Bird Houses With the Grandkids

By , 28 April, 2013, No Comment
Makenna With Her Bird House

Makenna With Her Bird House

This past Saturday, my two oldest grandchildren came over to build birdhouses for wrens.  I cut out all of the pieces beforehand so that the kids would be able to mostly glue and clamp the pieces together.

Funny thing about that, I think I spent more time getting the pieces cut for assembly than I imagined.  It was time well spent however as the process went well.  All of the pieces were scraps left over from other projects, and in one case I made the back by gluing 3 pieces together to get a wide enough piece.

We began by gluing the roof portions together.  The bevel is 30 degrees, so we laid the pieces together and put some blue tape on them to hold the seams.  Then we flipped them over and applied glue.  Once glued, we pulled the pieces together and again used tape to hold the two halves of the roof together.  While the roof dried, we worked on the bodies.

These had rabbits on the sides and the end pieces were already cut to size.  The kids put glue into the rabbits and then we put them together and clamped them with 4 clamps for each house.  Liam (6) and Makenna (9) both enjoyed playing with clamps for a few minutes while roof and body dried.

Liam With His Bird House

Liam With His Bird House

Then I got out some General Finishes water based dyes and the kids used acid brushes to first paint the roofs and then paint the house bodies.  Lastly we put the floors into the houses.  Dowels were used to allow one end of the floor to pivot so that the houses can be cleaned out.  And a 6 penny galvanized nail was predrilled and slid into the front where it can be removed to allow the floor to swing open or stay in position.

The roofs were glued and nailed on again with 6 penny galvanized nails. Even predrilled, it took a lot of short, fast blows to get those nails driven in.

We had a lot of fun.

 

 

Frame for Dad

By , 25 April, 2013, 1 Comment

Framed Picture of DadMy father passed away in 2000.  A lot of favorite pictures exist of my father, and one was a photo of him in his military uniform.  In this picture, he appears to be so young, and more than a bit sure of himself. The eyes tell the entire story.  I learned to read my Dad’s eyes from a very young age, and it was never difficult to know when he was angry, amused or affectionate. The fascination with this picture is the really young fella with my Dad’s eyes.

A few months back, Mom took the old black and white photo down and had enlarged copies made for each of us three kids.  Mine has been propped up against the wall, sitting on the edge of my desk.  I enjoyed having it there, but I feared damaging it.  Obviously it was time for a frame.

I rounded up some white oak pieces that I had left from another project, and cut them up for a frame to fit a 5 x 7 photo and glued them up.  I started with 1 1/2 inch wide material.  After looking at the photo and the frame it was clear to me that the frame needed to be more narrow.  I cut it down to 3/4 of an inch.

Next came the finish options.  I considered natural, but that did not seem appropriate. Classic dark brown and golden brown were not right, but black seemed like it would fit a black and white photo.  But, then if I wanted black, I could go to one of 100 stores and buy a black frame.  I had a number of General Dyes on my shelf, with colors including yellow, orange, blue and browns.  I dyed samples of each and eyeballed them against the photo.  Not quite right.

I ended up mixing equal parts of yellow and blue to get a green which matched the army green color of Dad’s uniform.  I liked the color except it was a bit light and the pores of the wood were not accepting the dye well deep into their bottoms.  To compensate for the two issues, I bought a very cheap black artist acrylic paint.  After spraying on a light coat of shellac, I rubbed the entire frame with the paint, I wiped it down and let it dry.  I finished it with a couple coats of finish, and I was happy with the look.

I went to the store and bought a cheap frame and took the glass and the back from it which would allow me to prop Dad’s picture up like a photo should be.  Unfortunately it does not fit where I had it for the past couple of months and I will have to find him a new home.  But he will look good anywhere he sits, and those eyes talk to me every time I look into them.

 

 

Island Ebony

By , 5 March, 2013, No Comment
Ebony at the Breadboard Joint

Ebony at the Breadboard Joint

The past weekend I spent time gluing in the ebony inserts that bridge the gap between the breadboard and the main body of the island top.  Each piece was hand fitted to the slot, and very roughly cut out so that I preserved as much of the leftover ebony as possible.  The piece glued in was at least 1/8 inches taller than the finished height.  I then used a router with a pattern bit that had a larger than normal bearing.  After a pass over with the router, the ebony protruded a 1/16 inch above the oak.

Look closely and you can see the ebony curl formed as I moved across the edge.

Sanding the Ebony

Sanding the Ebony

Using a sharp butt chisel that you can see in the second photo, I carefully bevelled every edge to take the sharpness off the ebony and give it a much smoother transition from the oak to the ebony.  A lot of hands will slide over these parts in the future, and I don’t want them catching a rough edge.  But I do want the fingers to spend time searching along the ebony and enjoying the discovery.

