle a half sheet of plywood than it is to handle a full sheet.

After getting it home, I decided to fix another problem with the left wing. When I glued the two right side posts to the ply partition that separates the left wing from the center box, the front post ended up sitting at an angle. When I ripped the partition from the rest of the sheet of ply, I noticed that the edge was slightly beveled. When I checked the blade with my square, sure enough, I was a couple of degrees off. I thought I had fixed that edge, but I guess I didn't.

So I ripped the posts from the ply & re-cut the rabbets. I had shot some brads through the ply into the posts, but the blade went through them like they weren't even there. I then cut a new ply partition & glued the posts to it. This time, everything came out flat & square.

After this, I went ahead & ripped the rest of that half sheet to the width I needed for the shelf blanks. Then I just used my Osbourne EB-3 with the stop set properly to cut all of the blanks. I made the 4 blanks for the fixed shelves exactly the width of the inside of the wings. I cut the other 6 blanks 1/16" shorter, since they're going to be removable & adjustable.

Then I milled a couple of boards to make new edging for the 10 shelves. I made the edging & glued them to the blanks. This time, I'll follow the steps I wrote down!

The new shelf blanks have been sitting in the shop since then, waiting for me to get around to notching them. Rather than doing that right away, though, I finally got started on the glue-ups for the raised panels. Which is what I had planned to do on Labor Day weekend, anyway.

Next time: Glue-up Madness

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Adventures in Notching Shelves

OK, the shelf blanks have all been cut to the right width & length. According to my punch list in my "How Am I Going to Build a Pulpit?" post, I should be milling stock for edging & preparing to edge all of the blanks. Did I do things in that order. No, of course not. And I got myself into trouble as a result.

Instead, I skipped over to step 15, "Cut notches in all shelf blanks to fit around posts." I figured it didn't matter if the edging was on or not because I layed out the notches by holding each blank against each post & marking the point where the post met the blank. I then extended those lines using a square.

Once I had the notches layed out, I set up my band saw to cut them. And here's where I started seeing problems. First, I didn't quite have the fence adjusted properly for the blade's drift, so many of the cuts ended up not being square. Second, I managed to over cut the corner where the two layout lines met a couple of times. And, worst of all, I found out much later that I somehow managed to screw up the layout on a few shelves. And, of course, instead of the notches being too small, they ended up being too big.

After cutting all of the notches, and before I fully realized the extent of my problems, I did go back & make the edging. After the glue had dried, I did use my table saw with a tall aux fence attached to my miter gauge to trim the edging to length & square up the cuts in the notches. And I some how ended up making a couple of cuts with the blade too high.

The picture on the left shows one of the shelves I notched too big. If you look closely at the corners, you can see some spaces larger than 1/16", some approaching 1/8". This one isn't too bad, as I could just glue on some thin strips of hard wood to close up the gaps.

The picture on the right, however, shows a much worse situation. The notch on the left is actually about 1/32" to 1/16" too small, which prevents the left edge of the shelf from touching the ply partition, which it's supposed to do. And the notch on the right is too big in both directions. This one can't be fixed just by gluing on a piece of solid wood, as the grain will be going in the wrong direction. And you can see that I also had the table saw blade too high on a couple of the notches.

I'm not sure how I'm going to fix some of the shelves, like the one shown on the right, but most of them I can just glue on a piece of edging the proper thickness & trim it properly. These are the easy ones. Actually, I've been thinking about cutting off the existing edging, then cutting off enough from each edge, except the front edge, to keep them a constant 1/4" away from the surface they're supposed to touch Then I'd wrap everything with new 1/4" edging, mitering all the corners. I'd put 3/4" edging back on the front edge. In this way, I could make up for the missing material & some, if not all, of the over cuts, and all of the shelves would look the same. As though I planned it that way from the start.

I hesitate to do all of this because it would take a long time to do & I have to get this piece delivered before October 5th.

No, the nights I tried to do all of this notching were definitely not my nights. Cuts that should have been the same length weren't, which means my frames are out of square. Yeah, I have to do something about these shelves or the boxes will be crooked.

At this point, I decided to put the shelves aside for a few days & just get started milling up the lumber for the panels. Once I have all of the panels, I can assemble the ends & keep them flat. Then I can work on the shelves.

Until next time.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cutting Shelf Blanks

OK, we've make all the parts for the frames. Before we can make the raised panels, we have to make the shelves. Time to pull out the second sheet of red oak plywood I bought & cut it up.

I was determined to do these cuts on the table saw. My shop, and the work table I use specifically, has just got too much stuff in it (and on it) right now to make using my saw horses & circular saw convenient. It would take me more time to clean everything off of the work table, set up to cut the sheet, and then put everything back, than it would to just make the cuts on the table saw.

Remembering the difficulty I had cutting the ply partitions, I pull out my roller stands and set them up. I place one about 2 or 3 feet or so behind the outfeed table so it will support the keeper piece, and another one next to it to support the cut off. I placed my sheet of ply on the saw & moved it back so the leading edge touched the rollers. This way, I was able to adjust the rollers parallel to the leading edge of the sheet and set the height so they weren't too high.

Then I measured the width of the shelf in the center section. And I proceeded to set the fence to that setting. Only instead of using the indicator you're supposed to use when the fence is to the right of the blade, for some stupid reason, I used the other indicator! I've never ever done that before. And I went ahead & ripped the sheet. It wasn't until I went to do the rip for the other shelves that I realized I'd messed up.

Luckily, this mistake wasn't hard to recover from. It turns out that the piece I'd just ripped was wide enough for me to get two strips wide enough for the narrower shelves with about 5" or so left over, and the other piece was about 1" or so too wide for the center shelves. I got lucky again (or God's just watching out for this pulpit).

After getting the three strips I needed to the correct width, I had to rotate my saw 90° so I could cross cut the strips into blanks. I pulled out my cross cut sled & went to town cutting the blanks to length. When I was done, I had 4 center shelf blanks & 10 wing shelf blanks.

At this point, I should have just made the edge banding & glued it on to the blanks as my punch list calls for me to do. Instead, I skipped to step 15, "Cut notches in all shelf blanks to fit around posts." This has caused me more heartache than I want to remember. I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

I took my blanks, carefully cut to the correct width & length, and placed them between the upper rails & ply partitions of each box in turn. I carefully marked where the post intersected the blank, then extended those lines. This defined the corners I had to cut off in order to form the notches I needed in the corners.

I then used my band saw to cut these notches. And the blade drifted slightly, only I didn't realize it until too late. I should have used my table saw with a tall aux fence on the stock miter gauge to do these cuts. At least they would have been square.

But that's not the worst of it. Somehow, I ended up screwing up my layout on a number of the blanks. The result is there's too much room around the posts & I didn't get the tight fit I wanted. In most cases, I can just glue a carefully sized piece of hardwood onto the edge to correct the problem. On other shelves, I've too much space cross grain. I'm going to have to glue on a piece cross grain to fix it. And that will definitely be visible.

The problem is that the boxes, for the most part, won't stay square without the fixed shelves. As I was doing the layout, the darn blanks kept moving because I couldn't get them between the posts. I should have only notched the six fixed shelves, very carefully, and held off on the others until after the glue up. The adjustable shelves need to be a little smaller than the fixed shelves so they'll adjust easily, and they would have waited just fine.

Here's a couple of shots of the center box after the shelves were notched & put in, but before the edging was applied. You really can't tell how out of whack the shelf notches are in these shots.

The clamp across the top in these pictures was there just to close up the space between the posts & the top rails. And, lastly, here's a shot of one of the wings with its shelf blanks installed.

Next time: Adventures in Notching Shelves

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Making the Shelf Supports

Last time, I had finally done a dry fit of all of the parts I'd made to that point. Everything was being held together with eight 24" K body clamps. To make this assemblage of parts free standing, its time to make the shelf supports / stretchers.

