Friday, January 30, 2009

The Pulpit Has Been Delivered

The last time we met, I had finished making the last parts of the pulpit. As you would expect, applying the finish was the next step. And after that, it would be time to deliver the pulpit to my church and my pastor. Well, as of Thursday, January 29, 2009, all of that was done!

Because of the weather, the finish took a little bit more than 3 weeks to do. To remind you, here's the finishing schedule I used for this project:

  1. Wipe on Minwax Golden Oak stain.
  2. Wait 5 minutes.
  3. Wipe off excess stain.
  4. Apply a coat of shellac.
  5. Apply a coat of clear gloss Polycrillic water based polyurethane.
  6. Sand with 220 grit paper.
  7. Apply a coat of clear gloss Polycrillic water based polyurethane.
  8. Sand with 320 grit paper.
  9. Apply a coat of clear gloss Polycrillic water based polyurethane.
  10. Sand with 400 grit paper.
  11. Apply a final coat of clear semi-gloss Polycrillic water based polyurethane.

I was able to get through the first 4 steps of the finishing schedule pretty quickly, but then the weather turned real cold and I couldn't proceed any further for a few days. In fact, it got down into the single digits. There was no way the little tiny heater I have in my garage was going to get the temperature anywhere close to 60°, so I had to wait for the next week.

After it warmed back up enough that I could work with the Polycrillic, I began applying coats & sanding. It pretty much turned out that I would apply a coat of Polycrillic one day and then spend the next day doing the between coat sanding. By the time I got through one of these activities, there wasn't enough time to do the other before the kids bed time, at which point I'd have to give up for the day.

I used a foam brush to apply the Polycrillic at first, but I found that the brush would start to crumble from all of the surfaces I had to cover & leave little bits of foam in the finish. This was unacceptable, so I went out & bought a decent 2" brush with synthetic bristles from my local Ace hardware store.

I used a brush because I don't have any spray equipment. It may have been wiser to thin the Polycrillic down with some distilled water & wipe it on, but that would have taken more coats. I did get some drips using a brush, which is the one thing I hate about brushing. I have to admit that I don't recall any drips while wiping on the finish on my corner cabinet.

One of these days, if I keep up with this, and after I go back to work full time, I will probably get an Earlex HVLP spray system. However, if anyone would like to donate one, I'd be happy to accept it! Only kidding! (Well, maybe not . . .)

I applied the last semi-gloss coat of Polycrillic on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 28. I left everything in my garage for a few hours for the finish to fully dry to the touch, then I brought it inside the family room over night to keep it warm. This was pretty much what I did after applying each coat.

On Thursday morning, I began by removing the newspaper & masking tape I had placed on the raised panels, which I had finished when I made them back in September. I was greatly relieved when I saw that the colors of the panels & the rest of the wood actually matched!

After carefully removing the occasional stray piece of blue painter's tape that ripped & remained on the panels with a utility knife, I was ready to mount the purple heart & maple cross to the front. I mounted the cross using this procedure:

  1. I determined what the reveal should be between the edges of the center rail & stiles & the arms of the cross; this came out to be 3/8".
  2. I measured in 1" from the end of the top & bottom & placed two marks on the back of the cross. This would be about where I wanted the screws that I was going to drive through the center stile into the back of the cross to penetrate it.
  3. Next, I measured the length from the top end of the cross to the top edge of the arms & subtracted 1 3/8". This came out to be about 2 7/16".
  4. On the inside of the center box, I measured up the center stile from the top of the cross rails 2 7/16" & placed a mark centered on the rail.
  5. I measured the distance between the two marks I had made on the back of the cross. This was about 7 5/16".
  6. I measured down 7 5/16" from the mark I had made on the inside of the center box & made another mark there.
  7. I had my wife hold a block of wood against the front of the pulpit while I drilled a counter sunk pilot hole through the stile from the inside.
  8. I then enlarged the hole in the stile using a 5/32" bit.
  9. Using a 3/8" brass bar to place the cross on the front, I had my wife hold the cross in place while I drove the top screw into the cross.
  10. I then drilled the bottom hole & drove the second screw in.

I had thought about driving 2 more screws in, one in each of the arms, but decided against it. I seriously doubt the cross will come off with the two screws in it. I then removed the cross because I didn't want to risk it getting damaged or leaving an imprint on one of the other pieces while transporting everything to church.

Finally, it was time to load up the minivan. Mary & I managed to fit everything into the back of the van; we only had to stow away the rear row of seats. This is pretty much what I had planned. We had to stack the two wings on top of each other in order to get everything in. And we loaded all of the shelves into the center box. We stuck the lectern in between the boxes, with pillows & a couple of blankets between everything, to keep them from getting scratched. I fit the box with the hardware & the tools I'd need to assemble everything, including my 2 foot level, into various nooks & crannies as well. Though it turns out I forgot the hinge for the lectern in the commotion to get going.

We got to the church without incident & parked in front of it. Main Street in Danbury is a fairly busy street & they recently renovated it & removed a lot of parking spaces, so we had to unload the van & move it as quickly as possible. We were hampered in this in that most of the guys I had asked to help unload & carry the pulpit upstairs didn't show up. But we managed to get it all upstairs.

Here I am with Vinnie Weber, my pastor's son, in the stair well at the church's building. Vinnie helped carry everything upstairs, even though he hurt his back on Sunday. We're about to carry the center section upstairs, which can also be seen in the picture. Credit for the picture goes to my daughter Samantha.

Here I am with Major Bill Weber (ret.), my Pastor's husband, carrying the center box into the sanctuary. Another Samantha picture.

Another Samantha picture. Here I am with the center box after setting it in place in the sanctuary. You can see the cross whose color I was trying to match with the finish in the pulpit in the background.

Here I am assembling the right wing to the center box. First, I had to level the center box, then we had to adjust the height of the adjustable legs to get everything to line up properly. Then I inserted & tightened the four (4) bolts that hold everything together. In this picture, I'm checking the height of the wing & finding that it's too tall. Credit for this picture also goes to Samantha.

Here's the finished lectern with its inlays, waiting to be installed. Yep, a Samantha photo.

Here's the finished cross, also waiting to be installed. Credit goes to Samantha.

Here I am with Pastor Evelyn Weber, after I'd finished assembling all I could. As I said, I had forgotten the hinge for the lectern. The church is a 40 minute drive from home, so I couldn't just go home & get it. I'll install the hinge on Sunday morning & all will be finished then. And yes, it's a Samantha picture.

Here is a front view of the finished pulpit in its new home.

Here's the pulpit from the rear, showing the handles, one of the cup holders, and the lectern.

And finally, the back of the pulpit with all of the shelves in it.

Over all, I'm very pleased with the way that this project came out. There were days when I thought I'd never be finished with it, but I finally got everything done and the pulpit delivered.

My plan at this point is to concentrate on finding a new job & take a break from woodworking. While I do have a few boards & plenty of scraps lying around & I could make a few small things, I have to put my priorities straight. But I will be posting again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Last Parts

I'm almost done with the woodworking! The last parts to make are the lectern & the cross that goes in front of the finished pulpit. When they're done, it's on to the finish. So let's get started!

Here is the plan view of the lectern, taken from my SketchUp plan of the pulpit:

As you can see from the drawing, the finished lectern will be 3/4" x 16 3/4" x 20" or so. The exact width will vary somewhat depending upon the curve I cut on the top edge. There will be a cross made from purple heart inlaid into the middle, and a 1/8" wide strip of maple inlaid around the perimeter of the lectern. Three sides will be kept 3/4" in from the edge, while the bottom piece will be kept 1 1/2" from the bottom edge. This is to leave room for a 3/4" thick book stop that will be glued along the bottom edge of the lectern. These will be the first inlays I will ever do.

While I was milling the lumber for the cap rails, I also milled the lumber for the lectern. I had a red oak board about 8 feet long and 9 1/2" or so wide. This board was almost completely flat along its entire length, with just a slight bow, maybe 1/8" along the entire length.

I cut two pieces about 24" long off of the board to glue together for this part. When I placed them on my table saw top to look for high & low spots, there was only a very small gap, maybe 1/64" or so at most, under the boards. The grain on the boards had a nice cathedral arch, and I really didn't want to rip the boards in half, so I skipped face jointing them and just ran them through the planer to clean them up & get them uniformly thick.

After that, I did the grain matching & I edge jointed the boards. I glued them to each other using cauls to keep the faces aligned to each other. Then I put the glue-up aside while I worked on the cap rails & the purple heart & maple trim.

After finishing up the trim, I took the lectern blank, sanded it flush with my ROS, and cut it to final length & width. I set the off-cut from cutting it to width aside to use as the book stop. Next I took a scrap piece of 3/4" plywood about 22" long & 6" or so wide & laid out a grid. I drove a 1" brad partially into the plywood at the intersection points of the grid & snaked a 1/16" thick piece of red oak scrap about 3' long through the brads to get the curve I wanted. I traced the curve on to the plywood, removed the strip & brads, and cut the shape on my band saw.

After cleaning up the edge with some sand paper, I traced the curve onto the lectern blank & cut it on the band saw. Then I used the plywood pattern to pattern route the curve to final shape on my router table. I was extremely pleased with the way the curve came out.

Next, I mounted a 1/4" radius cove bit into the router table & cut a lip along the bottom of the curved edge about 3/8" deep. This provides a grip for the user's fingers when they want to raise the lectern up if it's lying flat on the top shelf. I then used a 1/8" radius round over bit to ease the sharp edge on the finger grip.

Once all of that was done, I got started on the inlays. I went out & bought an inlay router bushing & bit set made by Whiteside. The kit comes with a 1/4" shank, 1/8" diameter solid carbide down spiral straight bit, a brass guide bushing with a 9/16" outside diameter, a special centering rod that you use to make sure the bushing & the router base are centered on the collet, and a special removable bushing that allows you to attach to cut the recess for the inlay & remove to cut the inlay itself.

I started by getting a scrap of 1/4" plywood to use as a template. I laid out the cross inlay on this piece of plywood. The difference between the cutting diameter of the bit and the bushing was 7/16", so I had to make the arms 7/16" wider & longer than the plan. Otherwise, the resulting cross would have been 7/16" narrower & shorter.

I drilled some holes in the template with a 1/4" drill bit & used my jig saw with the speed turned way down & orbital cutting turned off to cut the shape. I made sure I didn't remove the line with the jig saw. I then used a bastard file to smooth & straighten everything out. I checked everything with a straight edge to be sure the arms were all straight.

I measured the lectern to determine where the cross needed to go & used double stick tape to attach the template. With the bit & both bushings from the inlay kit mounted on my plunge router, I set the depth of cut to about 1/16" & went to town removing material. This went fairly quickly & left me with a very clean outline & a pretty clean bottom. I cleaned a couple of small spots that I didn't get with the router up with a chisel & 1/2 of the inlay was done.

I next cut a piece of purple heart the required size off of my second purple heart board. I attached the template to the purple heart, making sure that the grain ran in the same direction relative to the cross as it does in the lectern. The inlay would be a small piece of wood, but I didn't want to risk any kind of cross grain movement issues. I removed the outer bushing & very carefully made one pass around the perimeter of the template.

Next, I had to cut the inlay out of the purple heart. The depth of cut is still only 1/16". You need to essentially resaw the blank to cut the inlay free. I've seen Norm do this on the New Yankee Workshop a few times, and it looked easy. And it essentially is. The only tricky part is getting the rip fence setting right. Which I didn't.

I ended up with a nice slice from the blank with my inlay still attached. And even though the wood that connected my inlay to the rest of this piece was less than 1/16" thick, the stuff did not want to break! This is when I really found out just how strong purple heart is!

In retrospect, I suppose I should have taken the piece to the band saw & carefully cut it out, then cleaned up the edges with a file or sand paper. Instead, I tried to break the cross out & ended up splitting the top & bottom arms off along the grain. I used a utility knife with a new blade to try to cut the cross out, but that took more effort than I would have believed. Did I mention that purple heart is a very hard, strong wood?

In the end I got my pieces & I was able to put them into the hole I had cut out. Since everything split along the grain, everything went back together again pretty much invisibly. The parts split into more pieces when I tried to remove the inlay from the hole. The moral of this story is to resaw everything to the right thickness & don't tap the inlay into the hole until you have glue in the hole!

The next task was to cut the recesses for the maple strips. I used the edge guide for my router for three of these cuts. I removed the inlay guide bushing from the router but kept the same bit chucked in the collet. I set the fence on the edge guide 1 1/2" from the bit & made a test cut on some scrap. I verified the cut was indeed 1 1/2" from the edge. And then I cut the recess for the bottom edge, making sure to start 3/4" from the left edge.

I reset the edge guide for a 3/4" space between its fence & the bit. I made another test cut & verified the setting. I then cut the straight recesses on the sides. These went fine, though I cut one about 1/64" too far.

To cut the curved recess along the top, I used a trick I saw Norm use on the New Yankee Workshop. I took a narrow 3/4" plywood scrap, about 1" wide, and used my drum sander attachment in my drill press to round over one end. I then removed the edge guide & clamped this scrap to the router's base 3/4" from the bit. A test cut confirmed the setting. I then cut the recess, being careful not to twist the router & letting the scrap guide it along the edge. I'm happy to say this worked perfectly.

I took some extra 1/8" maple strips that I had left over from making the maple trim & ripped them in half. I had to hand plane some material off of them to get them to fit. I then carefully mitered the corners & glued them into the recesses. Then I glued the cross into its recess. The last step, after letting the glue dry, was to plane off the excess maple & purple heart using my block plane & then sanding everything flush. Finally, I shaped & glued book stop onto the bottom of the lectern.

Here's a picture showing how the lectern turned out.

Next, I made the cross. Here's a plan view from SketchUp:

The cross was made from four pieces of purple heart, each about 1/2" thick by 3/4" wide, mitered at the center. The purple heart was then wrapped with 12 pieces of maple 3/4" thick by 1/4" wide, mitered at the ends. All of these were glued to each other and a piece of 1/4" thick plywood cut in the shape of the cross. Each arm of the plywood is 1" wide. There are 1/8" wide by 1/4" deep rabbets cut in all of the maple pieces. The plywood is to act as a backer & a gluing surface to firmly attach all of the parts to each other.

I used my table saw to cut the cross shape out of the plywood. I raised the blade to full height & made a mark on the fence parallel to the front edge of the blade. I then make sure I extended all of the edges of the cross on the plywood to the edges. I set the fence to the distance from the edge of the plywood to the nearest vertical edge & made four cuts, stopping each when the intersecting line reached the mark on the fence. I reset the fence for the next two pairs of cuts, as necessary, turned the blank 90°, and cut the cross pretty much free. A little clean up with a chisel in the inside corners & I had a 1/4" plywood cross.

The rest of it was a process of carefully cutting double miters on the purple heart, then cutting the parts to final length. I glued them to the plywood & used 23 gauge pins to hold them in place while the glue dried. Then I carefully mitered a maple strip in which I had cut a 1/8" wide by 1/4" deep (actually the thickness of the plywood) rabbet & wrapped the purple heart with the miter. I used clamps only to hold the long pieces in place, but I did use pin nails on the end pieces.

And here's how the cross came out.

It's taken about 7 months or so to get to this point. I'm very happy with the end result, but I'm also anxious to deliver this piece & clean up my garage!

So next time, it's the start of the finish!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Purple & White Trim

After I finished making & attaching the cap rails, I pulled out the boards I had set aside for the trim. These included one piece of hard maple 3/4" thick by about 7" wide by 4' long, as well as two pieces of rough 4/4 purple heart about 6" wide & about the same length. The maple stock came planed flat & of a uniform thickness, with one straight edge. The purple heart was a little over an inch thick.

The trim consists of two pieces of maple; one piece lies on top of the plinth or under the cap rail. A second piece is glued to the vertical face of the carcase. All pieces are mitered at the corners. The pieces that run under the cap rail just end at the rear of the sides of the wing carcases; the pieces on top of the plinth wrap all the way around the base and meet at a 90° angle where the wings attach to the center section. Two different moldings, made from the purple heart, get glued where the maple parts meet.

The first job was to make & attach the maple. The maple was all supposed to be 1/8" thick, but because of an earlier mistake, I have about a 1/16" reveal where the rails meet the corner posts on all of the carcases. In order to make sure the maple would touch the rails as well as the posts, I needed to make the stock for the these areas 3/16" thick, and then rabbet the extra 1/16" off.

First I ripped a number of strips of maple 1/8" thick. I did this by placing a feather board in my table saw's miter slot & setting it 1/8" from the blade. I placed the board against the feather board, then brought the fence up against the right edge of the board. After locking down the fence, I'd make a cut and the strip would fall to the left of the blade. I then reset the fence in a similar manner. After cutting the 1/8" thick material, I used the same technique to cut the same number of 3/16" strips.

Once I had all of the maple strips made, I worked on one side of each carcase before going to the next side of it. I would miter, glue & pin nail a 1/8" strip for the top of the plinth. Then I'd cut a 3/16" strip, miter it over length, rabbet the ends, miter to final length, then glue & pin nail it on. Then I'd miter a 1/8" strip for under the cap rails, glue & pin nail it on. Finally, I'd make another 3/16" strip to place near the 1/8" piece under the cap rail. Then I'd turn the carcase 90° and work on the next face.

After all of the maple was in place, I milled up the two purple heart boards. I then mounted my classical ogee bit into my router table. This bit cuts a 1/4" radius round over, a 1/16" step, and a 1/4" radius cove. I then took one of the purple heart boards & ran the profile down one edge. I rotated the board 180° and ran the profile down the other edge. Then I ripped both edges off of the board & did all of that again. Finally, I ran one more edge & ripped it off.

Next, I needed to make a 3/8" radius cove molding our of purple heart for under the cap rail. I replaced the ogee bit in the router table with the cove bit & reset the fence. I was able to make two pieces of this molding. At this point, I felt it was unsafe to make any more molding from what I had left of this board. It was, however, just slightly oversize to make the purple heart pieces I needed for the cross that will go in front of the pulpit. So I ripped it to 3/4" and put it aside for that purpose.

Before making these 2 pieces of cove molding, I had to resaw the stock to remove about 3/16"of thickness that wasn't needed. The stock was narrow enough that I could do it with one pass on the table saw, which is what I did. Then, after routing the profile on to both edges of the stock, I ripped them from the board. And found myself with a small dilemma.

I was thinking that I might need a third piece of the cove molding, but I didn't think making a third piece from what I had left at this point would be safe. I figured I could probably get away with what I had, so I didn't make a third piece. I did, however, leave the bit in the router table & didn't change any of the settings on the router & the fence, just in case I did need to make another piece.

Once I had all of my molding pieces, I began wrapping the molding around the carcases, much as I did for the maple. I started with the ogee molding on the plinth, then worked on the cove molding under the cap rail.

What I did not do, however, was put any moldings on the front of the wings, top or bottom, as I needed to cope those pieces into the inside corners, and I hadn't ever coped a joint before. So I cut the moldings for these faces extra long & put them aside.

I began trying to cope the ogee molding by working with some scrap pieces -- I had lots of extra molding at this point. I pulled out my father's coping saw, which I've had since he passed away when I was 23, but I've never had a use for until now. I even went out & bought a brand new blade, since the one in the saw was bent.

I installed the new blade, and took the coping saw to the piece of molding. And that's when I found out how hard purple heart is. I was able to remove some of the material from the molding, but I had a hard time getting it started & following the curve. I was very nervous

At this point, I spoke to one of our Elders at church, Jack, who is retired & has experience with coping moldings. He agreed to come over & help me cope the moldings for the corners.

So Jack came by and he tried using his coping saw on the purple heart. And he was taken back by how hard the purple heart was. What we ended up doing was breaking out my Dremel tool & the 1/2" drum sander attachment with a coarse sleeve and just sanded away the material we needed to remove. We got some burning, but it didn't matter, since that side would never show.

The resulting coped joints looked great & fit perfectly. If it weren't for Jack, I'd be deep in despair now, trying to figure out what I would do.

Here are some pictures of the finished moldings. First, the ogee moldings:

Now the cove molding:

Another shot of the cove molding:

That's enough for this post. Next time, we'll cover the last bits left to do, the cross for the front & the hinged lectern.