Harold White Lumber Company

Earlier this year my territory changed for my job and I acquired the Lowe’s in Morehead, KY as one of my accounts. Whenever I would drive down to that Lowe’s, I would always drive by the Harold White Lumber Co. I was always impressed by the amount of logs the mill had on its lot, but I saw no showroom or retail office, so I always kept driving. That was until a few weeks ago, when I decided to pull in and see what the place was all about. I figured the worse thing that could happen is they would tell me they only sell to wholesale accounts and kick me out.

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I stopped at the mill work office and asked if they sold to retail customers. They said they did, but I would have to drive over to the lumber office so, I got back into my car and headed down the driveway to another office. There I met the office manager who asked what type of wood I was looking for. I said “nothing at the moment, just wondered if you sell to retail customers”. She gave me their price list and asked the plant manager to show me around the mill. He took me where they keep the short stacks of lumber with loads of cherry, oak, wormy maple and poplar. He told me that the 4/4 poplar was only $.80 board foot. I usually pay $2.20 for 4/4 poplar at my current lumber yard in Cincinnati. I would have bought some that day, but I didn’t bring any cash with me plus, I was just looking for info at the time and had no intention of buying anything anyway.

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The mill is huge with thousands of logs on their land. I looked at their price list and they carry all the major domestic species, but they also have basswood, sycamore, sassafras, hemlock, and coffee tree. I was told by the office manager that they don’t always have the rare species in stock, but if you call ahead, they may be able to mill some up. You can even buy a whole log if you want to mill the wood yourself.

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So today, I went back and I told the same office manager I was interested in the four-foot shorts. She had an employee follow me back to the area they keep them so they could load it in my car. The last time I was here, this whole area was stacked with bundles of lumber. The guy told me that the shorts don’t last long. They even have a big dumpster where people can dumpster dive for one to two foot long boards.

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I came home with 20 board feet of 4/4 FAS White Oak for $30.00 for a whiskey barrel coffee table my cousin wants me to make for her. The wood should be enough to make the base and top of the table as I already bought a halved whiskey barrel last weekend. The next time I go back, I’m going to stock up on poplar, maple, cherry, and walnut. It’s nice to have place where I can buy hardwood lumber dirt cheap.

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American Flag Tree

I don’t get many custom orders as I’m usually too busy with my day job and restoring antique tools to do them anyway. However, my wife’s friend asked her if I could make him some American flag trees. She showed me a picture of what he wanted and it seemed simple enough, so I told her I could make them for him.

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These trees were offered by Martha Stewart a few years ago on her website but, have since been discontinued. The only thing I had to go on was the fact that they were about 20″ tall. Assuming the whole tree was 20″ tall, I figured the largest diameter of the post was probably 1 1/2″ in diameter. I glued some maple together and created 2″ square stock to turn on my lathe. I then used my Peter Galbert calipers to turn the stock to 1 1/2″ in diameter down the whole shaft.

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Studying the photo, I eyeballed the shape of the post, cutting the bottom of the vases to 1″ in diameter. I cut a little finial on the top and a cove and bead detail on the bottom that kind of looks like an old cast iron pot. Again, all eyeballing with no plans. Just imagining things in my head.

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At the bottom, I turned a 3/4″ diameter tenon. This will fit in a hole I will drill in the base with my drill press. I use a 3/4″ open end wrench to turn the tenon the perfect size.

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After about an hour on the lathe, I turned all four posts and pads for the trees. They are all similar but, none of them are an exact copy of one another.

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The tree has four rows of flags with six flags on each row. In order to mark the holes in right spot, each hole would have to be 60 degrees away from each other (360 degrees / 6 = 60 degrees). Instead of grabbing my protractor and trying to mark every 60 degree angle, I took my compass and set it to the radius of the post. I then walked around the circumference of the circle marking it at every spot. That left me with six equal segments that were perfectly spaced from one another.

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I did the same thing on the other end of the post starting at the same point. I then drew lines down the post and took a straight edge, lining up the lines on each end of the post marking where the holes would go on the top of the vases. I only marked on the first and third vase for those marks. On the second and fourth vases, I marked a line in between the first and third marks so that the flags on the tree were more spaced apart.

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Even though I figured out where the holes went on the tree, I still wasn’t comfortable drilling my holes in the final piece. I took a scrap post and did all the markings again and used a 1/4″ drill to drill holes in the post at a 60 degree angle. After I drilled all the holes and stuck the flags in, the sample turned out well.

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When it was time for the real drilling, I took my time. Putting the post back on the lathe, I lined up the marks of the post so they were perpendicular to the lathe bed. This way I only had to worry about the angle of my drill bit as I knew I could sight down the bed of my lathe keeping the bit drilling straight down the shaft. I drilled about an inch in using a brad point drill bit.

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After drilling all 24 holes and giving the piece a light sanding, I drilled a hole in my base and glued the post into it. This is a simple project that I can bang out in case my wife’s friend wants more than the four I made him.

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Stretching a Board

I’m in the process of building a new cabinet for our bathroom to hold towels and toiletries. I work on it in between work and building my shed. Because I work on it only when I have the time, it opens up the opportunity for brain farts to happen. Last Monday, I went back into the shop to start making the top of the cabinet and grabbed a board of maple, looked at the 31 1/4″ measurement I had written down on a scrap piece of wood on my bench, and cut the board into 32″ segments. As soon as I cut the board, I realized my error. The top of the cabinet is 33 1/2″ long. The 31 1/4″ measurement is the width of the 1/4″ back for the cabinet. I didn’t measure twice and cut once like Norm Abram would always tell me to do. After spewing a few cuss words, I had to decide what to do next. I had two options. I could either go back to the lumber yard and buy a new board for $15.00, or somehow make these boards work. So, I decided to “stretch” these boards.

Stretching a board is often a gag placed on an apprentice in a cabinet shop.  One of the veteran cabinet makers will ask the newbie to go get the Board Stretcher. The newbie will look around the shop and then ask other cabinet makers where the board stretcher is. After a couple of minutes, everyone in the shop will turn around and laugh at the apprentice making him feel like a dumb ass. I know this story first hand.

However, you can legitimately stretch a board if you know the trick. There are a couple of criteria that makes board stretching possible. One, the board you’re stretching has to be wider than the final width you need . The second, is the grain of the board should not be pronounced highlighting the fact that the board has been cut and re-glued. This cabinet will be painted white, so I wasn’t concerned about the grain. And, the width of the three boards together is 16″ while the top only needs to be 13 3/4″ wide, so I was good to go.

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The first step in stretching a board is slicing it diagonal down it’s length on a band saw. Try to make sure the cut is as straight as possible so you don’t lose more of the board’s width than necessary.

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Next, plane the diagonal edge straight with a jointer plane to get a nice tight seam where the two halves are glued back together.

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Bring the two diagonal halves together and slide them so that the length of the new board is where you need it. Since my top is 33 1/2″, I glued the board 34″ long. I’m sure there’s a mathematical formula that can determine how much width of board you lose for every inch you lengthen it but, I haven’t taken trigonometry in twenty years, so unfortunately, I can’t help you with that.

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After the glue dries, you’ll have a little triangular shaped area you’ll need to remove with a hand plane. After you plane that area away, joint the whole edge straight with the jointer plane, and rip the other side straight on the table saw.

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After I stretched all three boards and trimmed them square, I edge glued all three pieces together. This board is now 34″ long x 15″ wide.

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Here’s the board after it was sized to the final dimension of the top of the cabinet and sanded to 220 grit sand paper. This top will work perfectly fine and no one will ever know I screwed up.

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Here’s a close up shot of the board. If you look closely, you can see the diagonal glue lines that pass through the grain. However, it still looks really nice even if the grain of the board would be shown in the piece of furniture.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Modern Moxen Vise

A few months ago I wrote about how I attached a Micro Fence to my Bosch Colt plunge router. The link is below:

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The tool works great but I wished I had some sort of guide system to make routing tenons even easier. Then one day as I was cleaning up my shop, I came across a Popular Woodworking magazine I had stashed away. The issue was from Oct, 2012 and in it was an article about making an improved Moxon vise the writer called Gizmozilla. When I saw it I thought to myself “oh yeah, I forgot about that thing”. I stashed it away because I was planning on making it some day and since that I had the Colt plunge router, now would be a perfect time.

The writer of the article, Kenneth Speed, used maple to laminate a beam that was 3 1/2″ square by 4 feet long. I knew that was a little too big for me since I was using a small trim router instead of a big plunge router, so I milled a 4×4 to 2 1/2″ x 3″ x 3′ long.

I then built the trough system that would guide my Micro Fence fence. This was the most difficult part of the project because I needed to make sure that the trough of my fence was loose enough for my router to move freely, but not too loose that it would create slack completely defeating the purpose of using the Micro Fence. After a couple of attempts, I had the right thickness to make it work.

I then had to route a couple of grooves in the beam to accept T-tracks that I bought from Rockler. Those things didn’t come cheap as I paid nearly $20 a piece for them but I wanted to have adjustable stop blocks the same way Kenneth had. I also attached feet to the ends by laminating a couple of 3/4″ scrap plywood together. I have a couple of holes drilled through my workbench about four feet apart so I can hold the fixture to my bench with a couple of hold fasts.

Kenneth used store-bought knobs to hold the stops tight to the fixture but, I wanted to try to make my own so I grabbed some scrap maple, a 1 1/4″ hole saw, and drilled out six plugs to create little knobs.

Once the plugs were cut, I traced around a 1/4″ nut with a pencil and gently carved out the inside with a 1/4″ chisel.

After the area was all carved out, I inserted a nut and shaved three sides of the circle on my disc sander to create a soft triangular-shaped knob. Once all six knobs were made, I used some five-minute epoxy and glued the nut inside the knob so it wouldn’t slip out during use. The bolts that they are threaded to are nothing more than 1/4″ carriage bolts with modified squared off heads to pass through the T-track.

Kenneth used Jorgensen hold-down clamps and a fancy caul system to hold the wood to the fixture however, I wanted to keep the fixture as simple (and cheap) as possible so I simply use a couple of Jorgensen F-style clamps to hold the wood to the fixture.

Everything looks good but I needed to see how well it worked. I took a couple of pieces of scrap wood and placed a loose tenon over the joint and marked where I wanted the tenon.

I transferred those marks around the edges of the wood so I could then gauge where the router needed to cut. I also marked the “face” on each piece so I knew in which direction the piece needed to be place on the fixture so that the face of the boards would line up evenly.

I set the stop blocks where they needed to be and made a test cut while placing the face of the work piece on the inside of the fixture. Everything looked good on both pieces and fitted together nicely. This joint was super fast and easy to create!

The beautiful thing about using the Micro Fence is that if I do need a thicker tenon, I simply use the brass stops on the sliding bar of the fence to limit the travel of the router on the Y axis.

I now have accurate three-dimensional cutting availabilty using this fixture. The fence stops act as the X axis, the Micro Fence guide rails act as the Y axis, and the plunge router base acts as the Z axis.

Much like Kenneth’s Gizmozilla, the fixture can be used as a regular Moxon vise for cutting dovetails by hand or with a power router when I use my Keller Dovetail System.

This was a super simple fixture to make and it has already been very useful in my shop building a couple of outdoor benches. I’m sure it will be the most valuable jig/fixture I have ever made.

The importance of making a prototype

So I was hired to make a case for this thing. It’s a custom-made electric guitar amplifier. The guy who made it has no woodworking ability and was looking for someone to make a case for him. He really didn’t care how it was made, just so that the inner components could be taken out and put back in if need be.

I’ve never made an amplifier case before and wasn’t sure how to design one with a removable back so I knew that making a prototype would be a must. Scrounging around in my shop I looked for old pieces of scrap plywood and off cuts of hardwood. I gathered up some wood and made a simple box put together with pneumatic staples and drywall screws.

The idea for a removable back was simple. Screw on the top and route grooves down the side so that the back could slide up and out-of-the-way. The prototype worked and was easy to make which is what I was after because I wasn’t making a killing on the box anyway. More of a favor for my stepson’s friend.

Now it was time for the real deal which was easy because I already knew how to make it and already made my mistakes on the prototype. Anytime I make something, it’s usually the first time I make it. As I measure and cut and drill, I inevitably make a mistake or two. I often find out that the second time I make something, that I learned from my mistakes on the first one and make the second one so much better. It’s one of the reasons I cringe when people ask me to do commission work. I’d much rather have a product line of pieces that I already know how to build and build quickly.

I made the amplifier out of hardwood cherry and maple plywood for the front and back. It came out flawless! The only real differences I made between this and the prototype is I rounded over the edges to give it a better look, added a piece of wood to the sides so that I could move the screws that hold down the top away from the edges so they wouldn’t interfere with the round overs and eliminated the vent holes on the back panel.

The good thing was making the prototype only took about an hour but it saved me so much time and material working out some of the bugs in the design process. Plus I screwed up on the cheap throw away wood instead of ruining the nice expensive stuff.

Making a Bed Part 3

Well it’s been a tough few days with my dog Rylee passing away but I finally pulled myself together and put the finish on the bed.

After sanding the parts to 220 grit sandpaper, I applied a Brown Walnut analine dye to the bed. I diluted the dye to a 4:1 distilled water:dye solution and applied a liberal amount to the bed with a sponge wiping off the excess. I’ve been told to use distilled water instead of tap water because the minerals in tap water may change the color of the dye.

The dye turns all the wood to a uniform color creating a base for the gel stain that will cover it. After I washed the bed with the dye, it looked like I grabbed a handful of mud and smeared it all over the place but I realized it’s just the first step in the process.

