Following some house reorganization, it became apparent that we needed a new TV cabinet. So I set out to build one. As it needed to be done in a quick manner and did not need to be an heirloom piece, I decided to explore Kreg pocket joinery.
I was not sure what to expect of the Kreg mini jig. After some testing, I felt pretty good about the joint quality, seemingly quick and solid. I then set to buy the lumber for the cabinet. To speed the build and to eliminate the glue ups, I chose some edge glued furniture panels from the home center. They were not great quality material but sufficient for a painted furniture piece and flat enough for assembly without additional face planing. I did true their edges with my jointer plane.
I started by sawing to length the two upright pieces, truing the ends with a plane and framing square. Then with the uprights clamped together I marked the locations for the shelves. Next I cut and planed a 1×4 to length for the front kick and used it as the template to layout, saw, and plane the top, shelves, and bottom and rear cross pieces.
Once all the stock was to final dimension, I marked the locations of the pocket screws and proceeded to drill all of them with my 1/2″ corded drill (my eggbeater would have gotten a real workout with this task, but the power option here was a great time saver). With the Kreg right angle clamp, I began assembly. I found driving the screws with my bit brace cumbersome from the lack of good clearance in cabinet’s carcass (next time I might opt for a screwdriver). I also discovered that by driving screws by hand the additional pressure required the joints have a little extra stabilization over what the right angle clamp provides. I think if one were using a power screwdriver this would be less of an issue. Fortunately the work holding ability of my bench and holdfasts allowed this extra stability to be easily accomplished. For my first assembly with the Kreg jig/screws, I was pleased how the build went and felt it resulted in a very solid piece. After some licks with my smoothing plane and some sanding, this TV stand was done in a day and ready for painting.
Note the inset back panel to help hide the cords and power strip
A few picture updates from some other ongoing projects…
The next project that caught me was a tool tote like the one Roy Underhill sports at the beginning of his show. Beyond that novelty, it interested me because of its hopper construction and the compound angles that were fundamental to it. I though this would help build my comfort beyond pieces joined at right angles that have defined most of my work to date. I was also driven by practical purpose as I am always carrying tools between the house and my shed workshop. To help learn about the construction method, I followed the details included in the “Tool Tote” chapter in Roy’s book, “The Woodwright’s Apprentice”.
Starting with five boards cut to rough dimension from straight grain pine, 3/4” stock. I sawed the angles for the ends and sides. As the chapter indicates, I used a bevel setting resulting from the 1 1/2 and 5 1/2 marks on my framing square.
The one side board was resawed in half so the totes sides would be approximately 3/8” thick. I resawed the board while it angled away from me in the vise flipping it periodically to saw from opposing sides. This helps one keep their saw on a better track along the length of the cut. A few licks with the plane followed to minimize the saw marks.
Resawing tote’s side piece
A beverage to help power your work is required for resawing
Next I sawed the shoulders of the rabbets on the end boards. Shoulders were sawn parallel to the angled ends of these boards. Rabbits were finished by splitting off the waste, paring across the joint with a chisel, and some ‘tune-up’ with my router plane.
To find the required angle for the bevel along the upper and lower edges and bottom, the sides and ends were temporary nailed together and the bevel was set with blade across the width of the tote and the handle resting tight to the side (Roy’s book provide a good description and some photos of this). I then planed the upper and lower edges to match this bevel setting.
The bottom was also fit while the pieces were temporary assembled. The bottom drops into the opening of the tote and it’s edge is beveled on all sides to match the splay angle of the sides and ends. I had to keep in mind during this step that the face of the board with the narrower width resulting from this bevel goes on the underside of the piece. As Roy suggests in the book, I planed one edge and side to the bevel setting. Then placing the nailed together carcass on the bottom piece while it was upside down (i.e., narrower width up) and these two bevel edges aligned to the inside of the carcass, I traced around the inside to transfer the dimensions of the other edge and side to the bottom face. I used my jack plane to then finish the bottom by planing to these lines.
I next prepared the piece for the handle laying out and sawing the taper on each end of the piece. The end of the handle forms a tenon that fits into a mortise in the tote’s ends. When laying out the slope of the taper, I had to be sure it was not too steep as that would result in tenon too weak (narrow) once the tote was assembled and loaded with tools. The handle hole was roughed in using three, 1 1/4” auger bit holes in the very center of the handle. The waste remaining in this opening was chopped with a chisel. A rasp and sandpaper was used to smooth this opening.
Before laying out and chopping the mortises in the end, the tenon ‘shoulder’ and dimensions were defined at both ends of the handle. Note that the ‘shoulder’ follows the same angle as the splay of the end (and the end angle of sides). Mortises were chopped using a chisel. Mortise walls were first chopped to be square with the boards face. However, because the ends splay relative to the tenons in the handle the top and bottom of the mortise walls had to be bevel with careful chisel paring cuts to match the needed angle. This step required some fettling during assembly.
Once all pieces were cut, bevel angles defined, and mortise and tenons that secure the handle were complete, assembly of this piece is fairly strait forward. Just remember that the handle cannot be inserted after nailing of sides and ends is complete and that the bottom can simply be dropped into the carcass opening among its completion. To avoid splitting of the sides, headless brad cut nails and appropriate pilot holes were used to assemble the piece. Each rabbet joint was nailed from opposing sides (through sides into the ends and through ends into the sides) with four to five of the 4d nails. This nailing approach seemed to yield a very secure tote.
Over labor day weekend of 2015, some family came for a visit and my brother-in-law brought me a gift of some spalted maple. The boards were from a tree that died at his work and were sawn on the Woodmizer there. Since they were still pretty green, I stacked them in my shed workshop. This past June or July (2016) I went through all the boards and sawed the rough pieces for a bible box similar to many of Peter Follansbee’s designs. I stacked the pieces for the box in my house for more than a month to help get the moisture content as low as I could before starting to final dimension the pieces.
At summer’s end I began work on the box. I had planned to construct the box using rabbet and nail construction. I even found a local blacksmith to make some hand wrought nails for the piece. However, I blew out the side of the maple box with the first of those nails. This splitting issue occurred even after I drill a tapered pilot hole of what I thought was the appropriate width and depth. Clearly my experience with nailed pieces in poplar and pine didn’t translate well to this maple; learned a good lesson about hard hardwoods. So I decide to switch gears, remade one of the box carcass pieces, and opted for dovetail construction. Also learned that fitting hand sawn dovetail joints with such a hard wood is also more challenging than the softer woods I typically use. Working through the fall it is now competed. Finished with two coats of Danish oil and looking good.
Late last year Lost Art Press put out a limited run letterpress poster, “By Hammer and Hand”. My family purchased it as a gift for my birthday. I really appreciate the poster and I am especially fond of the oak leaf carvings (natural I guess given that I earn a living studying oaks). I sought a frame for the poster from a craft store. The frame did not fit and it did not do this poster by Steam Whistle Letterpress justice either. So I decided I would make my first frame for this piece of art. It took some time to get to this project as I was working on the window and doors for my workshop renovation. Though in the interim I had the pleasure of showing the poster to my grandfather to get his opinion. He was trained as a printing craftsman and was in the Italian theatre of WWII in an engineering unit where he used this knowledge to print maps. He knew letterpress and talked with me about the process that was likely followed and indicated he thought it was done on a small “proofing” press. Sharing a beer while talking about this letterpress piece was a nice memory from his last year.
The frame I made using ponderosa pine. I found a 1×4 board at the home center with a clear face and and nice grain pattern. I ripped the board in half and cut to a rough length the four pieces needed for the frame. Then it was on to truing the faces and shooting the edges once I oriented the pieces to make the grain pattern look the best. I then dimensioned the pieces to the same width (1 1/2″) and thickness. The next step was to layout the rabbet on the back of each piece to accept the glass, poster, and backing. The rabbet was 1/4″ wide by 3/8″ deep. I used my Stanley 45 to cut the rabbet. I quickly discovered that the pieces were too thin and the fence of the plane stuck down too low to complete the rabbet. As a solution, I made an impromptu sticking board. The joints turned out well once I got this work holding device all set-up. It was made from a scrap 2×6, a length of moulding, and a screw.
I next laid out the mitres and got the length of each piece correct so that the poster would fit exactly into the rabbets. When cutting the pieces to length I had to be sure to account for the width of the rabbet. I debated about whether to saw the mitres freehand or use my poorly constructed Stanley hand mitre box. I went ahead and used the mitre box. The cuts turned out well on all the corners but one. Due to some movement of the mitre box and the piece on the fence, the saw got a bit off as I proceeded through the cut on this one mitre. I got it pretty close fettling the joint with my block plane. Next time I will be sure to fully secure the mitre box to the bench and use two clamps to hold the piece being sawn. Making a mitre shooting board would also be prudent if I were making a number of frames.
Paul Hasluck’s book Mounting and Framing Pictures (1906) provides good detail on the next steps I followed to assemble a frame using traditional methods. This book (and a number of others) also gives details on the mitre shooting board. For assembly I drilled pilot holes on the bottom and top boards (nailing from top and bottom minimizes view of the nails on a hung frame). Using hide glue and headless cut brads, I worked around the frame assembling each corner. I sized the mitre joints to get better glue adhesion on the end grain, rubbed the glue joint a bit, and then drove two nails in each corner. Following advice in the Hasluck book and a section of the The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years, I held the top piece slightly overhanging the mitre corner as I began to drive the first nail in each corner. The force of the nailing brings the two mitre corners together for a more seamless joint. That is the theory anyway. It seemed that the same force on different corners yielded different movement of the top piece. Moral of the story here is there is a bit of finesse or the “right touch” to get the corners to align perfectly when nailing them.
Nailing mitre corner
Completed frame following glue-up and nailing
Frame rail and stile
With the frame assembled, I waited for the hide glue to dry and then planed the joints with my smoothing plane. I next applied two coats of Danish oil and “sanding” after each with a brown paper bag. I completed the mounting with glass cut at my favourite local lumber yard (its like a time capsule of an earlier era), cardboard scrounged from the recycling bin, and glazing points. A proper, traditionally constructed frame for this carved and hand-printed letterpress poster was complete.
Afterword –It seemed fitting to draft this entry on my vintage mechanical typewriter during a week I was reading Charles Hummel’s book, “With Hammer in Hand”, that I can only assume inspired the creation of the poster.
This simple dining tray design caught my eye as it would allow me to gain some practice introducing curves into my pieces and to put to work my refurbished Stanley 51 spokeshave and recently purchased Gramercy rasp. The design is from an article published in Woodworking Magazine (Spring 2006) that appears to have been adapted from Ejner Handberg’s “Shop Drawings for Shaker Furniture & Woodenware Vol. 1” (Berkshire House). The piece was to be a gift to my mother who introduced me to Shaker designs early in my childhood. One of my first memories of a family vacation was as a four-year-old traveling from Illinois to the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Kentucky (interestingly not too far from where I now live).
The piece was constructed using 1/2” yellow-poplar and headless cut brads. I glued up the boards for the handle and bottom, planed them to size once dry, and set to work building the tray’s frame. I laid out the curve in the handle using a French curve, roughed it in with a coping saw, and then finished it with my spokeshave, modeller’s rasp, and some sandpaper. I was satisfied with the end product but it sure showed me I needed some more practice tuning, setting-up and using my spokeshave. After laying out the handle hole, I cut in the curve parts using ¾ auger bit. I did as much of the rest of the shaping with chisel and then switched finally to a rasp then sandpaper. The frame is nailed butt joints and bottom and handle are nailed from underneath. I recently refurbished a Stanley 60 1/2 block plane and was glad to have it when trimming the butt joints smooth. With such a narrow piece even my smoothing plane (Stanley No. 4) can be a bit awkward.
Once together I again planed the surfaces with my smoothing plane in preparation for painting with barn red milk paint. Following the instructions in the Anarchist’s Design Book (Lost Art Press), I wiped the piece with a damp cloth, let it dry, and sanded using 220 grit paper. Next I mixed the powered milk paint in a 1:2 ratio with warm water. Two coats of paint were applied sanding between coats with a 320 grit sanding sponge. I followed the paint with
two coats of Danish oil to bring out a bit of richness from the paint. Without a top coat, this milk paint was a bit chalky and dull. After each coat of oil was cured, I rubbed (“sanded”) with a brown paper bag. I was at first discouraged by the milk paint color but when complete this process turned out well.
This spring in preparation for my workshop rebuild I needed to build a window sash. I started by reviewing an array of sources to understand traditional window sash design and construction (a list of my references are included below). It became clear that the basic design of sash joinery is pretty similar among sources, but there is important variation in building techniques.
The fundamental joint in a window sash is the mortise and tenon. Nearly all of the sources suggest that the joints should be prepared before the moulding and glazing rabbet are completed. The method of “sticking” the moulding profile (typically an ovolo) and rabbet can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The British approach would be to stick the ovolo with a moulding plane and the rabbet with a sash fillister. The resulting material between what is cut by these planes would be the fillet. The American approach would be to employ a “stick and rabbet” plane which has two irons and cuts the ovolo and rabbet simultaneously. A similar and more “modern” (not necessary better) method would be to use a Stanley 45 with a sash iron. Because of the Stanley 45’s square iron and minimal supporting surfaces, it can be harder to use with difficult grain. For my window build, I utilized my Stanley 45 and the sash iron fresh from rehab and honing. Really not a matter of preference as I do not own dedicated sash planes, so the 45 was my only option. Hope to change that in the future.
Window sashes are traditionally built from stable, straight grain material and softwoods were typical in the US. Without a source for 6/4 eastern white pine, I built my window sash from a home center 2×6 (it was ponderosa pine). It took much selection to find a board where I could rip material so that the stock had the growth rings perpendicular to the face much like quarter sawn lumber. My next step was to create a “story stick” based upon the open size for the window. A “story stick” is a traditional, shop-made template in sash making that outlines the overall dimensions of the window as well as location and size of the joints and moulding. I followed the process described in Doormaking and Window-Making to mark-out the joints and moulding dimensions onto the “story sticks” (one for rails and one for stiles).
I dimensioned the rails and stiles for the sash based upon the opening height and width from the “story stick”. For this small casement window, the stiles and upper rail were 1 3/4″ wide, while the bottom rail was 2 1/2″ wide. The rails and stiles were a bit thinner (~ 1 1/4″) than the traditional 1 1/2″ because of some twist that had to be planed out of the board. Fortunately the sash iron of the Stanley allows for a small range of thickness; stock that is too thin would yield a glazing rabbet that is too narrow. Next I clamped the rails (and then stiles) to the “story sticks” and transferred the joinery layout lines using a knife. Layout lines were transferred around the pieces and a marking gauge was used to define the tenon, mortise, and moulding depth (i.e., 3/8″).
Once the pieces were marked, the next step was to chop the mortises and saw the tenon cheeks. My Stanley 45 was then used to work the glazing rabbet and stick the ovolo moulding. The mortise chisel should match the width of the fillet. Mine was slightly undersized (5/16″) and this discrepancy was corrected by some additional paring in several of the steps below.
The tenon shoulders were then sawn and the tenon width was cut to match the mortise. The haunch sockets on the rails that accept the fillet from the stiles were then chopped.
The final step before assembly was creating a scribed joint so that the ovolo moulding on the stile was overlapped by the ovolo on the rails. The scribing process was as follows.
Cut away the moulding (ovolo) on the stile at the mortise leaving about 1/2″ of ovolo near the inside mortise wall, but let the fillet remain to form the haunch.
Stile after paring away the portion of ovolo moulding
On the end of the rail, first pare the ovolo using a 45 degree miter block. Next, using an in-cannel gouge suitable for the size of the ovolo moulding, pare away the mitered material to form the excavated area where the ovolo on the stile will pass under the ovolo on the rail.
Sash rail ovolo prior to pared miter
Paring ovolo using miter template
Rail ovolo after scribing with in-cannel gouge
Having finished all joinery and scribing each joint should be test fitted. Once a satisfactory fit is achieved the sash should be assembled. Before assembly I sawed kerfs into the tenons to accept oak wedges. I used hide glue and held the joints in place using clamps then the oak wedges were driven to serve as a mechanical counterpart to the glue.
It was pleasing to measure the diagonals of the sash and to find them in congruence. This meant I was successful at creating square joints all around. After the glue had cured, I sawed off the horns and cleaned up the sash with my smoothing plane. This project was a great learning experience for me and I hope this post assists some others trying to tackle sash joinery.
Anonymous. 2013. Doormaking and Window-Making (reprint). Lost Art Press, Fort Mitchell, KY.
Anonymous. 2016. The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years, Volume II. Lost Art Press, Fort Mitchell, KY.
George Ellis. 1987. Modern practical joinery (reprint). Linden Pub. Co., Fresno, CA. 486 p.
Paul Hasluck. 1907. Cassells’ carpentry and joinery. David McKay, Publisher, Philadelphia, PA. 614 p.
Charles Hayward. 1979. Woodwork Joints. Sterling Pub. Co. Inc. 128 p.
Roy Underhill. 1983. The Woodwright’s Companion – Exploring Traditional Woodcraft. UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 203 p.
Roy Underhill. 2008. The Woodwright’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge. UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 192 p.
This spring I have been at work renovating my backyard shed workshop. Its exterior was in sore shape and I have been working to re-side the entire building as well as repair rotten framing. As part of this work, I needed build a window sash and a pair of batten doors. While I have leaned on a number of references for door and sash joinery, my primary one has been Doormaking and Window-Making, a reprint of a British publication done by Lost Art Press. A couple of articles in the recent Lost Art Press release, The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years, have also aided, especially the illustrations.
The doors I built for the shed are traditional board and batten (also know as ledged door) construction. Materials for the doors included tongue and groove pine, pine for the battens and braces, and 6d cut nails. I was fortunate that by buying two sizes of tongue and groove boards I was able to create a door nearly the size I needed. I started by placing the boards face down on my saw benches. I used a wooden mallet to align the boards and clamped them steady using bar clamps. Next I laid the battens 5” from the top and bottom. Following instructions in Doormaking and Window-Making, a screw was put through each batten into the outer boards and a nail was driven into the center board. The clamps were removed and the doors were flipped. Two pilot holes were drilled in each board at each batten with an offset to reduce splitting. Cut nails were clinched by placing a piece of 1/4” plate steel under each hole when the nail was driven. The braces were laid out and sawn and the notches in the each batten were chopped with a chisel. Braces were secured using clinched nails.
The door bottom was sawn square and to length. I planed each side of the door to achieve the correct width. Got pretty close with initial work but had to “fine-tune” the second door once the first was hung. The doors are a huge improvement over the warped plywood that they replaced. They are very solid and give the opening a nice new look (and function).