NBSS Week 13 – Shaker nightstand drawer bottom, making the top, gluing up the toolbox carcass and a lecture on wooden toys and puzzles

We jumped right in this week continuing our drawer construction for the shaker nightstand. Last week we cut the grooves for the drawer bottom so Monday and Tuesday we learned how to construct and fit that bottom.

First we milled the lumber in stages down to 3/8”, and then we used the one clamp spring joint method to glue 2 boards together to give us the desired overall width. Width in this case is the front to back dimension; the drawer bottom has 2 boards that run side to side with the end grain on the long edges so that wood movement occurs out the back of the drawer. After the glue up we learned how to trim the bottom for rough fit, then bevel 3 of the bottom edges to get a tight fit in the front and side grooves.

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After the bottom was fit tight, we cut a slot in the back for the single screw that holds the drawer bottom in place. We elongated the hole for that screw by carving a notch so that the drawer bottom can still move with the seasons.

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With the drawer now built we moved to gluing up the boards that will form the top of our nightstand. We selected the best grain match and then again used the 1 clamp spring joint method to glue these 2 (or 3) boards together. After that, we flattened both sides and smoothed the surfaces. I have chosen to use hard maple for my top and drawer front and although it is very pretty, it is also very hard. I had to sharpen my hand planes often throughout the flattening and smoothing process. I also had many areas of grain reversal, which made it difficult to get a smooth surface without any tear out. I had to employ the use of a very sharp blade in a low angle smoother that I also skewed while taking very light cuts to get the surface I desired.

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After that process was completed we flipped the board over and hand planed a bevel on the underside to give the table’s top a lighter visual appearance. This involved establishing the angle of taper and then marking that angle on the bottom and sides of the top. We then planed the short grain (end grain) sides to those lines first and then moved to the long grain sides to complete the bevel.

Here’s the table so far:

Also this week I glued up my toolbox carcass. This is quite an event at NBSS, because for many students this is the first time they have ever glued up a complicated and large project. For this reason they have us work in teams of 4. We began by each picking a side and applying glue to the dovetails on that side. Once the glue is applied we use clamps and cauls to seat the dovetails.

 

We then removed the clamps, moved to the opposite side, and applied glue to the dovetails on that side. Again we used clamps and cauls to seat the dovetails and then checked the carcass for square. If the carcass was out of square, the clamps had to be adjusted so that the clamping pressure would help establish square. My glue-up went pretty smoothly until we cleaned up the glue squeeze-out. Multiple methods exist for cleaning up glue squeeze-out. The top 3 are: use water to wipe it off immediately, carefully scrape it away immediately, or wait for it to dry to the leathery state and then scrape it off. I am usually a carefully scrape it off immediately type of guy but with multiple gluers for this project, I opted for my friend’s advice to clean it up with water. The problem was that Butternut is a species of wood with a high tannic acid content (I know this now) and tannic acid reacts with iron and creates a black staining effect. Normal tap water (which we were using) has enough iron to react with the Butternut and resulted in some black streaking and staining at the cleanup spots.

 

The lesson learned here is to use distilled water when cleaning up your glue squeeze-out with water; it’s just a small bit of insurance against any of those reactions occurring. Later in the week I was able to get most of the staining out by strategic sanding and scraping but it took an extra hour and a half.

In anticipation of the holidays this week our Lance lecture on Thursday was all about wooden toys and puzzles, the perfect gifts we as students could make for all of our loved ones. It was a very interesting experience as Lance began unloading all of the puzzles and challenging us to solve them while he lectured.

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We had a Rubik’s cube type of puzzle, knot puzzles, and even nail stacking games. After the lecture we got to play with some spinning tops and check out some of the wooden flutes that Lance had played, as well as learning the solutions to some of the more difficult to solve puzzles. Next week we perform the final drawer fitment on our shaker nightstand, fit the top, and skim all the surfaces in preparation for finishing. I also start making the drawer divider frames for the toolbox. Until then…

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