Thursday, May 29, 2008

Little Wings

Inlaid Walnut Butterflies

Now that the headboard is complete other than I have to still apply a finish; I move on to the inlaid butterfly keys at the bottom of the bed. These will be both structural and visual in design. I'll start off by making a full size template out of some scrap press board and try it in place. Stand back and have a look; try the other side, walk around...cover all of the angles until you're happy with the size and the placement of the key template. I'll then take a fine file and go over all of the edges of my template making sure it's nice and smooth, while checking it's flat on edge. This is exactly what you want the finished pieces to be so make sure all is well with it. Seeing as they're only two of these and they're only a few inches worth of material, take your time and find a really nice piece. The small length of Walnut I have was taken out of my scrap wood pile. A great place to use up those awkward little pieces left over from an earlier stage of the project. I'll take some two sided tape and temporarily stick the template down to the walnut, making sure you've gone over the face of the real wood with a smoothing plane. This piece of wood should be at a finished state before sticking on the butterfly mock-up. Once adhered I carefully cut around the template with my marking knife being careful to keep the flat back side of the knife blade tight against the press board cut-out.
Once I have the shape nicely traced out on the Walnut, I'll cross cut the key on my Bench. My Mitre Hook is the perfect appliance to use here. This will ensure the Walnut stays put while I saw it out. I'll get as close as I can to each end keeping in mind I'll be fine tuning it later. Once I get the pieces cross cut I'll take them over to my shoulder vise and get ready to rip down the sides of the butter fly wings. This will be done with a rip saw as opposed to the small Carcass saw I used to cross cut the keys.
My fine toothed Dovetail saw has a Rip tooth pattern filed at 15 tpi. (teeth per inch) I recently resharpened it so it makes quick work of the walnut. Next, I'll take the freshly cut butterflies and mount them again in the shoulder vise but on an axis so they're just a hair proud of the bench top. I was going to use my chisel to clean up any saw marks left behind but decided to use a spare blade I have out of my Jointing plane. I use a Bevel-Up Jointing Plane manufactured by Veritas® which has a nice thick blade, 2-1/4" wide, 3/16" (0.187") thick. This ended up being the perfect tool for this application. The wide heavy back of the Iron was easy to register against the narrow edge of the butterfly key; a few passes with the Iron and all of the saw marks were gone.
Now that the keys are cut out and finished it's time to inlay them into the lower bed rails where they meet the walnut foot board. The first step again with this process is to carefully attach some two sided tape to the keyes and carefully place them onto the scribed lines from earlier. Make sure all is right in the butter fly kingdom before going any further. This is one spot you don't want to try to patch later! I'll carefully remove the key and with a freshly sharpened and well honed chisel, slowly cut a shallow groove around the inner perimeter being careful not to disturb the outside edge. When I have the groove cut the full way around I'll take a 1/4" (6mm) Gouge and cut a narrow groove down the center of the mortise key. This hollow will allow me to get started with my Router plane enabling the blade of the Router to get into the fibers and slowly cut out the waste. I make sure to take light shallow passes and slowly work my way down checking my depth as i go. When I reach the mortise bottom I'll take a small detail chisel and clean up through out. At this point I like to clean up the surface around the mortise with my smoothing plane and test fit the butterfly. When it sits down properly I'll scribe around the edge of the key and again remove it. I made sure to keep my mortise a little shallow so the actual butterfly will be proud by a little. Then carefully remove the key and at my work bench I'll shape it. I use the edge scribe lines I just made to reference so I don't chamfer down past the rails surface. I like to really work the butterfly into a pleasing shape constantly stopping, closing my eyes and allowing my fingers to judge my progress. You really have to trust your sense of touch and not so much the eyes for this. If you wanted, you could simply plane the key down flush with the surface; this is the common method but seeing as I wanted this bed to feature some hand cut joinery, I'm allowing the butterfly to round and bulge out of the walnut frame around it. I think my clients will agree. Bon nuit!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Attaching Walnut Headboard

Solid Technique makes for Reliable Joint

In my last post I showed the procedure of cutting a half-lap dovetail into the top rail of the headboard. Now I'll demonstrate how using similar techniques I'll attach the rail to the top of the headboard for a joint that is strong, easy to make and a reliable connection. To start I'll disassemble the dry-fit half lap joint and using my marking gauge, mark the center on the width of each up-right. A nice deep cut down each side and across the bottom will give me a clean edge to reference my saw blade to. You can use a Rip saw for this cut, a band saw or even a dado blade set up at the table saw. What ever method you choose, once you have cut off the cheek of each rail, you'll need to clean up the shoulders and the face. This is a vital part of the joint where it will sit on top of the lower section of the head board. I use a block plane to get rid of any saw marks on the cheek even though once attached you'll never see it. Better to clean it up now, to ensure the pieces mate together nicely later during the final assembly.I use my medium shoulder plane and if need be, clean up the edges with a freshly sharpened chisel. Check the fit to see that the uprights sit flush to the top and again, dry fit the pieces. I'll wait until I'm ready for the final finishing stage of the entire bed before attaching these permanently. Instead of any mechanical fasteners I'll use Walnut dowels and glue to affix this to the top of the head board. With a smoothing plane I usually clean up the faces and set them aside. Next, we'll install and cut out the butterfly keys for the bottom corners of the bed frame.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Platform Bed in Walnut

The Half Lap Dovetail

The head board is a vital component to the over-all design of the Platform Bed I'm in the middle of building. Visually and aesthetically, the top of the head board can make a good design great, or a mediocre design poor. I chose to show-off some joinery here in the form of a half lap dovetail that will join the uprights to the top rail. The wood is Black Walnut. The two uprights are finished at 4' wide by a heavy 7/8" thick. They'll be joined to the head board rail which is also 7/8" in thickness by 5 1/4" wide.


Surface the pieces being used making sure they're flat and square. From my Power Planner I go over the entire surface with my 5 1/2 Bench plane. This takes down the high spots and sets things up for smoothing. I follow with my #4 Bronze Bench Plane that incidentally has been working like a dream as of late. Funny thing these hand planes; some days they're cranky and chatter like an old junk yard dog and other days they purr like a sweet little kitty.

Scribe the Cheeks

To make this joint work, the first step is to establish the depth of the cheeks. These will be cut out of the width of each mating surface so when the finished joint goes together, the surface will be flat. I determine the center of each piece and scribe a deep line with my marking gauge. The deeper the better here so our saw will have a good reference mark to follow. Mark the pieces up from the shoulders, across the top and down the other side making sure not to mark the faces. The depth of the entire dovetail is simply the over all width of the mating piece. I mark this line as well, again being careful to keep the show side free from any lines.

Cut-out and Fine-Tune the Cheeks

Cut out the cheeks with what-ever method you see fit. A clean Rip saw would be my first choice, however you could set up a dado at the table saw and cross cut the back side of the upright to remove the waste to the determined depth. Or, perhaps at the band saw. What ever way you choose be sure not to cut down below the scribe marks and once finished, clean up the shoulders and the cheeks. I use my Medium Shoulder Plane as well as a long, freshly sharpened chisel to smooth out and fine tune these areas. In the photo below you'll notice my grip on the chisel, this is actually the second part of the paring process. I first make a shallow cut using my thumb on the back side of the chisel; then I follow with this full fisted grip while controlling the forward movement with my right hand. It's a safe way to work while keeping maximum control over the tool.

Determine the Slope

I use my Bevel Gauge to lay out the dovetails for this joint. Seeing as I'm using a hardwood in Walnut, and this is a kind of decorative, over-sized lap-joint I'm cutting; I chose a 10 degree slope for my dovetail angles. Now before I start to try to justify why I chose this particular slope let me say it is purely visual. If you'd like to discuss dovetail slopes; they're history and heritage, please write and we'll have a go. If you'd like to read a bit on some of the reasons why some craftsman use a 7 degree slope while others can use up to a 14, as well as everything in between, check back into Chris Schwarz' Blog at Lost Art Press for a great article on Dovetail slopes.

Scribe and Cutout the Dovetails

Again we have some choices here. Once we scribe the dovetails with a deep, clean cut with a marking Knife, we need to cut out the dovetail. A finely tuned Rip-saw is my first choice however, a Band Saw will also work fine. Clean up the edges with a chisel or what I used this morning for this was the spare blade out of my Jointing Plane. It's a nice big 2 1/4" Bevel-Up Iron, 3/8" thick. The massive size made it easy to register flat on the edge of the narrow dovetail slope to clean up any saw marks left behind. I also used a chisel in the corners. Keep in mind the sides of this joint have to fit into the half lap, so if anything, make them bevel so the show side, or face is a little wider than the back. This will help ensure a tight fit later.

Fine Tuning the Shoulders

Try a test fit on the head board rail taking careful notice of where the shoulders meet. This is a critical area that can make the joint work, or make you look like an amateur. I use my Shoulder Plane to clean things up taking a light cut and coming in from each end. Taking a full shaving over the entire width could lead to a split on the opposite side of the upright. I get in tight and finish off with a well honed chisel.

Transferring the Lines

I lay out the rails and carefully mark the perimeter with a pencil. I then take my bevel gauge and determine the slope. This may be slightly different than the first from when we cut it out.

As well make sure you mark the left side as well as the right seeing as there's a real chance that they're not exactly the same. When we cut out the waste for the socket, we'll need an exact fit!

Cutting Out the Socket

At this point we have our lines nicely scribed with a clean, deep knife line. Before I start to remove the waste I take a large chisel, in this case 1 1/4" width, and follow the knife line with a slight bevel cut.

Keeping the Chisel on the waste side, I'm careful not to disturb the tiny shoulder established by the marking knife. This shallow "V" groove will act like a guide for my saw when we cut out the waste.

The Tenon Saw

I use my Large Tenon Saw to make a series of cuts through the waste area. I'm careful to stay away from my scribe line telling me the depth I need to remove. This is a great time to practice hand sawing and I first lay out a series of pencil lines with my square and follow along. Remember, practice makes perfect.

The Router Plane

Once I have my saw lines cut, it's an easy job to remove the waste between. I use my large Router Plane with the full 1/2" cutter installed. Shallow passes assure I won't tear out any fibres on the opposite end of the socket. I clean up the edges with a chisel and try a test fit. Making sure the dovetail sits down into the socket before making any adjustments.

Next I'll be inlaying two solid Walnut Butterfly Joints into the side rails of the bed and attaching the head board. Stay tuned...