Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back At It!

It's been a while since I've posted. A lot of my workshop garage activities recently have been very tool-focused. I have made a number of toy acquisitions recently and have been spending a lot of time restoring them and/or familiarizing myself with them. I'll try to point out new tools and talk a little about them as they come into play in my work.

Here was the situation:
My wife and I had this unusable space between the bathroom sink and wall. We needed a good place to store a hair dryer--it's right below an outlet--and also wanted to keep other bathroom supplies there.

Before I start narrating the construction, I'll go ahead and show you the almost-finished product. Hopefully this will help you make sense of the different pieces as they come together. There were some finishing details missing at this point, but it gives you an idea of what the general shape will be:

Alright, let's get on with it...

It all started with this nice board of southern yellow pine.
I bought this from a hardwood supplier, so it came with rough edges. Yellow pine is probably the most common lumber down here in the South at home centers where it comes surfaced on four sides (S4S). It was nice to find it with rough edges because that means I'd get it for a couple of cents cheaper, plus I'm starting to enjoy dimensioning lumber now that I have the right tools. To make it clear, the two broad sides here are ready to go, but the long edges are not: they are neither parallel, square, nor smooth. My first task is to get one side in order. I start with my jointer plane set to take a moderate shaving:
The jointer is the longest plane and it role is to produce a perfectly level surface. This is really easy...much of the skill is built into the tool. 

The jointer makes a nice level surface from end to end, but not side to side. In other words, it's difficult to have the long edge meet the two broad faces at a 90 degree angle (normal). Even if you are very particular in your jointer setup, you still usually take a thicker chip on one side than the other and this leads to the long edge being out of square. Which brings me to a new tool, my Veritas skew block plane:
This is a SUPER-versatile tool good for a lot of different tasks. Among these many tasks is squaring up edges. I probably should've taken more photos, so bear with me. If you look under the plane you'll see a small piece of dark wood (bubinga). This wood is a fence that is attached to the side of the plane and is set at 90 degrees to the plane cutter. By seating this fence up against the broad face of the board, I can ensure that the resulting cut will be 90 degrees off of the face. It's a great tool--although I have to admit that I cut myself with it today...twice. They say a dull tool is more dangerous than a sharp's a good thing the plane wasn't dull, who knows how many fingers I'd be missing currently. Other features of this tool to be explained in the future.

I then cut and ripped different pieces to length and width to get the right sizes and then performed the same sequence on any unfinished edges.

It was now time to join the two large vertical pieces of the shelf. This would be the large back piece and that one side piece that was to be eventually cut down to a large curve. Ordinarily I would've just screwed and glued these pieces together, but now--thanks to a nice graduation gift from my in-laws--I have a better, cooler method: tongue and groove. Typically tongue and groove is thought of as an edge joint for two boards meeting at 180 degree angle--or zero degree, depending on the convention--but here they will be meeting at 90 degrees. I can't say I've ever seen or heard of this done, but it makes good sense to me--particularly with a species like SYP that is so notorious for instability in the face of moisture change.

Behold: the Lie-Neilsen Tongue and Groove Plane:
What can I say?...this tool is so cool. This is my first Lie-Neilsen tool and I have to say that it really lived up to their reputation. Their website probably does a better job of clearly explaining how this fellow works, but I'll give it a try: this plane also has a fence. This fence pivots on an offset bolt so that when it is locked in one position only one cutter is exposed and when the fence is rotated 180 degrees and locked, both cutters are exposed.  The offsetness of the fence also moves the plane over the exact amount so that the tongue (cut by two cutters) lines up with the groove (cut by only one cutter). Ohhh...just look at youtube. (start it around 4:50 to see it in action.)

Here's my unconventional face groove:*
*great name for a band

And here is the corresponding tongue:

You can see that there appears to be two tongues on this edge. That's because my board is actually a little thicker than 3/4". No sweat though, a coarse-set block plane made quick work of taking off that superfluous tongue.

Superfluous Tongues, that's another good band name. Speaking of such things, The Tongue and Groove would be a pretty great name for a dance club and if I ever have a little pub in my later years I think I'll call it The Dovetail Joint.

Anyhow, back to the woodworking. Here's the resultant joint:
That's some clean joinery, if you ask me.

I then had to join the top platform to the rear vertical piece. Dovetails anyone?
This is the rear vertical piece that is receiving the tails. I was careful to ensure that the groove exit on the right was contained in a section that will be wasted so that it didn't show in the end.

Here is the corresponding pin board. This picture is of the underside of the top platform board as I'm chopping out the sockets.

And here it is almost ready for a dry-fit: (just needs a little clean-up)

I then assembled the dovetail joint and screwed the top piece to the vertical side piece with counterbored screws. You can see in this photo that I had also already cut the curve in the vertical side piece:

The next step was to cut a simple notch into the piece that was to become the lower shelf:

I then dovetailed the front edge of the lower shelf to the front foot and screwed and glued it to the back vertical piece.
This produced the basic form of the shelf:

Now for some finishing business. The biggest issue is the counterbored holes from the screws. I have a 7/16ths plug cutter, so I always counterbore my holes that size. Here's the plug cutter:
...and here's what it does:

Then a quick rip-sawing will free the plugs:
If you look carefully, you can see that they have a little taper to them. This helps them be wedged down firmly into the this:
Then I just planed them flush with a block plane.

Last, I cut a hole in the top as a hair dryer holster, put on a coat of polyurethane, and called it done.