A convergence of inspirations lead me to design a book cabinet. As many woodworkers know, Lost Art Press publishes a unique catalog to very high standards. Such books deserve an honorable and secure home. Bookcases and shelves in our home serve to attract and store dust, lots and lots of dust. so book cabinets are strongly preferred for books that matter to us.
Inspiration Number Two came from an 2015 FineWorking article by Hank Gilpin on his very cool leg design. I wanted to flatter his work by incorporating his ideas into a project.
Inspiration Number Three came from a shipment of sinker Honduras Mahogany from Greener Lumber. They salvage material from rivers in Belize (formerly British Honduras) that had been harvested perhaps 150-180 years ago and floated down the river to ships waiting to take the material to England. Many of those logs sank and have been waiting for us ever since. Check out Rich Petty’s web site for more details including videos. I love working with material with a story.
I began the process by making some legs in poplar to see how the process might go. After milling the leg blanks, I cut some mortises for the stretchers. The long rip cuts are marked on the leg ends. First cuts are 45 degrees, followed by perpendicular cuts to create the “fin.” The fin is tapered at the band saw using a sled to hold the correct orientation. I marked a curve on the outer edge and made the round over with a block plane. Rasps and chisels created a tapered, scalloped look on the inner leg bottom.
I made this mockup back in February and have worked intermittently on the next stages over the past five months. A number of smaller projects and activities also slowed the process. One disadvantage of working in this manner is that you lose continuity and confidence. I create a rough outline of a plan for overall dimensions and material planning, but do not flesh out the details on paper. After being away from a project for a bit it is challenging to remember all the grand ideas and intended sequencing floating around the memory banks.
I believe I am on track now, so I’ll be updating the blog with posts of the process. I like working slowly and savoring the process, but I prefer to work in a more regular fashion when possible. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe to the blog on the left of these pages. This should be a good ride. Thank you.
The seat blank was created from two pieces of chestnut. After milling the blank to rough size the mortises were created for the leg tenons [see earlier posts].
Three holes were drilled as guides for the deepest area of scooping. A #9 curved gouge was used to rough out the interior shape, followed by sanding and scraping. The external shape was cut at the bandsaw, then shaped with spokeshave, rasps and sandpaper.
In the gallery below is an image of seat with legs in place. This gave me an opportunity to assess the look. Next up: glue and wedges.
The chestnut legs had previously been cut to rough dimensions and joinery cut. A 3/4-inch round over bit was used to create round over for the inside edges. This was done at the router table. Then the two outside faces were tapered (smaller towards the seat) at the band saw and cleaned up with sanding block.
The stool was dry assembled to check fit and marked to cut legs to length.
The stretchers will be draw bored into the leg mortises. The legs and stretchers are clamped into position (dry fit), then a drill bit is tapped through the leg holes to mark location of tenon hole. The stretcher tenons have holes for draw bore pegs drilled 1/16 inch closer to the shoulder than the mark made with drill bit earlier. This allows the pegs to create a tight fit.
Next the face of the stretcher is beveled using the band saw with the table tilted. The edges are then rounded over using rasps and sandpaper.
Stretchers were resawn from the two inch thick Chestnut at the band saw then ripped to rough width at the table saw. Tenon shoulders were cut at the table saw using angles to fit the dry assembled legs. Not all were identical. In hindsight, it would have been better to cut uniform angles and make them work, by tweaking the leg to seat tenons. Wedging the leg to seat tenons would take care of any required “adjustment.”
Initial tenon cheek cuts were made at the band saw, then completed (angled) by hand. Tenons were further refined with shoulder plane to fit leg mortises and dry assembled.
Legs are kept generously long after milling for them to be proud of the seat surface. This also allows the final bottom cuts to be delayed until final test fitting. Tenons are marked on all sides indicating the compound angles.
Initial tenon cheek cuts are made at the band saw, then completed by hand to the layout lines. Shoulder cuts are made shy of the lines, then completed with a chisel. The tenons were then trimmed to rough length. After the test fit to the seat with sculpting completed, they will be marked for further trimming to 1/8 inch proud. After wedging the tenons will be taken flush.
Seat mortises are marked on the surface as well as the near edges to guide chisel work. Initial material removal is made at drill press. A test fit will guide any necessary chisel finessing.
With asymmetrical shaping and compound angles, complete and screamingly clear layout is critical. Once the mortises and holes for draw bore pegs are created it will be easier to keep track of orientations. Although positioning (FL, FR, BL, BR) will be important. Keeping track of all this is a challenge for me because much of the work is done with the stool upside down. Which makes Left and Right and all else easy to mess up.
After selecting orientation and positioning of legs, the mortises and location of draw bore holes are marked. Holes (3/8 inch dia.) are drilled using the drill press. They are perpendicular to the outside faces.
The router with spiral upcut bit is used to create some of the mortise. Because the mortises are angled, care is taken to mark how much and where material is to be cleared with the router. A 3/8 inch mortise chisel is used to complete the angled mortise walls. The layout lines on adjacent face are used to guide chisel orientation.
Several years ago I bought a plank of Chestnut from a Maryland lumber dealer. Several of these beauties were buried deep in their warehouse for many, many years. My friend, Jonathan, found them and shared a photo on FB. How could I resist? My intention was to make something using the full plank. Several years went by with zero detectable action, Finally, I decided this material needed to be put to use rather than languishing deep in our garage awaiting the perfect application.
Stools and small tables are among my favorite woodworking forms as they present opportunities to work on joinery and design without taking too much room in our small home.
This plank yielded enough material for the seat, legs and stretchers. Cool. I cut out rough blanks with the jig saw followed by trimming at the band saw. Seat blank glued up from two pieces and legs cut to initial dimensions.
The circular shelf unit is completed. For now it is on the mahogany chest of drawers, but I plan to design a lower cabinet for its ultimate resting place.
I am very pleased with the look and feel. The walnut and black milk-painted poplar create a luxurious richness. Soft/round sections contrast well with some crisp edges both on the shelf and its supports.
The supports are not glued as I will create a variation of the walnut horizontal pieces. I expect that will create a much different reaction. I do not have a timeline on that exercise.
I will do an extended post mortem over a period of time before attempting a stronger execution of this project. Perhaps some day you will find this version at a garage sale near you.
A driveway designer and woodworker sharing thoughts, experiences and impressions of the journey.