The Big Think

March 27, 2008

Entertainment Center

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 5:51 pm

Progress on the ent. cent the last couple of days. I sorted through my pile of QSRO and picked a bunch of boards to match for the sides and shelves. Lumber comes in varying thicknesses that are organized in 1/4 inch increments. You can get 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and (wait for it)… 4/4. You can also get 5/4 and 6/4. The next step is 8/4 for the really thick stuff. There’s probably a good reason they do this, but I don’t know it.

I bought all my lumber in the 4/4 variety because it comes rough and you have to plane it down smooth. Planing obviously takes off material, which is why the standard furniture thickness is 3/4. The 3/4 stuff is is thick enough to be strong while still giving you enough wood left over after you’ve planed off the rough spots and smoothed things out. You can buy pre-planed wood from a big box store like Lowes, but the cost for that service almost doubles the price of the wood! So if you have the tools and the time you’re much better off doing it yourself.

Also, really good handmade furniture often doesn’t comply with this 3/4 standard. So I decided to make my carcasses and shelves out of wood that’s a bit over 3/4. This more closely matches the whole Arts and Crafts style I’m aiming for. The other reason is that I can’t stand spending several hundred dollars on lumber, lugging it home, and then immediately turning 1/4 of my investment into sawdust. Even at the current thickness -about 7/8ths of an inch- I’ve got a trashcan full of some expensive oak sawdust. Such is woodworking.

I pulled the boards out and carefully rough cut the pieces I needed, then sent them all through the planer and jointer. Just for the boards that make up 4 of the “walls” (the two side bookshelf walls) took several hours of work. Planing is pretty noisy and boring, so I put the iPod on and work my way through podcasts while I’m doing it. A planer is a fairly safe piece of machinery so I feel comfortable doing this. Whenever I’m on the table saw, though, It’s Total Concentration Time.

Anyway, after grain matching the wood for the best look I jointed the edges and glued them up into the 52×16 panels (four of them) an left them to dry. Today I did the same thing except with the six interior shelves. I’m starting to realize just how heavy this beast is going to be- solid wood is dense!

I also went to pick up a piece of 1/4 inch oak plywood for the back of the bookshelves. The lumberyard had a piece of beautiful 4×8 ply that had a severe ding in it on two edges. Fortunately, I won’t need that much wood. The guy at the yard sold it to me for ten bucks. Nice. I’ll have to carefully work around the ding a bit, but I’m glad to save the coin.

Next step is to go back and get a really nice piece of 3/4 oak ply, then measure and cut a couple pieces. I’m trying to limit my plywood usage because I want to be able to say the thing is made from solid wood, but I figure putting a few pieces of good 3/4 oak plywood in a few invisible spots won’t ruin the authenticity too much. Besides, there’s a big difference in the cost, and I’d hate to waste money on buying beautiful quarter sawn red oak only to hide it where it’ll never be seen. To give you an idea, I could have easily gotten all 6 of my shelves out of a $45 piece of 3/4 ply with enough plywood left over for 12 more shelves. I calculated the value of the solid QSRO that’s going into the shelves today: $85. So I’m all about saving money where you won’t see it. That way, what you do see can be even more beautiful.

Once the plywood is cut I’ll have all of the raw pieces for the bookshelf sides glued up into panels. Then it’s sand, sand, sand. I’ll probably spend two days doing nothing but annoying the neighbors sanding in the driveway. My hand gets numb holding the sander so I’m thinking I might use some kind of padded glove. Anyway, after that comes the stressful glue-up, then then interminable detail stage. I decided to incorporate ebony somehow, but I think I might do it in the doors. Depends on a couple things that I won’t know until things are a bit farther along.

Once the side shelves are done I’ll start working on the big center piece. It’s a scaled up version of what I’m doing now with a few major modifications. Still trying to work a few things out. Then I’ll have to get the final pieces of lumber for the three top caps (more planing/jointing/glue-up/sanding). Then the finishing, which will probably take a couple of weeks.

Long way to go.

2 Comments »

  1. Hm – a use for that sawdust…..

    Why not save it and use some sort of sticky stuff and mold it with your castle-molder? You can make wood-particle bricks or something that would complement your bricky bricks.

    Comment by barrybrake — March 28, 2008 @ 2:22 am

  2. Great idea! I wonder what would happen if the sawdust was used as a filler material. Hmm…

    Comment by jasony — March 28, 2008 @ 8:50 am

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