Adding Cross Bars to a French Style Bookcase.

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Over the past few months I’ve been making these French style bookcases for my wife. They’re pretty popular as they usually sell within a couple of weeks in her booth. The nicest part of the bookcase is the design of the cross bars that mimic the design of the Eiffel Tower. The design also makes the bookcase lighter and feel more open as opposed as having closed sides making the bookcase feel heavy.

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Adding the cross bars isn’t so difficult when you take your time and measure everything correctly. When I start to build the cross bars, I rip 3/4″ square stock out on the table saw and sand them smooth on my drum-sander. I take one of the bars and clamp it to both back styles of the bookcase. I then strike a line to show me the correct angle that needs to be cut.

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I take the bar over to my old school Stanley No 140 miter box and cut it close to the line, but not on it. I could do this on a power miter saw, but I feel that’s way too much power for doing delicate work like this.

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After the cutting the bar on my miter box, I size it to the line by carefully trimming it with my AMT miter trimmer. I love this tool, but a miter trimmer is the Rodney Dangerfield of woodworking. For whatever reason, it simply gets absolutely no respect in the hand tool world. I guess hand tool purest would rather use a shooting board and plane, but this thing has never let me down in the twenty-five years I’ve owned it.

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When the bars are properly fitted, they are super tight against the styles. So much so that it is very tough to even fit them in place. Having the bars fit this tight is actually very important because they will be glued in place without any mechanical fasteners other than a 23 gauge micro pin toe nailed to the styles.

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Once I’m happy with the fit, I then scribe a line on each bar where the bars meet to create a half lap joint.

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With a dovetail saw, paring chisel, and router, I carefully remove the material between the lines. The depth of the router blade is exactly half the thickness of the bar ensuring the bars are flush to each other when they are fitted together.

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After the joint is cut, I test fit the pieces to make sure everything looks good. An important thing I do when installing the bars is to place witness marks on the bars and styles so that I know which direction the bars goes when it’s time for installation.

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Here’s a close up of the half lap joint. You can see how everything fits nicely together.

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The cross bars on the sides of the bookcase are done exactly the same way. When it comes to installing all the cross bars, I glue and nail them to the styles. Because I plan on painting the bookcase, I don’t care about the nail holes. I just fill them in with wood putty. I use 18 gauge pneumatic nails and nail the side cross bars from the front and back of the styles. The back cross bars, I glue and toe nail them with 23 gauge pin nails to the back styles.

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Roubo Style Workbench

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Walking around an antique store called Ohio Valley Antique Mall in Cincinnati this weekend, I ran upon this massive beast in one of the aisles. An eight foot long authentic Roubo style workbench. I’ve seen dozens of old workbenches before, but for some reason this guy stuck out to me. The previous owner screwed nickel-plated hooks on the front of it for someone reason. Probably to hold coffee cups or some other nonsense.

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What made this bench stick out was the splay of the front leg along with the leg vise. I imagine this was done to prevent the workbench from racking when sawing. The cast iron vise hardware turned smooth and could still tighten with something with a good grip.

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It had an old planning stop hole used for planning boards. Oddly the area around the hole was all worn down. When I see wear marks on old pieces like this, it makes me wonder what type of work the craftsman did to make those types of marks. Though it does appear he was sawing on the right side of the planning stop.

Another interesting clue is that it is quite possible that at one point there was another vise installed on top. The three holes around the lighter circular area is possibly where he bolted down a machinist vise onto the bench.

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The legs were jointed together with a simple bridle joint however, the legs were not jointed into the bench’s top. More likely the top was just bolted down to the legs somehow. I didn’t feel like moving everything around in the booth to get a better look.

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The bench top was a good 12″ wide x 4″ thick piece of pine. It had a tool tray in the back that appeared to be in real good shape given it’s age. Notice how there are no bench dog nor holdfast holes in the top.

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Who knows where this bench will end up. Probably in someone’s home as a kitchen island, but for a cool $700 it can be all yours.

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Making a Bench from Dimensional Store Bought Lumber

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When my wife Anita does shows, I’m always looking for something that I can make fairly quickly that she can sell in her booth to help pay for some of her fees. After helping her do shows over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that small benches are quite popular. They’re nice to stick out on front porches or foyers or even mud rooms. In fact, some people even use a bench as the seating for one side of their kitchen table.