Because of the way this piece is designed, with 2" x 2" posts in each corner, and because I'm not using plywood for all of the sides, I couldn't cut dados to hold fixed shelves. So I designed the piece with stretchers that fit between the posts and that support the fixed shelves on the top & bottom, These are to be attached to the posts using pocket hole screws, one on each end. The shelves will be glued & screwed to these pieces at the final assembly.

The stretchers are to be as wide as possible, so they align with the inner faces of the posts. More or less. And they have to be long enough to fill the space between the posts they fit between. And here's where I made a bit of a mistake.

I knew I wanted to use relative dimensioning for these parts, so instead of placing each piece of stock where I wanted it & marking it, I measured one of the spaces & cut the parts for both boxes on that face to that measurement. Turns out I measured the smaller of the two boxes. The too short parts threw the bigger box out of square when I put it together. I ended up having to make these parts over, which didn't take too long but was a pain.

When I put the shelf supports in place, I knew it was important to get them all at the same height. In addition, the spacing at the bottom of all three boxes is the same, but the spacing on the top of the two outer boxes differs from the spacing at the top of the center box, and none of these are the same as the bottom spacing.

To do this, I cut spacer blocks the correct length. I carefully aligned the bottom of the block with the top or bottom of the post & clamped it in place. I then placed the shelf support in the correct orientation and clamped it to the spacer. I then drove the pocket screw home. As a picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say, the following two pictures show what I'm trying to say.

It was while I was trying to drive these screws home that I found that my Makita 12 V cordless drill is too big to use in this application. It just can't get into the tight space well. So I posted a question on WoodNet about cordless drivers for tight spaces. The clear winner of the informal poll turned out to be the Bosch PS10-2.

Next thing I do is to do a search on Froogle to find a decent price for the driver. I found a site that was selling it, new, for $110. I go to the Tool Nut, where they have a "price match" policy. In actuality, they don't exactly match the price for Internet sites. They take shipping into consideration, as well as their margin. And they have to charge sales tax, which I'm required to pay on Internet sales in NY state now, anyway. They came in pretty close, $118 with tax. So I bought it.

The Bosch PS10-2 made short work of driving the pocket hole screws home. And when all of the screws were driven home, the three boxes were able to stand on their own for the first time.

At this point, I've completed pretty much everything down to step # 8 under "Shelves" on my punch list that was posted in my post, "How Am I Going to Make a Pulpit?" Time to get started on step 9, "Cut blanks for all shelves from ply stock." We'll cover that next time.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Finishing the Posts & Rails

To recap where we are now: The joinery for the posts and rails has all been cut. The frames have been dry fit. Sounds like we should be done making the posts, huh? But there's actually lots more work to do before the posts are finished.

I went back to my check list & finished the items on it for the posts. That is,

  1. I cut all of the rabbets that will accept the ply partitions. I had to cut 6 rabbets 1/2" wide x 3/4" deep, more or less. These were cut on the table saw using the two pass technique.
  2. I cut the grooves for the center box's ply partitions in the two center front posts. This was done with a stacked dado cutter.
  3. I cut the rabbets on the bottom ends to receive the matching rabbets that will be cut on the base pieces. These rabbets are 3/8" deep by 2 1/2" wide. I cut them as though I was making a tenon. That is, I made a shoulder cut 3/8" deep 2 1/2" from the end of the post, then put them in my tenonning jig to make a cheek cut.
  4. I cut all of the posts to final length (Yeah, I know the steps in "How Am I Going to Build a Pulpit?" call for me to do that later, but I got the top rails to line up perfectly with my layout line for those cuts so I figured I could do it now).
  5. I cut a 3/8" x 3/8" groove on the center right front post for routing the power cord for the lamp I will install.
  6. I drilled all of the shelf-pin holes.
  7. I counter bored, drilled, and epoxied the t-nuts for the leveling feet in the bottom of the posts.
  8. I even installed the leveling feet.

