Resizing another Shelving Unit

I was in the process of building another shelving unit for my wife’s new booth in Milford, Ohio. She originally asked me to build it four feet long. However, once I started to attach the shelves to the unit, she wasn’t too thrilled with the overall dimensions. I asked if she wanted it cut down to 36″ long instead of 48″, but she was afraid that it would be too much work. I assured her that I could cut it down without much problem.

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I slapped the unit on top of my workbench and carefully measured where the rails were to be cut. I then grabbed my Festool plunge saw and rail system, clamped it to the lines and ran down the rail cutting as deep the blade would go.

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I then flipped the unit off the bench and cut the two attached shelves in half.

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After one side was free, I unscrewed the pocket holes and broke away the rails with a hammer. I then cleaned the side up with a random orbital sander.

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I then flipped the other side of the unit back onto the bench and re-drilled the pocket holes to the shortened rails. For the two shelves that already had plywood nailed in place, I had to bust out the plywood with a hammer.

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After about twenty minutes, the shelving unit came back together a foot shorter. I cut the remaining plywood to the new measurements and installed them using cleats on the inside of the rails.

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Now it was time for the antique shutters to be screwed onto the sides.

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After a coat of black paint, the shelving unit looks really nice in her new booth.

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The Furniture of The White House

Last week my wife and I decided to take a trip out to Washington DC. She had never been there and I went there on a summer trip when I was in the seventh grade. She booked tickets to go to the White House by contacting our local congressman, Steve Chabot, several weeks in advance.

We arrived at the White House at  7:15 am and stood on the outside by a fence before our tour began at 7:30. The guards made us walk into a fenced corral only to make us leave ten minutes later. None of us knew what was going on until we saw the Secret Service walk down that corral with bomb sniffing dogs after we left. Once we passed that part of security, we had to go though three more security check points before we were ever allowed inside.

The first piece of furniture I saw was a china cabinet with a bunch of presidential plates inside. I whipped out my phone and took as many pictures of the furniture as I could. A lot of the rooms were roped off so I couldn’t get too many close up details of most of the furniture.

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Here is the detail of the cabinet’s molding.

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Here’s a shot of the hand cut dovetails on the drawer. What’s going on with that bottom dovetail? It looks like I cut that one.

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Detail of the finial.

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More details of the cabinet.

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Nice round table with a piece of glass to protect the top.

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Mahogany deck and chair inside one of the rooms.

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A nice hall clock stood on top of a small set of stairs.

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A closer look at the clocks face.

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A nice drop leaf table with a piece of glass fitting over only one side of the drop leaf.

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A mahogany chair sitting in the room with a closeup of the chair’s detail.

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Another table with a piece of fitted glass to protect the top.

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Inside the Red Room with a couple of chairs and what looks like a round game table which I doubt was unless you were playing Q-Bert.

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This secretary desk was my favorite. This stood on the back-end of the Red Room.

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A long dining table where President Trump holds dinners with guests. He was planning on having his birthday dinner here later that night.

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Another side table outside the dining room. Notice the plastic on the bottom to protect the table’s claw feet from visitors.

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Even the doors are made incredibly well with a beaded detail down the edge.

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After we left the White House, the Secret Service rushed us across the street as they didn’t want anyone lallygagging around in the front. After our tour, we walked down the street to a Starbucks to get some coffee where we found out that while we were inside the White House, it was the same time that some goofball loser shot the Congressman in Alexandria, VA which was one of the reasons for the heightened security.

 

Revamping a Dining Table

About twelve years ago I built a dining table from the plans out of Woodsmith magazine. While it served it’s purpose, it wasn’t exactly the nicest thing in the house. I made the top out of a piece of low-grade oak plywood that I bought at Home Depot. Not only that, but the table was huge being 44″ wide. My wife Anita asked if I could make a new one, or at least make a new top that was more in style. We decided that making a new top out of southern yellow pine and try weathering it making it look aged.

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The easy part was buying four 2 x 10’s, ripping them 9″ wide by six feet long and gluing them together. After they were glued, I planed the tops of the boards straight removing all the mill marks in the process.