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I designed this bench to be made from a 2″ x 12″ and a 2″ x 8″ that are eight feet long. However, if you change the dimension of the stretcher a little bit, it could be made form a 2″ x 12″ x 10′. The only issue doing that is you need to make sure your 2″ x 12″ x 10′ is choice wood with no splits at the end of the board because you’ll need nearly every inch of it. It doesn’t matter to me because I can’t fit a ten foot board in my car anyway, so I bought a 2″ x 12″ x 8′ and 2″ x 8″ x 8′ for under $20.00.

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When I scrimmage through the wood pile at Lowe’s, I always take the time to pick out a nice 2 x 12 with nice grain and very little knots. However, most of the time the board is a little cupped, so I whip out my Stanley No 40 scrub plane and plane the top flat. I plane the wood near a 45 degree angle and scoop out nice little shavings from the board until the board is fairly flat. When I was satisfied with the result, I brought the board over to my planer and planed the underside of the board taking away the cupping from that side. I didn’t take anything from the side I hand planed, I left the plane marks to give the top of the bench a bit of detail.

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The construction of the bench is super simple. I make the legs 9″ wide x 16″ long. I measure down 2 1/2″ from top and bottom on each side and use the lid from my garbage can to draw an arch connecting the two marks. Then I cut it off the arches on my band saw. Simple!

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The feet are 5″ wide x 10 3/4″ long. I draw a 1″ radius on both sides and remove the material with chisels, planes and files.

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I want the bench to have four feet so I take two of the pads and cut grooves in them on my table saw. Once all the grooves are cut, I remove the waste with my bench router and plane everything smooth.

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When designing the stretcher, I did nearly the same thing as the legs. I measured 2 1/2″ from each side and make a mark. Then I find the stretcher center and mark 2 1/2″ off each side of the center. I swing a compass set at a 12″ radius connecting the marks creating the arches for the stretcher.

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In order for the legs to attach tot the stretcher, I bored a 1″ x 4″ mortise through the legs with a 1″ forstner bit and cleaned it up with chisels. The tenons I cut on the table saw and band saw and cleaned them up with my rabbet plane.

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After all the parts are sanded, I dry fitted everything together to make sure the bench looked right. I wanted the tenons to have a mechanical fastener along with the glue, so I drilled two 1/4″ holes through the side of the legs going through the tenons.

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I grabbed some scrap oak and split a few splitters of wood with a chisel. The pins run down the grain making them exceptionally stronger since the grain follows the strength of the wood.

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I sized the pins by punching them through my Lie-Nielsen dowel plate. I shaved the pins a little bit with my spoke shave so they would start to fit through the 1/4″ hole of the dowel plate. Once the pin starts to fit in the hole, I pound the hell out of it.

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After I was satisfied with the way the bench stretcher fitted to the legs, I started gluing and screwing everything together, I placed glue of the pins and inserted them into the tenons of the bench. I didn’t bother draw boring the holes of the tenon. I was already satisfied with the tightness of the joint.

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The bench was painted a duck egg blue and waxed over top. The next bench I make will probably be a different color. Maybe a black or grey as neutrals are always popular.

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You can see the detail of the top where the scrub plane left little ridges in the wood giving the bench a bit of detail. It definitely looks better than having a plain board for the seat of the bench. Now I need to make ten more of these babies.

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The World’s Longest Yard Sale 2014

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My wife and I got back from The World’s Longest Yard Sale today which runs down US 127 from Michigan to Alabama. We left Wednesday morning before it officially began and drove down US 127 looking for bargains stopping at dealers who sat up early. We ended up in Chattanooga, TN for a couple of nights.

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When we woke up in Chattanooga, we headed south toward Alabama because last year we had heard that that’s where all the good deals are. Going below Tennessee on the yard sale can be tricky because US 127 ends in Chattanooga. The yard sale continues on the Lookout Mountain Parkway which takes all different routes as it changes onto different state roads.

Once we got into Alabama we didn’t necessarily see a lot of good deals, just a bunch of dealers selling antiques. I did spot tons of anvils for sale. I could have bought 20 anvils if I was in the market for one, but I still have an anvil I bought two years ago sitting in the garage waiting for me to make a stand for it.

After we got back to the hotel we stayed for another night then headed up Tennessee in the morning. Tennessee had a bunch of professional dealers as well. My wife and I were buying a few things here and there, but the prices people wanted weren’t “yard sale” prices.

