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