Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tool Chest - Hardware

My hardware choice for handles on this chest will match the other existing chest, I used black cast iron handles from Lee Valley.  The only downside with this hardware is that it comes with mounting screws which are far too long for my use.  I haven’t put the handles onto a chest with sides which are 1.25” thick yet so I always have to shorten the screws by 3/8” to 1/2". 

Marking the Centerpoints for the Handle Mounting Screws

Mounting Screws in Need of a Trim

Side Handles Test Fit

After reattaching the drawer fronts I installed the drawer pulls.  I used ring pulls to match the other component which has already been built.  I drilled a hole a little larger than the width of the prongs but a little smaller than the diagonal.  This keeps the pulls from moving around too much during installation and avoids slop in the fitting.  I bent the tines back with an old ruler and a pair of needle nose pliers and clinched them into the back of the drawer front with a small hammer. 

Drill Bit Slightly Under Diagonal Measurement of Tines

Tine Bent and Ready to be Hammered into Place

If the ring pull needs to be installed to close to the top of the drawer to allow both tines to spread out normally the top one is twisted 90 degrees.  I have tried cutting the tine short in the past and this is a much better option.  

Installation in Tall Drawers

Installation in Short Drawers

With all the hardware installed and the drawers replaced the chest is done and ready to be loaded with tools.

Left Side

Right Side
The New Chest Component Ready for Pairing

The Pre-existing Cabinet Component

Paired up and Ready to Work

Monday, 28 July 2014

Tool Chest - Finishing

As it was a beautiful day I decided to take the chest outside to finish, also, less dusty than the shop.  I finished off the surface prep by sanding with some 320 and then used a microfiber cloth to clean up the sawdust created by sanding.  These really do an amazing job at removing the very fine dust from woodwork, leave no residue and rinse out under the tap.  I used a spray lacquer finish on the case and drawer fronts and left the inside of the case unfinished.  After taping off the inside of the cabinet to protect it from overspray I applied 4 light coats waiting a few minutes between coats.  Between coats 3 and 4 I used some 400 grip sand paper on a cork block to knock down the little nibs which had formed.  After the last coat of lacquer I used some 0000 steel wool to lightly buff the surface and followed up with an application of clear paste wax.  The parts shimmered in the sun,  particularly the crotch drawer fronts.

Spray Lacquer for the Case

Drawer Fronts After Lacquering

Steel Wool Used to Remove Lacquer Nibs

Polished up and Ready for Final Assembly

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Tool Chest - Drawers

I’ve decided to make the drawers for the chest out of Baltic birch with a false front.  I’ve never done a false front before so I was anxious to give it a try.  I also decided to build the drawers using finger joints, which are also new to me.  

Finger Joint Jig

I won`t  bother with how to build the finger joint sled as there are lots of tutorials out there and it is so simple even just a photo is likely enough to get started.  The sides and of the drawers were made using ½” Baltic birch, joined with ½” finger joints.  I decided to use ½” thick bottoms to keep things as rigid as possible;  I set the drawer bottom into a ¼” dado ¼” up from the bottom and the drawer bottoms have ¼” rabbets so that the bottom of the drawers are flush with the drawer sides leaving maximum storage depth. 

Drawer Parts Glued up and Ready for Assembly

Drawer Assembly Well Underway

Bottom Flush with Drawer Sides

I must admit that putting together these drawers was a much easier task than the dovetail joints I have used in the past.  The parts were all interchangeable and went together with relative ease. 

With the drawers constructed I next turned to their installation.  I’m using full extension slides on these drawers.  The drawers are a touch on the shallow side and I want to be able to access everything easily.  I started by installing the bottom drawer and working my way up using the preceding drawer to support the next as it is installed. 

Blocking the Drawer Slides and Setting Back from Case Front

Supporting the Drawer while Attaching the Slides

After putting the drawers in I moved on to the false fronts.  I had one gorgeous board of crotch cherry which I wanted to use for the all the fronts.  I cut the board to length and knew that I had no extra wood to spare in its width so I used a narrow kerf blade to rip all the drawer fronts.  

I measured each drawer front down from the next shelf and used shims to keep the spacing consistent through the cabinet.  I set some double stick tape on the drawer fronts to temporarily hold the false fronts in place while I affixed them with screws.  I was pretty happy to have chosen to use the thin kerf blade because it helps maintain grain continuity between drawer fronts and it turned out I needed every fraction of an inch possible.  On the last drawer front, to trim to width I had to remove only 1/32.

Thin Kerf Blade and Custom Width Drawer Front

Double Stick Tape and a Ruler for a Shim Between Drawer Fronts

Shimming the Sides of the Drawer Fronts

Attaching the Drawer Front with Screws

Once the screws were in place I drilled holes for the drawer pulls and then undid the screws and removed the false fronts for finishing. 

Marking Locations for the Ring Pulls

The Double Stick Tape is Ridiculously Strong

Some Temporary Pulls While Working on the Drawers

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Tool Chest - Assembly

With the panels prepped and ready to go it is time for glue up.  The sequence of events is no different than for a smaller dovetail box or drawer but due to the size I have to move quickly to stay ahead of the set up time for standard wood glue.  I use a small stick and apply glue to all surfaces in the joint on both pieces; press fit the joints and then hammer away with a block and mallet. 

Wide Boards are Double Clamped for Security When Assembling

Block and Mallet get Almost All the Work Done

These joints were quite snug and I ended up needing to put a pipe clamp onto each tail individually to drive them home. 

Pipe Clamps Bring it Home

With the first two joints done I was able to add in the ship lap back which was ¼” thick.  Sometime after cutting the dovetails I had routed a slot along the back of all the pieces to put the back in. 

