Dresser glue ups – diagonal squaring breakthrough

The dresser frames are now all glued up. As you might expect there is an experience curve here with the last one going most efficiently.

I also reached the conclusion that I would not be cut out to be a surgeon. The complex assembly with the time pressure to get everything done within the time window for the glue is stressful. This turns out to be quite vigorous exercise. I was sweating bullets by the time I was done each time (stripped to the waist looking more like Dr Pol pulling a calf than anything you would see in Fine Woodworking) . Lots of moves and also the physical effort of getting the pieces in place and clamped securely in time. With PVA glues you only ave about 15 to maybe 20 minutes to get everything fully clamped or it will be stuck in a BAD position. Even with the ends pre-assembled there are over three dozen pieces to get in position and clamped in that time.

Even with mortise and tenon joinery with nice big shoulders the case will be “out of square” when first assembled. As you can see in the previous post there are pipe clamps o the diagonals to pull things in line. However they are a pain to manage , requiring 2 people and easily falling off. Today I though I would use rope as a sort of “Spanish windlass” to pull things in , but I don’t have much in the garage. So I grabbed a couple of ratcheting tie downs out of the truck and used them first. WOW this is EASY!!! They work great whether attached to the clamps or wrapped through the corners. I am sure others have thought of this before, but I have not seen anything like this posted in woodworking magazines or when I was in the Wisconsin Woodworkers Guild.  Here are a few shots of 2 different frames using this technique.  My tolerance for these is to get within 1/16″ on the diagonals. If not this close, fitting the flush drawers will be a horrible task.  You can easily ratchet them tighter and pull the frames square or back off a notch if you have pulled too hard.  Plus you can weave them through the pipe clamps and other clamps without being stuck in an unreachable position as when using clamps to do this.

Dresser Rails

Here is one more shot of the ends being glued up. This is another case of never having too many clamps of flat surfaces in the shop. The ends are clamped at very joint and spaced up above the work surface for the first 2 hours. They are also checked for squareness. which is pretty good given the shouldered mortise and tenon joints, but a couple needed to be tweaked of the last 1/16″ on the diagonal measurements (your true test of squareness on a large piece).

With the dresser ends glued up and the glue squeeze out cleaned up it is time to run my attention to the dresser rails and dividers. The rails, for lac of a better term, are the horizontal dividers between the drawers.  The dividers are the vertical pieces between drawers on the same level. The rails and dividers are part of the overall frame structure. They are not however the primary support for the drawers. That is done by the runners which are a future topic.

For the rails, the mortises were cut on th CNC router, but this time I squared up the holes with a chisel. In many cases this is actually less effort than rounding off the tenons. The mortises were cut with a 1/4″ router bit. So there was only 1/8″ to clean up on each side.  Start with the cross grain cuts. This is normally 2 strokes. Here it is shown on the top mortises.

Note the chisel is angled. This makes it much easier to keep it in the corner. Yo are trying not just to clean up the cross grain side but also lightly score the fibers for the cut along the grain on the adjacent side. The cut along the grain requires more effort. I will press down with my chest or chin to assist in paring the cut. I am not a fan of using a mallet for this it is too easy to dig in and make a mess of the mortise 

Now with the mortises cleaned up, it is time to fit the tenons. There is a small amount of work to be done for final trimming with the rabbet plane.  The rails and dividers are also sanded to final thickness on the drum sander to make for an exact fit in the half lap joints. Then the first dry assembly is started.

So far so good. The pipe clamps are the only practical means of clamping something this wide and gently squeezing together the assembly. Note the couplers in the pipe clamps. I have a selection of 3,4,5 foot 3/4″ pipes and when I need long clamps as I do now the couplers join the sections. You can also see that the joints for the rails and dividers are half lap joints. These were cut again on the radial arm saw with the blade set for 3/4″ width (that has not changed for the hundreds of cuts). Here is a close up of the smaller dividers and joint.The next step is to gut the dadoes in the rails. The drawer runners fit into these with tenons on each end. One of the fine poitns is tha the runners are not level with the rails but slightly raised by about 1/16″ . This is so the drawer can slide in without wearing on the rail and having a gap on the bottom that is closer in size to the side and top gaps.

