Monday, August 29, 2011

Shaker Inspired Medicine Cabinet - Part III

So this little improvised project was coming along nicely, and it was time for one final push to complete it.

When I first started this project, I couldn't really see how it would come out. I had only some misty, vague, ideas swirling around. I was just going to say "swirling around in my mind", but that would put too much emphasis on thinking. It was more of an exercise in trust or faith that this thing would take shape. I could "feel" it would be Shakerish, but I didn't really have any details, not at first, they just sort of appeared on their own as I worked with my hands. I'm not sure if any of this makes sense, but that's the best I can explain it right now.

So anyway, at some point, I started to realize that it would have a top cap - nothing fancy, just an overhanging top. For a while there was also a bottom, or base, but that faded away, never to return.

To make the top, I cut a piece of stock to overhang the case on the front and sides. Then I set the case on it upside down and traced around it with a pencil. This gave me the reference marks to bevel the underside of the overhang.

The beveling was accomplished with a bench plane while the stock was held with the holdfasts. This piece was too small for both holdfasts to reach, and rather than boring another hole, I rigged the setup you can see here. The work piece was held by only one holdfast, but couldn't rotate because it was jammed against a piece of scrap held by the second holdfast; it worked great.

I worked the end bevels first, so any splintering or spelching at the front edge would be planed away by the front bevel.

To glue the top to the case, I clamped them together, upside down, on the bench. This is a perfect example of why I am frequently glad I don't have a front apron on my bench.

To hang the cabinet on the wall, I chose keyhole style hangers. As I planned on using Lee Valley "best-ever picture screws" with these, I needed to bore clearance holes in the case. I also decided to mortise the hangers into the case so that it would fit snug to the wall, without any gap.

Here's a shot of the work in progress:

For the back, I used the 3/8" cedar T&G paneling scraps. It was simple enough to cut off the excess from the outside edges with a knife and plane them down for a tight fit (humidity is about as high as it is going to get right now, so I figured I didn't need to leave room for expansion; I just had to think about contraction).

The back paneling was nailed on with brads. The shelf was sitting in place to check that it didn't interfere with the back. If the shelf had been a permanent, fixed shelf, I would have nailed the paneling to it as well.

And here's the cabinet with all assembly completed, awaiting the milk paint.

I had a little trouble getting the color I wanted, and ended up mixing two reds together to find what I was looking for - red, but not too red. Also, this is the first appearance of the toggle lock for the door. It's notched to fit over the knob. Why? I don't know - it's just the way it wanted to be...

And two shots of the cabinet after hitting it with oil. I love the way this works with the paint.

And finally, two shots of the finished medicine cabinet hanging in its new home.

I have to say, in the end it came out exactly how I felt it would, but not exactly how I thought it would. It fits my definition of "Shakerish" and makes me happy on a daily basis. Cool.

Up next, a short post on the tool kit used for this project.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shaker Inspired Medicine Cabinet - Part II

So now it was time to mount the hinges, but a dilemma arose; the project and I disagreed. I had two sets of hinges ready to go (see picture in previous post), and all I needed was to decide which was best. The cabinet decided that neither set was good enough and insisted on me making new hinges. I tried for several minutes to argue - sure, this first set was a little too large, and this second set was a little too fancy looking for a simple medicine cabinet, but surely we could live with that, couldn't we?

No. The answer was no. Sigh.

It's important to listen to what the project is telling you - so out came what I needed to make some hinges for this cabinet:

A length of piano hinge salvaged from some doomed piece of furniture (not a piano, of course), and a hacksaw.

After cutting two new hinges (of the size the cabinet insisted on), I needed to add some screw holes. For this I used a punch to mark the hole location, and a hand drill to bore the hole (the punched mark helps keep the drill from skating off the spot):

I had thought that I could counter sink the hole screw heads with a slightly larger bit, thus the two in the photo. It didn't work out and I had to redo it as will be seen.

Also, you probably noticed that the hinges look different - not all shiny and brassy. I took them outside and heated them with a torch to antique them. This may or may not have made them easier to drill as well, but I doubt they were all that hard to begin with.

Now that I had my hinges, I needed screws. I couldn't find any that were right in my screw drawer, so I turned to my trusty "tiny parts" catch-all. It's an old cobbler's peg caddy, and I love it! If it's tiny, and I don't know where to put it, it goes here and I can always find it later. A close look will reveal the varied nature of its contents. Sure enough, I found the perfect screws in on of the cups.

Here are the hinges being tried on for size and spacing. I just played with them, moving them around until it looked right. The knob for the door has also appeared, I found it in the cobbler caddy - left over from some older project.

One hour later and I was back to where I had started. Finally, it was time to mount the hinges.

After knifing the edges of the hinge mortise directly from the hinge, I lightly chopped across the grain with a chisel. The router plane in the background is already set to a depth equal to the thickness of the hinge leaf, and will be used to clear the mortise.

And here's the hinge trying its future home on for size:

However, as I already mentioned, the screws did not seat properly in the countersink chamfers I had made, so I had to redo them. An actual countersink chucked in a brace did the job perfectly:

With the hinges mounted it was time to attach the stiles and door to the case. Here's the technique that I came up with: 1. clamp the non-hinge stile to the case; 2. space the door off of this stile and clamp the door to the case; 3. spread glue for the hinge stile, while it is lifted up; 4. drop the stile and clamp; 5. remove non-hinge stile and spread glue then re-clamp; 6. lift door to keep clear of any squeeze out. It worked great - but I almost forgot to take the picture. You can see the stile has already been down and I lifted it for the shot.

And the case with front attached:

At around three hours so far, this project was moving along nicely. Especially considering the whole hinge side trip...

Next up: the cap, back, and paint.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shaker Inspired Medicine Cabinet - Part I

The other day, when I asked my son what he was chewing, he happily exclaimed "Tums!"

Yikes! This project leapt from non-existence to the top of a long list; time to build a medicine cabinet.

From the outset I decided it would be fun (and faster) to just get started and let this one grow organically as it developed. So, no plans, only a vague idea that I wanted it to be "Shakerish". I knew where it would hang on the wall, so I also had some rough dimensions in mind.

I've done other projects like this, and if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it. Without plans, there are no limits, and you are free to exercise your creative energy. You can play with new ideas that you, the tools, or the wood, might have. It's fun, and you can't make a mistake, because, well, there are no plans. You see? Freedom.

So, out to the shop to gather my materials. After about ten minutes, here is what I had dug out of the scrap pile:

Okay, so the hinges were not in the scrap pile...

A few more minutes of experimenting with the stock and I had a working idea of what I could make. I had one nice piece of 1x6 that was 16" long - that would be the door, which gave me the height for the case. The stiles would be cut from 1x3s, so then I could figure the width of the case. Time for the saw:

Alright - that should do it.

Following my "Keep It Simple" theme, I decided to set the back (cedar tongue and groove paneling salvaged from my brother's house) into rabbits in only the top and bottom of the case. So time to plow some rabbits:

At this point I was about 1 hour in - not bad. I started with my goal, just let things develop and had faith that it would all work out. Here's a quick look at how the case was progressing at this point:

I was out of time (shop time comes in short chunks these days - two wonderful kids, so I'm not complaining...) so I called it a night.

The next time out in the shop I started with the two fastest steps - the cleats to hold the shelf and the shelf itself.

First the cleats - nothing fancy - thin stock ripped narrow and drilled to accept brads without splitting:

And for the shelf I was using a chunk of leftover scrap from my nephew's folding book stand project. As usual with stock this thin, I just cut it with a knife.

Now I turned my energy to the front of the cabinet. With a plain "slab" door, I knew I wanted to add some decorative details to the front, but nothing that would look out of place - it's easy to take things too far. To help me in this process, I pulled a few moulding samples from the shelf and played around with various combinations. I did this right on top of the door and stile pieces set on the bench so I could squint my eyes and take a look at things. I could also pick up the moulding samples and hold them at an angle to the light that approximated the lighting in the future home of the cabinet. This let me get a taste of how the light and shadow would play on the mouldings when the cabinet was hung.

Here's a shot of the result of this process:

In the end I decided to leave the door alone, and put a bead on the inside of each stile, and a thumbnail on the outside edge. The two samples that are butted together in the photo represent what the right hand style would look like.

The information I put on the back of each moulding sample when I created it made it easy to find the correct moulding plane for each profile. I could also check for any notes I had left such as whether the iron might need sharpening etc.

If I had been sticking longer mouldings, I would have set up the sticking board; for these short lengths I just used the end vise and bench dog to hold the stock.

The side bead is a very simple moulding plane to use (assuming it is set up properly). It has an integrated fence and stop, so you just plane until it stops cutting.

My thumbnail plain is a bit trickier. First, it cuts with the stock on edge, which takes a little getting used to, but isn't really that different. The real challenge is that it has a fence, but no stop.

What this meant is that I had to be careful that I didn't cut a curved edge by taking more away from the ends (sniping). It also meant I could significantly alter the dimensions of the stock if I just kept planing away (which is only too easy to do - it's too fun!). If I was planing the edge profile on a wide board and then ripping off a stick to apply the moulding, it would not be a problem - the ripping would set the width. On this job the moulding was being stuck directly to the stile, so altering the width of the stile too much would mess things up.

The solution was to mark the edge of the board with pencil lines, so I could keep an eye on how the profile was forming, and stop as soon as it was fully formed.

Here's a shot with the profile forming:

And one of the complete moulding:

At the end of the second work session (a little less than an hour) I could loosely assemble the case and front of the cabinet to get a good sense of how it would look:

Not bad!

Next, mounting the hinges...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Update On Last Post

Here's my brother's "enhancement" to my last post:

Thanks Josh!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Red and Yellow and Pink and Green...

...purple and orange and blue!
I can sing a rainbow,
sing a rainbow,
sing a rainbow too!

Listen with your eyes..."

Err...sorry - too much "Captain Noah" as a kid...

Anyway, it was time to decide which color to paint the latest project (full post coming soon) and once again the milk paint color sticks proved their worth. I just selected the options from the "oiled" sticks, and held them up against the wall in the future home of the project:

The winner is - "red". Which actually looks kind of burgundy in this light. Of course, that's the point of selecting the color under the actual lighting conditions.

Now, where am I supposed to send this picture?

Oh Yeah!

"Send your pictures to Dear Old Captain Noah..."