After all of that was done, I cut the ply partitions from a sheet of 3/4" red oak veneer plywood. I needed two partitions 11" wide and 44" long and two more that were 15 1/4" wide and 44" long. So I set my table saw's fence to rip 11 1/4" and I went to town.

This is when I found out that the outfeed table that came with my 22124 isn't long or wide enough to rip a whole sheet of plywood without additional support. It works for most of the cuts I make, but when a full sheet has been pushed through to the other side of the blade, it just doesn't sit on the table saw the way it should. The off cut wants to roll off the saw to the left, while the keeper piece wants to do a swan dive to the floor.

I can't do anything about this now except to use a helper or roller stands the next time I do this. Another item for the "dream workshop" list. In any event, the first rip was done without too big a crash & I can still count to 10 without having to take off my shoes.

After finishing the first rip, I reset the fence to 11" & fed the 11 1/4" wide piece through the saw with the edge I'd just cut against the fence. This removed the factory edge & gave me a nice crisp new edge. Next I set the fence to 15 1/4" & made one more rip cut for the center box's partitions.

Luckily, both of these boards were narrow enough to fit in my cross cut sled. Unluckily, its fence & the tape I have installed in it only go to 30". I needed to cut these to 44". So I attached a straight piece to the outside of the sled with a couple of 6" Tradesman clamps & I cut three ply blocks about 2" wide from some scrap. These blocks would form a make shift stop block. I needed three pieces because the fence is a lamination of 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood, so one piece wouldn't stick passed the fence.

I then measured & marked one of the 15 1/4" pieces at 44" & drew a square line across the board. I placed the board in the sled & aligned the square line with the kerf in the fence of the cross cut sled. I then clamped the three ply scraps to the straight piece I clamped to the fence so they would act as a stop block. This let me get all of the pieces exactly the same length without having to measure again. I had to stick a piece of scrap under the right hand side of the work piece on the first cut for each piece, as it needed some support, but the cuts went well.

The next thing I did was to glue the ply partitions to the posts. This went well and as expected. I have grouped the rails for each wing with the post / ply partition assembly for it, so I can sand the rails smooth at this point. In fact, I will did just that so and then did one more dry fit. I'm pretty much going to leave everything together until I get to the panels, just so the units can free stand and not occupy space on my work table.

Below is a picture of the parts I'd made to this point dry fit together, being held together with clamps. I actually went out & bought an additional (4) 24" K-Body clamps to do this dry fit.

It looks pretty good from this angle, but there are a couple of problems. One of the side boxes is fairly close to square, but the center section is a little torqued & the other side box is noticeably out of square when you look down through it. These were assembled free standing & not on a flat surface, so I'm not too worried about it at this point.

Next time: Making Shelf Supports

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Rails

OK. We've got the major joinery cut on all the posts. We're not done yet with the posts, but at this point, I began working on the rails & central stile of the very front, since I had all of the wood for these parts sitting around after milling them up before we went to Hershey.

I started by cutting these parts to width & length from the stock I had prepared. I cut these to the dimensions from my drawing, since their lengths would determine the final dimensions of the pulpit from font to back. I will use relative dimensioning when I cut the shelf supports & shelves, as well as everything else from that point on.

One interesting thing I did was make a wooden spacer exactly 1" long. The center rails are exactly 1" shorter than the top & bottom rails. By inserting the spacer between the stop on my Osbourne EB-3 when I went to cut the center rails, I got them exactly 1" shorter without having to move the stop block. This saved time & prevented mistakes by readjusting the stop block (I don't have a tape measure on my EB-3).

When I got to the center stile on the front of the center box, a soft, still voice told me to cut it long. When I heard it, I reasoned it was a good idea, since the actual length of this piece would depend up on the depths of the grooves I had yet to cut in the top & bottom rails, and on the distance between the mortises in the front two posts. I needed to cut it to 40 1/2" according to the drawing, so I ended up cutting it to 41".

