Building a Desk – Part 2

By , 20 February, 2010, No Comment

This picture shows the well used plane that I purchased when Judy’s parents left the farm and retired.

Curt Regehr Plane

I am using this number 7 plane to joint the boards that form the top.  Normally, you would use a power joiner, but I don’t have one at the moment.  So, the old fashioned way of doing that was to get a longer plane, like Dad’s and to use it to produce straight boards.  The other part of the trick, is to plane to boards side by side so that they glue up without gaps between them.  That is happening in this picture, and it why that plane sits there so steady, but you cannot see the second board.

Here is the top mostly glued together.  The overall dimensions will be 60 inches by 32 inches.  I am not sure yet that I am happy with it, because it is exactly 3/4 inch thick and I really wanted something thicker.  3/4 will bow and warp if I don’t do it right.  So,

Glued desk top

The top mostly glued up

I might change and cut these boards up for smaller panels that I will need later.  The board laying across the top is to be ripped and added to the ends in what is called a breadboard.  That helps keep the longer pieces from warping and splitting.

Here are the legs all cut out and the piece of wood that I am using for the front.

Front and Legs

Legs and front piece

There will be a low profile 12 inch wide drawer on the left which you can see being proportioned in the next photo.

Since I am doing my own plan, I took the pieces and laid them out so that I could get an idea of how the proportion was going to look.  The desk will have a drawer on the one side, and I will sit under the rest of the desk length.

I decided that the general size for the drawer would be 12 inches wide and maintain a low profile.

Spacing the legs and finalizing the proportions

I have cut out and shaped the front piece under which the person sits in the next photo.  The Greene and Green style requires a lot of hand work, and I found it helped to use small planes and a lot of work with files.  You can see the jig saw in the background, and a bunch of files.  Since the piece has an arch, there was a limit to what I could do with a plane smoothing plane.

Front with shape

Cloud Lift Cut Into Front

I like the ‘cloud lift’ that was used in the most popular of the Greene and Greene pieces and architecture.  It works very well for me on this desk since I have a long leg and it is sometimes difficult to sit under some desks and still have the chair up to the full height.  The arch that represents the cloud lift is ideal to give me a little extra room for my legs.

I found that this very small plane was very helpful on this arch work.  Originally Stanley sold these as toys for tool sets for boys.  I discovered that it helped me get into small spots and take off wood quickly so that I did not have to use my files quite as much.

Small plane in action

Small Stanley Plane Used in Tight Area

I mostly work an hour or two a day on this project and several hours on the weekends.  My daughter Jodi and spouse Tyler want to build a crib too, so there will be some competition for space and time once we start on that project.

Building a Desk – Part 1

By , 18 February, 2010, No Comment

Always enamored with quarter-sawn white oak, I picked that wood for my first big project a few months back.  There is a great place over in Dunlap, IA where you can get lumber at nice prices that are planed (roughly) and sawn on one edge.  I bought the oak in late fall, and let the lumber sit for a while in the shop.

By the time I was ready to start, I needed a plan.  My wife and I are big fans of mission furniture, and most of our purchases in the past 6 years all fit that style.  During the search search for the right plan or idea, I discovered Greene and Greene.  I do not remember ever coming across this style previously, but some of the pieces that I read about were very exciting.  I decided that I would have to build something that borrowed from their designs.

After looking around, I found several contemporary furniture makers that work in that style.  I especially liked some of the things done by Darrell Peart,  including a beautiful desk he called the Aurora Table Desk.  He featured it his book which I bought and read.

So, my design falls into place, but now I realize that I my oak is not a traditional wood for Greene and Greene style wood.  I vow to proceed anyway, and I am off to a good start.

As much as possible, I am using hand tools, but all of the sawing parts have been with table saw, miter saw and jig saw so far.  Way too much sawing for hand.  Greene and Greene has a lot of rounded edges too, and I will probably use a router to get that consistent look on all the major pieces.  As I get back into woodworking, I find that I have enjoyed the use of hand tools, and I want to enjoy the process more than banging something together.

