We will start with the base. On this particular table it’s wise to build the top last since it is the component that is most prone to warp. I took a reading with my dividers to figure out the likely thickness of the top and use that marking to figure out the width of the rail (based on the total height mark and bottom of rail mark we made before).
A quick note on material selection: This class being geared towards the beginner, I really recommend you take the time to find straight grained material. When selecting wood for hand tool work it helps to think of the wood like this: for any good piece of woodwork you need two things, beauty and bones. Without bones the furniture can’t stand up, without beauty no one can fall in love with it. The base being the bones, you want the grain of a board to travel evenly in one direction from end to end. For the rails and legs if you can come by quartersawn stock you are really going to like it. The stock for the top can have some figure to give it beauty, but try to avoid reversing grain patterns and curly material if at all possible, since they are more difficult to deal with.
I am not taking that advice…unfortunately. I use reclamation wood in my shop which requires some extra work to clean up…if you get into this invest in a scrub plane to remove the grit and grime so you don’t mess up your nice tools. The quartersawn stock I am using for my rails has turned out to have an incredible curly figure (under all the grit and grime I did not see that coming). This means that the grain reversed directions on me every three inches or so causing a tremendous amount of tearout while prepping the board. If you run into a problem like this, you need to do three things.
1. Sharpen your iron and keep it that way. The biggest thing you can do to tear a board apart is to put a dull blade to it.
2. Take smaller bites, thinner shavings mean less leverage for the wood to tear itself out ahead of the cut. It also means more passes and more work to get where you need to go… Another reason why your first project should be in a very boring wood.
3. Adjust your mouth opening. Tightening your mouth allows the wood to be supported directly ahead of the cut; this last trick requires an adjustable mouth. A wooden plane can be adjusted slightly with a few sheets of carefully placed masking tape on the bed.
If you still run into trouble you have a few choices still.
1. Use a higher angle plane. Easy to do with bevel up tools, on bevel down tools you would have to establish a small bevel on the back of the blade (10 degrees or so). This requires a second blade for your smoothing plane as you don’t want to permanently alter the properties of this tool
2. Keep tearout to a minimum during stock prep scrape and sand out any irregularities you have left.
3. Scrap it and select better stock.
I’ll be using a high bevel angle plane to smooth these pieces. 10 degrees of will hopefully make the difference that I need to happen….I’ll let you know.
As far as stock prep is concerned, you want to rip and crosscut your pieces a bit over long (an inch or even more in warped pieces) and a bit wide (1/4 to a half inch…again dependent on the amount of cleanup you think you will need). When four square you can go ahead and cut your rails to length, try to get them square on the ends but don’t freak out it they are not they won’t effect the joint and will be hidden in the mortise. Cut your legs about 2 inches overlong and leave an extra inch on them when you saw them “square”. This will allow you to leave horns on your table legs when you make the mortices for the rails with less risk of damage to the legs. prep the stock for the top after the base is complete.
As far as prepping that stock you goal is to make everything nice and square by getting rid of warp.
Wood warps in three ways.
Cup, which is warp across the grain.
Bow, which is warp with the grain.
Twist…the board tries to corkscrew.
All of these problems can be corrected by planing across the grain or with the grain. I apologize because in the videos I mess up the term once or twice…cold day, the brain must have been frozen.
Cut your pieces to rough length ( an inch longer than you want them) and width (about a 1/4 wider) before you start to plane. This will really reduce the amount of waste you have to remove with your planes.
I like to work across the grain first to correct major issues with big bites from the plane, and then finish by planing with the grain with light strokes. In other words start with a coarsely set jack plane, and finish with the finer tools. I have video of this filmed but am still trying to get it all uploaded so we will cover the planing step in the next entry hopefully tomorrow.
-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan