Cranky Sailor Workshop - The retirement chest #6: The top

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Blog entry by DynaBlue posted 05-23-2011 09:21 PM 1345 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Finish follies Part 6 of Cranky Sailor Workshop - The retirement chest series Part 7: More repairs and finally the sides »

The top is 1 1/4” thick, 26” x 46” (I think) made up of 5 glued up planks of sapele and two breadboard ends. I have an 18-36” drum sander but am leery of the flatness once you flip a piece to sand past the 18” point. Fortunately there is a cabinet shop here in Nat’l City that has been very friendly to me and he offered to run the top through his 30” oscillating belt sander for a very reasonable rate. I told him that I’d get it as flat as possible and he said it wasn’t a big deal, we’d start at 24 grit to teach it who was boss and take it up to 220. 24 grit? Holy crap, that’s like gravel glued to paper! But he did get it flat and smooth then I brought it home and had to figure out the breadboard part of it.

I turned to my old nemesis, the router and actually succeeded to make the big ol’ tenon 1/2” x 1 3/4”. The groove on the breadboard end was cut with flip-flopping passes on the table saw until the fit was ‘too tight’, at which point I used my shoulder planes and block plane to fine tune the fit so it was snug but not tight. I did a lot of research on the expansion of sapele and found that I could expect that size top to swell up to 3/8” in high humidity but since the wood is quartersawn that the movement would be roughly half that or 3/16”. I milled the breadboard ends about 1/2” longer than they needed to be in order to allow the wood panel to swell but still remain within the length of the end. In order to keep the outer edges of the breadboard ends tight against the shoulder of the tenon I took a few swipes from the center of the breadboard to make a very slight concave surface. When I clamped that center tight against the shoulder it ‘sprung’ the ends very snugly against the rest of the shoulder and when I was satisfied then I drilled my holes for the pegs. Oh yeah, the pegs..I wanted to use ash pegs and I figured that 5/16” should be a plenty beefy enough plug to hold. But you can’t find ash dowels around here so I summoned my spindle-making experience with pens and turned the dowels on my lathe.

The peg holes aren’t drilled all the way through the breadboard so I marked the bit depth with tape and drilled five nice holes. The sixth time the bit snagged on something and yanked the brad point right through the top surface of my breadboard. Tape is good and bad. On one hand it didn’t mark up my surface like a stop collar might have done but on the other hand a stop collar probably would have prevented the blowthrough. Sigh. What’s another little sawdust and glue patch gonna matter? It sorta looks like a filled knot hole. Yep, that’s the official story: It was a knothole that needed filling.

The bottom side of the lid was coated in boiled linseed oil and shellac’d for the reasons listed before, the BLO was there to make certain the figure popped on the bottom as well as the top. Probably shoulda done that on the backside of the panels but, well, I didn’t think about it.

I just had to put the lid on the box to see how it looked. I’m not disappointed. BTW, the posts are slightly out of order, I actually worked on the lid before I put finish on the sides, that’s why the ash looks so white. That and the wonders of overexposure in photography.

Yeah…I like that.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

2 comments so far

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2657 days

#1 posted 05-23-2011 09:43 PM

Dang.. Yeah I like that too

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3154 days

#2 posted 05-23-2011 11:40 PM

I picked through a bunch of sapele to find boards that I thought had similar grain patterns and color. One of the pieces I selected for a breadboard end had a crack that extended through the board from top to bottom and most of the width but it was going to be cut off. However when I started milling it down I found another crack, similar to the first but within the final dimensions of the end. I found another piece that isn’t too far off but it doesn’t match quite as well as I’d have liked. That’s the piece on the left side of the lid, the grain just isn’t quite as straight or pronounced. Oh well :/ It is close enough to the same pattern to get them both oriented so that the grain runs from center outwards from front to back.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

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