Category Archives: Projects

Panel preferences

Now that I have the frame pieces done and the panels glued up for the chest, it’s on to do a little work preparing those panels. Man, there’s nothing quite like a thickness planer to make fast work of leveling these glue ups…

Thickness planer


By the way, can I take a moment just to revel in the fact that – dang – the grain on these boards looks totally SWEET!

Cherry panel

So, now comes the hard part – what kind of design do I want these panels to have, and what methods will I use to make them look their best?

A flat panel

Of course, I could just simply go with flat panels. Classic look, classic design. Since I plan on doing a special embellishment for the lid, I could go this route for sure. And, it would be easy. But, I could have just bought a sheet of cherry plywood and made it happen.  Not really what I had in mind to showcase the skills.

Panel raising on the table saw

Now, I could easily set up a tall auxiliary fence, tip my table saw blade oh – I dunno – 12 or 15 degrees off plumb – and run each of the panels through to raise them. Easy peasey lemon squeezy.

A horizontal router bit

I could pick up a vertical or horizontal router bit and do a fancier profile. Heck, the sky is the limit when it comes to those kinds of bits and the profiles they can cut. From the plain to the ornate, it’s definitely something to consider.

Now, I’ll just have to decide how I will make it happen, then it’s off to the races, and this project will be nearing completion!

Fine framing

Spring is in the air … along with all the oak pollen in the state of Florida. Ugh. I was so clogged up, that I even had to miss the Woodworking Show at the Tampa Fairgrounds. I was able to get some shop time, but it was in small bits and pieces as my allergies – and the grogginess of the antihistamines – allowed.

Fortunately I had all of the pieces cut to size. The next step was to do the cope and stick jointing that was going to hold the frame and panel chest together. Times past, when I tried using the cope and stick router bits, I would get strange results because I was using the set with my table saw side wing router setup, something less than ideal for that kind of precision work.

The sticking bit

This time, however, I am using a real router table and a router with a micro adjustment setup , which really helps make the whole shooting match go much more smoothly. I was able to dial in the bit carefully to cut the sticking – the side that holds the panel – into the rough pieces. Besides being decorative, the joint can be made very quickly, and it more than strong enough for what I want it to do.

Pushing the pieces through

Using a GRR-Ripper to hold the pieces down also helped ensure that the cuts were consistent and that my hands were well out of the way. Those bits are big, and they can chew off fingers with great speed – obviously something I wanted to avoid.

Using the sled

The coping cuts were easy to make using a coping sled, which allows the pieces to fit together snugly – the key to a good joint. By immobilizing the pieces, I was able to get the cuts to come out looking good and even with no tearout. A backing block is a must to ensure you don’t rip out as the bit exits.

A frame

Not bad work for being able to scratch out the time as it allowed. While I was at it, I also took the time to start the glueups for the cherry panels that were going to fill the frame. They are all glued up, and fortunately, are all narrow enough to be fun through my thickness planer to get them down to the right size for the frame.

glued panel

Now, if the pollen would only let up for a day or two, I might be able to get some more work done!

Rough framing

So, this hope chest I am building is a frame and panel design. And, when it comes to building the frame, it’s important to make sure that everything is milled properly. After all, if you are using a cope and stick type of joinery system, everything has to be the same thickness so it all comes together nicely.

The lid

But, first, come on. Look at that lid!  It’s a thing of beauty! A little planing, a little sanding, and it will be something to look at.

Now, back to our milling operation. I had to identify the pieces I was going to need. The rails and stiles, where they were going to go, their dimensions… the works. So, I went to my wood pile, picked out a few nice looking pieces and cut them to rough length. I had to employ a sophisticated method of keeping track of which pieces ended up where.

Tape organizing

Yeah, amazing what you can do with a marker and some painter’s tape…

Once I had those pieces cut to size, I ensured that I had one flat face on each board. By breaking them down to smaller pieces, it was easier to remove any wind or twist in the pieces. After that, it was off to the thickness planer.

The planer

There were two reasons for this. First, I could get rid of some of the gnarly skip-planed look, making the surfaces a whole lot closer to finished. Secondly, and more importantly, was to ensure each of these pieces would be the same thickness, which would make joinery a TON easier when I got to the router table.

Planed boards

After planing and some straight-line ripping, my stack of boards is ready for the next step. Now, I have to find some time in the shop to take that next step!

Take it from the top

I miss my maternal grandmother. As we get closer to Easter, that was her holiday. She cooked the holiday meal for us, and I can remember her sending me back to college with a huge brown paper grocery bag full of leftover ham sandwiches, dyed Easter eggs and – of course – lots of chocolate. I was still her little grandson, even in my late teens.

The Lawrence Welk Show

The one thing I couldn’t get into? Her watching the Lawrence Welk Show. I know it was her kind of music, and I know it was her kind of entertainment, but I usually ended up watching baseball with my grandfather.

As with any good band leader, I’m sure Mr. Welk would remind his musicians during rehearsals that they were going to take it from the top when practicing a new piece of music. After all, that’s where the start of the music would be – at the top of the sheet!