After the chisel, I taped off the surrounding oak with blue tape and sanded down those new bevels and the surface. I started with 180 grit on the bevels, moved to 400, then to 600 and finally hit it all with 1000 grit to give the surface a nice smooth look.

Corner View

Corner View

With all the ebony on the sides and the edges bevelled and sanded, I took a picture from one of the corners.  Under those small pieces of ebony on the ends are sockets with 3 inch stainless screws holding the breadboard to the top.

Work on the Island Top

By , 24 February, 2013, No Comment
Cutting Ebony Socket

Cutting Ebony Socket

An update on the state of the island.  At this point, all the drawers , shelves and doors are sanded, stained and finished.  Each is in its place, and functioning properly.

Last weekend, I chopped out the sockets on the sides for the ebony highlights.  I had chopped out sockets months ago, but they were preliminary and far to short.  These are the recommended length of 5 inches and 3/8 inches wide.  In the first photo, I am using the mortise chisel to clean out the waste.  I chopped one of these entirely by hand, and then dropped back to my Mortise Pal jig to hog out the other three.  Those I cleaned out and squared up by hand.

Ebony Socket In Breadboard

Ebony Socket In Breadboard

When the breadboard is tight to the top, this is what it looks like.  The socket is just over 1/2 inch deep.  After chopping out the sockets, I fitted the breadboards to the top and did some work to get the top and the breadboard to fit well.

Following the recommendation of Darrel Peart, I glued about 7 inches in the center and the ends are screwed on.  You can see the small sockets on the ends.  There are two screws on each side, one in each socket.  These have play in the breadboard end which allows the screws to slide a bit with the movement of the top.

I was disappointed to realize that I had a deep blemish in the middle of the top side, and I spent some quality time with a smoother trying to carefully take it out. I put that aside and tried power sanding it with a 5 inch sander.  I finally dropped down to 60 grit and I still was not seeing the success that I wanted, and I could tell that the top was getting a bit wavy as they will do when being sanded with rough grits.

Ebony End Sockets

Ebony End Sockets

I finally gave up, and got out a Lie-Nielsen cabinet scraper that I bought a few months back.  It was nicely sharpened, and I began to work the top.  Wow, what a pleasure.  I stopped twice and redid the edges of the scraper; finally I ended up with a nice smooth surface with all the tear-out gone.  If you don’t have a scraper, you should get one.  They are amazing.

Top Dyed

Top Dyed

From That point on, I got the sander back out and worked the bottom side a little.  Only a small portion will be exposed.  I flipped to to work the top, and cleaned up the top with 150-180 grit.  It is hard to see, but every edge has a 1/8 inch round-over.  I used a router to put the round on most of the edges, but I had to hand work the area where the ebony goes on the sides and especially there where the breadboard meets the main top.  There is a 3/32 offset that I worked by hand.

After sanding quickly with 220 grit, I wet the surface and let it set for several hours to let the hair raise.  After it dried, I quickly hit the entire top surface with 320 grit and the edges with 400 grit so that it was silky smooth.

Then with the assistance of my wife, I dyed the entire top surface and the sides.  Her help was invaluable.  I have not dyed a surface this large before.  I have discovered however, that the secret is to keep the entire surface and sides flooded and wet while working across and down the sides,  With Judy’s eye, we kept things wet and even until I felt that everything was equally covered.  Then together we quickly wiped everything down until we had a nice even coverage.  Several hours later, when I took this last picture, all was looking very good!

 

Corbels and a Shelf

By , 21 January, 2013, No Comment
Corbel and Shelf Side View

Corbel and Shelf Side View

All good Arts and Crafts pieces need corbels, do they not?  I think so.  At least this island needs corbels to make the one foot overhand of the top on the right end look proper.  After asking my wife, youngest daughter, her husband, and their 2 1/2 old which length looked better, everyone agreed on the shorter length — except me.  Even the two year old who loves me voted with Grandma and his parents!

So I cheated a bit and added about 1 3/4 quarters inch to the length of the shorter version.  Builder’s prerogative on that one.

My wife and I discussed the value of having a shelf underneath where she could slip her tablet computer, books and what ever to clear off the top when she needed the top for cooking and serving.  To maximize the amount of space, the shelf is made to start right at the curve and go all the way to the back.  I ended up with a shelf that is near 22 inches long and over 8 inches deep.  There will be three inches between the shelf and the underside of the top.  That is plenty of room for most of today’s books and tablets.

Corbels and Shelf

Corbels and Shelf

The funny thing is that I spent almost as much time getting the edge of that shelf to blend with the curve in the corbel as I did making a drawer.  A lot of hand sculpting went into that fit.  I started by marking the ends that stood proud with a pencil and then taking a number 5 plane to shave off all that I could on the front.  If you look closely, there is a little dip about 2 inches in.  I used a shoulder plane here to shave out some of the recess, and then smoothed it out with block planes, file and sandpaper wrapped around a piece of closet rod to give me a nice radius.