Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Progress on the Candle Rack

Well, it's been slow, but progress is being made on the candle rack - or is it a candle shelf, or candle cabinet? I don't know what to call this thing. Hmm. It's a candle thing! Maybe candle thingy sounds more precise...

Anyway, I started the dovetails on the candle thingy. First, I did the layout for the tails where one side joins the bottom. I used a marking gauge set just slightly more than the thickness of the pin board (bottom) to mark the baseline for the tails. Then, using a small bevel gauge (visible in the background), I just eye-balled the tails. I added the variations in the middle just for fun.

It's always temping to skip the "mark the waste with an X" part, but don't do it! Just trust me on that one.

After marking the tails, I ripped the lines with my dovetail saw. I should probably say I ripped using the lines as rough guides. It doesn't really matter if you saw to the line or not on this part, but it will later. Up to this point, this was my standard approach, but now I wanted to try a couple of new techniques.

Normally, I rip the tails with my saw, then move directly to removing the majority of the waste with a coping saw, clean them up with chisels, and then use the dovetails to layout the pins. The first new technique I tried helps with aligning the tail and pin boards for a more accurate transfer. This is the well known "shallow rabbet" technique. Basically, I just planed a very shallow rabbet on the inside of the tail board. When it was time to align the two pieces, the rabbet catches on the edge of the pin board and keeps everything square. It worked great and I liked it.

The second new technique was a different way to transfer the shapes of the tails to the pin board. Before I cut out the waste between the tails, I transferred the layout with the saw itself, running the front teeth (or tooth) down the kerfs in the tail board. I'd read about this in books, and seen Roy do it, but I'd never tried it myself. It worked okay - I think the juries still out on this one. I wasn't totally happy with the quality of the lines I created. Not enough pressure, and the line was very faint - too much pressure and the line was clear but there was some tearout in the face of the pin board. I need more practice before I decide if I like this one or not.

Here is a shot of the tail board aligned atop the pin board:

And here's a shot after the transfer of the layout using the "saw in kerf" technique:

After those two experiments, it was back to my standard routine. I used a coping saw to remove the waste between the tails:

And then chisels to pare to the baseline:

After that I repeated the same process with the pin board - although this time the lines really are important. You have to stay on the waste side of the line or you will have gaps in the final product. Watch, I'll demonstrate that pitfall. I believe in being thorough :)

It came out okay - if you look closely, you'll see a couple of gaps where I wasn't careful enough with the sawing of the pins. Wait, I mean, you'll see a couple of spots where the new "saw in kerf" technique really let me down. Yeah, that's it!

The dry fit:

Not too bad - it should look pretty good after gluing and cleaning it up with a plane. Just three more to go and then on to the dadoes etc.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Study In Character - Rebecca's Shelf

Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that our work doesn't have to be perfect. The value or worth of a piece is not only measured by the quality of its construction; character counts. Sometimes, character is the main attribute.

Here's a case in point. Rebecca has a small wooden shelf in her kitchen. It sits on the counter next to the stove and keeps her most used items close at hand.

But it has flaws - a lot really. When seen from the standard woodworker perspective, it has serious problems. The top is warped - badly. The joints have failed and been repaired numerous times; it's nailed like a kids' tree fort and has awkward corner brackets. And it seems so plain - just four sticks and two boards, four dados and four rabbets.

And yet, there is another way of seeing it. It has character - a lot really. Its plainess is part of its charm. Sometimes simple is better than complex. The top, although warped, is stained with cooking oil and sauces from thousands of home cooked meals (and Rebecca is a fabulous cook). The nails speak of someone caring enough for this piece to not throw it in a landfill or burn it in a fire. It's made of wood, not plastic. Its surface ages gracefully, absorbing life and reflecting it back. It's around for the long story, not the short, disposable life.

This piece has character, and it counts. Rebecca says "Those shelves have been in every kitchen I've had." I'd love for someone to say something like that about one of my pieces. Yeah, it's not always about perfection - character counts too.