After cutting these parts to final width & length, I routed grooves in them by mounting the same spiral up-cut bit in my router table. I set the depth to 1/2" & placed a post on the table with the bit in the groove. I then adjusted the router table fence so it was against the adjacent face of the post. And I started running rails. Everything ran fine here, no mistakes.

Next, I began cutting tenons on the ends. The top & bottom rails all have 1" long tenons. The center rails, as well as the center stile on the front, all have 1/2" tenons. I decided to cut the 1" long tenons first.

I attached a stop block to my fence & set it so I would cut a shoulder 1" from the end of stick. I set the height of the blade to 1/4" and I started cutting shoulders. All went well. I then reset the fence 1/2" closer to the blade & made all the shoulder cuts on the center rails & stile stock. Again, all went well.

Time to make the cheek cuts. I grabbed my new tenoning jig that I got for Father's Day (gloat!) and set it up. Again, I started with the 1" long tenons. Everything was going well & I was getting great tenons that were a little too fat to fit in the mortises, which is what I wanted. Some where along the way, I ended up grabbing the stick for the center stile & I mounted it in the tenoning jig & ran it through. Doooh!! The shoulder on one side of one tenon now has a kerf running 1/2" up! Some how, this didn't upset me so much as cutting through the corner on the post had. I remained pretty calm & figured that since the kerf would be hidden when everything was assembled, I'd just fill it in with one of the cheek cutoffs. So I finished cutting the 1" tenons & then did all the 1/2" tenons.

After I'd finished making all of the cheek cuts, I began tweaking & adjusting the tenons so they'd fit into the mortises. I did this by first making a few passes on both faces with my shoulder plane until I could slip the tenon into the groove. I then eyeballed the location of the haunch & marked it on the tenon. Next I cut the haunch using my pull saw. I put each frame together as I went from rail to rail, sort of as a dry fit.

It was while I was putting the center frame together that I realized I had cut the center stile long on the off chance it was too short. This became obvious when I couldn't get the top rail square to the post I had inserted it into after I slid the center stile into its grooves. So I put the frame together without the center rails & stile & measured. And here's the second reason I think God Himself is working on this pulpit with me: I had to remove exactly 1/2" from the stile to get it to the right length. After cutting a new tenon, that would totally remove the mistake from the stile! There's nothing to patch or hide!

So I recut the tenon & finished the dry fit. Here are some pictures of the frames dry fitted together. The left wing:

The right wing:

And the center frame:

I did notice in this dry fit that the grooves I'd cut in the posts were about 1/32" too far from the adjacent face of the posts, since there was about that much of a ledge left visible after I installed the rails. I guess I didn't have the edge guide set to the right distance when I cut the mortises & grooves. Next time, I'll have to remember to double check that dimension with a shallow test cut before I go gang busters on it.

Next time: I Finish Making the Posts

Saturday, July 26, 2008

We're Making Progress

When last we met, I had finished milling the stock for the 12 corner posts to thickness and had cut them to width. And we were leaving for Hershey, PA. That's mostly correct, as I finished these operations before July 4, and we actually left on the following Monday. I did get a little bit more done than that before leaving for Hershey.

I had decided that a 1/4" mortise looked minuscule on a 2" x 2" post, and I was worried that this joint might end up not being strong enough. I expect all kinds of people to be leaning on top of this pulpit as they deliver their sermons, and I know a 2" x 2" post will handle lots of weight, but my confidence in a 1/4" tenon under a load like that isn't there. So I decided to mill the rail & center stile stock to 7/8" thick & make the tenons 3/8" thick. But I could only do this if the stock for these elements was actually flat at 7/8" thick.

I had time to mill the stock for the rails & the center stile to thickness before we left, so I went ahead & did it. This changed the ordering of the steps in my "How Am I Going to Build a Pulpit?" post, but better safe than sorry. The stock was nice & straight before I got to 7/8", but not before it was less than 1" thick. So 7/8" is the thickest I could get. This is fine & I think everything will work out OK. Frankly, 1/4" mortise & tenons are probably fine, but I feel better at this stage.

