Emptying the Drying Chamber

The drying chamber was full with Lonzino, Soppressata, and Pepperoni. Creating the Lonzino was covered in a prior post. This is “simple” dry cured whole muscle meat (pork loin). The Soppressata and Pepperoni are both fermented dry cured sausages. This takes a bit more finesse to ensure food safety.

Before starting on your own, I highly recommend reading: “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages” by Marianski. Pay particular attention to chapter 9 – Safety Hurdles. This book is not so much for the recipes per se, but rather for the background on food science and the techniques for keeping safe. The Facebook group: Cured Meats: Charcuterie is also very highly recommended. However, this is a closed group and you need to apply to join.

I had done some sampling / taste testing a few weeks ago and decided to let the meat dry a bit more.

I pulled the remaining meats today,as they were close to their targeted weight loss and I needed to get them out of the basement before staining the dining table. I did not want to risk the meats picking up off flavors from the oil based gel stain which would soon be stinking up the house (and yes, this is mid -winter in Wisconsin, so I can’t just open all the windows and let in the -10 to +10F winds).

The meats were all improved. I really like them around 45-50% weight loss and the added drying time improved the flavors. My new favorite for the Lonzino is the Pepper / Juniper berry spiced version.

Scroll back for the prior posts with the recipes.

Below is the temperature and humidity plots for the drying chamber while the sausages were drying:

Pepperoni

The overall process for making the Pepperoni is nearly identical to that of the Soppressata, except that it does not need to be pressed.

Pepperoni (started 12/24/20)

  • ~8-10 lbs Pork butts well trimmed of all soft fat and much of the hard fat
  • Salt 2.5%
  • Cure #2 0.25%
  • Dextrose 0.2%
  • White sugar 0.3%
  • Cracked Black Pepper 0.3%
  • Sweet Paprika 0.6%
  • Fennel Seeds – cracked / crushed 0.3%
  • Cayenne pepper – ground 0.15%
  • Gochugaru – Korean red pepper flakes 0.15%
  • B-LC-007 Starter culture 0.02%
  • Water (for the starter culture) 1/4 cup
  • Bactoferm 600 mold culture

Process as above for the Soppressata but there is no need to press. Smaller 32- 45mm or so casings would be desirable, but all I had left were 60 mm.

The first sampling at 4 weeks had hit the low end of the target weight loss (~35%) but were still a bit soft for my liking but made good pizza. This sausage is much leaner than commercially made sausage. There were NO puddles of grease on top of the pizza and it tasted very good.

Later, at 6 weeks (2/10/21) and 50% weight loss, the flavor and texture were MUCH improved for eating fresh. I can’t wait to try some on pizza!



Soppressata

Soppressata is a mildly spicy dry cured italian pork sausage. It is seemingly one of the more common starting points for dry cured / fermented sausages.

Batch 1 was started started 12/17/20

Sanitize everything! I sprayed the utensils, grinder, counter top, hands, etc with StarSan (same as I use for Brewing)

  • ~ 10 lbs Pork butts deboned, and well trimmed of all soft fat, connective tissue, silverskin, tendons and much of the hard fat
  • Salt 2.5%
  • Cure #2 0.25%
  • Dextrose 0.3%
  • Cracked Black Pepper 0.3%
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Korean Gochugaru 0.3% (finely ground and no seeds)
  • Sweet Paprika 0.3%
  • B-LC-007 Starter culture 0.023%
  • Water (for the starter culture) 1/4 cup
  • Bactoferm 600 mold culture in water bath
  • Coarsely grind the COLD pork ~ 1/4″ plate
  • Sprinkle the starter on the water and let rest for~ 15 min
  • Mix meat and non spice ingredients together well for at least 5 minutes. The mixture should be quite sticky due to myosin development when ready. Add the spices and mix for another couple of minutes.
  • Stuff into 60 mm casings (3x 24 inch casings). I use inedible collagen casings and tie mine at about 12″ length so they fit my high tech drying chamber.
  • Up to this point everything MUST be kept cold. Utensils and meat in the fridge or better the freezer to stay <40F.
  • Save about 1/2c of meat mixture and test the pH. The initial pH should be between 5.8 and 5.9.
  • Once stuffed the sausages are dipped in a solution of Bactoferm 600 (penicillium mold) which adds flavor and is a protectant from harmful molds. This results in the traditional white mold covering the casings. I use a bread loaf pan to hold the solution and then dip / roll the pieces in it.
  • The sausages then ferment until the pH drops below 5.3 (or preferably 5.0). Use a small sample of the meat in a cup / bowl for the pH testing. I use my kitchen oven for the fermenting. The sausages are laid directly on cookie sheets (Teal prefers that I do not place them directly on the racks). The light is turned on in the oven as needed (e.g. 15 min every hour) to hold the temp at 75-85F. This should take about 20-24 hours to hit the target pH of 4.8 to 5.0. In order to have a shelf stable final product the final pH must be < 5.3 (coupled with low enough water activity). Lower pH also gives a “tangier” product.
    With my Kitchenaid double oven if the light is left on full time the temp rises to 95F (a bit too warm).
  • Now the sausages are hung in the drying chamber for a week. Temp should be ~55F and humidity setpoint of 75%.
  • The Soppressata then needs to be pressed for proper shape and texture. I used pieces of vinyl coated wire shelving secured with tie wraps for this (yes this is the low budget end of the range / technique). The sausages are pressed for a week or 2 in the drying chamber. Tighten the tie wraps every day or 2 to maintain pressure.
  • Remove the press rack after 1-2 weeks and rehang the sausages to continue drying until they reach the target weight loss of 45-50%.
Soppressata being pressed in the wire shelving. in the middle. Top are Lonzino and below is Pepperoni.