Get Me One of These

By , 17 February, 2010, No Comment

As a young boy, the oldest of the children, I often found myself lingering around a project that my father was working during his day off.  In the cold months, his projects were in the warm, company owned shop that was 6 miles away from our house.  In the warmer months, dad typically crawled underneath a vehicle parked in our yard and tore something apart.  I can still feel the warm sunshine, and remember the feel of the grass and weeds that grew in that work area before spring really kicked in.  It is odd that you could feel so close to your father when he was completely preoccupied with something, and you are just hanging around, fiddling with things in his toolbox.

From under the vehicle, dad would shout out to me that he needed a certain size wrench, a screwdriver, a hammer or something else from that toolbox.  After seeing my badly chosen selection come flying back out on to the grass in front of me, and hearing the reissue of the original command, I was incented to learn which tool was what. That learning process also made me slightly less eager to be around when my dad started arguing with hard, greasy metal parts, and I sometimes casually slipped away when the conversation got intense.   I know that meant he crawled out to get his own tools, and that I made a lousy helper that day, but self-preservation wins out from time to time.

During those helper events, my dad would often need a washer, nut or bolt.  Now these were the days when your local Home Depot did not exist, and hardware stores kept regular business hours.  So, a Sunday project would have stopped cold were it not for grandma’s garage across the street.  Grandma’s garage had been a work shop for a husband, three sons and at least one son-in-law.  Only the youngest son and inquisitive grandsons were still around to venture into the garage.

In that garage was a wonderful collection of artifacts from farming, mechanics, welders and construction ventures.  I spent many a happy day in that garage discovering things that had been long abandoned and were never used again by working men.  Old goggles, hammers and who knows what became my own inspiration for adventures.  In the northwest corner sat an old dark colored shipping trunk like you see coming off sea-crossing boats.  To that chest, sitting in an unlit corner, I returned over and over on missions for my father.

From under a car, or a place he had wedged into, my dad would call out a request for something from the chest.  “Go get me one of these”, he would say, or “Get me a hex nut to fit this bolt.” I would dutifully take the item that he held up, grab the flashlight, get the key to the garage and sprint across the road and through the ditch to the garage.  Early on, it seemed a lot easier to find the requested item than it did in later years.  I think we must have harvested most of the typical sizes, and later I would spend a long time combing through 5 inches of nuts, bolt, washers and other items I was unfamiliar with until I found what I needed.  Always the familiar taste of rust accompanied these forays into the trunk.

Expediency was required lest I got chewed when I finally showed up, or worse yet was to have dad show up himself and start pawing for the item.  Oddly enough, it never seemed to take him long to find what he needed.  Yes, those were the days when I just expected that most of what you wanted for a project ought to be found right in your own workshop.

The number of times when mom needed to jump into the car and actually go buy something seemed pretty few.  In later life when I worked at a hardware store, I gained a better appreciation for the poor wife whose husband sends her off to the store, saying “Go get me one of these.”  I saw a lot of flustered wives come in, not having a clue what they were buying, and unable to answer even simple questions.

A treasure I possess is a can of nuts, bolts and washers I took home with me after my dad passed away.  I don’t know if they are from the original trunk in the garage, but I pretend that some of them I have handled for fifty years.  Last year I bought a nice plastic box with dividers in it, and separated bolts from nuts, and sorted longer bolts from shorter bolts.  It seemed like a smart move at the time, but it just isn’t as much fun looking for a something now as it was when I used a flashlight, knelt down in front of the trunk, and used an old welding rod to dig through hundreds of small rusty parts.  I still get that rusty taste in my nose and mouth every time I dig around for something, and I always have a flood of memories.  But, the adventure is gone.

Today, I live in the country, and it is seldom handy for me to jump into the car and drive miles to get what I need.  I certainly don’t want to send my poor wife on those mission trips.  So, even with all of the stores around that cater to the needs of the do-it-yourselfer, I like to have a cache of things around just in case I need it.  Now I have my own collection of stuff squirreled away, and it gives me a sense of security.  If I need ‘one of these’ – I just might have it.

Judy’s Father

By , 15 February, 2010, 1 Comment
Curt L Regehr and daughter Judy

Curt L Regehr and his daughter Judy

Shortly after our last child was born, Judy and I moved to her home town in Kansas.  A lot of influences went into that decision, and one of them was the opportunity to work with Judy’s father, Curt L Regehr.

