Adventures in 2×4 Furniture

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Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing. I have a roofing/trim project coming up and need some sawhorses. They would make nice sofa tables for a faux industrial interior, even better when they have a few dings and paint spatters.

Sawhorse Flat

 

My own dear son asked why I’d spend so much time on sawhorses?

PRACTICE!

The through tenon and lap joints are a challenge. The wedge shape is cut with handsaws, a crosscut backsaw and my dovetail saw which is set to rip with the grain.

Legs splayed at 10° in two directions. You could park are car on these!

Sawhorse in Progress

The dog holes are 3/4″, drilled on the drill press and routed with a chamfer bit. I’m not a total Luddite, hand tool purist.

Mortise Detail with Doghole

End Grain Quartersawn

Examples of quarter sawn 2×4 lumber. Note the difference in annual rings. The bottom board grew 3 or 4 times faster, but there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in strength. I shop often and keep the boards around for a few weeks to acclimate.

Maybe someone knows, what are the odds of getting cypress at the home center? The center board (with dog holes) and the legs are made from two fairly pristine 2×6’s. If it’s not cypress, it sure is similar. Slightly oily and tight grained.

Later!

 

OKAY! I’m back… In search of the perfect 2×4.

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2x4 quartersawn

For the past year or two, I’ve been building work tables using construction grade lumber. It’s become another obsession, searching the thousands of crap boards at Home Depot and Lowes. So, at the risk of creating competition for these rare gems – this is what I look for. You can look through every stack in the entire store and you’re lucky to find one quarter sawn 2×4 (2×6, 2×8, etc.).

Does anyone else do this?

I’ll post more on perfect 2x4s and the things I’ve built – SOON.

Carved Furniture Inspiration

Mary Pease Chest

I saw this chest at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston about two years ago. It was one of those unique moments that changed the direction of my woodworking. I don’t do this for a living, but for the simple pleasure of creating useful things. This chest exemplifies the joy and love of making. What a treasure! What a pleasant thought – that something I make could last 300 years.

Made in western Connecticut by joiners from generations of woodworking families who immigrated to that rural area, this and related chests share abstracted vine motifs that spread across the fronts. A rare feature of this chest-likely made as a dower chest and given for a marriage-is that it bears the name of its recipient, Mary Pease, of Enfield, who married Thomas Abbe in 1714. Her father was a carpenter and joiner, to whom this chest is attributed; her grandfather, John Pease, Sr., emigrated from England and was also a woodworker.

The Table that was Kicking My Ass is almost done!

Carved Drawer Sepia

This project has been shelved for a few months – like this blog. What a drag! Maybe I should be building birdhouses! I was sidetracked by some other cool projects (for pay). This self inflicted ass kicking is the result of poor (or questionable) decisions which I will attempt to list, explain or justify. Don’t feel obliged to read – it’s been a comedy of errors and my rambling explanation bores me. I want to move on.

This table is too big. Too heavy to move. I’m working on the second floor and assembling on the first floor. Each drawer has required at least 27 trips up and down the stairs. Considering building the frame, painting and cleaning up; I’ve trudged to the top of the Sears Tower about 27 times.

Reinventing drawers. Drawers can be built simply, I’ve done it – BUT… How have I bungled the drawers? Let me not count the ways.

1. Attached the runners to the frame before finishing the drawer boxes. 2. Made these same runners too thick. 3. Cutting the grooves in the sides before cutting the dovetails. 4. Using dovetails to hold the backs (good if you want practice sawing and chopping, but functionally unnecessary). 5. Carving designs in the drawer fronts (nice touch, enjoyable, but again functionally unnecessary). 6. Trying to work with warped sides (just one of five). Warped boards can be corrected, but who has the time? 7. Routed top edge – I like how this looks, but it added time.

I’m now qualified to write a book on how NOT to build drawers.

You may ask “why carve designs in quartersawn oak and PAINT them?” I need the PRACTICE. There is substantial improvement between the carving of the first drawer and the fifth drawer. I’ll maintain that the time has been well spent.

Painted finish. It’s actually India ink, two coats followed by black Polyshades Ebony Black Satin – jeesh I’ve lost count of the coats, buffed with finishing wax. It looks great, but functionally extravagant. Choosing a time consuming finish is a choice with a cost – TIME.

I’ve finished all the drawers – this table needs a top! I won’t mention it again until I’m done.

This Table is Kicking My Ass! – Beginnings

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I should explain… this began as a press table for the printing company I work for. It’s based on a craftsman library table – super sized. It took only ten minutes to draw up – way back in December 2012.

I normally don’t share work in progress, but I need help – the notion that someone is looking may shame me to action.