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After the top was planed and sanded with 150 grit sandpaper, Anita applied mixture of steel wool and apple cider vinegar onto the boards to tone down the yellowness of the southern yellow pine.

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We thought it would be a good idea to stain the top while it was already on the table. I removed the original top of the table and flipped over the base onto the new top to decide how much I would need to cut the sides down.

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After messing around with the legs for a few minutes, I decide that the sides should be 24″ wide.

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I cut the sides to 24″ and rerouted the dado on both boards for the corner brackets. I then used pocket screws to re-attach the sides to the legs.

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Using metal corner brackets, I simply attached the top to the base. The new top made the table look more like a farm table.

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Anita then stained the table with Special Walnut, then Classic Gray stain from Minwax.

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Once dry, she applied hemp oil and gave the top a good waxing. She then painted the base with grey chalk paint. When done, it looked like a completely different table.

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A close up the table you can see how the southern yellow pine took on a deep rich tone. You can also see how the original black paint shows through the grey paint after Anita sanded the base a little bit. This has been one of those projects we should have done years ago.

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Why my Wife Hates Woodworking Magazines

I received the latest issue of a major woodworking magazine a few days ago and my wife Anita was flipping through it. She came across an article about making a cabinet that hid a high end mixer and in disgust, threw the magazine down and said “why would anyone make this piece of shit?” For years she’s been telling me that the projects in these woodworking magazines I subscribe to often have articles with outdated projects that were only popular in the 1980’s. I never really thought about it until she said that.

She does have a point. The writer of the article wrote that the “appliance garage acts like a cabinet effectively cloaking an unsightly blender.” I don’t know about anyone else, but my wife prizes her Kitchen Aid mixer. She would never even think about hiding it on her countertop. If anything, she would highlight it.

Don’t get me wrong, not all the projects in the woodworking magazines I get are outdated, but it does seem sometimes the furniture that are featured would look nice in my Grandma’s house. So much so, that when I look for designs of furniture that hip and popular, I often look at design magazines. Below is the latest issue of Country Living. When flipping through it, I came across several pieces of furniture that would appeal to a younger generation and would be fun to build.

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Here’s a nice deck lounge chair that looks like it would fit nicely on a cruise ship. The chair would be made out of weather resistant wood and would be a challenge to build with all the hinging and sculpted parts. This chair would look real nice on the cover of a woodworking magazine.

Here’s a simple bench made from reclaimed wood. These types of benches are real hot right now in the marketplace. In fact, anything made from reclaimed wood is hot. It’s hard to even find old barn wood on Craigslist in my area and when I do, the owner wants a premium for the wood. A project like this could be tackled in a weekend and would be a real hit with young women.

The real nice piece for me in the magazine is this architect’s desk that these ladies are sitting at. The wood looks to be made from stained maple or birch and apparently has some wrought iron hardware on it. It would be hard to draw a plan from this little photo, but it could be done. If a woodworking magazine featured this desk on their cover I bet it would be a hit.

These are just a few examples of the many furniture that are in these design magazines. If you have time, go to your local bookstore, grab a cup of coffee and browse through some of them looking for ideas. You may be surprised what inspires you. By the way, take a look at what is on the counter in the background on the cover of the Country Living magazine.

Super Thin Dovetails

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While visiting the Ohio Valley Antique Mall in Fairfield, OH today, I came across this mahogany empire dresser with the thinnest dovetails I had ever seen. The pins were 1/8″ at the bottom and tapered to about nothing at the top. Whoever cut these bad boys definitely took their dovetail cutting skills to the next level.

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Making Chalky Textured Paint

If you’re familiar with Shabby Chic furniture repurposing, then you probably know all about Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint®. However, if you’re a woodworker who subscribes to every woodworking magazine out there, then you probably have no idea what Chalk Paint® even is.

Chalk Paint®, not to be confused with chalkboard paint, is a very easy to use paint that requires no sanding or priming to the wood. It is often used to revitalized antique furniture and leaves pieces with a warm matte finish. Simply wipe off the dirt on a piece of furniture and start painting. Its ease of use is what makes the paint so popular. The paint get its name from the chalky texture it leaves on the wood. The paint gives a piece of furniture a nice warm tone as opposed to the harsh look lacquer will often give. However, at nearly $40 a quart, the stuff is not cheap.

Annie Sloan is the British lady who invented the paint several decades ago. In fact, just recently her company trademarked the name Chalk Paint® creating a stink around the industry as there are several other companies out there branding their paint as a chalk paint, but only Annie Sloan makes the official Chalk Paint®.

Making paint with a chalky texture is not all that difficult. Many people will add an additive to latex paint like sanding grout or baking soda. Annie Sloan claims that the majority of her additive, but not all of it, is calcium carbonate also known as limestone. You can buy bags of calcium carbonate on Amazon for about $15.00. Each bag will make a couple of gallons of paint. Even though you’re technically not making Chalk Paint®, I found the additive to be close enough that it works just fine for me.

I bought a quart of Flat Black latex enamel at Lowes for about $10.00. Then following the instructions on the bag, I poured half of my paint into a container and added a 1/4 cup of calcium carbonate (limestone) additive to  the paint. I then added just a little bit of warm water to the to container to thin it out since the limestone thickens the paint. After stirring for a few minutes the paint is ready to use.

As you can see in the picture, the paint has a thickness to it. I simply brushed on a couple of coats waiting about an hour between coats. I then lightly sanded the piece with 320 grit sand paper knocking the paint off the corners and edges to give the piece a worn look. After wiping off the dust from the sand paper, I applied a wax to the piece to give it some sheen and to protect the paint.

Up close you can see how the piece is worn away a little bit at the corners and edges. What I like most about making this paint is that its intent is to make the piece look old. If the piece of furniture ever gets banged around and gets dings or dents on it, it will just add more character to the piece.

People who make their own chalky textured paint claim the biggest advantage is that you can make any color you want, which is true. However, my wife has found that the additive slightly changes the color of the paint. So if you go to the paint store and fall in love with a certain color, once you add the additive you may be disappointed with the color you end up with.

Updating a China Cabinet

My wife bought this china cabinet at the Springfield Antique Show in Springfield, OH in September. It originally came with two glass paneled doors but she wanted to take them off and open up the top part of the cabinet for easy storage. We have a similar china cabinet in our dining room now and opening and closing the doors every time I want to unload my wallet and keys is kind of a pain in the ass, so taking the doors off permanently make sense to me.

You’ll see a lot of china cabinets with their doors removed in antique stores but most of them simply take the doors off and paint the piece leaving the sides of the case 3/4″ thin with the hinge mortises exposed and all. I knew I didn’t want to have that look, so I decided to add stiles to front to complete the case.

I started by milling two pieces of poplar 1″ x 1 3/4″ x 36″ and laid out where I wanted to rout fluting down each piece.

I then clamped the pieces in my modern Moxon vise and used a 1/4″ fluting bit to rout a flute about 1/4″ deep down the front of the stile. I opted to have three flutes 1/4″ apart down each stile.

The scrap portion of the stiles is key. Here I gauged where the fluting should go and then tested the layout. As you can tell, I had to move over the middle flute just a tad in order for it to line up evenly with the other two flutes on the side.

After the fluting was routed, I sanded the stiles and glued them onto the cabinet.

The reason I decided to use 1″ thick poplar 1 3/4″ wide is because I wanted to match the stiles to the top rail as it was 1″ x 1 3/4″. Had I used wood that was only 3/4″ thick it wouldn’t have looked as nice appearing like the stiles were an add on which I did not want.

The fluting on the china cabinet’s leg started up 2″ from the bottom so I mirrored the detail starting and stopping the fluting on the stiles 2″ from the top and bottom.

This is how the cabinet turned out. The fluted stiles gives the piece a nice added touch and finishes it off. It will be sold in my wife’s booth at a vintage designer’s market called “Over the Moon” in Lawrenceburg, IN near the end of the month. I think my wife secretly doesn’t want it to sell because she wants to keep it. I can’t blame her.