Here is a shot from a previous project which is a very large chest / wardwrobe with cock beading around the drawer openings. Note I love the kids but I am NOT going to do 3 cockbeaded dressers for them – way too much work.

Cockbeading is an applied bead around each drawer. It can either be on the frame or drawer. Here is a shot of the whole wardrobe. You can see it as the raised profile around each drawer.

The drawer runners are slightly raised compared to the rails. You can do this by either offsetting the tenons on the runners as I did in the wardrobe, or by offsetting the dado in the rails which is what I am doing for the dressers.  For the dressers, teh rails are all carefully arranged and marked for which side is up. Making mistakes now is critical.

The table saw is set up to make the dadoes with:

zero clearance insert around the blade for support of the piece when pushing through.

Feather board to push the rails against the fence.

Block to hold the stock down. Note in the setup the piece of paper as a spacer and rounded leading edge to make feeding easy. 

The dado is offset by about 1/16″ and a test block is run.

One final double check of the orientation of the rails

Running one of the rails through.

Now I have the rails ready for the runners. Next step will be making the runners and inner dividers that go between the drawers.

Dresser End Grid

The end panels have a decorative “grid”. This add interest to what would otherwise be a plain end panel set in the frame. This sort of decoration is common on Craftsman style pieces.

There will be a 1/4″ panel set behind the grid which will git into the rabbets down each leg and behind all of the end rails and grid pieces.

The joints are half lap style. The end rails each received pockets for the vertical dividers. The pockets are 1″ wide, 3/8″ deep and 1/2″ high.  This was done on the CNC router. Apparently the pieces lifted a bit off of the bed of the CNC router in the process of clamping them and I have to deal with slightly varying depth pockets.

 

The vertical slats then have the tenons cut. This is another series of cuts on the radial arm saw.  The tenons are 1″ wide and nominally 3/8″ thick (0.375″).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When making many repetitive cuts like this it easy to lose track and miss an end. I have learned to always neatly stack the pieces up and do a quick visual check to see if I have everything cut the same. If everything is uniform, then I can proceed to the next step and tear down the stops and setup and get ready for the next cut.  At this point the vertical divider tenons are complete and I can check them in the end frames and move on to the next steps.

The horizontal dividers fit into partial half lap joints in the vertical dividers and mortises in the corner posts. The cuts in the vertical dividers could again be done on the CNC router but the clamping would be too time consuming. Given that the back side is concealed, the dado blade can be used (again).

There are 2 cuts to be made in each of the vertical dividers. I use a stop block and a removable spacer block. The spacer block is 2.25″ which is the spacing between the 2 cuts in each of the vertical dividers.   First cut.

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

With this type of cut the radial arm saw wants to strongly self feed. In order to reliably not cut all the way across the divider slat, I added a stop on the cross arm of the saw. Not very elegant, but the clamp does the trick for the 24 cuts. Below it you can see the second cut has been made without the spacer black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the opposite side, slats the mirror image of the setup is needed. However due to lack of clearance beneath the radial arm saw motor an extra spacer block is needed and held in place by the spring clamp. Rather than re-measuring. one of the test pieces is put in place and the saw advanced and blade rotated to line up in the dado.  Then the stop and spacer are clamped in place. 

The max depth of the pockets is 0.4″ so the tenons will all be cut to this thickness and then trimmed to fit with a rabbet plane.  This Lee Valley Veritas Medium Shoulder Plane is one of my favorite hand tools. I bought one as soon as it came out and it has been my “go to” tool for cleaning up mortises and rabbets for over 10 years. Far better than the Stanley 78 and similar that I had been using and much more manageable than the large shoulder planes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I have the pieces for the ends dry fit assembled.  As you can see, I have labeled all of the parts for final assembly. At this point everything is finish sanded. I have not yet decided on whether I will do a finish first and epoxy assembly as I did with the beds or conventional glue up and then finish or something in between.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right side up.

 

Dresser Project Legs and End Rails

With the first set of mortises in the corner posts complete, it is time to move on to the second set.

As I started cutting the test pieces it became apparent that it is critical to use the exact actual size of the posts or the end mortises and rabbet for the panel wont line up. The legs are a nominal 1.5″ wide but after sanding are actually 1.45″ wide. This is enough to cause the end decorative piece mortises to intrude on the rabbet for the end panels.

Looking back I should have cut all of the rabbets with the mortises for the end pieces and not with the first set of mortises for the front and back supports. This results in some extra hand work and there was one leg that had to be redone all together.

When manually making the rabbets and mortises, my setup always take into account the fact the at the pieces are not EXACTLY uniform and the best reference edge is used to minimize error and achieve uniform joints. On the dresser the natural reference edge on the corner posts is the inside corner.

Additionally the rabbets should not be done as a single pocketing cut with the CNC router but rather first a skim cut should be made to prevent blow out or chipping along the edge.

Video of the second set of mortises being cut: https://youtu.be/G0lsWLeAlKk . The photo below shows the corner post after the second set of mortises has been cut. The saying on my coffee cup has never been more true.

corner post 2nd set of mortises

Now we move onto cutting tenons for the end rails.  My favorite way to cut large numbers of tenons is to use a stack dado set on the radial arm saw.

This is the primary task for the smaller 10″ radial arm saw. The large one (14″) is used almost exclusively for cross cuts. Note that both share a common fence and top system. Radial arm saws can be purchased for almost nothing nowadays. The big one was salvaged from a school and purchased for $50 (and then completely overhauled).

Double check that the saw is cutting exactly squarely. This is best done by taking a test piece that has been ripped for exactly parallel sides and a square end. Then make shallow rabbets on each side. If the cuts line up on both edges you are square. This is quite sensitive and uses less stock than the normal cut and clip technique. You can see the test piece laying on the top between the saws.

The stock must be of uniform thickness. The best approach is to ensure that all of the stock was planned in one batch or better yet sanded to final thickness in the drum sander as we did with the legs.  It takes a bit of fiddling with the height adjustment to get the tenon thickness right.

I have added a digital readout to the height adjustment of the radial arm saw to make this easier . After each test cut adjust the height by 1/2 of the thickness correction (e.g. if you want a 0.25″ thick tenon and the test piece measures 0.28, adjust the blade down by 0.15″. However always be sure to finish the adjustment by raising the blade to take out any play in the mechanism which would result in decreasing thickness cuts as the arm settles down.

The cuts are all made with a stop block to ensure repeat-ability.  Note that the sacrificial wood stop block is notched on the bottom to allow room for sawdust. The grey stop block on the left holds the position. If only using one block, a spring clamp would not be sufficient. Then I would be using 2 hand screw clamps as using only one will typically slip on repeated cuts.

Here is one of the bottom rail tenons being cut for thickness.

Here it is being cut for height.

The mortises were cut with a router and rather than squaring all of them off with a chisel, I typically prefer to round over or bevel the tenons. THe base of each tenon corner is nicked with a pull saw and then a couple of strokes with a chisel removes the rest as seen below.  This is one of the top end rails.

The end rails now need notches for the decorative frame work and this is done again on the CNC router.

Here are the ends test fitted.

Today’s work will be Fitting the decorative pieces on each end 


Dresser project legs

The legs are the first set of components to make. The rail tenons will fit into the mortises on the legs. There are a lot of mortises to cut. 9 per leg, 4 legs per dresser and 3 dressers make for 84 mortises of various sizes. This should be a perfect item for the CNC router.

The legs are cut from 8/4 quarter sawn oak.  I have a number of planks remaining from Wisconsin WoodWorker’s Guild LogFests where we milled and auctioned off many logs felled by our group or donated. This was an “urban wood” project. These have been air drying for a number of years. The Red Oak is perfect, the White Oak has more loss as it was not only more irregular to start with but is also prone to internal checking when air drying at home.

The pieces are cut to rough length first, then planed and jointed. Here I am jointing a slab on my 125 year old Colladay 16″ jointer.

The legs are then sawn to width and then run through the drum sander. This not only saves time later but also makes them uniformly square.  We used 80,120, and then 200 grit when sanding. Teal handles the outfeed. and I must be careful at the start and end of a set of sides that I don’t create an “I love Lucy” moment for her with pieces coming out faster than she can remove and stack  If this is not familiar see the “chocolates episode” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI).

They are next cut to final length. This should be done after sanding to minimize snipe in the finished pieces.  The drum sander is a great tool for large furniture projects and especially where you want to be able to cut repetitive joinery such as tenons or dovetails as you end up with stock of very uniform thickness. Better yet for projects where you pre-finish before assembly as I have done with the beds and other projects.

Now that all of the pieces are of uniform width and length it is time to start routing the mortises. The dressers are symmetrical front to back. This means that I can cut the legs as pairs (front right – rear left, front left- rear right) as sets minimizing the number of cuts to lay out and chances for error.

The only problem at this point is I cannot get VCarvePro to properly import the legs to lay out the mortises. I had to redraw them rather than import the legs or faces from SketchUp.

At this point I have all of the mortises cut on one of the sides of each leg (2 layouts). Next will be the second side of each leg.

Routing and the leg clamped up on the CNC router.

Mortised legs.


The pile of other exterior components.

 

Dresser project #2

Time to do another set of dressers for the kids.  This is the second small production dresser project that I have done for them.  The first set was made a few years ago.   There is a lot of setup involved in doing the joinery and making 3 only takes about 1.5 – 2 times as long as making one.

I had made several other prior to these as well. Each of the dressers had some workflow improvements and details added. However the basic construction techniques were all very similar with dovetail carcass construction and dovetailed drawers.

The set of 3 turned out like this.

The first set of 3 dressers

Each of the dressers was basically a variation on the theme to suit the tastes of Jessie, Elyse and David and to match the finishes on the beds that I had made for each of them.  The finish is a mulit-step process of: dye, two wash coats of shellac, gel stain glaze, and 3 coats of pre-catalyzed lacquer.

D3S_6101

This shows the drawer dovetails and the case divider dovetails. The full set of photos is on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150116682232709.281934.657947708&type=1&l=462d6ebd47

The new design

The new dressers are all the same size but will share the differences in finish, hardware and drawer faces that the prior set had.

dresser4

The case construction will be quite different however as this one will use mortise and tenon joinery rather than dovetails. This is also fully planned out in SketchUp vs. hand drawing as I had done in the past.

I plan to do the mortises and the drawer dovetails on the CNC router.

 

 

Baby Gate completion

The baby (and dog) gate turned out well. The flat pieces were all 1/2″ ash. Pivots are 3/8″ dowels. These may need to be sanded or the holes reamed a bit due to the variation in the dowel diameters. Make sure to round off the ends to make assembly easy.

The spindles were all pre-finished prior to glue-up . This is very important. You cannot get good coverage once assembled but more importantly, if you have any glue squeeze out form the dowels you could end up with a frozen / inoperable gate.

D3U_7350Stain is Minwax Provincial which is what we used when we built the house. As well as 2 coats of garnet shellac to moderately match the aging and provide a modest degree of protection. The 2 coats of garnet shellac help the color match tremendously but the old wood is still more yellow. Oak and Ash yellow considerably in the first 2-10 years of sunlight exposure. So new pieces stained the same and placed next to old ones will look sickly pale in comparison. The shellac makes up most of the difference. Don’t go for an exact match as the wood will darken, you just don’t want it to be seen as initially being completely out of place.

D3U_7352The gate pieces were fastened on to the stairs with # 6x 1.5″ screws. So when it is removed years from now the holes will be small and easy to fill and match.

The left side rests on a couple of rests that are fastened to the stair baluster . They are unobtrusive when open and almost completely hidden when closed off.

D3U_7347When parked to the side the gate rests on a small block that raises it up parallel to the hand rail and holds it open. We expect that cats, kids, and dogs will try to shut it on the unsuspecting and this will likely foil their evil plans.

Overall, it is a successful project. Teal is happy and as a reward today is Meatball Day ( she gets Swedish and I get Italian).

I am waiting for the replacement stepper motor controller for the CNC router.  Some of the parts for the over-voltage / counter -EMF protection have started to show up. That will be for another post.

Baby gate and CNC dead in the water

This past weekend we started on a new project: building a baby / dog gate for the bottom of the stairs. When the kids come over they often bring their dogs which we don’t want upstairs and at some point our grand son,  Sawyer will be wandering about and stairs are not an desirable early adventure.

