|Project by Lenny||posted 02-07-2011 07:12 PM||3121 views||6 times favorited||28 comments|
When I was still employed, a co-worker (Jenny) asked if I could make a custom sewing table for her. I told her I could and began asking the litany of questions: what species of wood, what finish, color of hardware, etc. Ultimately, Jenny found an example of what she wanted online and shared some photos with me. Since this was to be custom made, we actually took some measurements at her desk to determine the best table top height and other dimensions. I priced out the amount I would charge for the piece and explained that for not too much more she could buy it delivered from the site she had found and have it much sooner. Jenny wanted me to make it. Last May, I purchased some lumber and began making my first commissioned project. I retired last July and a month or so before the retirement things got hectic such that I wasn’t spending a lot of time in the workshop. Then, also in July, my shop renovation began and it wasn’t until November-December that my shop was ready for work again. So, I did not finish this project until the end of January.
Jenny chose pine and requested that it be as clear as possible, i.e., no knots. She also preferred it to be as “white” as possible, that is, little or no red or brown streaks. I did my best to sort through the lumber when I purchased it to comply with the request and feel I was successful. I had not worked with pine for quite some time and forgot how unforgiving it can be in terms of dings and dents. I also believe that being a soft wood it is more susceptible to cupping and warping than hardwood. This became very evident when I glued up three boards for the table wing but more on that in a moment.
The carcass consists of two rail and stile side panels with flat solid pine panels, a back that is ¼” Baltic birch plywood, a top frame and two shelves. I opted for pockethole joinery for the side panels and joined the shelves and top frame to the side panels with biscuit joinery. The back sits in a rabbet and is glued and nailed to the side panels and top frame.
Jenny requested a design change from the original table. Where the original had several drawers and compartments, she simply wanted two doors. I made my first ever raised panel doors and I am (mostly) pleased with the outcome. Since both sides of the door would be visible (opened/closed) I opted for mortise and tenon construction versus pocketholes. The fold-down wing and supporting framework, including hardware, are true to the original. I installed leveling feet for any needed adjustments in her home. I also took a bit of artistic license and added an ogee edge to the table top and wing. I felt the square edge was too plain and boring.
The finish is 3 coats of Minwax Satin polyurethane knocked down with #0000 steel wool between coats, topped off with a coat of Minwax paste wax.
I have to say that much of this project was not enjoyable. It fought me tooth and nail. It took three takes to get the wing completed. The first one was just three boards glued up. For color match reasons, I did not alternate the growth rings. I am not sure why Norm Abram changed his line of thinking about growth rings toward the end of his career. The glued up panel cupped radically! So, I made a new wing but decided on breadboard edges to minimize any cupping and I did alternate the growth rings this time. Well the second take didn’t go well. As you probably know, you cannot glue a breadboard edge along its full length. At the ends, where no glue is used, I ended up with a gap between the breadboard edge and the panel that I could not live with, so it was on to take three. I brought the panel back down to the tenons and made up new breadboard ends. This time, based on a suggestion made by Dustbunny (Lisa) on a post about making breadboard edges, I used some silicon caulk on the ends and voila, I ended up with breadboard ends I was satisfied with.
Another reason this was not an enjoyable project was the mistakes I made. I won’t go over all of them but a couple of examples would be 1. The raised panels are not centered exactly and 2. If you notice, the doors are not the same size…but should be! Somehow I erred in my measuring where to place the middle shelf in the carcass, resulting in it being lower than it should. Therefore the top door had to be larger than the lower. I think this speaks to working when tired and/or frustrated. As I think back on the night I glued up the doors, I remember centering the panels perfectly. Did they shift while I slept? Did the workshop gnomes move them? More than likely, they shifted a bit when I tightened the clamps and I didn’t notice it. As we all know, it is often best to walk away until another day. Still, overall I am pleased with the end result and more importantly, the “customer” picked up the project today and is pleased with it.
I’d like to thank Grizzman and Patron for lending and ear and suggestions when I sought their help regarding the breadboard edges. Thanks also to Paul (HarleySoftailDeuce) who saw the project in process and offered his opinion and suggestions when I asked a few questions of him. Also to Dustbunny who doesn’t even know she helped! Thanks for checking in on this project.
-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI