Serving Up a -BANG-

When I was putting together my initial plans for this crate, I knew that I wanted to have a couple of trays that stacked one upon the other – even though I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish that. I knew I had to embed the handles of the lower trays into the upper trays, otherwise the crate would be too tall. I also wanted to make the handles easily accessible, which pretty much ruled out putting them on the sides of the trays.  That left a handle on the center divider.

I felt that a slowly sloping curve would be a good balance between how much of the handle would need to be embedded in the tray above and the strength of the handle. To layout the handle, I went to my set of French curve templates:

With the outline of the handle, I needed to draw the cut-out to actually grab. I traced two 7/8″ diameter circles from a drawing template, then used the French curves to connect them:

I cut out the divider for the bottom tray (that doesn’t need cut-outs for a lower tray) on my band saw, then used it to layout both the upper and lower curves on the other two dividers. I rough cut both of those as well:

While I was making the curved cuts on the band saw, I had a bit of a revelation. On almost every other cutting tool, you mark the cut line then take the blade to the line.  But when cutting curves on the band saw, I find the reverse to be true. When I bent my head around the idea of taking the line to the blade, I had better results getting those curves cut, especially near the points of inflection on the curve [/math nerd].

In order to get them to the same shape, I chucked a sanding spindle into my oscillating spindle sander drill press to sneak my way up to the line. I clamped all three handles together to make sure they all took the same shape:

Which turned out nicely:

On one of the handles, I drilled through the cut-out areas to clear most of the waste away. I did the rest of the shaping with a couple of files:

Once I had the handle cut-out in the shape I wanted, I set about making the other two handles match. I clamped the formed handle back on top of the other two and put a pattern bit in my router.  Using the formed handle as my pattern, I cut through the other two pieces.

With the top of the handles cut, shaped, and matching – it was time to turn my attention to the box that I wanted to use to form the tray sides. As seen below, I clamped up all of the center handles and long tray sides together to cut the fingers on my table saw:

I chose to gang up all of the long pieces and cut them the same basically because there are more long pieces that will get box joints.  The long tray dividers get box joints that will be fit into through mortises on the short sides, to help distribute the weight when you pick up the handle.  The short tray dividers have a straight end because they will only slip into a dado. After gang cutting all of the long pieces, I custom cut each short tray side to mate with specific long pieces. After some fiddling with each mating joint, paring to make small adjustments, I got some decently fitting box joints:

After all the finger joints were cut, I turned my focus to cutting the grooves for the tray bottoms. When it comes to cutting a groove, I trust my table saw slightly more than my router table for sneaking up on a groove/dado – especially when the width is not a standard dimension. Yes, I know, I need to get plywood width router bits. They are on the Christmas list ;-)

I set the table saw blade height to 3/16″ (approximately half of the plywood’s thickness) and set the rip fence to establish the bottom edge of the groove with this first cut.  After running all 12 box sides over the blade, I moved the rip fence slightly to increase the size of the groove. After the third pass I started testing the fit of a bottom in my test piece, adjusting the rip fence subtly until I had a good fit, which you can see below:

That picture also confirms another reason I’ve been excited about this project – the plywood I’m using for these trays is reused from the crates that crated my new jointer and planer when they were delivered. As you can imagine, there was a lot of it. I’m just glad I’ve found a use for some of it.

Once I had the grooves for the tray bottoms cut, the rest of the joinery would be quite custom to each piece. I cut a long dado in each tray bottom to give me another strong glue surface for the lone center divider that is also the handle. Another dado was cut in each long tray side to hold the short dividers.  The interesting cuts that remained were the mortises for the through box joints on the handles.  I marked the fingers on each short side and drilled through the center of those squares with a slightly undersized drill bit. After the hoels were drilled, I squared the corners with a chisel and adjusted the mortises until I got a good fit for each side.  I wasn’t sure how they would finally turn out, but I’m happy with the look:

Last weekend I got the first tray glued up and into clamps. The next day, I noticed a terrible error with my assembly:

D’OH! I hadn’t allowed clearance for the lower handle in my short divider. I made the correction in the other tray before I assembled it, but I was left to determine a fix for this first tray. I don’t have a coping saw with a wide enough to use on this already glued tray, so I went rumaging through my tools. I came across the gardening equivalent of a hack saw:

I couldn’t use the the whole saw, but the blade presented an opportunity. It is large enough to hold easily, but has a thin set. I was able to saw a kerf on each side of the wood I needed to remove, using the bottom and the long divider as guides:

 

With the kerfs cut, I chopped out the waste with a chisel, similar to chopping out the waste of a dovetail joint. Because of how I created the lap joints that connected the dividers I wasn’t going to have much material left on the short divider, so I had to be careful once I got to the top of the waste. After a bit of fiddling with the chisel, I had the waste removed. This left me my three stacklable trays:

This was not the end of my fiddling though. Apparently I did not properly measure the height of the handle curves, so I need to perform some more paring. The depth at the top of the handles was pretty close, but futher out from the center of the handle was preventing the trays from seating firmly upon one another. A few more minutes with my chisel and I was finally able to stack them solidly:

Overall, I’m happy with how the trays came out. I only had two big mistakes. In addition to the short divider issue chronicled above, I also cut the groove for the drawer bottom on the wrong side of one of the long sides. Fortunately I had milled an extra of each side and divider, in case this had happened. After some light sanding, I’ll be ready to get back to the crate itself. I’d like to get the crate finished this week, so I can devote all my shop time to the Build Challenge put on by The Sawdust Chronicles, which starts September 1st.

