NBSS Week 10 – Shaker night stand part 2, beginning the NBSS toolbox, half-blind dovetails, a visit from Peter Follansbee, and some carving practice

We began this week learning how to cut the shaker night stand aprons to length, width, and final thickness. This involved learning how to rip on the table saw. “Ripping” is any cut where you are sawing the board along its grain. On the table saw this cut must be performed with at least one face flat and one edge square so that square edge can ride the fence and cut the other side parallel at the width you choose. Adjusting the fence adjusts the width of the cut.

Once we all completed our rip cuts we moved on to another table saw activity: learning how to install and use the dado stack. The dado stack is a group of blades that are installed together to create one large cutting sandwich that is useful for cutting large grooves or rabbets. We used this setup to cut the tenons in our aprons. This process involved first laying out the tenon on one board and then adjusting the dado stack for the proper height and width to cut the first side of the tenon. Once that cut was performed on all the aprons, we flipped them, adjusted the blade, and cut the second side.

 

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This involved having one of our legs at the saw and slowly raising the blade up in height until the tenon fit snuggly into the mortise (no adjustments are made to the width of cut). While we had this setting we made a few rabbets in the top drawer divider to make laying out the top rail dovetail easier. Then it was back to the bench to fine tune the joints for their final fitment. This took most of Monday and Tuesday morning; Tuesday afternoon we had a lecture on hand cutting half blind dovetails.

Dovetails are one of the best woodworking joints we use to join to edge grain surfaces together because it’s a mechanical joint. In the process of learning the technique to cut and fit the joint we got to re-visit hand saw technique, chisel sharpness and pairing, proper layout, and working to cut lines. After lecture we all went back to the bench and practiced a bit, here’s my sample pieces.

This was all in preparation for the top drawer divider, which just happens to be a half blind dovetail!

On Friday we then learned how to taper our table legs. This was a simple layout and cutting process on the band saw, followed by hand planing the surface clean to the layout lines. Getting overambitious with how close you cut “to” the line on the saw can lead to the taper running into the joints and a few of our classmates had to recut their spare legs (with all the joinery) to replace a leg they cut with a really bad taper. Here’s the nightstand as it stands now.

Our Thursday lecture this week featured guest speaker Peter Folensbee.

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Everyone was very excited to hear him speak as he is quite a well-known woodworker who specialized in “green” woodworking and carving. He demonstrated how he rives his lumber from a freshly felled tree and then processes it to the point where he begins furniture construction. He then gave us a quick background on the history of the types of pieces he builds and showed us some of the joinery he uses in the process. He ended by demonstrating some of his carving techniques and discussing the time frame to complete them and how that related to the overall cost of a piece. Very, very interesting!

The rest of the week I kept myself busy with the initial lumber milling for my NBSS toolbox (I’m using butternut!) as well as doing a little carving practice with a few different takes on the basket weave pattern.

I’m thinking of using the carvings on the next table I build, we’ll see. Next week, another fieldtrip, shaker nightstand part 3, and some toolbox dovetails…

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