|Project by Don Johnson||posted 11-02-2011 06:32 PM||2449 views||6 times favorited||15 comments|
A rather sad tale is attached to this bookcase:
About eighteen months ago, my friend John designed and made a revolving bookcase, and I so admired it I made one myself http://lumberjocks.com/projects/38579
A couple of months ago, a mutual friend of John and I asked John to make one for him. When I enquired how John was getting along with the job, he advised that he had started, but had not been feeling too well, so had not visited his workshop since. Eventually, after some pushing from John, his doctor sent him for tests to discover why he felt so ‘below par’. On the day that he got the results, John called in on the way home to reveal that he had cancer of the colon, which had spread to his liver, and that it was inoperable. During our conversation he told me I was ‘needed’, and I assumed it would be help his wife Vanessa with driving to the hospital, etc.. However, John said that he wanted me to finish the bookcase for him. When I pointed out that I am not in the same class of woodworker as John, he said we could do it as a ‘masterclass’, with him sitting in his workshop, directing me to do the physical work, so I agreed.
I visited John a few days later, but he was already bedridden, so we could only talk about the project, but he showed me a sketch of how he had intended to do the top
My reaction was to say that I hoped he didn’t expect me to use this design as it was beyond my capabilities. However, he had more faith in my skills than me, and said he was sure I could manage. We left the subject there, with me expecting to be able to talk to him about it again, but a few days later – 16 days from getting his test results – he died.
A little while after the funeral, I asked Vanessa if she wanted me to proceed, and she showed me the shelves, central columns, and side bars that John had roughed out, so I brought them home and started to wonder how to do the top. I have no experience of marquetry, and didn’t have much idea of where to get veneers. I tossed the problem around in my head for a long time, trying to decide what to do – lying awake in bed, staring unseeing at my computer screen, etc. Eventually, I thought I might try a sort of intarsia/marquetry approach – on the basis that I would have plenty of thickness to sand down to get the tops of all the pieces level! I had some oak similar in colour to the oak-veneered mdf shelves, and there was some spare mahogany I could cut to make the small squares, so I started designing in Sketchup, and ended up with this:
I milled the oak to 1.5 inches thickness, then cut off strips about 1/8th inch thick. I did this on the table saw, which although more wasteful than a bandsaw, has a nice blade which produces surfaces almost as good as from a planer. I set up a sledge and cut 49 3 inch lengths, plus the various shorter and narrower bits required. I laid them out, and although everything looked ‘square’ there was some variation in the sizes of the square ‘holes’. As there were 64 of these, I blenched at the idea of sizing each individually, and came up with the idea of using a woodfiller – dyed to a mahogany colour to match the side bars – to fill the holes. When I asked my style guru – wife Avril – she declared the idea totally ‘naff’, and told me to do the job properly using real wood!
I glued the strips to one of the shelves with pva, but the design is such that it was difficult to do anything else but put them in position and hope for the best. When this was done and set, I cut some mahogany lengths to a square cross-section just larger than the largest ‘hole’. I then sat and chopped slices and fitted them using the sander portion of an old bandsaw which had been previously cannibalsed for this purpose rather than just junked. Surprisingly, it took less time than I expected to fit all 64 slices, and they fitted pretty well at the end – although there was a certain amount of filler required to make the job ‘perfick’. I thought that using endgrain would make the squares more ‘anonymous’ but still match the side bars.
Now that I had the top, I felt more relaxed about completing the job as I had my own version for reference. The only problem was that I was making something that the buyer was expecting to be of ‘John’ quality! For this reason, I worked much more slowly than my usual ‘rush to get it finished’ pace, and took greater care than I have ever lavished on a project, in the hope that the buyer won’t be too disappointed. I have to say that this has probably done me a great deal of good, and – if it is possible – I wonder if John is ‘up there’ looking down at me thinking that he has at last got me to work to a higher standard.
There are a few more coats of Danish oil to apply before I show the finished job to Vanessa – and the buyer! – so the saga is not quite over yet. I’m sorry if you find this rather long, but somehow I needed to tell other woodworkers who might understand my situation.
-- Don, Somerset UK, http://www.donjohnson24.co.uk