Greene & Greene Inspired Towel Rack

First month of the calendar, first project completed – not that I expect to keep that pace up for much longer this year! A few months ago, my wife bought some old faucet knobs

Knobs

with the intent of using them as the hooks on a towel rack. When she asked me for help with how to mount those knobs, I had an idea for some Greene & Greene details to frame out those knobs. I had a nice piece of 4/4 walnut picked out for this project

S4SWalnut

A couple of years ago, I took a Greene & Greene details class with Darrell Peart. Along with the experience of several different G&G details, I also brought home an MDF template for a simple cloud lift, which I used to layout both ends of the board.

CloudLiftTemplate

Layout

With the cloud-lift layout complete, I could start working on the indent detail. The indents are a detail from the Blacker House dining room chairs. I’ve decided to widen that idea for each end of this rack. If I were making many of these indents (like multiple legs on a set of chairs), I would build a router jig to remove the waste. Since I’m only making this twice, I decided to handle it with my chisels.

EarlyChiselWork

I started by defining the baseline (as seen above), shallow at first and then deepening the cut. Once I had the depth where I wanted it, I started paring my way back toward the center of the board. After a few hours of chisel work (and some sanding), the detail on both ends was complete.

OneEndFinished

With the indent details complete, my next trip was over to the bandsaw. I cut just outside the lines to remove most of the waste. With the rough shaping complete, I reattached the template to the board with double-sided tape and finished the cut with a flush-trim router bit.

With the decorative shapes all in place, I had to work on the practical parts of the piece: how I will mount the knobs and how I will hang the rack on the wall. Mounting the knobs was the easier of the tasks. I knew I wanted the knobs evenly spaced across the board, so I marked lines one quarter, half, and three quarters the way across the board. At each of these marks I bored a hole with a forstner bit to bury the head of the machine screw that will hold the knobs. In the center of that hole, I used a brad point bit to drill a centered hole through to the other side.

To mount the towel rack, I took the opportunity to acquire another tool – a keyhole router bit from Whiteside tools:

keyhole

The key (no pun intended) to using this bit is to only make it cut the hidden part of the hole. To setup up that cut, I first drilled a couple of holes. The first hole is the same size (or just slightly larger) than the diameter of the keyhole bit. Above it I drill a hole that’s the same size as the router bit’s shaft’s diameter. I cleared out the path between the two holes with some chisel work. With the path clear, I can now route up into the joint, using the carved path as a guide for the shaft of the bit.

KeyholesRouted

Note: that is not a mistake next to the right keyhole; it’s a knothole in the board.

Now that all of the major sawdust was made, we were down to the finishing. I progressively hand sanded through 120, 150, 180, and 220 grit paper. Normally I would use my random orbit sander, but the indent detail required hand sanding, so it wasn’t much more work to sand everything by hand.

For the finish, I decided to follow the recipe prescribed by The Wood Whisperer in his step stool finishing video:

  • A seal coat of shellac
  • Several coats of 1:1 polyurethane:mineral spirits
  • Light sanding between coats
  • “Buffing” out the final coat with mineral spirits

After everything was dried, it was time to attach the knobs. I thought I had purchased properly sized machine screws to hold the knobs, but it turns out they were just a little to small. Rather than searching for the perfect screws at the hardware store, I decided to close the gap with two-part epoxy. A few drops in the knobs and on the threads kept the screws secured. A couple of hanger bolts in the wall and the towel rack is ready for use:

InSituFinalInUseEven though I started this project in December, it still feels good to finish the first project of the year so early in the year. It was an interesting challenge because it was a sculptural piece of sorts – there was no joinery, just removing the parts of the board that didn’t look like a Greene & Greene inspired towel rack.

A Different Kind of Greene (& Greene) Woodworking

A few weekends ago I made a journey up to cozy Manchester, CT for quite the woodworking trip. The day started off quite well, with traffic allowing me to get from Northern Virginia through New Jersey in a scant four and a half hours. It then took me two and a half hours to get half way across Long Island.

The geographically inclined amongst you are probably wondering why I made Long Island part of my drive to get to Connecticut, especially given its lack of roads north over the sound. The answer is quite simple – a quick visit with Dyami Plotke of The Penultimate Woodshop. The etymologist in me knew I was going to like Dyami from the moment I saw the name of his blog and I confirmed that fact at last year’s Woodworking in America conference. It was a short visit for dinner and a little time to check out his shop (top) and the bastard wall cabinet progress (bottom):

That detour proved a nice appetizer to the weekend. For my final destination I made my way over to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking for Darrell Peart‘s Greene & Greene Details I Workshop. Darrell usually teaches in the Pacific Northwest and hasn’t made it further east than Indiana prior to this opportunity. When Darrell first announced the class last fall, I registered as soon as CVSW had the forms on their website. The two day class works through constructing a sample piece that incorporates several classic Greene & Greene details from his book.

The sample is effectively the corner of a table that features:

  • Blacker brackets
  • Breadboard construction
  • Exposed ebony spline
  • Proud ebony plugs
  • Cloud lifts
  • Leg indent detail

This class started off on a great note, where Darrell spent a couple of minutes introducing himself then stated he teaches & learns best by doing – so we got right to making some sawdust. The first detail we worked on was the leg indent detail.  This was one of the few times I was able to get a few action shots during the workshop. In this picture is another great part of this workshop – I knew some of the other students! Pictured below (from left to right) are Mike Morton of M. Scott Morton Furniture Design & Construction, Nik Brown of the Digital Woodworker, and my balding head:

About 30 hours after these pictures, after a lot of routing, sanding, and polishing – we had each created one of these:

If you are interested in the steps for each of these details, pick up Darrell’s book or seek out one of his classes. I would say that the class gave me two things – 1) A hands-on approach to see how each of these details is created, with instruction that extends what is in his book, and 2) the confidence to know that I can make things like this. Hopefully Darrell will be back out east to teach his Details II class!

Design a Week – 14/52

For the next entry in this design exercise, I’ve drawn another keepsake box:

The inlay that wraps around the middle of this box was gleaned from another batch of doodling during a meeting at work.  I’ve been digging into quite a bit of Greene & Greene lately – specifically Darrell Peart‘s G&G book and David Mathias‘s blog. I imagine that the cloud lift is what was noodling around my brain when I drew this.

Originally I drew the top design – the one that’s shown in the perspective drawing as well.  Then I got to thinking (scary, I know) that if I reversed the pattern of the inlayed design and make it proud of the surface of the box, then the lifts on the short sides of the box could act as handles. After drawing both, I’m not sure which one I prefer.

What do you think?