D3U_7344So we need to make a gate at the bottom of the stairs . However the end of the stair is exposed and wider than there is clearance on either side. So an ordinary swinging gate wont cut it.

After searching for a bit we came across a post at: http://woodgears.ca/home/baby_gate.html that was close to what I had in mind!. SO here was the jumping off point for the new design.

Design constraints:

  • Made of oak or ash ot match the existing wood work, yet not weigh a ton
  • Pivot out of the way on the inside of the stairs
  • Stain to match existing wood work as this is likely to be in place for 10 years or so.
  • Use the CNC router (yes I still need to show pay back for the $$$ invested)

2016-02-10 19_22_50-gate.skp - SketchUp MakeInitial rough design was done in Sketchup, to slim out the spindles I went with “lollipop ends”. They would be a pain to do manually but a perfect excuse for the CNC router.to make them .

Stock is 1/2″ thick ash. This was to use up some planks I had that were a bit on the thin side and save weight compared to oak.

The spindle drawing was exported from Sketchup and imported into Vcarve Pro.

From there it was copied and I laid it to do multiples form one board. Several things to VCarve Pro - [spindles]watch out for:

  • Auto tab placement in this case is useless. You need to place the tabs yourself to make them line up with each other rather than air.
  • Add more tabs than you think you will need. Sometimes the wood will spring as it is cut due to internal stresses. You don’t want to have the pieces ruined due to the tabs breaking  due to stress.
  • Make sure you have adequate material left for your clamps and consumable clamp ends if “cutting it close” to fit the available stock

So the with the first piece I got 3 spindles cut before the board warped and broke apart (hence the lots of tabs requirement). Plus I was seeing more chatter / roughness than I would like with 4 tabs per piece . Second  plank was done with 6 tabs per piece. Much better cut quality and  it held together. Here is a sample of the CNC router cutting the spindles – sped up after the first cuts.

I then moved the gantry to the far end  to clear off the parts and place the blank for the new one. On removing the pieces, I see the waste board has the outline of part of the last spindle — oh oh – router bit slipping in the collet – I must tighten more next time. I then reset the bit, put in the new blank and then go to move the gantry and – nothing.  System is in emergency stop and on further investigation I find one of the stepper drivers for the Y axis is malfunctioning.

Bummer. I had hoped to run a bunch of parts over the weekend and the stepper drivers are 1 week short of the 1 year warranty limit.

D3U_7339Even with the failure I had almost enough spindles cut to make the gate.  One had to be cut by hand on the bandsaw and then cleaned up with hand plane, scraper and sander   –what a pain. So we had the parts ready for staining and assembly the first day although with the CNC failure my mood was not great. We pre-stained the parts and added 2 coats of garnet shellac to better match the yellowing of the 20 year old wood.

D3U_7342Assembly went rather well.  The shot above shows the spindles with the lollipop ends. This photo shows the gate with the cover side glued on.

Rebuild in progress

I am in the process of overhauling my website and postings. In the meantime you can find my old boatbuilding website here: Riviera Construction Project.

In the last few years I have been letting my projects, comments and photos get scattered. This has resulted in a mix of items on Facebook, columns I have written and   various forums with the unfortunate consequence of not having a single place to go and find my prior posts which are located at:

  • Glen-l boatbuilding forum  – I was active while building and did a column for the monthly newsletter for a few years
  • Wisconsin Woodworkers Guild – I wrote a monthly column while I was president.
  • Facebook – Lots of posts , notes and photo albums including the majority of my dive photos, but not very accessible to the general public
  • Youtube – I have a Youtube Channel that will be gaining more content. Currently mostly dive videos.
  • Southbend lathe yahoo groups – Superb resource for those interested in South Bend Lathes . Huge help when I rebuilt my SBL 13
  • HID Dive Lights yahoo group   – This is where I documented much of my dive light builds
  • Hobby Machinist – Another great resource and most helpful while I rebuilt my Bridgeport Mill
  • CNC Zone – Current CNC router project resource

and more – you get the idea. Lots of scatter.

So now I will be consolidating everything back here. It will take some time to gather the various pieces back as well as get the new content posted.

The impetus for all of this is my newest project. It is a CNC router. This is another scratch built project.   I want to document the build and resources as I did with the boat and not just have it in another web site’s forum.