I went out and started hunting up some ash, not too hard to find but I needed to maximize the straight grain as I wanted the frame material to only be the supporting player and to give the lid and panels the starring role. My first choice was quartersawn mahogany since it has a nice ribbon pattern. The ash sat in my shop for several weeks to adjust to its new home and then I started cutting. Another note on this design. I like the joinery..complex joints, not taken one by one, but when taken as a whole. Haunched tenons and stub tenons at the top rail/corner posts, stub tenons and full length tenons at the stile/top rail joint..it was a challenge making everything come out right. After a couple of days here is what I had:
If you haven’t already figured it out, decide what finish you’re going to use before you start and give yourself plenty of time to practice with that finish on scraps of wood before you approach your final pieces. That mahogany panel was intended to be grain filled with a dark filler and finished over to a very smooth surface. Discussion with the customer changed that when he wanted the final box to feel ‘natural’ which I found just meant that he wanted a thin finish and he didn’t want high gloss. I was going to use gloss Endurovar water borne finish as my top coat for a couple reasons but mostly because unlike the faintly bluish coloration of many waterbornes (which tend to give ‘cooler’ color values and sometimes a lifeless look) the Enduro is peach colored because it specifically mimics the amber color of an oil finish. However my lack of skill in grain filling (tinted crystallac needed MANY coats) caused me to need more layers of topcoat and even after sanding down was nowhere near a ‘natural’ feel. More discussions with my coworkers turned me towards the traditional hand rubbed oil finish. Liberon was the finish of choice but thanks to the Southern California Air Quality Management Board it is was removed from the shelves six or so months back. I could have tried smuggling it in from Arizona like a bootlegger in days gone past but my Jetta isn’t up to Dukes-of-Hazzard travel in avoidance of the ‘durned revnuers’; the General Lee it ain’t. Maybe a General Rommell. Anyhow my next choice was Minwax Antique Oil Finish which turned out to be a good choice. The mahogany just didn’t match up to my expectations though and I switched the wood to sapele as it had far more regular ribboning. Same mahogany family though and it’s important to keep it in the family.
I was also going to stain the ash slightly brownish to provide a closer color match but still have some contrast. This color was the lead contender:
But that changed too. We decided on an all natural look all done with the hand rubbed oil. At this point my hands began to ache just, you know, to practice for the upcoming event. As I continued to practice my finish in the vast spare time I had (yeah, right!) I moved forwards to making the arch blanks and getting them glued to the stiles. Bluntly, I need more work on fairing arches. Fortunately one of my coworkers is a veteran scrollsawer and master of the curve and he assisted me in laying out, cutting and smoothing the arches. I assisted mainly by watching as he did the work for my templates. I did learn a bunch though and next time should go better. I went home, traced my templates on my blanks, bandsawed outside the lines and went back to the master’s shop and with his oscillating spindle sander, made quick and decent work of the arches. I actually only watched him do 2 or three and then I did all the rest..I’m not completely helpless :D And then I had this:
Now I’ve got to make those pesky panels!
-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....