On an icy December 22nd I drove to the millworks and bought stout hickory lumber to build the legs and frame. Over the next couple weeks I glued up legs, chopped mortises, cut tenons – all cool. Hickory is the stuff used to make hammer handles and bridges. This table has an 8 ft span, it’s a bit like a small bridge. Hickory is so hard and tough, nothing works easily; the pronounced grain is prone to tearout when planing, sawing requires an ultra sharp blade, scorches easily and it’s HEAVY. There were a few minor mishaps, one of the ends took a spill from the bench top and flattened my work light. Another tipped over, taking a good chunk out of the plaster wall. In spite of these minor calamities – the frame was assembled and coated by February 23rd.

First trip to Millworks

December 22, 2013 at the millworks.

Gluing up Legs

December 29, 2012 Gluing up legs.

Dry Fit End

January 16, 2013 Dry fit ends  – moving along well.

Assembled Frame No Paint

February 15, 2013 Fitting the stretchers – remember, I’m only really working on weekends.

Frame with dividers and paint

February 23, 2013 Looks great – but I’m about to make my first mistake…

This Table is Kicking My Ass! – Introduction

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I’m going public with this project – the massive hickory work table. I’ll describe it further – later. I’m late for work already. When a project has me in a dither (or a choke hold in this circumstance), I’ll occasionally make a Next-Three-Things list:

1. Remove drawers #1, 4 and 5.

2. Find my number stamps.

3. Stamp the fronts, back, sides and bottoms so I won’t mix them up.

The table has five drawers – dovetailed, grooved, slotted and carved. My goal is to finish the table in November. Stay tuned – I need your help!

All things carved…

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There’s going to be a new family joke – every time I say Follansbee, everyone has to drink. My brother came up with this response after I’d referred to Bonnaroo (the music festival) for the 27th time in one weekend. Sure, I can be a little obsessive, but when you do something really cool, you want to talk about it.

I participated in a carving class last weekend at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester, CT. It was well worth the 1,919.7 mile round trip to learn from a personal hero – Peter Follansbee. Everybody DRINK!

Here’s a link to his outstanding blog – and for the sake of sobriety, I won’t mention his name again.

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com

The class was terrific – highly recommended. The Connecticut Valley school is offering many more. Whaaaaah!!! I wish it wasn’t so far away. Click for their class schedule.

I spent the following few days visiting my sister in Brookline, MA, highlighted by visits to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I was in hog heaven – seeing so many examples of furniture with carved details. Here are a few shots of the MFA entry doors, massive with sunflower motif carved in the most delicious quartersawn oak I’ve ever seen (tasted?).

MFA BOSTON OAK ENTRY 2 2013 MFA BOSTON OAK ENTRY 1 2013

This jaw dropping oak cabinet is Dutch, from the early 17th century.

MFA BOSTON DUTCH CARVED DETAIL 2013 MFA BOSTON DUTCH CARVED CHEST 2013I

Seeing this, I was tempted to list my carving tools on Ebay, but I took a brave step and started into carving the drawer fronts on my current project – the massive work table. It looks pretty damn primitive in comparison – but, it’s a start. Stay tuned…

Teeth haven’t been brushed in decades

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Sheffield Warrented Rusty Teeth

All together, there are sixteen known iron oxides and oxyhydroxides.

Wikipedia is no source for pick-up lines, but give it a try. Better off grabbing a Bell’s Two Hearted IPA from the fridge and restoring a hand saw. Use the money saved by staying out of the pub to purchase a really nice, used saw vise.

It’s not quite so bad as it looks. This Sheffield Warranted 8 pt crosscut saw has potential. The rust has been enhanced in PhotoShop. There are 2 or 3 hours to be spent scraping and sanding the plate before sharpening the saw. There will be minor pitting, no big deal. This old saw will be back to work by the weekend.

Most importantly, the geometry is ideal for sharpening with a triangular file. This saw has never been sharpened, the teeth are uniform with no signs of damage. After a light jointing of the tops with a long file in a jig, the gullets help guide the direction of the file. By keeping each file stroke at a consistent angle, the file will clear that crud from the gullet and after a stroke or two, smooth the working edge of each tooth.

Put on some music and relax – this is easy.

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001 Sheffield Warranted Before002 Sheffield Warranted Medallion Before

Another saw from an old friend’s garage.

I’m not familiar with the Sheffield Warranted saws and will be looking for etching on the blade. The “A” leads me to think this is an Atkins product.

The E.C. Atkins Company of Indianapolis, IN operated from 1856 though the 1950s. The nicely shaped handle makes me think it’s from the 1930s. Atkins’ saws have good blades, but the handles of later tools suck – ugly, cheap looking – as if they had no regard for the implicit value of design.  That’s another story – this one has a good looking handle.  If this were a rare saw, I’d think twice about the aggressive rust removal.

I begin by disassembling the saw and gathering the tools for cleaning the blade. I’ll go at it with razor blades and scrape off the rust. Doing this dry and vacuuming the rust dust is slightly less messy than working with oil or solvents.