After 7 weeks (2/10/21), the weight loss was 50%. The sausages were pulled and washed down with warm water to loosen the casings. The casings (with the mold ) were stripped off. They were then sliced for a QC check and taste test prior to washing in red wine and vacuum packing.

They taste very good, but I would like it a bit hotter / spicier and maybe some fennel (maybe do Finocchiona next?). I had one stick that had an air pocket and had to be discarded. I need to work on my stuffing technique and will heat to sterilize the spices next time.

My grandson Sawyer absolutely loves it. Here is a video of him helping to grind the meat:

References:

The Art of Making Fermented Sausages – Marianski



 

Dining Table – Top Joinery

The table top is the largest part of the project. Not necessarily the most complex but certainly the most time consuming. As a result, I ended up working on multiple other items, notably the table top support structure, in between. For example. after glueing up the top , I was working on the slider rail components. So, the following article while focussed on the top and its joinery was only a portion of what was worked on in the last couple of weeks. However, I have gathered the work sessions together to provide a more coherent story of working the top and will do so similarly for the under framing.

Because the top is for an extension table, the top is made up of pieces of wood that run across the width of the table. This is done so that the seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood will not affect the alignment of the joints too much. As I am building the table it is February in Wisconsin. With outside temperatures now in the -20 to +30F range, the humidity is reaching the seasonal bottom. So I have to be careful to ensure that the wood movement will be accomodated and it will be mostly expansion from here on out.

The initial glue up of the 3 slabs is fairly straight forward. The top, including the center wing is to be 8 feet long and about 41″ wide. The center is approximately 24″ wide and each of the end wings is ~36″ wide. The pieces were jointed both by machine and with hand plane tuning of the joints. They were then glued up. At this point the joints in each slab were then hand planed and scraped to be reasonably flat. With the faces reasonably flat, it was time to attack the edges and square up the pieces. My stock was not defect free and I started with glue-ups that were about 46″ across with the hope of 40-42″ clear center sections. The defects at the ends included knots, tear out and jointer snipe.

Squaring the panels

The first step was to rip the panel pieces to width so that both of the long grain edges were parallel. The next steps were to cross cut the pieces to the approximate width of the table top so that they were then neat rectangles. I did this by using a large drywall square clamped to the top and a circular saw for the first pass and then a second pass with a router and 1/2″ end mill to clean up the cut. The router pass took off <1/8″ and left a nice clean finish (without any saw marks / burns). The goal was to get the pieces within 1/8-1/4″ of final width when they were all lined up.

Making the butterfly wing

The center panel then had to be cut in half across the width of the table. This was done on the table saw. The edges for the center joint were then tuned up with a hand plane to remove any saw marks. The butterfly wing uses Soss brand invisible hinges for the center joint. These allow the wing to fold back on itself 180 degrees and are invisible when the center wing is opened flat. The hinges need to be mortised into the center edges of the butterfly wing panels. The alignment is critical, so I used a micrometer adjustable fence on the router to set the distance of the mortise form the table top and then carefully marked the ends of the 2 sets of mortise cuts. As you can see, the green masking tape is used to help make the ends of the cuts more visible. A plunge router with 1/2″ carbide end mill (up cut spiral in router bit terms) is used for the cuts. The longer cut for the lip of the hinge is done first which is ~1/4″ deep. Then the plunge depth is reset for rest of the hinge mechanism mortise (~7/8″ deep) and the narrower deep mortise is cut in 2 passes. I made the cut for the lip purposely a bit deep to allow for final planing if required and adjustment of the fit, shimming up the hinge ends with plastic card stock (hotel room key cards).

