About 9 months ago, my wife and I conceived a child. She had encouraged me to make something for the baby and to try to push myself. I consider myself a beginner woodworker and am trying to learn from my mistakes. I researched cribs, cradles, changing tables, and dressers. We have a small home and are some what limited in space and we were offered a crib from my sister, which she had stored in her basement. After discussions with my wife, we decided that I would attempt a changing table, but something that could be used latter on as well. We agreed a changing table/dresser was the ticket and I took some clues from the PotteryBarn Kids website as to dimensions. Now that I had some idea what I wanted, next was to design something.
I have been enjoying the podcasts by Marc Spagnuolo, The Wood Whisperer, and on the episode of the arts and crafts table he talks about using the program Sketch up, by Google. So I gave it a try….. My wife wanted space to store clothes for the baby and liked the idea of having shelves for baskets as well for quick access. She had picked out some wicker baskets from PotteryBarn Kids. So here were my working plans:
The plans got approved and off to get the supplies..
I purchased the maple plywood from The Wood'n Shop here in St. Louis and the maple stock for the legs from St. Charles Hardwoods. Both places were very helpful.
After cutting the plywood and edge banding it, I could start to put some things together and dry fitting the project together. This was a rewarding moment to actually see that thing coming together at last.
I needed to bounce my project off some one besides my wife… I think she was getting tired of me asking her to come down to the basement and have a look. I invited Red Headed Merganser, who I had known from the St. Louis Woodworker's Guild, over to have a look. He was a tremendous help with this project especially latter when I ran into finishing nightmare. We decided to add additional legs in the middle of the piece for more support of the bottom piece of plywood.
The project was broken down and all sanded to 220 grit and then transported upstairs to our dinning room which I had claimed as an extension of my workshop. I could have never glued this up in my basement workshop and got it up the basement steps.
I really tried my wife’s patience now with tearing up her dinning room.
Again Ethan’s help to the rescue for the glue up and bingo a dresser is taking shape.
The drawers were made up of baltic birch plywood and put together with locking rabbits, between my work schedule, painting and decorating the nursery, my mother spending time in the hospital and the holidays, no time for attempted fancy dovetails.
And here it is, at this point I was pretty proud of my self. I was coming to the point of finishing the project and my test pieces looked great.
Now here is when the nightmare started. My wife is about 8 months pregnant and I have decided on a 2lb cut garnet shellac that I had ordered from Shellac Finishes (a great resource). I had never used shellac on a large project and boy did it not turn out well. I brushed it on initially and it was too thick and as it dried and became blotchy, I proceed to make it worse by applying again. I was starting to panic. Every time I tried to correct my mistakes I was just layering on more and more shellac with out good results. I was at this point about to claim this as firewood and head to PotteryBarn Kids and order a dresser. I knew there was only one more alternative, strip everything and start over. Ethan came back over to the house and we flooded the thing with denatured alcohol and stripped the shellac mess I created. Rubbing it all off with rags and brushes, it started to resemble something with potential greater than the wood burning stove. I neglected to take any pictures of the disaster, mainly out of pride. I still wanted to use shellac, and so I tried again. This time I used a 1 lb cut shellac and I avoided the blotchiness. I also concentrated on smooth application strokes with a pad. It was finally working; I was starting to believe the mother of my future son would not leave me. I put on 2 coats of shellac and then 3 coats of wipe-on-poly and I had myself almost finished dresser.
With help from my father-in-law and my brother-in-law in carrying the thing up the stairs, the project was nearing completion.
Finishing it with the final hardware….
I have to include of my first born son as well for whom this was all done. He was born on April 3rd 2008 at 2:46 AM at 7lb 13 oz.
-- -Alex, St Charles, MO - "Measure twice, cut once, and go back to the lumber yard because you still screwed up."