Using a Vacuum Press

Every once in a while I pull out a tool that I haven’t used in long time. I bought this vacuum press about ten years ago figuring I would use it all the time making custom plywoods out of exotic veneer but that’s never been the case. I think originally I saw David Marks use one on Woodworks and thought to myself that I had to have one. Even though I’ve only used this vacuum press about four times since I bought it, I’m still glad I did because now I need it.

I make thick wooden letters for my wife Anita. She paints them different colors and sells them in her booth. I usually make EAT which women display on their kitchen tables. The letters are made from 1 1/4″ MDF however, I can’t find a local supplier for 1 1/4″ thick MDF so I buy 1/2″ and 3/4″ MDF and laminated them together. Next month Anita is going to have a booth at a local Shabby Chic design show called Over The Moon in Lawrenceburg, IN. I figured I’d help her out and make more EATs and a few NOELs for Christmas. She sells them for $5 – $6 a letter which isn’t much but they are super easy and quick to make. Plus everyone she sells will help pay for the cost of the booth.

In order to laminate the two boards of MDF, I need the ability to properly clamp the boards together so that they press against each other equally. That’s where my vacuum press comes in handy. In order to maximize the torque of my vacuum press I built a clamping box for it. The box is nothing more than two 3/4″ MDF boards with grids cut on one side and glossy laminate on the other with the bottom board wrapped in a frame. The grids on the top help with air flow as the vacuum is working, and the laminate helps any glue squeeze out from sticking to the inside of the box.

Using the press is quite simple. I spread glue all over ope of the pieces I want to laminate making sure I get a 100% coverage. I get better results only spreading glue over one of the pieces and not both. When both pieces have glue on them, they tend to slide around when I put them in the box.  Once both pieces are stuck together, I place the top half of the box on top of them to act as the press when the air is removed.

I slide the entire box into the an industrial plastic bag with a nozzle on top and use a couple of wooden cauls to close the end of the bag. I then use as many clamps as needed to seal the bag so that it’s air tight.

I then hook up my vacuum press and turn it on for a few minutes to suck out all the air like a gigantic Food Saver machine.

 

You can see how tight the bag becomes once the vacuum starts working. After I’m satisfied with the pressure, I leave the boards to cook for a couple of hours. It’s important to turn off the vacuum and listen carefully for any air leaks that may be present. Notice the orange Jorgensen clamp at the bottom where I had to fold the plastic on top of itself in order to stop a leak. 

After a couple of hours, the boards come out perfectly laminated together. If you’re interested in learning more about vacuum presses, go to www.joewoodworker.com. It’s where I bought my vacuum and all the necessary accessories.

Empire Dresser

The Empire dresser is officially done. My wife Anita found some nice oil rubbed bronze drawer pulls on the internet after looking locally for some with no luck. It originally had glass knobs on it, but a few of them were in rough shape and not all of them matched. I think the drawer pulls she picked out look really nice and add to the character of the piece. She applied four to five coats of hemp oil to the dresser. It gives it a warm aged look without making it look too glossy.

I put a few hours in this as well. I had to strip all the old stain off, patch a veneer job, re-band all the drawer fronts with sapele, replace a brass key escutcheon, and reinforce some of the drawer bottoms with pieces of poplar.

She plans on selling this in her booth with her painted furniture and antiques this Saturday at a local street fair in Milford, OH called the Longstone Festival. She was lucky enough to get a booth as there is usually a waiting list every year. Hopefully it will sell there. I will let you know if it does. http://www.longstonestreetfestival.com/

The Furniture Makers of Cincinnati 1790 to 1849

While shopping around a couple of antique stores in Lebanon, OH this weekend, I ran across this book placed on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in the back corner of the store. The book was “The Furniture Makers of Cincinnati 1790 to 1849” and it intrigued me since it was something that I was looking for a while. I have always known that back in the earlier 1800’s Cincinnati was the epicenter of the furniture industry, but I knew very little about any of the makers or furniture from that time.

