The following is an example of a project that I usually will find myself working on. It also highlights one of the reasons why I don’t post projects, as these are usually rough constructions that I attempt to make a little better than the material I am working with. Right now, my house is in a state of semi-chaos. My brother has moved in a few months ago (he has been recently diagnosed with MS and is trying to get his life together) and so I have been trying to adjust to the addition of his things on top of my things and so my furniture plans will be postponed for awhile.
Much of my woodworking time is spent on making things for other people. I have a lot of junk wood and I have a number of friends who will consider buying some “throw away” item at a big store and will usually talk to me first. If they can get me to throw something together, then they save a few bucks and some of my junk wood is put to use. I used to beg off on some of these projects and I didn’t want to put in the time, effort, tool use on throw away crap. I got into this hobby because I wanted to build quality up, not turn into another landfill provider. But then I realized that, not only was I turning my back on a friend, I was also turning down experience points that could hone my skills. And since nobody cares what the end product looks like, the pressure of perfection is off and I am not learning my chops on expensive wood. Besides, not like the Queen of England is going to come by anytime soon and require my services, so nothing to lose :)
Most times these requests are for something quick. They want it right now and don’t want me to mess with any process that is “fancy.” I will accommodate the speed but will make the demand that I employ my skills or I won’t do it. I can skip the finish and the profile routing, I can cancel the finish sanding, but I will not just nail two boards together because I have no interest in practicing how to be a lousy carpenter :) If you practice bad craftsmanship, you will become a poor craftsman. What follows is such a request.
I have a friend whose collection of shoes is becoming a pile in the back of her closet. She asked me for a cardboard box to put them in and I told her I could probably throw together a shoe rack for the back of her closet if that would help. I seen a beautiful one by another one of the jocks here. Though this one would not match the beauty, it provides the inspiration for the practicality. I had some pieces of old plywood given to me (by the same friend) that were sitting in a church shed for a number of years and were going to be thrown away. Some of the pieces were painted a very dark blue. Some had rot on the edges and had areas on the face that were chipped. I drew out the measurements, used my own shoes as a reference point, and trimmed, cut, dadoed and rabbeted. Producing the carcass you see below -
No beauty queen right? Practical but nothing to write home about and it pretty much looks like something a monkey can make (albeit maybe a smart one with pretty hair..) But lets take a closer look, shall we, and look past the aesthetics and move on to the joinery itself.
What skills were employed here and what was learned from the project so far?
1. Dado cutting – Dados had to be properly measured to accomodate spacial requirements. measurements of the side pieces were 6 inches to each side of Dado. Fences set for required placement and both side pieces cut at the same time for uniformity. Use of calipers to determine proper thickness of piece to fit in slots. Measurements transferred to stack dado set to make a more educated assumption of spacers and cutters needed. Test cuts to verify proper fit.
2. Rabbeting – Space between ends measured to determine beginning points of Rabbets on both ends to allow a tight fit between boards. Playing card thickness added to the distance between fence and blade so that the edges of the Rabbet would slightly protrude from the piece. This allows one to use a trim router to mat the edges perfectly where a Rabbet cut too short would leave noticeable gaps at the edges. Create the error you can fix so that you can avoid the error that you can’t, or would require more effort to repair.
3. Assembly – Manufacture right angle clamp jigs to insure shelf is at a proper 90 degree angle in correlation to the sides. Use thin bead of glue inside dado and along the edge of the shelf board and distribute evenly with a brush. Align shelf edge so that edge is matted evenly, apply angle jigs and clamp, followed by clamping the carcass so that all boards are square and joinery is snug. Tap in 4 brads into the top of the carcass to keep rabbets tight and to reduce amount of clamps required.
So there you have it. Good practice on a number of different woodworking skills. It helps a friend out, saves wood from the landfill, and also postpones the purchase of nother landfill item from a big name store. My friend is happy with the concept, so now she wants me to take it a bit further and pretty it up. Instead of the back of the closet, she wants in her entryway. So the next set will involve fixing some of the cracked plywood, making a face frame to cover the edges, and sanding and priming it for whatever color she wants it to be. No pressure, as it can only look better than how it looks now and there will be a nice batch of skillsets to practice on. Then, when the Queen of England does employ my services, I will be ready ;)
Thanks for reading,
-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.