Thank you for visiting Reproduction Woodworks' blog today. Here you will find a log of projects I am working on, discussion of future plans and general musings on my experiences as a woodworker. I hope you enjoy your visit today. Questions and comments are always welcome and appreciated.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Finishing up an old project

When business keeps you busy, its a good thing.  When it keeps you from finishing personal projects, it can be a little frustrating.  I -finally- just completed a project that was almost a year in the making: a pair of boxes for my Brother-In-Law that acted as wonderful dust collectors on my wood racks for months and months.
Boxes assembled, still debating how to hold on to them.
Overall, I am very happy with how they turned out, though I certainly learned a few things from doing these.

First:  Just get the silly things done, it really isn't that big of a deal.
Second: Mark the inside out and outside faces of boards when working with a dovetail jig so you don't accidentally flip one.

In reality, I know both of these things, but it is a good reminder to myself.  One of the boxes, I flipped the inside for the outside face, and while it made no difference in the end, I noticed the grain was not continuous, and this bothers me, as they are a gift and I tend to be a perfectionist.

The boxes were fairly simple to construct.  As evidenced by the picture, the box is constructed with Through Dovetails, cut on a Leigh D-4R Dovetail Jig.  I'll be spotlighting that lovely little jig in a later post.  The bottoms are mortised into the box, and should provide plenty of stability and strength over the years.  The lids and bottoms are not single panels; with Poplar's tendency to warp, I opted to glue up panels, alternating the grain to minimize the warping issue.  Cleats were then nailed and glued to both tops and bottoms to keep them in place.
In California, we are relatively lucky that we do not experience the severe humidity swings of the East Coast, or Southern US.  Had I been building these for another region, I would not have glued the cleats in place, as the humidity, and resulting swelling and shrinking, would have either caused the glue joints in the top panel to fail, or the glue attaching the cleats to fail.  Thus why it was nailed as well.  All of the glued panels were given the addition treatment of being biscuited together.  Biscuiters, or Plate Joiners, as they are more popularly known, happen to be one of my favorite tools for jobs such as these, because of the ease and invisibility of adding a little extra strength to a joint.  Edge gluing, if done properly, is incredibly resilient, and you are likely to break the wood before you will get a failure along a glue joint.  A biscuit makes sure that that is the case.
I have the Porter Cable Plate Joiner, and have been very happy with its performance.  The complete kit includes an additional blade for FF sized biscuits, which is quite useful for smaller work.
The cleats and edges of the top were all beveled with a 45-degree router bit with a top bearing.  This is, in my opinion, the fastest and easiest way to bevel an edge.  Consistent downward pressure is particularly important to get an even bevel, though, if you are using it in a router table and working with a large panel (as I was).  A far easier method, though at the time I was too lazy to remove the bit from the Router Table to do so, is to use a hand-held router for the large panels, and use the table only for beveling the edges of the cleats.  The reason for this is that the small base of the hand-held router will move smoothly and evenly over whatever bow or cup your panel may have in it.  Whereas, like I mentioned, you have to be more attentive with your downward pressure, particularly if the board is cupped, to ensure the bevel remains even.  As both tops were fresh from being sanded flat, I was not particularly worried about any cupping, and to the router table they went.
After much debate, I finally settled on rope handles, stapled on the inside, for these boxes.  They will provide plenty of strength, an easy way to carry the boxes, and add to the period look that my Brother-In-Law was seeking.
One of the finished boxes, posing for the camera.
 Once I'd chosen the type of handles, I drilled holes for the rope to pass through, and then moved over to the finishing table.  I wanted to provide at least some form of protection to the Poplar, though it was requested that I leave the boxes looking as natural as possible.  Under no circumstances was I to use any type of film finish; one that is readily visible on the surface of the wood.  So I settled for Boiled Linseed Oil, which really isn't boiled at all, but has heavy metal dryers mixed with it that simulates the effects of boiling upon the oil and allows it to polymerize once it is applied.  Linseed oil should be applied in thin coats and allowed to penetrate thoroughly before being buffed and rubbed to even the finish out.  Several coats over 4 days will yield a finish that looks very natural, but does provide some element of protection to the wood.  Though, as I do not often use Linseed Oil, I can not confidently say just how much protection it will provide, particularly from rain.
Though, at some point this winter, I suspect you will see a rain test of various finishes, so check back for that excitement.
And here are the finished boxes.

Next time: We take our new toy for a test drive.  And there's fire involved!

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