Coffee Table (Finally)

Sometimes it is easier to start projects than to finish them. Okay – it is almost always easier to start than finish. The new coffee table was no exception.

I had the table frame and top constructed in May. Then life came in the way. We had to complete some house projects and replace windows. Travel for work. Yard projects. Time with the kids. It is easy for the days to slip to weeks and to slip to months. But the project is finally finished and in the living room. It isn’t perfect, but it is the most complicated project I have made to date.

It is constructed of solid cherry – with the drawer bottoms made from 1/4″ plywood (I was running out of wide cherry, and the plywood bottoms can be glued into the drawers and won’t move with the seasons. I finished the project with a single coat of shellac and then Enduro-Var as a top coat. This is my first project using Enduro-Var, and it is great. The water-based finish dries quickly and looks great. I think I have my new go-to finish. Next time I’ll try spraying it.

Cherry coffee table – drawer detail.
Cherry coffee table – completed.

A quick project from reclaimed material…

Will asked me to help him build an archery target. He was tired of shooting at a half-fallen-apart bale of hay. We went into the workshop, found some old foam insulation blocks, and pine reclaimed from some benches that had been in our sun porch. It was a short project to put together a target and stand, and nice to use some materials that had been sitting around the shop.

Ready for target practice

Using the Stanley No. 45 Plane

I’ve been pretty good at getting back into the workshop. I have the AC installed – and even though it doesn’t completely keep up on a hot and humid day like today, it helps. I’m currently building a case for my new workshop computer. The case will allow me to add filters to keep the dust out of the machine.

Using the Stanley 45 as a plow - cutting a rabbet along the grain on a piece of antique pine.
Using the Stanley 45 as a plow – cutting a rabbet along the grain on a piece of antique pine.

Today I’m cutting rabbets on the rails of the case to allow me to install the bottom and sides of the case. Normally I would set up the router table and use the router, but I need to go get longer bolts to attach the fence to the new table and I’m lazy. Plus, Izzy has been hanging out in the shop at times (in her pack and play), so I need to find ways to do things without power tools.

Which brings me to the Stanley No. 45 Plane. The plane came in a collection of antiques I got from my dad. It is in pretty good shape, though the cutters need sharpening. Last night I started sharpening the cutters.  The cutters are almost at a 30-degree bevel, but not quite and it took me a while to grind the proper bevel. So, after sweating at it for a while, I decided to only grind the 1/2 dado cutter. I’ll work on the rest as I need them (and in hindsight, I should have done one of the wider ones).

How did it work? At first use, it works well. I had to make two passes to get the width of the rabbet I wanted (hence, the wish I had sharpened a wider cutter) which made the finished cut a little rougher than I had hoped. Of course I didn’t do a good job cleaning up the rabbet either, but no worries – the rabbet will be hidden.

Now back to work – time to clean up the rails and glue up the frame. And maybe later to eBay to browse different cutters for the plane.

Tomato Cages (White Oak)

I’ve been trying to get back into the workshop. However, it has been difficult with a 4-month old baby and two middle-school boys here half-time. So I started with simple. I have lots of lumber around and found some extra wire fencing to make some tomato cages. The cages are pretty simple, made from 1″x1″ strips I cut out of a white oak board. They are connected using exterior screws (yes they are designed for pocket-holes, but they work fine here). They are finished with one coat of spar varnish (again, something I had laying around).

I made two cages from the board I cut up, and may have enough lumber left over for a third cage.  I don’t think they turned out too bad for a couple of short evenings worth of work.  Hopefully the white oak will hold up for a few years. I’ll have to see how the L-shape works for a tomato cage.

Detail on the joinery for the tomato cage.
Detail on the joinery for the tomato cage. You can see the discoloration from only having one coat of varnish applied – but they will be outside. I’ll have to remember to recoat the cages in the fall.
In place in the garden (although the legs still need to be pushed through the weed-block fabric).
In place in the garden (although the legs still need to be pushed through the weed-block fabric).

Book display shelf or two (pine finished with shellac)

As Susanna’s due date approaches we are pushing to get the last few projects ready for the nursery. One of the projects that Susanna wanted was a way to display books – an idea taken from a Pinterest idea that re-purposed a wooden spice rack to display books.

I reclaimed some pine that had been used for shelves in Will’s old room and built two shelves. The shelves are 18″ long with the back around 6″ tall. I milled the pine to 1/2″ in thickness and cut the parts. The shelves were assembled using glue, screws (for attaching the sides to the back where they wouldn’t be seen) and cut nails (where visible).

I finished the first in time for Christmas. Susanna helped me assemble the second one today. They will both be finished with clear shellac. Both took no more than a few hours to complete.

Book display made from pine and finished with clear shellac.
Book display made from pine and finished with clear shellac.

Dovetail Exercise

Dovetail details
Dovetail details

One of the (many) things that I don’t have a lot of experience with in the workshop is making dovetails. Many years ago I purchased a dovetail jig that should allow me to make perfect dovetails using a router. I just never used it and don’t even know if I have it still.

I have only used dovetails on a couple of projects – mainly the drawers on the two night stands that I made for the boys. And I wasn’t too happy with how they turned out. So I decided that it would be good to do a quick project just to practice dovetails. I got the project and instructions from Woodworking Masterclasses.

The project didn’t turn out too bad. The dovetails at the end were certainly better than the first few. Now I’ll just have to make small boxes a couple of times a year until I get comfortable cutting the dovetails. There are hundreds of ways to hand cut dovetails, so I gave Peter Sellers’ method a try (from the video). I liked some things from his video – such as his method of cutting out the waste. But I don’t think I really liked his method for marking out the depth of the cuts.

We didn’t really have a use for the box in the house, but there is always room for help organizing the workshop. Tonight I gave the box one coat of shellac and put it to use helping organize the sanding supplies. It looks like I could use a couple more boxes to help out that shelf.

I’m not sure what wood I used. It certainly wasn’t oak, cherry, or maple. It may have been ash or hickory. Though probably not hickory. So, I’ll go with ash. Because who doesn’t like a nice piece of ash.

The project didn’t take too long. I spent a couple of hours working on it around the other projects going on in the house/workshop. Maybe I’ll mill up some cherry and build a second one over the next couple of weeks.  I’ll have to make the next one deep enough it can hold the sandpaper rolls. And eventually maybe I can make one where the dovetails look good enough to put the box in the house.

Dovetail Caddy Complete.
Dovetail Caddy – holding an assortment of sanding blocks. Hiding behind the sanding blocks is a memory from my days on SSN 691.