The writer of the book Jane E. Sikes, who I can only imagine was Richard Gere’s mom, was a native Cincinnatian who held degrees from Bennett College and the University of Cincinnati. She researched and documented hundreds of cabinet makers, chair makers and turners during the earlier part of the 19th century and included their name, location, and year or years in which they operated in alphabetical order. She also wrote about the furniture industry in Cincinnati and the artisans who helped carve its future. If you’re from Cincinnati and would like to read the book yourself, you can buy a used copy on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Furniture-Makers-Cincinnati-1790-1849/dp/B002H2TIDE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376267859&sr=8-1&keywords=the+furniture+makers+of+cincinnati

During the earlier 1800’s, Cincinnati was the fifth largest city in the US and the largest in the West. Steamboats carried goods from the East and to New Orleans. Being a major port for travelers on the their way out west, Cincinnati flourished economically and by 1815, Cincinnati was exporting chairs and furniture out west, selling to the steamboat trade. Because of the expanding growth and the lush local forests, artisans from all over the world came to Cincinnati to help build the furniture that was in such heavy demand.

The book has a few pages of color plates showing furniture made in Cincinnati which is what I was really after.  Being a furniture maker from Cincinnati, I’d like to pay homage to the furniture makers before me by incorporating some of their shared styles into my own designs. Anytime I watch the Antiques Roadshow on PBS, I hear the Keno brothers talk about the Philadelphia style or New York style of furniture, but never hear them speak of a Cincinnati style of furniture. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any singular design that stands out as a Cincinnatian form as Sikes wrote, “It is difficult to attribute particular characteristics to Ohio furniture in general and Cincinnati in particular. However, there are certain pieces which have descended lineally in certain families and we know that these shapes are definitely the kind of furniture made here in 1820 and 1830.” However, she doesn’t go into detail what those shapes or pieces were.

As far as the furniture industry in Cincinnati is concerned, unfortunately, the Great Flood of 1832 wiped out a lot of the furniture makers who worked and lived downtown. The river was so high that year that it was reported by William Henry Harrison that steamboats were travelling down city streets. Seven of the major chair makers were decimated as all of their tools and paint were washed away down stream. After the flood in 1834, the sudden outbreak of Asian Cholera only added to their woes when as many as 100 people died a day from the illness. Steamboats weary of traveling to Cincinnati in fears of spreading the disease bypassed the city thwarting once again the chair makers who depended on the steamboat trade. Most of them closed up shop and went onto other trades.

While examining the pictures, I think there are some similarities in the curves of the pieces that I can incorporate in my own designs in the future. Since I have lived in Cincinnati for nearly thirty years, it only makes sense to continue the proud history of furniture makers who came before me.

Page 20 has a picture of the Book of Prices of the United Society of Journeymen Cabinet Makers of Cincinnati for the Manufacture of Cabinet Ware in 1836. Books like these were legal contracts for helping unionize furniture making. Whether or not they were adhered to is anyones guess.

One of the neatest furniture makers Sikes researched was an African-American man named Henry Boyd who was born into slavery in Kentucky on May 14, 1802 and then bought his freedom at the age of eighteen. He set up shop in Cincinnati and sold his furniture to people all over the South and Southwest. He began working in 1830 and by 1850 he employed 20 cabinet makers making beds for hotels. Some of his furniture can still be seen today at the Golden Lamb Inn, the oldest hotel and restaurant in Ohio in the city of Lebanon, just two doors down from where I bought the book. I have never eaten at the Golden Lamb but I’ve heard good things about the place. Looks like I’ll have to take my wife there soon and check out some of his furniture if possible. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an article about Henry Boyd a few years back. http://www.enquirer.com/editions/1997/02/21/loc_blackhistory.html

Somebody who owned the book before me was doing some research as there were still a couple of hand written notes tucked inside. This is definitely a great book that I will own for a long time. Maybe I’ll add my own notes to the book someday doing research on some Cincinnati furniture makers.