The Carcase is Half Way Assembled

Ship Lap Panels in the Back

With the back panels in place I glued in the second side piece of the cabinet, it went in smoothly with hammering and clamping just like the previous joints.  

I left the dovetails a little shy of flush with the carcase sides, I wish I could say this was for a very good reason and intentional, but it seems I set my marking gauge a touch shy of optimal.  Which is too bad because the joints went together really well and now I have to spend some time bringing the sides flush down to the joints.  The first step to this was to traverse (plane sideways to the grain), this is a much quicker way to remove stock as the wood fibers tear more readily this way and a deeper cut is possible.  The next step was to plane with the grain, this is important for two reasons; the cris- cross pattern of the two techniques means that any small ridges left from the traversing are smoothed out.  It also leaves a much nicer surface behind than traversing.  


Planing With the Grain
The case is now nicely squared up and ready to make and install the drawers and hardware. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Allen Key Madness

I was cleaning up the screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and such and came at last to my box of miscellaneous allen keys.  Of course some are metric and some are imperial so I got out my callipers and figured out what was what as I set the errant keys back into their respective slots.  I've bought a few complete sets over the years and they have remained more or less intact; but extra keys have a way of finding their way into the tool chest and accumulate over time like the bags of almost finished nachos in the back of the kitchen cupboard.  I never throw one out because it just may be the size I need next time so into box of allens it goes.  After replenishing the sets as best as I could I still had a pile of extra allens miling about.  I would have assumed that they were in a variety of sized and units but it turns out 9 of the 25 extras were 5/32".  

Allen Madness
I have no idea where all these keys of the same size have come from but I think I'm safe to throw away at least 3 of them. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tool Chest - Cutting Dovetails

When building a solid wood chest dovetails running the full length seem like a no-brainer to me.  They are super strong, resist racking, mechanically advantageous, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.  Most importantly, they look awesome and are fun to build. 

I usually cut tails first, I do this because I am better at compensating for an off angle cut in my tails when cutting pins than the other way around.  Also, I like being able to cut two boards at the same time.  I lay out the spacing using a set of dividers and then use a saddle marker to trace the layout of the tails across the top of the boards and down the front. 

Stepping Off Tails With Dividers

Waste Marked and Ready to Saw

I have learned the hard way multiple times that if I don’t color in the waste with a pencil I will cut off the wrong part.  Heck, I’ve done it even with the colored in area right there beside me.  I usually notice it just as I pluck the waste away from the board.  Anyways, I saw with both my left and right hands;  I’ve found my mistakes are smaller regardless of which hand I’m sawing with as long as I have a good field of view on my work.  Due to the tilt on the saw to cut the dovetails I’ve gone to ambihanderous sawing and it does work better for me.  The left is a little slower and binds a little more often than the right but it still works out.  Once started the angle of the cut does not change, if it turns out that I’ve missed the mark it is better to finish out an incorrect angle with a straight cut than to try and correct and have a curved cut that finishes in the right place. 

Once done with the sides of the cut with the backsaw I use a fret saw to cut across the baseline.  This is where my techniques change based on the scale of the work.  On a small box or a drawer I will cut right across the line or very close to it and then clean up with a chisel after.  I have found that with larger case construction this doesn’t work as well for me.  With thicker materials I seem more likely to have a sloped cut with the fret saw which requires more chisel work. 

Due to the scale of the job I minimize the chisel work somewhat by switching to a trim router.  I set the trim router to the depth of cut matching the baseline and within a few minutes I have cleaned up a full 22” of joinery.  This works particularly well when cleaning up the tails as having two boards paired up to do at the same time is a real time saver and stability enhancer. 

With the tails cleaned up I transfer the marks onto the pin board, making sure to mark what the waste is.  Then, the process repeats itself until the pins are cleaned up and ready for fitting.  I like to mark with a dull knife blade because it leaves an indent where I can set a saw or chisel. 

Test fitting is a pretty short process, there are always a few cleanups to be done but if the lines are crisp and I clean right up to them it goes pretty well.  On a large case like this I only test fit about 1/3 of the way on each joint.  That is enough to find any problems and still allows the joint to come apart though it does take some persuading. 

Before assembling the case I wanted to add in a few details on the sides which will be most visible.  I decided to add on some supports across the cracks which were previously filled with epoxy.  These are likely unnecessary thanks to the epoxy and other case components but they are fun to do.  They go by the name of butterfly keys, bow ties, or dovetail keys; no matter what you call them their purpose is to help control cracking and keep boards together.  I have found that keeping them to within ½ of the thickness of the boards they are set into is a good idea; otherwise they can do more harm than good. 

I start by cutting out a variety of butterflies from thin plywood or cardboard and sliding them around until I like the layout.  Once satisfied those cardboard pieces become the templates to trace out on some scrap wood wich will become our inlay.  It is best to cut out the butterflies of the wood you will use and then use each butterfly to mark out its own recess.  Each one will vary a little and best results come from a case by case approach. 

Playing Around with the Layout

It's Faint but the Knife Lines Outlining the Excavation are Barely Visible

I use a knife to scribe around the butterflies and then remove most of the waste (staying away from the line about a 1/16th) with a trim router.  Then a bit of chisel work to clean up the recesses and time to test the fit.  Just like the joints tested above I only test a little bit of the fit and then remove it, bevel the underside edges and put some glue in the recess.  The keys are installed with a mallet and left slightly proud; then routed / sanded flush with the board. 

Butterflies with Their Mating Recesses

Proud Butterflies

All Four Boards Ready for Assembly