Everything was going fine until somewhere in the boon docks of Tennessee I got stung by a damn bee. What made the situation worse is that I just got stung in my lip by a bee a couple of weeks ago when I was doing mulch in my yard which made my lip swell up three times its normal size.  Now another son of a bitch comes right toward my face and stings my eyelid. I’ve never been an anti-bee person, but I think I’m going to start pissing on my wife’s flowers so the little bastards can inject my urine into their bodies.

We drove to the nearest pharmacy 20 miles away and picked up some Benadryl and ice to prevent the sting from swelling up. I put ice on it all day, but sure enough when I woke up in Lexington, KY the next morning, my eye was swelled shut. We considered calling the trip and just head home, but I told Anita that I was fine and it’s best for us to just keep moving along.

Photo: I got stung again!!!!! Twice in three weeks. This is bullshit!

Kentucky had the most tools. However, a lot of dealers were around selling their tools at retail. There’s nothing wrong with selling retail, I’m just a picker so it needs to be a good deal for me to buy it. I found the best places to buy tools were the little road side sales with only a couple of yard sales. Not these big tent cities where there are 150-200 vendors in one spot.

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We got back home last night and headed out this morning to check out Ohio. Ohio had the best deals on items. They were true yard sales with “yard sale” prices with very few dealers. When we were all done this afternoon I got a few tools. Nothing major considering we did it for nearly five straight days.

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Out of all the tools I bought, the neatest was a panel raising plane I bought in Tennessee. It appears to be of German descent so it’s quite possible that a German immigrant made the plane when he came to America. There is no makers name on it so it’s definitely an owner made plane.

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The guy who sold it to me told me that it was from the 1700’s, but I highly doubt that. I would guess anywhere in 1800’s. One of the clues that could determine its age is the bore hole made by whatever drilled it. If I can figure out what kind of drill bit that bore that hole, I could estimate the plane’s overall age.

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Another nice find was this Disston stair case saw. I believe these little guys are somewhat rare so I was happy to pick him up at an extreme bargain.

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The yard sale is a lot of fun and you should definitely do it if it’s ever been on your bucket list. I’m not sure if we’ll go all the way down to Alabama next year, but we are already planning our next trip.

The Beginning of The World’s Largest Yard Sale

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We’re on our way to Chattanooga today for the World’s Longest Yard Sale this weekend. We’re stopping at spots on US127 on our way down. Vendors are now setting up today since it officially starts tomorrow.  Follow me on Facebook if you want to see pictures as we go through the yard sale this weekend.  Simply click on my Facebook icon on the left and “like” my page. My pictures will be a part of your feed. 

Langdon Mitre Box

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One of the nice things about my job is the autonomy I get when I travel through my sales territory calling on Lowe’s and Home Depot’s in Cincinnati, Dayton and Indianapolis. Often during lunch, I’ll stop by a nearby antique mall and look for old tools. Yesterday I was in an antique mall near Dayton when I stumbled upon this beast. I’ve been buying antique tools for over twenty-five years and have never seen a miter box like this at any tool auction, tool collectors convention or even eBay.

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It’s a huge Langdon Mitre Box with a Disston Miter Saw. On the front it has the patent date of Nov 15th 1864 and was made in Millers Falls, Mass. The front and the wood are painted green, but have no idea whether or not if it’s original paint.

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The saw’s blade is an incredible 7 1/2″ deep and still straight. The etching is barely visible and may be able to pop out with a little bit of restoration. This behemoth must be something they used to install the crown molding at The Biltmore Estate.

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The previous owner flipped the board upside down for some reason. I guess they felt it was nearly all used up so they wanted a fresh surface to cut on. I’m just glad they didn’t throw it away as it looks to be the original board.

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It’s a Disston Saw with an apple handle, but is marked Langdon Mitre Box on the spine. The main saw nut is dirty, but it’s stamped Disston and Sons. I think Langdon Mitre Boxes eventually became part of the Millers Falls Tool Company, but I’m not entirely sure.

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The saw has split nuts on the back which gives a clue as to how old it is. The problem is that I don’t know enough about saws to be able to date it, other than the 1864 patent date on the box. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was built during that time.

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Since I’m not too familiar with miter boxes, I was hoping you might be able to help me out.

1) Does anyone know anything more about this miter box? How rare is it?

2) How old is it considering it has split saw nuts?

3) Is the green paint original to the miter box?

Any information would be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE 6/22/14: It was recommended by Trevor that I contact “The Langdon Mitre Box Guy” John Leyden and see if he could give me any more information on the miter box. After I sent John an email, he was nice enough to respond and send me this link. http://oldtoolheaven.com/miter-boxes/northampton-langdon.html. The miter box and saw appear to be the same one I own.

Mid-West Tool Collectors Association

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Last Saturday morning I drove up to Columbus to attend the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association’s annual meeting. I left my house at 7:00 and arrived around 9:00am. The schedule they sent me said the tool room would be open from 6:30 -12:30 so I figured I had plenty of time to browse around. Well sure enough, as soon as I walked in the door, some of the dealers were already packing up and heading home.

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I wasn’t expecting to buy a lot anyway. I went just to meet and greet some of the fellows in the organization. I ended up meeting a fellow named Don from Wisconsin who told me that he owns 1900 molding planes. I was shocked! This guy was my hero. He pulled out a binder about four inches thick where he drew the molding’s profile and maker of each plane he has ever bought on a piece of paper. He said he would be selling off his collection in a couple of years so I gave him my card.

I asked a couple of dealers how the turn out was. They told me that over 300 people came to the show which was a little bit more than when it was in Springfield, MO last time. I zoomed around the room as fast as I could so I wouldn’t miss anything. I was able to take a few pictures of the displays before everything was packed up. By 10:30 the room was nearly empty.

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There were plenty of planes for sale, however the prices the dealers were asking were high. Coming to these conventions are fun, but don’t expect to walk out with deals. These guys know what their tools are worth. The main fun is seeing all the rare planes that you’d never spot in the wild.

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I was able to find a couple of deals. I bought two eggbeater drills for $20.00 each and an Ohio Tool Co No 8 Corrugated Plane for $15.00. The plane was repainted and had a Stanley No 8 blade in it. I’ll eventually part it out and sell the parts on eBay once I remove all the over sprayed paint from the plane.

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In the back of the room there were several displays set up to demonstrate certain tools and the year they were made. This display was of Stanley fiber board planes and the different styles they came in. I have no idea what fiber board planes do, but I think they were used on the exterior siding of houses. I guess I should have read the display. I probably would have learned something.

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If you ever have a chance to attend one of these meetings, I strongly suggest you get there on Friday. Saturday is the day they pack up and head home. From what the dealers were telling me, everyone set up in the parking lot Thursday night and all the heavy selling was done the next day. I have to work, so Friday’s don’t work too well for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Serving Tray

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My wife wanted me to make a serving tray with splayed sides for her. She had a similar one she bought, but wanted to know if whipping up another one for her was doable. I didn’t think it would take too long so I accepted the challenge. I thought all I had to do was cut four boards with 15 degree angles on each end, attach them together and lay some slats down the middle. Boy was I wrong!

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I started by milling up the stock by ripping a 2 x 8 lengthways in half on the table saw and planed the wood to 1/2″ with my surface planer. After the stock was milled, I left them alone for a few days to let them acclimate in my shop.

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The toughest part about making a serving tray with splayed sides is calculating the compound angles of the sides. When I first looked at the tray, it seemed like if I simply cut a couple of boards at 90 degrees with a 15 degree angle on each end, it would work, but it won’t. I’m no math teacher so I can’t technically explain the geometry that is at work here, but when the sides are splayed to 15 degrees, it changes the end cut by just a few degrees. If I took my bevel and laid it on the outside of the tray and compared it to my try square, you can see the slight difference. I guess another way to look at the geometry is if you cut a cone in half at 15 degrees then look down at the part that had just been cut off, the shape wouldn’t be a circle, but a slight ellipse.

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Trying to find the correct compound angle to cut the sides is simple if you know the trick. It starts with a piece of scrap wood with 15 degree angles cut on one side and one end. This piece will now be a jig to use to set up the miter gauge and saw blade.

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With the jig on it’s face, place it against the saw blade and swing the blade to match up with the other 15 degree angle. Now take your miter gauge and set it to the angle of the wood. Presto, there’s your compound angle.

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When cutting the parts you need to do like Roy Underhill and “keep your mind clear of impure thoughts.” It can get quite complicated figuring out which side of the blade you need cut your part on so that the two sides of the tray line up to 90 degrees. Testing on scrap pieces until you get the right cut is highly recommended. It took me nearly 30-45 minutes to figure it out.

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Ah, the pieces fit nicely and are square to one another.