Cherry boards

With my latest project, I am taking it from the top as well, literally!  The latest piece is a hope chest for the third niece turning 16 in my family, and it’s time to get my toes tapping out in the shop. First, though, I had to go through a one or a two boards in the repertoire…

Matching boards

Ahh, these two boards seems to come together in a harmonious fashion. I guess it was time to help make these babies sing. But, first, it was going to take a little time to tune up the pieces to ensure the sound was going to be tight. So, I used my Bora straight edge clamps to set a fence to ride against the rip fence, and used my Grr-Ripper to push the stack through, to keep my hands safe.

Straight line ripping

After sweetening up the fit, It was a simple matter to glue up the two boards that were going to make the top. No pressure, right?

Panel glue up

Wanting everything to stay true, I decided on putting an edge on the board just to make sure thing stayed flat. I turned to a tongue and groove router bit set and got the router table all set up for this kind of work. It took very little time, but it was ready to go in short order.

Router Bit Setup

After grooving the breadboard ends and putting a tongue on the panel, I glued the middle four inches of the tongues on the panel and slid the ends into place, clamping them. Of course they were long, but that’s fine, I would trim them later.

Edges in place

Now, just a little sanding and this top will be just about ready for its debut. And, since I was taking it from the top, now I know the exact dimensions I need to build the rest of the chest to, and I am sure I used the nicest looking boards for the most visible part of the project.

That’s music to my ears!

The weekly plan

New Yankee Workshop’s Barrister Bookcase

So, light week at Tom’s Workbench. Yeah, I confess that changing jobs has cut into my blogging time, but I promise that while on my commute to downtown Tampa, I’ll be more attentive!

In the meantime, a huge part of what I have been moving has been books. Lots and lots of books. Reference books. Training manuals. Hurricane studies. The works. What I will eventually need is a bookcase to keep them in. One that – maybe – I could bring with me.

Barrister's Bookcase

That’s what this barrister’s bookcase can provide – a stackable, sealable, handsome place to keep all of my reference materials in case I have to move them again. What I like most about Norm’s plan is that it doesn’t use hardware for the flip up doors – just wooden solutions. Which is pretty darned cool!

Next up…

OK, so it’s been a crazy few weeks for me.

First, there was Get Woodworking Week, which I am certain has been praised in song and story. Then, there was this little thing I did called leaving my job of 21 years to take a new position, and I am working on wrapping things up before taking this new promotion that will take me across Tampa Bay to the neighboring county.

I also got onto eBay and picked up a copy of an old favorite book written by an old TV friend. This was one of the first books I had ever checked out from the library when I was just s young beginning woodworker. There’s something about the work – especially the early works of Norm – that is just comforting. Before flashy ads and high-end post production, Norm was out there, helping dolts like me to get their foot in the door to build projects of our own.

One of the projects in this book will be my next one. and it will be very important to me. I can’t yet say what it is, but believe me, I have the lumber…

The cherry boards ready for workAnd, I have a special piece of wood that I was given which has been saved for years and handed to me recently for inclusion in this very project.

roundWhile this will be very similar to some projects I have built in the past, I am looking forward to using some of my new tools – my table saw, my router table, my MicroJig push blocks – to do a safer, more accurate and better job than I ever have before.

Time to make some new memories.

About face(s)

As you may have guessed from yesterday’s plan of the week, the bed I am building is basically a pair of frameless cabinets. This means that unlike North American cabinetry, there are no face frames, meaning that the drawer faces have to cover the openings and dividers between the drawer cabinets.

Face Frame vs. Frameless cabinets

It’s not a better system. It’s not a worse system. It’s just different, and just as with face frame cabinetry, it poses a set of unique challenges that need to be overcome.

Story stick

So, I started out making a story stick. Basically, you have to start with some quality measurements, and there’s no way to get more accurate ones than by taking direct measurements. I had attached a strip of plywood to the bottom of the cabinet faces before I placed them in the room, so I accounted for that in addition to the other strips and pieces I had to cut.

Table Saw setup

Using the story stick, I set up the table saw fence so I was absolutely positive that I was going to be on the money when it came time to cut. Again, instead of remembering fractional measurements, I used the exact measurements, making this brainless.

Tile spacers

Another handy little trick I used to ensure that everything was going to work was I picked up a bag of 1/8″ tile spacers at my local home improvement center. Since the kerf on a full-sized blade is exactly 1/8″, using these spacers allowed me to throw away the tape measure and ensure that everything was spaced properly when I did the layout. Why didn’t I think about doing this years ago?

Spacers in placers

One I cut the top strip free from the piece of plywood I was using for drawer faces, I was able to use the spacers to properly align the top strip and attach it using pocket screws, and measure out the drawer faces. They were easy to mark out by simply tilting the entire piece out toward me and using the cubby dividers to mark where everything had to go.

Check out these drawers

After I cut the pieces for each drawer free, I simply went back and screwed them in place. As you can see, I didn’t go for pulls for the drawers. Instead, I used a pattern I had built a long time ago to cut out handles on another project, and went that route to allow for the drawers to be opened and closed. Why? Well, Rhonda asked me if I was absolutely, positively sure that no one would ever bang his or her leg against a handle in the middle of the night.

Good point.

Now, all that’s left to do is a little bit of sanding, some finishing and a whole butt load of gloating. I think this one is just about done!