Monday, 3 September 2018

Bringing a table back to life

The newly finished table

A customer brought in a table that had seen better days. It needed its shellac finish refinishing. It was also a little rickety. On closer examination it was literally nailed together! There were no joints to speak of and it needed serious work to make it stable.

I told my customer it would need extensive work but as she liked it and it had no intrinsic value as an antique (laughs) she was happy to see it "remade".

To go about this I dismantled it completely. Not very difficult as the nails came out very easily. The top had been nailed on from the underside and had a dowel protruding from the top of each leg into the underside of the top. Needless to say over a period of years, moving it into central heated houses had resulted in the top splitting down the middle. She wasn't even aware of this as she covered it with a cloth and stacked a computer on it.

The front of the drawer was dovetailed to the sides but the glue had long ago disintegrated. In fact the single wide dovetail was the only thing holding the drawer front onto the sides! The drawer bottom was very thin plywood that protruded from the back. This protrusion had been used as a drawer stop on the inside face of the rear of the carcass! Also it looked as though a bottle of ink had been spilt inside the drawer at some time in its history. Fortunately only the drawer bottom was damaged and a few splashes on the inside of the drawer sides.

Anyway after it was all dismantled I set about correcting it. First of all all the ends of the stiles/stretchers needing squaring up and cutting to identical lengths. Originally they had been cut at odd angles and looks as though they had been chewed to length. It appeared to be made of English oak as it had prominent medullary ray fleck patterns. However it did not smell like oak when cut. I then thought it might be English sycamore which also exhibits ray fleck on quartersawn examples.

Next I made sure the legs were all the same length and squared off both ends. Then all pieces had their shellac removed with a cabinet card scraper. I also used a random orbit sander to 180 grit.

I set about cutting routed slots for floating tenons in the legs/stiles and stretchers. I don't have a Festool Domino but you get the idea. I also made some tenon stock on the router to the correct dimensions and rounded them off to fit the slots.

Dry fit

A dry fit revealed that everything was OK. I cut some notches for the lower shelf. Then the lower shelf was cut to length and width to fit.

Glue up was simple making sure the lower shelf was free to float - no glue. I used clamping squares to make sure everything was ok

Next the ornamental brackets were squared up on the table saw. Again they had previously been chewed to shape! I glued them into place using Titebond regular but only on the long grain faces.

After leaving overnight something had moved and the table rocked slightly. A few passes with a block plane on the two offending legs soon corrected it.

The drawer

Then this left a rail onto which the drawer front would go. As there had been a narrowing of the table caused by me cutting the stretchers square the drawer front was a little too wide. I cut the front to fit the "hole". I then set about cutting the pins slightly deeper. The sides fit in OK and just needed their rear ends cutting square and a rabbet cutting in the trailing edge. A new part of the drawer was the rear panel that I made from some scrap oak. I cut a wider drawer bottom groove in the sides and front to suit some 6mm birch ply I had in stock.
Then I glued the drawer back together and dowelled the rear on. As the dovetails were not very good I also dowelled the drawer front on and left it overnight to cure.

Next day I cut off the protruding dowels and planed the drawer to fit the table. Then a drawer bottom was made and slid into place. This was secured on the back edge with a couple of 2.5mm countersunk head screws.
I just had to glue in a couple of drawer runners and side packers to make the drawer run smoothly and without crabbing.

The top.

I run this over the table saw to cut out the split. The original glue had given way long ago but it was still holding together ... just. I then run both segments through a jointer/planer to get them to a uniform thickness. Then using complimentary jointing method I run the jointer plane over the two mating edges. The top was then glued together with no issues and left overnight to cure.

The next day the top was scraped flush at the seam and the moulding imperfection on the end grain was scraped flush. The results were not perfect but I was not after perfection on this job.


Everything was sanded to 180 grit using a random orbit sander and the mouldings on the lower shelf glued and nailed back into place. I only glued the pieces in about 2" (50mm) at the centre of the end grain and rely on nails on the extremities. This will minimise it popping off when the wood expands/contracts across the grain.


My customer liked the original dark wood finish but was happy to let me do whatever I liked to it. So I decided to stay darkish brown. I chose General Finishes Early American waterborne stain as it was fairly close to the original. This needed to be applied in at least 2 coats lightly sanding between with wet and dry 600 grit.

The top coats were General Finishes High Performance Satin as it is another waterborne varnish but is colourless and hard wearing.

Finally the drawer runners were given some Renaissance Wax and the original drawer pulls fixed in place. I made some figure-8 table connectors from some brass sheet and secured the top to the frame. The job was then finished and returned to the customer.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Making the most of shop storage space

My freestanding shop in the garden was rebuilt from ground up back in 2012. Since then its space usage has inevitably evolved and is in a constant state of flux. Storage space is always at a premium in a small shop such as mine. It is around 410 sq feet in total and this used to be a two stall car garage so you get some idea of its size. I spent many years working out of toolboxes in the original shop but storage was so disorganised I would look for a tool, not find it, end up going out to buy another and then find the original some time later. I would then end up with double or triple of the same item. Something had to be done to storage.
The shop is at the bottom of the garden

The castle overlooks the shop

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Drill Press Upgrade - Part 9 Drawer Construction

4 drawers for the storage unit

The next part of the job was to make 4 drawer boxes from 12mm (1/2") birch ply. I didn't have any birch ply in stock but marine is just as good. I decided to use pinned rabbet joints for strength. This required the drawer fronts to be cut to 12mm less than the drawer width. This compensated for the 6x6mm rabbet to be cut on the front and rear drawer panels.

Typical rabbet joint

The router table was setup to cut 6 x 6 deep slots in the side panels. This setup was also used to cut the slot for the drawer bottom in every drawer panel. Then a 6mm spacer was temporarily affixed to the fence to cut the rabbets. This meant that only one setup of the router table was required.

Rabbet setup. The router table only needs setting once to cut both slots and rabbets using this technique.

The drawers were glued up and left overnight to cure. 6mm dowels were also inserted to lock the panels securely. This isn't as strong as a proper dovetail joint but is good enough for shop furniture.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Drill Press Upgrade - Part 8 Storage Cabinet Top

This is made from 18mm (3/4") birch plywood and has a cutout to enable it to be fitted around the drill press column.
This was just done using a hole saw and a jigsaw. The edges of the slot were then smoothed using my oscillating spindle sander.

Cabinet Top

The perimeter of the top was edge banded with hardwood.

The underside of the top then had a pair of slots for the sliding doors carefully machined into them.

Underside showing sliding door slots

The next part to be tackled was the pair of routed trays. This is to provide a place to temporarily store items like drill bits to prevent them from falling into a pile of wood shavings never to be seen again!

First of all a simple router template was made in the shape of the tray. Next, using a guide bush, the trays were machined using a handheld router fitted with a cove bit.

The entire top was then sanded and coated with 3 coats of General Finishes Exterior 450. The underside only had 2 coats.

The top was fitted to the cubby/carcase assembly ensuring that the slots in the underside of the top were aligned with the sliding doors.