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After the sides were cut I needed to cut a couple of handle holes which was no big deal. I used 3/4″ forstner bit and drilled five holes. Then I cleaned up between the holes with a paring chisel and rasps. Then I routed the top of the four sides with a 1/4″ round over bit.

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I glued and pinned the sides together with pneumatic nails. Then I attached thin strips to the sides so that I could attach the slats.

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I milled up sixteen slats 1 1/2″ wide with 15 degree angles cut on both ends. The two slats at each end of the tray had a 15 degree angle cut down one side to fit snuggly against the side. After lying all the slats to one side, I measured the gap that was left. The total was 11 1/4″. With fifteen spaces between the slats, that would give me 3/4″ of space between each slat.

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After a dry fit, everything looked nice.

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The dry fit worked well so now it’s time for the finish. I finished all the slats before attaching them to the tray because it would be a lot easier to apply finish that way. I started by dying the parts with walnut wood dye. This gave the wood an even darker tone and took a lot of the yellow coloring out of the pine.

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Next, I painted the parts with grey milk paint and let it dry for a few hours.

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After the milk paint dried, I mixed up a batch of paste wax. I used an Ebony colored wax, mixed it with a Clear wax so the color wouldn’t be so strong and applied a coat to all the parts. When I wiped off the excess, I glued and nailed the slats into place completing the tray. The wax colored the wood so dark that the pine looks like walnut now. My wife loves it! This tray could be used as a center piece on a dining room table or even hung on the wall in a kitchen as a piece of art.

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Restoring a Potting Table

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I bought this table last year at a flea market for $4.00. Missing the drawer, the guy selling it considered throwing the table away as he thought it wasn’t worth much. At the last minute, he decided to bring it to the flea market and see if anyone would buy it. Well I guess I was the sucker because I whipped open my wallet and handed him four crisp one dollar bills for it.

I’m not quite sure if the table was built with the two bins in it or if it was retrofitted later on with them. In any event, I decided to keep them and see if I could bring the table back to life.

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Other than missing a drawer, the real big problem with the table was that there was a piece missing off the front near the leg where the dowel joints failed. I shaved away the roughness of the front with a rasp so that I could attach a new piece of wood to it.

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Once I carved out a new piece out of poplar, I glued everything together. I’m by no means a carver, but I was satisfied with the end result. I knew the table would eventually be painted so it wasn’t a big deal if the moldings didn’t match up perfectly.

Next I had to make a new drawer. I grabbed some more poplar and traced out the front of drawer by mirroring the shape of the back of the table. I also had to shape the contour of the front to match the curve of the front of the table. I did everything on the band saw and smoothed the wood with rasps and sandpaper.

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Back to more carving. I used my carving chisels and scooped out the front to match the curvature of the molding. I then used my Dremel and carved a 1/16″ groove down the front to match the groove of the molding. It took about an hour to do all the carving.

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Deciding how to attach the drawer front to the sides of the drawer, I opted to simply use a stopped rabbet joint and pin the sides to the front. I considered using a router bit and my router table to cut the stopped rabbets, but I figured I could cut them by hand just a s quick. I used my marking knife and scored the fibers of the wood where I wanted the rabbet to be. Then I very carefully pared away the wood with a chisel. Once I got so deep, it became easier to remove the waste without damaging the drawer front. It was very similar to chopping out the waste on the side of a tenon.

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The drawer was built using 1/2″ poplar and 1/4″ plywood for the bottom. The biggest deal with making a drawer is making sure the thing is square. Having a drawer shaped like a rhombus is just asking for trouble.

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The running stick was still in the table so I had to make a new runner for it. Whipping one up on the table saw and fastening to the table was no big deal. In order for the drawer to run properly, I used double stick tape and fastened to the runner to make sure it was in the right spot. Once the drawer fitted perfectly, I glued the runner to the bottom of the drawer.

A few hours in the shop and the new drawer fits nicely in the table.

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The table had some water damage to the top which caused the veneer to chip and break away. Making a new top for the table didn’t appeal to me, so I tried and out-of-the-box approach. I mixed up a batch of auto body filler and spread it over the top where it was missing the veneer and left it to dry.

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I did this step outside because the body filler stinks to high heaven. After the Bondo dried, I sanded the high spots with 80 and 150 grit sandpaper.

Here’s the finished table with a few coats of paint. My wife Anita painted it and sanded through the coats to give the table a worn look. I don’t think the table turned out too shabby considering I only paid $4.00 for it.

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