Mortise for on of the Soss Hinges on the butterfly leaf.

I had a recessed pull left over from the boat construction and it adds a nice touch to the leaf, making it easier to grasp the leaf to open it. The placement is such that the pull handle will lay on top of the outer rails so that it will not hang down when it is open.

Mortise for the recessed pull. Be careful as the pull edges are not perfectly square due to the hand polishing that was done. I am sure the price today is higher. This was bought >20 years ago.
Recessed pull installed in the leaf.

I also tested the operation of the butterfly leaf in the table frame. The goal was to ensure the leaf really fit prior to putting in the alignment pins and setting the final width of the table top. Construction of the frame will be covered in a future post.

Testing the butterfly leaf

Alignment pins and final trimming

Pins are used to align the leaves of the top. This is to counter some warping and keep the butterfly leaf level with the rest of the top. Having matched sets of holes was a bit of a worry bout I found a doweling jig at Rockler that is just the thing for this. The pins and their sockets require 8mm / 5/16″ holes in the edges of the top panels. The holes for the two large end panels are drilled first. Then the butterfly leaf is drilled to match the corresponding mating side holes. A 5/16″ drill bit in the large leaf hole accurately aligns the jig for the butterfly leaf holes.

Drilling the pin holes in the butterfly leaf. Note the lower drill bit being used to register the jig to the large leaf hole.

Now the pins and sockets could be placed in the holes for the test fitting. Everything fit perfectly. However the 5/16″ holes are a tiny bit large for the 8mm hardware. Getting the pins out was easy. However the sockets are not easy to grasp> I sacrificed a small screwdriver to the cause. I heated the tip red hot with a torch and bent it at a right angle. This took a couple of passes. Then I cooled it by plunging into a block of wax, rehardening it a bit. The pins were then glued in with thick superglue. The sockets were set about 1/32″ below the surface to allow for final tuning of the joint.

Modified screwdriver and socket for the alignment pins

Next the long edges of the top had to be trimmed to final width. The ends panels were about 1/4″ wider than the butterfly leaf. The final trimming was done with a router and 1/2″ end mill. I made an alignment jig by routing a scrap of plywood to the width of the router base edge to the edge of the bit. This was used to set the long straight edge (Rip Straight) and it was clamped in place. 2 passes were made – one at 1/2 depth and one at full to allow fast enough of a cut and eliminate burning.

Setting the fence
Template block used to set the fence
First cut has been made.

The top was scraped and then sanded as one large panel. Sanding was done with a random orbit sander at 150 and then 220 grit. Final sanding was by hand with a sanding block in the direction of the grain

Ready for sanding. Note the bucket of shavings from the hand planing and scraping of the top and joints.

The edges were then partially rounded over with a 5/16″ round over bit. This was not a full depth cut but instead left a bull nose profile. As you might expect there was some tear out of the end grain. The video below shows how to clean this up.

The top is now ready for finishing. However, with subzero temperatures this will have to wait a few days (need ventilation). So on to cleaning up the frame and rail system.

Dining Table – Coloring the Wood

You might think that “coloring the wood” is an odd phrase but in this project I am dealing with a notoriously difficult type of wood – Cherry. While lovely, cherry is notoriously difficult due to its problems: widely varying colors between planks, divergence of color in different planks as the wood ages, splotching with most stains, bleed back splotches when dyed. THis could be partly solved by getting a whole tree custom cut and dried, but what if that tree was still not the color you wanted – e.g. one of the very light variants, or had sapwood incursions that you wanted to hide, etc.

What I am doing, is using a variant of a finishing system I have been using for almost 20 years and it was taught to me by Jeff Jewitt of (homesteadfinishing.com) at a Wisconsin Woodworker’s Guild class almost 20 years ago. It uses a combination of dye to determine the base color, shellac as a sealer and light toner, gel stain to enhance the wood grain and then finally your top coats of choice.