After the dye dried, I needed to coat the bed with de-waxed shellac so that the gel stain won’t penetrate the wood too much making the wood appear blotchy. I create my own 2 lb cut shellac by diluting 4 ounces of shellac flakes to 16 ounces of denatured alcohol. I keep the shellac in an empty glass maple syrup container.

 

Once the shellac is applied, the bed turned darker but was still nowhere the color I wanted it be. My wife came downstairs to look at the progress I was making and told me she hated the way it looked. I told her not to worry as I was only half way done.

Allowing the shellac to dry overnight, I was ready to apply my first coat of stain. I used one coat of General Finishes Nutmeg Gel Stain applying it with a piece of an old t-shirt and wiping off the excess with another piece of old t-shirt. I used a dry paint brush and brushed away any swirl marks left by the t-shirts. Fortunately the bed started to take on a brownish color removing the mud look after I applied the stain .

For the next color I used Minwax Rosewood Gel Stain but before I applied it, I coated the bed with another coat of shellac so that the new color won’t affect the nutmeg color giving the finish more depth.

Now the bed has the reddish hue color I’m looking for. All that is left to do is apply the top coat with Arm-R Seal polyurethane oil combo. Three coats of the Arm-R-Seal coat and a lightl sanding of 600 grit sandpaper and parrafin oil, the bed was ready to be put back together.

The bed is finally done and I was pleased with the outcome. It took me longer than the month I promised my wife but she was fine with the delay. I forget how much the bed actually cost me to build since I threw away the receipts, but if I believe it was around $300-$400. A far cry from the $1699 Pottery Barn wanted for their bed. Now to take it apart again and drag it upstairs.

Making a Bed Part 2

Well it’s been a few weeks since I blogged about making a bed for my wife but the month of October had some really nice weather. So nice that my wife and I decided to use the days to redo our screened in porch. Once that project was done, I moved back to the bed.

After the feet were turned and the top legs were made, I cut a couple of mortises in them to accept tenons for front panel. The tenons were cut using a router and hand saws and are about 3″ wide.

Next I needed to make the beaded details for the front panel and sides. I used my sticking board and a No 6 hollow molding plane to shape a round over on one side of a piece of wood that was 1/2″ thick x 1 1/8″ wide.

    

Glueing the beaded detail onto the boards was a synch with my Bow Clamps. The front panel only needed one bead on the bottom while the sides needed two. One on top and one on the bottom.

The top of the front panel is glued down in place with biscuits so that no visible fasteners will be seen. Once everything is glued together, the front panel is complete. The next part is focusing on the headboard.

   

The headboard started with a design on a 1/4″ piece of melamine hard board . I traced the pattern onto a piece of 1 3/4″ soft maple stock and cut it out on the bandsaw. Then I took another piece of 1 3/4″ and laminated a piece of 1/2″ on top of it to make the thickness I needed for the top rail of the headboard.

  

I shaped the bed rail into form by using my hollow molding planes. Using the right sweep of plane makes the job simple and quick to do. After cutting the tenons on the bed rail, I cut a sample tenon to use as a gauge to figure out where I needed to bore the mortise on the headboard sides.

 

 

Once I determined the location of the mortise, I simply bored it out with an auger bit and cleaned up the sides with a chisel. I then worked on the headboard rail bottom and the bottom rail for the slats. To make sure everything fitted fine, I tested fitted all the parts together.

  

Next I wanted to focus on the coopered panel front. The bed at Pottery Barn had coopered panels that were flush with its sides. My wife wanted the same look so cutting a groove in the sides and in setting the panel pieces into the groove wasn’t going to work. After studying the Pottery Barn bed, I decided to build it in much the same way they did. I shaped two pieces in an S curve and glued it to the sides. I use this curved part as the way to connect the slats onto the headboard by screwing them through the back.

  

Making the slats was fun. I took 1/2″ thick by 3″ wide boards and cut tongue and grooves in them with my Stanley #49 plane. I opened up the joint a little bit so the boards would fit sloppy in the groove and bend around the S curve.

  

Once all the slats were cut, I dry fitted them to the headboard and attached them with screws.

   

Once all the slats were in place, I glued the feet to the bottom. My headboard was assembled.

Now I needed to assemble all the parts. I test fitted the bed hardware and how the rails would attach to the front panel and headboard with a scrap of plywood.

Once I figured out where each piece of hardware went, I screwed it on and test fitted the bed. Cutting out some bed support slats out of poplar and glueing a support bar on to the sides, the bed was ready for final assembly.

Now I need to sand the entire bed and stain it a dark mahogany stain my wife wants.