Briana’s Crib, a Recap

Over the last 9-10 months, I’ve constructed my first labor of love – Briana’s crib:

Over that large period of time, not only did the project grow in size, but I grew as a woodworker. When first reading through the plans for the crib, I had a very difficult time visualizing two steps ahead.  This combined with a not so great plans, led to a few mistakes and more than enough frustration along the way. With those mistakes and frustrations came solutions and lessons learned.  I wanted to write this post to collect those various thoughts that were significant enough to remember and lessons that were important enough to share.

  1. Plans – After this set of plans left quite a bit to be desired, I’m a little soured on doing projects from plans.  However, this may be a case of getting what I paid for (these were cheap). I’m a little disappointed, because I’ve seen plans in $5 magazines that far surpass the $14 plans used to build this crib.  The plans were also written assuming the user has very little, if no, woodworking experience.  That became more annoying as I progressed, both through this project and through my skills as a woodworker.
  2. Cut Lists – Many people have said it many times, but I definitely now know not to cut everything to size up front. Really – they are all telling the truth.
  3. Dowels – This project was almost entirely comprised of dowel joints. I have come to loathe them, but they get a future second chance for two reasons: a) The joints were almost exclusively end grain to edge grain contact, and b) I made the joinery with just dowel-center pins, not with a dedicated doweling jig.
  4. Finishing – I still need to work on my finishing in general. I haven’t taken any pictures of the mistakes, but there are places on the crib that are darker, mostly because some shellac dripped over an edge.  Part of this is because I was a little cramped in my finishing space, so I wasn’t able to view all angles of all part of the crib while I was finishing.  [pipedream]A dedicated finishing room in a future shop would be great for this, I imagine. [/pipedream]
  5. Time – As this project drug along (as Briana aged), I felt more of a time crunch in trying to get the crib completed.  This brought out some “just get it finished” tendencies that I’m not very proud of having commited.  Some of them ended up not mattering, some of them ended up causing me more work later.

Looking back, there are a ton of things I would have changed, both in the design of the crib and my techniques for executing.  But shouldn’t that be a positive sign of growth – the ability to look back on both successes and mistakes to see how to improve? I certainly hope so.

Almost Finished (so to speak…)

Ever get the feeling that the last inch is a mile away?  I’m just about there.  I’ve got two coats of amber shellac on all of the pieces of the crib.  Shellac, sanding, shellac, and sanded with an extra fine scotch pad. For the final coat, I’ve decided to thin the shellac:

I diluted the amber shellac with an equal part denatured alcohol and rubbed it on, as opposed to brushing it on – as the previous two coats were applied.  I really like how that has turned out – here’s a shot of the base after the thinned finish was wiped on:

That should dry easily overnight, then back to the upper half for its final coat. If I don’t add a second thinned coat, Briana should sleep in the crib this Tuesday night!

It’s Not Finished Until It’s Finished…

… or The Closer I Get, the Further It Seems

I am to the point now on this crib where all the construction necessary for the crib to be functional (i.e. everything but the drawers) is complete.  After assembling the trim that would frame the base, I attached it with my brand new biscuit joiner:

Unfortunately, I was slightly off in my markings for the biscuits slots, so I needed to cut into the inside of the base itself. I was able to hog out most of the material with a flush trim bit, but the bit wasn’t long enough to get the whole amount. This lead me to my mallet and chisel to remove the rest of the material in two places:

While these last modifications were being cut, I was also starting to apply the finish to the cabinet and rails. I decided to go with shellac for the finish, as that was the consensus pick for being a child safe finish. This evening I put the second coat on the cabinet and rails:

I really like the color that the amber shellac has brought the red oak – it seems to fit quite well. If I can avoid any drip marks on the final coat, I think this is going to look good in the end.  Sometime within the next week or so, Briana should be sleeping in it!

Anyone have any ‘finishing the finish’ tips?

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: