The Big Think

April 26, 2008

Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 11:44 pm

Another 9 hours in the shop today working in the ent. cent. I’ve got the main carcasse glued up. Thanks to neighbor James for helping move the beast off of the work table, and for the ant killer in the yard. 🙂

I had to rout out a groove in the back for the back piece, then plane and joint more wood for the top of the center and two side book cases. I had all the wood for these tops all laid out and ready to plane (6 pieces each 7 inches wide and 60 inches long), and realized that it was over $130 in lumber! Don’t screw it up.

I screwed it up.

Well, to be fair, I really didn’t, but the results are sub-optimal. I wanted to leave as much of the inch thick lumber remaining so the top could be very thick. As thick as possible, preferably 7/8ths of in inch. I feel that this thickness balances the heft of the rest of the piece. Unfortunately, the wood has to cooperate. If you’re planing 4 pieces of 7 inch wide wood that’ll eventually be one solid top, you are limited by the maximum thickness of the roughest piece of wood. Put another way, the lumber comes from the yard very rough, and you have to run it through the planer and jointer until both sides have no imperfections. If there’s still an imperfection (a saw mark or a low spot), you have to run them ALL through until they match the thickness of the thinnest piece. My thinnest piece ended up being almost exactly 3/4 of an inch (1/8th inch less than I had hoped). So by the time I caught it I had already hogged off than extra 1/8th inch from all the boards. It’s not a catastrophic deal by any stretch of the imagination. It only means that the top of the entertainment center will be 1/8th inch thinner than I had designed. Still, it rankles. I turned 1/4th of my $130 pile of lumber into sawdust getting everything smooth. That’s a trash bag full of $33 in shavings and dust. Ug. That’s woodworking, though: turning large pieces of wood into small pieces of wood.

Next step is to joint and glue up the tops. One of the boards I worked today had the most spectacularly rayed grain I’ve ever seen. It’ll be my showpiece board in the best position (closest to the door). The other bookshelf has a serviceable grain, but nothing to write home about. The top of the center section is very nice, but I have to do some creative grain matching since I went ahead and used a new board in place of the too-thin one I described above. I’ll still use the too-thin one for trim (got just the place for it), so it’s no loss.

In the last three days I’ve put over 20 hours of work into the entertainment center. I can now put all three basic carcasses next to each other and get a feel for the size of the piece. It’s wide but not too tall. Nice proportions. I told Erin today that I fell like 1/3rd of the time spent on any project is the basic structure build, 1/3rd is spent detailing, and 1/3rd is spent on the finish. The detailing (trim, face frames, ebony inlays, doors) will start as soon as the tops are done (another couple of days).

Incidentally, I found this site tonight while looking around for design ideas. I wasn’t surprised to find out that this craftsman charges up to $9000 for some of his work. Next time you look at a hand made piece and wonder if it’s really worth 10 times what you could buy a cheap dept. store version, just remember that I (a much less qualified and talented woodworker) just spent 40 hours doing a basic carcasse build. I aspire to that level of quality some day and certainly don’t begrudge him what he charges. It’s beautiful work.


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