Curt, like so many in the area where he lived was equal parts farmer and carpenter.  I never had the appreciation for the land and the animals like Curt, but I was eager to learn some things from him on the job.  Unfortunately for me, he was winding down his career.  The number of jobs that we worked together were small and short, but I discovered some life lessons.

I found out something unusual about the man.  One day while we were digging some footings for a fellow from his own church, I learned that this same fellow had utilized dad’s services before, but had never paid his debt.  I wondered then why were we there doing more work for him when it was unlikely that he would pay this time either.  Dad responded that he felt it to be the right thing to do.  He had been asked, and he could not turn him down because he was a church friend.  I never forgot that.  Sometimes you do what you should do, because it is the right thing to do — not because you are going to get rewarded for it.

Dad had a good friend, Ben who worked on those same jobs with us.  I loved Ben.  He seemed slow, but what a dry whit!  We always had on the local Christian radio station when indoors, and a lot of good messages were digested while working.  I enjoyed watching the relationship between the two of them, and relished some of the inside jokes they shared.

I had the privilege of using some of the tools that Curt had acquired over the years, and many of them had great patina.  Like their owner, they had served well, and they carried the marks of age and ownership.  Many years later, Curt and his wife Marie sold their belongings and left the farm.  I bought a few of those tools for myself so that I could remember the man, and hoped that they would serve me as they served him.  And, just maybe I might be the better man through imitation.

Curt passed away a couple of years ago, and when I got out a nice number 7 Stanley plane of his for a project that I am working on, it brought back a lot of memories.  I wondered how many places that plane had been utilized, and how many other men besides me and Curt’s four sons had used it to make something.

I’m now using it build a desk.  Check back, and I will tell you more about it.


By , 14 February, 2010, 1 Comment

As a young boy, I grew up with a a talented, but uneducated father.  My dad opted out of school in the eighth grade, and made his way in life as a mechanic and then later as an electrician.

My Dad

Dee Collicott

After buying a two room house when I was five, my parents moved three children into the tiny bedroom with them, and we lived in the rest of the house.  It was years later that my mom and dad added two more bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen to our house.  I don’t know what training my father had for building homes, but I do know that my mom is convinced that few houses contained more nails than ours.

What I gained from my early days with dad was a love for tools.  It seemed that my dad could fix anything, and build whatever he wanted.  He loved mechanics and welding.  He constructed a number of projects from scratch over the years, including a horse buggy, a go cart, a scooter and other things.  When I turned sixteen, he completely rebuilt the motor on a car thirteen years older than me.  It ran perfectly and ‘like a sewing machine’ as one friend described it.

But, I preferred wood.  My first shop class in the seventh grade had me hooked.  I liked metal shop, welding and leather working, but working wood was wonderful.  I recall that my first tool purchase was a coping saw.  I rode home eagerly from the hardware store on my bicycle and ran across the street to my grandmother’s garage where I had cleared out a little space in front of an old workbench.  I took out a piece of wood that I had found in the garage and placed it on a jig made in shop class to support it.

Within seconds I had cut a nice rough cut across the end of my thumb.  A quick trip back across the street and a band-aid fixed me up so that I was ready to go again.  Holding the wood now at a different angle due to the sore thumb, I quickly made another rough cut across my thumb, forming a bloody T shape.  But, I was undeterred, and another band-aid change fixed me up.

Over the years, I found that a lot of tools for working with wood are sharp.  And, you need to exercise some caution as you work with them.  But, none of those many, many cuts and bruises kept me from coming back to the pleasure of working with wood.

I took more than 20 years off from working with wood when I stepped away from construction and eventually entered the software development world.  A few years ago, I was looking for another outlet, and talked with my wife about building a shop again.  Her father was a life long carpenter, and she gave her blessing to invest in tools and products to build a shop. Oddly enough, today I have the money to buy some of the better tools that I could not afford when I was in the industry.

So, as I step back into the shop, I bring with me a different perspective on life and skills than I formerly had when working wood for a career.  Frankly, I found that I was much more rusty than I could have expected.  But, I am having fun.

I have family and friends that are interested in what I am doing, so blogging about it seemed like the way to keep everyone posted and current with what I am doing.