Christmas Gifts – Potato Masher

My wife and I live in the Washington DC area, which contains a lot of people transplanted from all across the rest of the country. Because of this, we were able to have a lot of friends over for Thanksgiving a few years ago, on account of not many people with family in the area.  As we were prepping the feast for that day, it came time to make the mashed potatos, but Michelle couldn’t find the potato masher, which I swore we had.

Despite my best effort scouring the cupboards and drawers, I conceded that we did not have a potato masher. As penance for being wrong, I offered to buy my wife a potato masher for Christmas.  Each time a gift giving event would come around (Christmas, birthday, anniversary), I would repeat the now-running joke of buying her a potato masher. This Christmas, I turned the joke into reality.

I first got the inspiration for this utensil reading a post on Larry Marshall’s blog, Wood’n Bits Workshop, where he took a cheap, dollar store strainer and made it into a beautiful kitchen utensil. He chose three layers of redheart formed around the metal handle of the strainer; I went with two layers of purpleheart for this potato masher:

After gluing two pieces of purpleheart together for my blank, I squared the ends before taking it over to the bandsaw:

Here I have to apologize to the reader. I was working on this at the same time as the dominos and their box, during the rush to finish these Christmas presents. As a result, I don’t have nearly as many pictures as I would like and missed a few key steps in the process.

One of those steps was my work at the bandsaw.  I drew up a paper template in the shape of a perfecto cigar, then transferred that shape to one face of the blank. After trimming the two sides on the bandsaw, I used the template on one of the freshly cut sides and repeated the cuts – leaving me with the blank shaped on all four sides:

From the bandsaw, I move on to hand tool work to ease and round what were still some pretty sharp edges:

I don’t have a spokeshave (yet), but I do have a simple 4-in-1 rasp I used to work those edges. Between the four “grits” on the rasp and a few grits of sandpaper, I worked the handle into a smooth piece of wood begging to be held. Next was on to the finishing.  I decided to go with General Finishes’ Salad Bowl finish, wiping it on.

The nice thing about the potato masher is that it provided a perfect stand to hold the handle while the finish was drying:

After several coats (with some light sanding between each), I had to affix the masher to its handle. It was an irregular shape, but my strap clamp was ready for the job.  A nice slathering of glue in the hole drilled in the end, some pressure, and we’re almost finished:

All that was left was a simple bow to create that happy-wife effect:

Merry Christmas, sweetheart!

Christmas Gifts – Domino Box

While I was working on the set of dominos for my parents, I was also working on a box to hold the set.  I liked the idea of box joints, but really liked  the joints Marc Spagnolo created for the case of his Gagdet Station.

Based on the size and number of dominos I was creating, I had some basic dimensions to work with and settled on this sketch for my box design:

After several iterations (seen above), I decided on three fingers for the sides – each 3/4″ wide, with two fingers for the ends – each 9/8″ wide.  I liked not just the varied width of the fingers, but having an even number of fingers on one face and an odd number on the adjacent face.

I really wanted to go two-tone with the sides of this box and had previously purchased paduak and birdseye maple for the job. To create the extended box joints,  I created a jig for the mitre gauge on my table saw:

I don’t yet have a stacked dado blade set, so cutting the fingers involved several passes over the blade.  I used a stop block on both ends of the jig to set boundaries for how far to each side I could cut, then made passes over the blade, slowly moving the piece from one stop block to the other. I clamped opposing sides of the box together, both to decrease the number of cuts I was making and to create matching sides to make the fitting easier.

After several dozen passes of the mitre gauge, I was left with four close to fitting box sides:

On the table saw, I made a concerted effort to cut on the waste side of my markout lines – so I could custom work the fit of each set of fingers with a rasp. After fitting the fingers, I used the rasp to roundover the ends of each finger. I didn’t fully pillow the finger tips, but just broke the sharp edges enough to soften the profile.

With the sides fitted and shaped, I took my focus to the top and bottom of the box. For the bottom I used a piece of 1/2″ birch plywood. With my router table, I cut a groove on the inside of each side of the box.  On the maple ends, the groove went completely through end-to-end. On the paduak sides, a through groove would show on the outside of the box, so for the first time I [slowly] dropped a piece of wood onto an already spinning router bit. I was surprised by how smoothly that went – hopefully my over-anxiousness was the key to the safety of the operation.

For the top, I used another piece of the birdseye maple.  Again on the router table, I cut a rabbet on all for edges – allowing the top to rest within the opening of the box itself. For the pull on the top, I used a scrap of paduak.  I first routed a groove with a 3/8″ core box bit on both sides of the paduak, about 1″ from the end. Then I chucked a 1/2″ roundover bit and profile the edge on both sides as well. A couple of countersunk screws from beneath the top, some Titebond II, and my assembly was complete!

After I wrestled the box away from its clamp-monster, it only took a few brushed on coats of amber shellac to complete the box: