Archive for July, 2010

Well, I mentioned earlier that I was starting a new cabinet, so I better get cracking and talk about it.

I call this the Retirement Cabinet; not because I plan on retiring after it’s done but because of it’s intended use: To display a pocket watch that is the stereotypical parting gift upon retirement.

Retirement Cabinet: full size drawing

Retirement Cabinet: full size drawing

I’ve sketched this cabinet a couple of times on small pieces of paper. But I wanted to draw it full size to look at proportions. Wood will be Dosié  for the stand and Swedish Elm for the cabinet.

These woods have a special place in my heart. I’ve had them since 1982 when I was going to school at the College of the Redwoods’ Fine Woodworking Program in Ft Bragg, CA. Our teacher, Jim Krenov, went to Sweden over the summer and brought back a container of his favored woods. I borrowed $1000 and bought as much as I could get. It included Ash, Elm, Dousié, and Cherry. (To emphasize the importance of spending $1000; We (me, wife, & 2 kids) were living in a 20ft travel trailer on some $3000 in savings and about $200/mo from renting our house back in San Luis Obispo, CA.)  Because I consider this wood precious, I have used very little of it over the last 28 years (this is the third piece).

After the drawing, I decided to build a “mockup” of the piece to get a better idea of the dimensionality of the whole.

First, I cut the legs to see if the shape/curve looked good.

Picture showing the outward curve at the bottom of the leg

This is the outward sweep I'm looking for in the final piece

Next I made the stretchers and assembled the stand.

Mockup of cabinet as drawn

Mockup of cabinet as drawn

The stand is Douglas Fir, the cabinet is cardboard. If you enlarge the image you can see the relation of the legs to the cabinet base. First appearances indicate the stand is too wide, so I moved in the legs a little more.

Legs are repositioned a little closer together

Legs are repositioned a little closer together

As drawn, the legs are 1/2″ away from the cabinet base. the repositioned legs are about 1/8″ away from the base.

Things still didn’t look right, so I notched the legs and moved them into the cabinet base: the position I have decided on.

Detail of the cabinet base nesting into the top of the leg

Detail of the cabinet base nesting into the top of the leg

Closeup detail of the leg to base fit

Closeup detail of the leg to base fit

After choosing this look, I pulled out the Dousié and started cutting. (Can you see me bleeding?)

Dosié plank dimensioned for legs

Dosié plank dimensioned for legs

I’ll talk about the wood and roughing out the cabinet next time.


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I’ve started a new project — a small standing cabinet ala Jim Krenov — that I was going to begin talking about, but instead, I’ll show this Teak coffee table that I did several years ago (15? 17?).I built this table long before the Makoré table shown in the previous post. But that table’s design was born of this one.

Teak-coffee-table, front view

Teak coffee table; front view

I was at my customer’s home measuring for a drawer the other day when I decided to take some pictures of it. I hadn’t taken pictures at the time I built the table for some reason (pre digital era).  Photoshop helps a lot because it allows me to get at least one presentable picture.

This table is pretty solid: A two inch thick Teak top and built-up solid legs about four+ inches square at the bottom. The shelf is Teak veneer on marine grade Plywood.


Teak coffee table showing rail & leg & dust

Teak coffee table stretcher detail

Teak coffee table stretcher detail

The rails/stretchers are mortised into the legs and pass through the sides of the shelf. These sides are screwed to the table top and provide the primary support of the top.

Teak coffee table undercarraige.

"Dead Elephant" view

Teak coffee table; top corner detail

Top of the leg/corner of the table

My intent was to give the illusion that the table top floats: looking like it’s not connected to either the legs or the rails. And in reality, it’s not connected to the legs and there is about 12″ of overhang on each side of the top.

This much unsupported wood gave me pause, so I added a little support piece  notched into each leg. Hopefully, if someone is not thinking and sits on the table, it won’t collapse.

Teak coffee table undercarraige close-up

a little closer view of the undercarraige corner

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Three-four months ago I got a call from a gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea (Calif.) interested in showing  my coffee table.

Makore Coffee Table

Coffee Table

The Gallery had seen the table at my website & liked it very much.  Of course the table on the web had been sold over a year ago. But because I like the design, I was working on making another one. I had the top veneered and the edge trimmed in Liptus vs Mahogany. The legs were rough cut and fitted with mounting hardware so there wasn’t a lot left to do. Only problem was the all the work I had in front of it that was already overdue.

I finally got it finished a week ago & delivered.

This is my third construction of this table and each time I try to figure out a better way to mount the legs.  Previously, I used a specially shaped loose tenon plus #14×3-1/2″ wood screws (about the size of a lag bolt–big!) to secure/align the legs to the table. This time I used threaded inserts in the legs and 1/4-20 x 3″ socket head machine screws. I feel much better having a metal to metal connections.

Coffee table leg

coffee table leg

This angle best shows my attempt at making the leg look disconnected from the table.

coffee table leg, top view

top view of table leg

coffee table corner detail 2

Corner detail showing spacer

underside of coffee table showing connectors

underside showing connectors

Finish on this piece was more work than the previous tables. The Makoré panel is sprayed with shellac to bring out the mottling. Then sprayed with Waterbased topcoats — General Finishes’ Poly. All this after the top is trimmed to size but before I apply the Liptus edge. The Liptus has a light stain because in it’s natural state, it’s too light and too pink for the Makoré panel. To spray the stain, I had to mask off the panel, spray light coats of stain, then sealer, then topcoat. Sanding between coats. Next I removed the masking and sprayed the whole piece with the General Finishes Poly topcoat.  Unfortunately, I got an uneven spray on the panel. To remedy that & to not get too much of a build on the Liptus, I had to mask off the Liptus, sand the Makoré panel, and respray the panel. It worked out well.

The Maple legs sprayed easier than the last table’s legs which were Birch. Before, I had problems with glue joints telegraphing through the top. I had used regular wood glue and I think it creeped. This time I used Urea glue — the kind you mix with water. Urea is a pretty rigid & brittle glue that is not supposed to creep. The waterbased black enamel layed down really nice and smooth, and with a fast build. I think I have only four or five coats total of finish.

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