When starting out to achieve a new wood color combination, I make a series of test panels to determine which dye color to use and dilution, shellac color, and which gel stain color(s) to use. I have built up a library of these for Oak, Ash and Maple, but did not have a sample set for Cherry. Additionally, the wood I bought has both very light and very dark heartwood and I would like to even it out. Plus, the Behlen Solarlux dye I had used in the past on Cherry was now discontinued.

To start, I ripped some scrap pieces of both the light and dark cherry and sanded it close to what I would do for the piece (yes there are still imperfections, but overall it is close). Then I dye each side of the panels. One side was Transtint Golden Brown and the other side Transtint Reddish Brown at the recommended dilution. Once this dried thoroughly I applied 2 wash coats of shellac per side Zinssner Seal Coat diluted 50% with alcohol on one side and Shellac Shack Ruby (~1.5lb cut) on the other. Once these dried I then masked off sections for each of the candidate gel stains. I tried General Finishes (GF) Georgian Cherry, GF CandleLight, and Minwax Cherry. The results at this stage are seen below:

Sort side planks are the “dark” cherry, center long planks are the “light” cherry

As you can see the left 2 planks are much closer in color – this was using the Reddish Brown dye. The right 2 planks did not pull together with the Golden Brown dye. This is the side with the Seal coat / blonde / amber shellac. The darker cross bands, from the bottom are: GF georgian Cherry, GF Candlelight, MW cherry. We decided to go with the Reddish Brown Dye, Ruby shellac and GF Georgian Cherry gel stain.

The parts were carefully sanded to 220 grit, vacuumed and tacked off. The dye and shellac were sprayed with DeVilbiss Plus HVLP gun and 1.2mm tip at 30-40 PSI which provided a very fine mist. Below you can see the pieces with the front 2 just having the dye applied. The back 2 have the first coat of shellac applied (and still wet).

It is very important to let the pieces dry thoroughly (1 hr in the winter) between coats) to avoid bleed back and splotching problems. With bleed back you spray or wipe on and everything looks OK< and then come back 15 minutes later and splotches have appeared as the finish dries and underlying finish or dye is wicked out of the pores. After the 2nd coat of shellac dries, the surfaces is thoroughly scuffed to full scratch (no shiny spots) with a maroon Scotch Brite pad. Using the Scotch Brite instead of the equivalent 320 grit sandpaper gives a better finish and GREATLY reduces the chance of sand throughs with the thin shellac layer. Next, the gel stain is wiped on and buffed lightly off.

Front 3 pieces with Gel stain, rear piece, scuffed and ready.

The gel stain really enhances the grain (and any errant scratches as well). While still wet it also gives you a good idea of the look of the final finish.

The complement to prefinishing the pieces prior to assembly is then to use a colored epoxy for the glue. In most cases – e.g. Craftsman Style Bed, Crib or Dressers, I will completely prefinish before glue up. In this case, as I want to use a water based finish, the oil based gel stain needs to dry for 2 weeks first, so I proceeded with glue up after letting the stain dry for a day (risking damage to the stain). The joints are taped off as part of dry fit assembly to ease clean up of excess epoxy. The epoxy is mixed up and then tinting powder and a couple of drops of the Transtint dye are added along with Colloidal silica. The Silica thickens the epoxy and lightens the color. The goal is to end up with the epoxy being the same hue but slightly darker than the finished wood. If it is lighter it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Applying the epoxy to one of the slip tenons, note that I am not allergic and have also applied Liquid Gloves to my hands
First corner block in place and installing the slip tenons. You can see the good color match of the epoxy and the wood finish
Non standard clamping /holding mechanism
Band clamp in place and joint cleaned up
Band clamp and trash can rubber bands as this end did not want to cooperate

When using epoxy it is always a good idea to use gloves. I will often just use “Liquid Gloves” (Available at Ace Hardware). Clean up of the joints is done with paper towels lightly dampened with denatured alcohol. WHen clamping joints glued with epoxy you do not need (nor want) a lot of pressure, unlike the typical PVA glues. The strap clamp and big rubber bands (for trash can liners) provide plenty of clamping pressure. Consistent pressure is important. You don’t want to over tighten and loosen and have a glue starved joint.

I use West System Epoxy. In this case I used the fast hardener as well as the Colloidal Silica (I like the big tubs from System 3).

For an earlier and much more complex glue up of a King Sized Craftsman Style Bed headboard with nearly 80 pieces see:

Spatchcock Chicken with Squash

We have been doing spatchcocked chicken, turkey, & cornish hens for a few years now. This past year we started getting food from Imperfect Foods as an alternative to going to the store. One of the times, I missed that there was a butternut squash on the order and it came. I am NOT normally a squash fan. In my family, it was always sweetened and served as squash mush. However, one day, we had the extra squash, some monster shallots and a whole chicken (and it was decidedly not nice for grilling outside). So I decided to try using the squash as the star under the bird rather than the more traditional stuffing, potatoes or root vegetables. It was a hit!. We have repeated this a few more times to make sure it is a repeatable recipe and we still love it.

The Base

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed into 3/4″ pieces. COmpost the stringy stuff but add the seeds back in with the cubes

2 large shallots coarsely chopped or 1 medium onion and 2-4 garlic cloves chopped

1 lemon (optional) cut into 1/8ths with the skin (you may also want to add a few pinches of oregano in this case as well)

In a bowl place the above items and sprinkle liberally with granulated garlic, Penzey’s Seasoned salt and fresh ground black pepper. Mix well and dump into a oiled (or non stick sprayed) 13×9 or better larger glass baking dish. Keep the pieces towards the center as you want it all under the chicken.

Veggies waiting for the chicken.

The Chicken

Take a 3-4 lb chicken, clean out the cavity, remove excess fat and slice down the backbone and also the keel bone. Flip over and press flat (it should make some vicious crunching noises in the process) .

Place the chicken on the veggies. Spinke with more granulated garlic, Penzey’s seasoned salt, pepper and some rosemary sprigs

About to go in the oven

Bake at 400 F convect for about 45 minutes, until a probe in the thick part of the thigh reads 170F. Pull from the (now well splattered) oven and let rest for 15 min. Beat off the crispy skin thieves with a thick spatula (BTW the skin off an entire leg does not count as a schnibble). Slice and serve.

Ready

Dining Table – Trestle Base

The table was modeled completely in Sketchup. This helps to not just plan the work but then I can export individual components such as the legs as input for the CNC router.

The leg component was exported and then imported into vCarve Pro which I use to model items for the CNC router. I was able to fit 2 legs per plank, working around any defects in the wood I had. During the preparation of the profiles to cut tabs are added and adjusted. These will hold the leg in place during the final pass at full depth. I also set it to take the last pass slightly smaller to do a full hight clean up of the leg profile so there are no lines visible form the individual passes. I used a 1/2″ diameter 3″ cutting length solid carbide 2 flute endmill to do the cutting (same as I used on the crib project). Below you can see highlights of the CNC cutting process.

Cutting the table legs on the CNC router

After the legs were cut out, the tabs were trimmed off with a small saw and filed flush. Now it was time to make the blocks that join the legs and stretchers. The blocks are angled at 40 degrees to provide the splay of the legs. These joints are a high stress area in the design. So I did not want ot just have a butt joint and decided to use floating tenons. The joint is 5″ tall, and given that this is sort of a long grain to side grain joint, I decided to use 2 tenons per joint. I happened to have some stock pre-made for the floating tenons (left over slats from the crib project) .

The corner blocks are 2.5″ wide , 1.25″ thick and 5″ tall. The first step after squaring up the stock, is to cut the 40 degree bevels on the table saw using a hold down push stick.

40 degree bevels on the corner block

The position of the mortises is laid out on the ends for the legs.

Mortise position. Note the measurements are in 1/32 “

Now the router is set up in the router table with a 1/2″ carbide end mill. The fence is adjusted to match the router bit teeth to the marks on the end of the stock.

Setting the fence position

Now a test cut is made in the block to show if the cut is in the right position. Note that the blocks are still extra long at this point.

Test cut is pretty close.

The fence is marked with the leading and trailing edges of the router bit using a squared-up block and pencil. This is much more convenient than using a square.

Once the test cuts show the bit & fence are positioned correctly the blocks are now cut to length and the positions of the mortises are marked for length. The piece is moved to the start and stop points for the cuts and the marks are made on the fence to register the ends of the piece for the start and stop positions. Each mortise should be cut in 2 passes to make it easier to tilt / plunge the piece onto the router bit and minimize burning. Note that the top corners of the feather board are knocked back to enable easier plunging. After all of the leg mortises bare cut, The fence is readjusted for the position to center the mortises for the cross bar.

Finishing the top cut of the stretcher mortises.

Next is cutting the mortises in the legs. Basically it is the same process. The marks for the bit position are placed on the table top instead of the fence.

Now the stretcher is cut to size. The tenon thicknesses are cut most easily on the radial arm saw.

Next the tenon lengths are transferred to the tenon and the cuts are made with a Japanese style hand saw or dovetail saw.

Sawing the tenons

The waste in between the tenons is then chopped out with a chisel, similar to doing dovetail pins. The corners are then rounded off with a chisel and touched up with a file for final fit.

In the process of trimming the tenon ends

The slip tenons are cut to length and everything is test fitted into the corner blocks.

Corner block and slip tenon test fitting.

The legs now get the edge profiles added after a light pass on the drum sander to remove the facets on the curves. . FOr the outside / front edges a 3/4″ round over bit is used. This took 3 passes to avoid tear-out and burning and sneak up on the final profile. The back edges and feet were rounded over with a 3/16″ round over bit.

Legs rounded over

Now it was time for the first dry fit assembly. A ratchet strap is used as the clamp to hold everything together. I will do the same for the final glue-up later as well.

Table trestle – initial dry fit assembly

Next will come the table top supports and slide mechanism.

Dining Table – Top Glue-Up

The wood was broken down into usable lengths, run through the jointer with the power feeder and then planed. It became evident that there was an almost even split of “light” and “dark” cherry pieces. So the next step was sorting them out. Teal had asked for a lighter top and at one point we were considering hard maple. So, the light pieces were selected and then further sorted and matched for the top panels.

Cherry boards sorted by color: darker on the left, lighter on the right

As you might expect some were rejected for use in the top, due to bad imperfections (tear out, knots in the middle, etc). The rest were matched up and the edges jointed, as well as being ripped to maximum usable width per piece. This machining / matching / culling continued for a few rounds until I had what looked like enough boards for the 3 major panels for the top. The 2 end panels are about 36″ wide and the center about 24″ wide. The pieces were then cut to rough length – 44.5″ to allow for trimming and removal of the hard to eliminate jointer snipe at the end of the cut. Note that some sources say that adjusting the outfeed table of the jointer can eliminate snipe, but this is wrong. The goal of the outfeed table height vs cutter blade height adjustment is to have a straight edge. Matching the outfeed table to the highest point of the arc of the cutter knife is key to straight edges and the first phase of a good glue up. However, it does not always eliminate snipe whether on my previous 6″ jointer or my current 135 year old 16″ Colladay monster of a jointer.

After jointing, ripping and frequently jointing the ripped edges, lay the boards out for best grain and color match as well as trying to alternate the ring direction if possible. Mark across all of the faces, across the grain, in pencil with a large V or Triangle. Th is is to keep the pieces in order and reduce the chance of an unplanned flip of a board during planing or glue up. The the next step is to fine tune the edges with a hand plane. Yes, you will find claims of “glue line ” rip blades but this does not work reliably for much more than 20-24 inches. Wider pieces benefit immensely from (optionally) running on the jointer and hand planing for a perfect fit and invisible glue line. When hand planing for final fit you want a #4 to #6 plane. My favorite is a Veritas low angle jack rabbet plane set for a very fine .002-.006″ translucent shaving across the width of the blade. Yes, this is 1/2 to 2 sheets of paper thickness. The regular low angle jack would work as well, but I can only afford one of these, and this one is also great for truing up tenons as well.


Next best choice for a plane is typically a old Stanley or Record #5 or #6 with the frog moved up and the mouth set very tight. Having an even shaving across the width of the blade is very important. The goal is to remove the “hills” from the joint without adding any new slopes and gaps across the width of the joint or inducing tear-out. A firm, steady stroke, evenly applied across the width of the board is required. It usually takes a few tries to get a perfect fit. I do prefer to sneak up on the fit rather than risking a bad gouge and tearout. Being able to have finely set planes for this sort of joinery and others for regular “rough” planing is reason enough to have 2 of each size for your favorites (typ. $35-55 each at flea market, garage sale or ebay).

Once the joints are good, now is the time for the glue up. I prefer Titebond III as my go to glue. Not only is it water proof, it offers a few minutes more working time than Titebond II or ordinary PVA such as Elmer’s. For the bottom clamps, Bessey K body or the Jorgensen equivalent are ideal (but 3/4″pipe clamps will work too). You will need a large flat work surface and the best I have is the tablesaw for pieces this size (~36×44″). Apply the glue evenly to each side of each joint and then just barely tighten the boards in the clamps. Next place clamps vertically across each joint – not super tight yet. This will hold the ends in alignment. Working across the glue up, even up the middle of the boards, pounding form the top or pressing up from the bottom and then tightening the clamps a bit more. Once the board edges are even it is time to place the alternating top clamps. Now work your way around and progressively tighten the clamps and keep checking the joint alignment and tapping or pounding the high boards into submission. If you wonder why there are top and bottom clamps you have probably not yet seen a “board fountain” when clamping from only one side, and then while tightening, the whole thing sort of explodes upwards due to the clamp bars curving under pressure. Ideally, you want to be able to run your finger across a joint and not feel it. A bit of care now will save a lot of planing and scraping exercise later. Flattening a table top by hand can count as aerobic exercise!

Glue up of one of the end panels completed (with 2 of the vertical clamps already removed).

Next, will be cleaning up the top panel joint lines as well as starting on the base / leg joinery.

Doll Trunk / Travel Case -2

With the back and doors assembled, now we can start on the “dresser drawers”. The drawer fronts are solid stock. I chose maple as it can be finished clear and provides a pleasant contrast to the planned light grey / off white color of the paint.

Check your actual dimensions vs the drawings. The 3 drawers when stacked should have 1/16-1/8″ gaps on each side and between the drawers. Rip the drawer fronts to width. Then cross cut them apart for height. The goal is to have the grain flowing across all 3 drawers if possible. In my case I had some long narrow pieces of maple left over form the cabinet project and used them. Cut the rabbet for the bottom panel in the lower edge of each drawer front. Then cut the side panel rabbets. These rabbets will cover the ends of the plywood when the drawers are closed and provide ample glue surface as well as a self-squaring reference edge during assembly.

Rip the sides from 1/4″ plywood and the back form 1/2″ plywood or solid stock. The sides are 1/2″ shorter than the drawer front minus the 1/4″ bottom panel. This is to allow space for the drawer runners/kickers which will be glued to the cabinet sides.

Lay out the parts for the glue up. I use thick super glue / cyanoacrylate. Having an assistant spray the accelerator once you have the pieces in position is a huge help. This avoids all but finger pressure clamping.. I attach the sides to the front as the first step (use accelerator). Then the back, and finally the bottom and once the back and bottom are in place and the drawer is square, then hit it with accelerator.

Drawer parts ready for assembly
I built 4 at once (12 drawers) and it was not until the second to last drawer that I got stuck

The next step is to place the runners (1/4″x 1/2″) in the case. This is a little bit fiddly to get the spacing just right. Since I was doing mulitples, I made spacers to aid in gluing in the runners (more super glue). For a single cabinet, marking the lines with a square would be sufficient.

If using spacer blacks, do the top drawer runners first
Spacer for the middle drawer runner. Note the top kicker is also in place which is just butted up to the top. This prevents the drawer from tipping when it is pulled forward.
Test fitting the drawers

Drawers installed in all 4 cabinets.

Prior to painting, break all of the corners with sandpaper or preferably a 1/16″ radius router bit. Softening the edges gives better dent / ding resistance and just feels nice. Any gaps or edge voids should be filled with Bondo. Make small batches as it cures fast. Sand everything to 120 grit.

Cut the 1/2″ dowel for the closet rod to length. Make the closet rod support blocks from scraps (~1.75″ tall x 1″ wide x 1/2″ thick ). For the hangers we have, a 1″ space above the rod seems ideal. Drill the hold for the rod in the support blocks a bit oversize (e.g. 9/16) to ease assembly after painting.

Paint should be a water based enamel. We used Benjamin Moore INSL-X Cabinet Kote which is very durable. I do NOT recommend the BEHR enamel / trim paint as it is too soft.

Once painted the finishing touches can be applied. The closet rod is installed with CA or hot melt glue. You want the blocks to slide easily so that you can get the glue on both blocks and everything slid into place prior to the glue setting up. Similarly, the mirror is held on with hot melt glue as well. It is centered in the opening.

Now it is time to install the hardware. Start with the outside corners. Next add the hinges and latches. Then the handle and the bottom feet. All screw holes should be pre-drilled. The tiny screws easily strip or snap off.

The feet were 3D printed using TPU filament. The Sketchup and STL source files are available at: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4723078. Note that for TPU you need a direct drive extruder.

