Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let the Finishing Begin!

I found the finishing schedule for the corner cabinet on a web page that belongs to Jeff Jewitt called "Mission Finishes". On that page, Jeff gives schedules for reproducing the look of various Stickley mission finishes. The actual Stickley finishes are a secret & so can't be reproduced at home.

The schedule involves compeleting the following steps:

  1. Dye the wood with TransTint "Brown Mahogany" dye diluted with distilled water at a ratio of 1 oz. of dye to 1 quart of water.
  2. Apply a single coat of Waterlox Original Sealer & Finish & allow to dry 24 hours.
  3. Lightly sand with 320 grit paper.
  4. Glaze with Bartley's Walnut Gel Stain and let dry overnight.
  5. Apply 2 coats (brushed, 4 or 5 coats wiped on) of Waterlox Satin finish.

I'm working on some samples right now. I've completed steps 1 through 4 on the samples and applied 3 coats of satin finish so far. I tried applying the dye with more & less dye in the rag, but it always came out the same color. So I decided to go ahead & dye everything before I had finished making the samples. The color was going to turn out the same, so there was no real reason to wait.

So the following are pictures of the major parts after dying. The doors:

The lower cabinet carcase:

The upper cabinet carcase:

That's enough for now. Next time, more on the finishing.

Hanging Doors

Or, as I found it to be, an exercise in frustration!

I found out the hard way that inset doors are a pain to hang. The reason is because everything has to fit in the opening and there's really no way to fudge it.

The first step in hanging the doors was to go out & get some screws. I bought 2 dozen #6 x 1" brass flat head screws and 2 #6 x 1" steel flat head screws. The plan was to drill the pilot holes, then drive one of the steel screws into the hole and remove it, then drive a brass screw in. This should result in fewer broken screws. Yeah, right!

The hinges I bought for this cabinet exactly match the hinges on the pieces in our dining room set. I got them from Lee Valley. They are a morticeless type of hinge; the picture below shows them.

I got the screws from my local Ace hardware store. They carried #4, #6 & #8 screws. I figured the #6 size would be about right, from the size of the holes in the hinges. Well, when I drove the screws in, I found that the heads of the screws protruded above the surface of the hinges about 1/32" or so. After seeing this, I went back to the store & got some #4 screws. These were just way too small & the Phillips cross in the heads just stripped out when I tried to screw them home.

I think a #5 screw would be perfect, but I can't seem to find them locally. I really don't want to talk about the damage I did to the doors with broken screws while trying to mount the hinges. I did manage to hide all of it under the hinges, but I'm not happy with the way the operation went.

I had to plane the bottom & side of the bead moldings on both doors to get everything to fit properly and the doors to open freely. As I've come to find, this is just normal for hanging inset doors. Everything really does have to be absolutely perfect if you expect to just hang them & be done. I'm not anywhere near that good. And these are the first doors I've ever made & hung, by the way.

After I got both doors hung & working to my satisfaction, I mounted the door knobs. The knobs I bought came with their own mounting bolts, so I just drilled 1/4" holes through the left hand stile, inserted the bolts & screwed them into the knobs. I have door catch hardware left to mount, but I'll wait until the finishing is done to do that.

And that completes the build. All I have left to do is take off the doors, finish sanding, raise the grain, then work through my finish schedule..

Now to be completely honest, as of this writing, I've already begun working through the finishing schedule, but I forgot to take pictures of the cabinet as it was before I started this phase! Sorry folks.

Next time, I'll go over the finishing. My wife & I are looking forward to putting this in the dining room in a week or two.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

To Finish the Panels or Glue the Doors?

When last we met, I had just finished making the shelves. The project was at this point about 2 weekends ago. My intention at this point was to finish the panels in the doors and then glue them together. But I didn't have all of the finishing supplies I needed, and I had to order some things off the Web. Plus I needed Waterlox Satin Finish, and I had a hard time finding that locally. I knew I could get some at the Norwalk, CT Woodcraft, but that would take a special trip.

So I found myself contemplating whether or not to finish the woodworking and glue up the doors. Part of me just wanted to get it all done so I could concentrate on finishing. And part of me wanted to follow my plan.

In the end, the lack of finishing supplies and time pressure to get going on my next project made my decision for me. I ended up gluing the doors together on a Friday night. And the following weekend was spent making the cock beading, mitering it, and finally applying it.

The glue-ups went without incident, really. Everything had been in clamps for about a month or so, so I knew everything fit. It was just a matter of applying glue, putting the parts together, lining everything up, and applying the clamps.

The cock beading was a job & a half. I had a 1/8" radius beading bit I got from the Tool Nut. I chucked that into my table mounted router & set the height. I then mounted my home made fence & carefully lined it up with the bearing on the bit. Next I prepared some stock.

The moldings needed to be 7/8" wide & 1/4" thick when I was done. I wanted to make this molding safely, and that meant routing the bead onto oversize stock. So I cut some pieces from 3/4" stock that were about 2 1/8" wide. I then ran the stock through the router twice, once with alternate 3/4" sides against the fence.

Next, I went to the table saw & started ripping the beads off. I set the fence so the 1/4" I wanted was to the left of the blade, mounted my GripTitle magnetic feather board & used a push block to finish the cuts. Obviously I didn't use the blade guard because of the size of the rip. In general this worked well, but the first piece I was cutting started to close up the kerf and the stock started to climb up the blade.

At that point I turned off the saw & avoided the kickback. I thought about how I could finish this cut & decided to put the stock aside. I had enough to make the parts I needed & if I needed to use that stock, I would just set up the band saw & finish the cut there.

After ripping the beading off the stock & then to final width, I ran them through my thickness planer to get them a uniform thickness, and to remove some burn marks that were on some of the stock before I started. This worked fine & only took a couple of very light passes.

I used my Osbourne EB-3 miter gauge to cut the miters. This went fine. Next I glued the moldings on & used my 23 gauge pin nailer to hold them in place "while the glue dried".

Here are the finished doors, awaiting to be installed.

Next time: Hanging the Doors

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Making Shelves

When last we met, I had put the doors aside to make the shelves. So let's talk about that.

The plan with the shelves was to take a fresh 1/4 sheet of 3/4" MDF & make a template for the shelves. The idea was to take the template for the carcase top & bottom & trace that shape onto the new template stock. The tops & bottoms have a 3/4" wide rabbet cut along the three back edges. So I took a scrap that was long enough & 3/4" wide and lay that with the right edge on the tracing of the shape. I'd then trace along the left edge & that would give me a 3/4" offset. I had to make sure that the resulting shape was actually smaller than the top & bottom or the shelf wouldn't fit in the cabinet.

Now, two of the three front edges are buried in a dado in the face frame. So I repeated the procedure on those edges with the same scrap. Then I pulled out my circular saw & straight edge guide & cut off the two triangular pieces from the rear corner. I used the fence on the table saw to make the other cuts, since those edges were all parallel to the ones opposite them.

Now it was time to make the shelves. The first step was to cut four blanks to an appropriate size from what was left of the third sheet of white oak ply I had on hand. I planned to put a 3/4" wide by 1 1/4" wide solid oak edge on the shelves, so I next cut the edging, then I glued the pieces onto the blanks.

I used biscuits to attach the edging, but in hindsight, I should not have used the biscuits. I ended up with a small misalignment on three of the 4 shelves I made. One of the edge pieces was about 1/32" above the top of the shelf, and the others had spots in the middle that were lower than the top by less than 1/32". If you look closely, you can see a little ledge on these two shelves.

If I had just glued on the edging & let them all be about 1/32" higher than the top of the shelves, I could then have used a flush trim bit in the router table to get everything perfectly flush. Hindsight is 20-20, as they say, but I had to live with what I had.

I traced the template's shape on the blanks. I cut the two triangles off of the first blank. The picture below shows a typical set up for this operation.

I used a pattern bit in my router table to finish the back cuts & make them the same as the template. I then used the table saw to finish the parallel cuts. I installed four shelf pins at the same level in the upper cabinet. I took the shelf over to cabinet & tried to put it on the pins. But it wouldn't fit! I then tried to put the template on the pins, and that wouldn't fit, either. But it fit fine on the bottom of the cabinet. Time to scratch my head for a while.

The only reason I can come up with for this disparity is that the backs of the carcases aren't straight but slightly bowed inward. I'm not sure why this is, as everything was cut straight, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

OK, I've got to make the shelves smaller. I put some 80 grit sand paper on a sanding block & sanded for a while. While this did make the shelves smaller, it wasn't working fast enough. I could kind of wedge one shelf in one position, but it wouldn't go in at a different height.

After making a couple of attempts at this, what I ended up doing was putting the template in at about the middle of the upper cabinet. The front edges & the right side in the back fit fine, but about 1/16" had to come off the left side in the very back. I marked the rear of the template to show how much had to come off.

Since everything was fine in the front, this had to be a tapered cut. I don't have a taper jig for my table saw, plus this is an odd shaped piece. What I ended up doing was attaching a scrap to one side of the template with double sided tape, with one end even with the front corner and the other even with my mark in the back. I added a second piece to help keep the template level & then I trimmed off the material I needed to remove. The picture below shows the set up for this operation.

I tested the template in the carcase & it fit fine. Perfectly, in fact, and I could put it at any level & it had no trouble fitting at all.

Now I trimmed three of the shelves to the template again & they all fit fine. But I never trimmed the fist shelf I had put in, which would only fit in the one position it occupied. I took the router table apart & put it away & quit for the day. I even went to work the next morning. And I thought about it when I wasn't otherwise occupied.

When I got home, after thinking about it for a day, I realized I needed to trim that shelf, too, since I didn't want a shelf that would only fit in one place in the cabinet. I wanted all of them to be interchangeable. So I set the pattern trim bit back in the router table & attached the template to the shelf with double stick tape. Then I took it to the table & had at it.

Only I didn't get a good bond with the double sided tape & the template moved while I was routing it! I had to stop in the middle & I had a 1/8" deep gouge taken out of one side! Arrrrgh!

While I had plenty of ply left to make another shelf, I had run out of 3/4" stock that was long enough to make the edging, and I really didn't want to go out & buy more at this late date. I didn't think I could cut the edging off of the munged up shelf & glue it on to a new shelf & get the ends aligned properly. Now what to do?

I figured that if I put this shelf in the top of the upper cabinet, you'd never really see the missing material, so I'm just going to use the shelf as is. If it turns out I'm wrong, I can always make a new shelf later.

So I finished trimming the shelf to shape. By adjusting the position of the template on the shelf, I was even able to make the gouge a little smaller & so less noticeable. I just hope I'm right.

The four shelves all fit fine. I then started contemplating finishing, since the only woodworking I had left was to glue up the doors, make the bead moldings for the doors, miter the molding & glue them to the doors.

Next: To Finish the Door Panels or Glue the Doors?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring is here!

I have two announcements to make:

  1. Spring is here! The temperatures went from the 20s & 30s a few weeks ago to over 80° today. Now I can think about applying finish & having it dry properly.
  2. All of the woodworking on the corner cabinet is done!

It took a while to get to where we are now. I'd like to say that I spent every free minute between the point the doors were at in my last post to the point we're at now, but that wouldn't be true. In fact, most weeks, I was lucky to get a few hours in on the weekend.

Below is a close-up image of the lower door from the plans I originally drew up.

The vertical lines on the panel in the drawing are grooves that are in the panels on every door in our dining set. I wasn't sure how to make those grooves, so I figured I'd use a 1/8" diameter bowl bit. The plan was to make two passes at somewhere between 1 1/2" & 2" from the edges of the panels (I forget the exact dimension). One pass would be made with one long edge against the fence, then I'd flip the board & place the opposite edge against the fence. Next I'd reposition the fence & make two more passes in the same manner, ending up with 4 grooves centered & evenly spaced across each panel.

I carefully set up the height of the bit in my router table & positioned the fence. I made one pass & found that the groove didn't look right. I brought the panel over to one of the pieces in our dining room set & compared the grooves. It was at this point that I realized the grooves were table saw blade kerfs. Doh!

At this point I set up the my table saw's fence to the appropriate distance & set the blade to 1/8" high. I made a pass. Sure enough, this gave me the shape I wanted the groove to have. I then flipped the board around & made the second pass. With the fence still at this position, I repeated the two passes on the panel for the other door. I then reset the fence for the next pair of grooves & repeated the operation.

The pictures below show how the doors looked dry fit together after cutting the grooves.

The next logical step is to glue the doors together and then make the bead molding that wraps the doors, miter the pieces & glue them to the doors. I'd love to tell you that this is exactly what I did next. Doing so, however, would be lying.

I have read many times that if you finish the panel on a raised panel door after you put the door together, unstained & finished wood can become visible in the winter when the panel shrinks. In fact, our headboard on our bed is put together using frame & panel construction, and in the winter I always see a thin strip of unstained wood peeking out along one edge of the panel.

The best way to prevent this is to finish the panels first, then put the doors together. And I wanted to follow this advice. So I just put the doors aside, still dry fit together & in the clamps, while I started making the shelves.

Next: Making Shelves