When we got back from Hershey, I started to cut the joinery I had so carefully layed out on the posts. The first three kinds of cuts I needed to make were done with my DW 621 plunge router, the router's edge guide, and a 3/8" CMT solid carbide spiral up-cut router bit. I had to go out & buy this bit as I didn't have one in this size. And it turns out that it's a metric 3/8". That is, it's some metric size that is almost but not quite actually 3/8" in diameter. I didn't realize it wasn't a true 3/8" until much later.

I cut the mortises first. I set the router so it would plunge to 1 1/16", the depth of my mortises. The tenons are supposed to be 1" long & I wanted to leave a little room for the glue to go. I cut the mortises using a technique I had read about & it worked well. Instead of making multiple passes at progressively deeper settings, I essentially drilled a number of overlapping holes to full depth along the length of the mortise. When I had enough holes drilled, I then passed the router along the length of the mortise at full depth. This cleaned up the little triangles of stock left along the walls of the mortise.

The results were nice, clean mortises at full depth. Unfortunately, the mortises are not all uniformly long. I had my shop vac hooked up to the router, sucking up the chips as they were made. This meant that I had to look through a clear plastic ring that the bit passes through, as well as through the clear base. And the lighting wasn't that great -- the router body blocked a lot of light. The end result was I really couldn't see my layout lines very clearly, and some mortises are shorter than others. I need to rig up some kind of light on my router, or get a goose neck lamp I can use to illuminate the work. In any event, I was happy with the mortises. I would just have to cut the haunches in each tenon by hand & custom for the matching mortise. No big deal.

Next, I had to cut grooves along the length of the posts on the faces where the mortises were cut. I used the same router, bit, and edge guide, changing only the maximum depth of cut. In this case, the depth of cut was set to 1/2". I cut the grooves in two passes, one at 1/4" and the other at 1/2". This was working fine, until I was cutting the first pass on the last groove.

I still had the shop vac attached to the router & it was getting all the chips & dust, but I noticed that sometimes it wouldn't get everything. I realized that the filter in the shop vac was probably clogging, but I didn't want to stop just then to empty the vac & clean the filter. It was the last groove, after all. So what I did was to reverse the direction in which I was pushing the router so the vacuum could get another shot at picking up the chips. I had been doing this on the last couple of grooves & nothing had gone wrong.

In this case, it was a bad move. I think the bit must of started climb cutting & I didn't have a firm enough grip on the router. Next thing I know, the bit had cut through the 1/4" shoulder in the middle of the front face of the post. The post was now useless in that position, and I didn't have the stock to make a new post. The router got shut off, I stripped off my safety goggles, ear muffs, and dust mask, and went away to cool off & ponder what to do.

After thinking about it for an hour or two, I figured out what to do. The post that got damaged was the right front post on the right wing. Picture a square; the post was supposed to sit in the north-east corner on the right hand side of the finished pulpit. I decided to swap that post with the one for the left rear corner, or the south-west corner of the square. In that position, the damaged corner would get cut off in order to form a rabbet, so the damage would disappear. There was only one problem: I had cut mortises & a groove on the face that would face the user once the post was in its new position. I would have to fill in these no longer usable joinery cuts.

I still had some 1/2" thick cut-offs left over from forming these posts. I picked one & planed it to about 3/8" thick in my thickness planer. I then cut it to length & glued it into the groove. After the glue dried, I ripped off the extra material, leaving it a little proud of the surface. I then ran that face up through the planer and got it flush with the face of the post. The resulting patch is almost impossible to detect on the post face. This is one of the reasons why I say that God Himself is helping me with this project.

Here is a picture of the patch. You can see where the patch is on the top face of the post, and you can see how difficult it will be to locate the patch on the face after staining & maybe a little more stainable wood filler.

I had to go back & lay out & cut new mortises in the new post for the right front corner, and then cut the grooves. I also cleaned out the shop vac. There were no mistakes on this stick.

Next time: Making rails