Materials and suppliers

Lee Valley

00D4470(4) 25mm x 9mm BP Filigree Corners        
00D8221Pr 1-1/8″ x 1-3/16″ Snap Clasps        
00D8170Pr Brass Case Handles

Rockler

1/2″ diameter knob for top and middle drawers
#37663

3/4″ diameter knob for bottom drawer #36459

Stick Fast Thick CA glue #32660

Stick Fast CA accelerator / activator #67713

House of Antique Hardware

Pair of Small Victorian Butterfly Cabinet Hinges – 1 3/8 H x 1 7/8″ W (R-08BM-1562X)

Amazon

4″ beveled edge 3mm thick mirrors

Hot melt glue

Hangers

Small brass colored screw assortment

Note: commissions hopefully earned on the Amazon links.

Doll Trunk / Travel Case

My grand-daughters were getting 18″ – “American Girl ” style dolls for Christmas. My daughters asked that I build doll cases for them. They had some suggestions on how they should look based on a discontinued one from Pottery Barn Kids and another on Ana White’s website. One of the goals is that these would be able to be passed down to future generations much like the Pencil Post doll bed I had made for Elyse, as well as other accessories that had been saved. So, they need to be rugged as well as pretty.

The ruggedness drove the use of 1/2″ baltic birch plywood for the sides. This will provide a strong base for the hinges, latches and handle. The “fronts” and “back” are 1/4″ plywood to save weight and these really don’t have any hardware fastened into them . The vertical “closet” divider is also 1/4″. The top of the “dresser” is 1/2″ but you could probably substitute 1/4″ as well. The sides could easily be solid wood, but I had the baltic birch left over from making kitchen drawers. The girls wanted these to be painted rather than stained. So this also opened up some more flexibility in the joinery choices.

The joinery is simple with all rabbets and dadoes. The rabbets make it relatively self-aligning and ease single person glue ups. The dadoes are just for the inset dividers, so that there is no need for additional brackets / gussets.

After ripping the sides, tops, bottoms to the same width of 5.5″ , then cut the pieces to length. The sides are 21″ long, the long / back top and bottom are 17 1/2″ long and the door top and bottom are 8.5″ long.

Next the rabbets for the fronts and back are made. These are 1/4″ wide (across the thickness of the plywood) but the depth will depend on exactly what thickness plywood you have for the fronts and back. It could range from 5mm all the way up to 1/4″ (6.3mm). Cut these rabbets for the fronts and backs first on all of the sides, tops and bottoms.

Parts for the larger “back half” laid out, ready to assemble. Note the rabbets on the sides, top and bottom where the back will fit into.

Ideally the rabbets are all done with a dado blade. Bury the blade in a sacrificial fence for the back panel rabbets and then push back the fence for the top and bottom (approx 1/2″ wide) rabbets.

Rabetting for the tops and bottoms . Note the sacrificial fence board clamped to the rip fence. The hold down / feather board helps ensure consistent depth of cut and keeps fingers well away from the blade.

The last cuts are for the dadoes. These will likely be a different width. With a dado head this means removing, adjusting and and then resetting the height. The key thing to watch for is that the dadoes must be equal to or slightly shallower than the depth of the back panel dadoes to ensure that they will not show on the exterior, once it is assembled. The test cuts below illustrate this.

Test cut scrap piece. The dado on the middle / left is too deep and will show when the case is assembled. The one on the right is about right.

The dadoes for the ~1/4 ” panels are likely need to be narrower than a dado set can go. So you will need to make the first cuts, move the fence make more test cuts and proceed.

With all of the case pieces cut our you can now start to assemble. What is critical is that the 3 case pieces are square once assembled.

For the “back” start by gluing in the closet divider. Then proceed to add the sides and last the back

Clamps are placed lightly at first to hold things in position and then the panels are tapped into place. Be careful not to over-tighten the clamps and bow the sides which will cause gaps with the back panel.
Checking for square. Not perfect but close. In this case the clamp was still too tight and causing the side to bow.

Glued up backs for 2 of the doll cases (I made 4).

The assembly for the “front doors” is similar. However be sure to dry assemble them and make sure the pair is not wider than the back. A small gap is OK and even desirable i.e. both doors together 1/16-1/8″ narrower than the back.

When designing these cases, I was doing it the “old fashioned” way with my gridded notebook, pencil and ruler (can’t forget the eraser as well). The sketches below are photos as my scanner apparently died recently.

Sketch for the “back half” of the cases
Sketch for the “front doors” of the cases
Sketch for the drawers