NBSS Week 14 – Final fitting of the shaker night stand drawer, attaching the top, final surface preparation for finishing, and a primer on milk paint and shellac

This week began with the final drawer fitment of the shaker night stand. We began the process by hand planing the 2 sides and the back free all of surface machine marks. For many, just this little bit of material removal created enough clearance for the drawer to fit tight within the drawer opening. Once this tight initial fit was achieved we began to refine the clearances to allow for seasonal wood movement and smooth drawer operation.

The bottom of the drawer should rest tightly against the bottom drawer divider; to achieve this fit you first make sure the drawer sits flat. We took the drawer to a known flat surface (the cast iron bed of one of our tablesaws), set the drawer down, and pressed on all four top corners to determine whether the drawer had any rocking. If our drawer was not flat we returned to our benches where we skimmed material from the bottom of the drawer until it sat flat. After achieving the bottom fit, we moved to the sides. We want the drawer to sit in the center of the drawer opening so we removed material from each side until we had the clearance of a business card’s thickness on both sides. Then we created the top clearance, where we were shooting for a reveal of the thickness of a credit card (with the raised numbers).

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Once these reveals were created we had to install drawer stops/guides that allow the drawer to run parallel in the opening during operation. This same guide also functions to ensure that when closing the drawer, it stops flush with the outside of the table.

With the drawer now done it was time to attach the top. This involved centering the base of the table on the bottom of the top and using an awl to mark the points where we wanted to drill for the screws that will hold the top on. Then we drilled the holes, paying attention to the depth of each so as not to drill through the top. The rear two holes had to be drilled at the same angle as the pocket holes we created in the rear apron. Once drilled we then used a countersink bit to create a slight chamfer in each hole to ensure a tight fit between the base of the table and the top when everything gets screwed together. Here’s the table ready for final surface preparation.

Anticipating that most students are close to being ready to begin finishing the shaker night stand, we had a few lectures throughout the week on final surface preparation, milk paint, and shellac. The surface preparation involves hand sanding the surfaces of the table first with 150 grit sandpaper, then wetting the surface with a mist of water to “raise the grain,” then sanding with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface again. We “raise the grain” in the surface preparation stage because we are using a water based finish (milk paint). Without this step, the first application of finish will raise the grain and cause that first coat to be rough and uneven. Most of the finish would have to be sanded off to achieve a smooth surface again. We then learned how to mix and apply milk paint and the process that we will be using to ensure the painted surface has an even color and smooth surface. We also learned about shellac and how to mix and apply it. We will be using shellac to finish the inside surfaces of the table, the drawer, and the top.

Also this week I made and fitted the drawer dividers for my toolbox. This involved learning how to cut mortises using the router. Our drawer dividers are ½” thick so our mortises and tenons in the drawer divider frames were 3/16”. Once the mortises and tenons where all cut, it was back to the bench to fit the joints and glue up each divider. Once the frames were glued up I had to fit each frame to dado’s in the carcass. This involved first hand planning the dividers flush and flat on the top and then doing the same to the bottom until the divider slides from back to front tightly. Once this fit was achieved the dividers all had to be notched on the front. Here’s what the toolbox looks like so far.

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The Lance lecture this week was a primer on bent laminations. This is a technique were you saw up thin pieces of wood and then glue them back together while bending in a form to create complex curves and shapes. He gave us a brief history of the use of the technique and also explained some of the advances that have been made in the process due to advances in glue technology. He showed many furniture examples built using bent laminations and one chair by Thomas Hucker really appealed to me, maybe I might consider building this in the future? We’ll see…

Next week we begin painting the night stand, applying shellac to the inside surfaces, the drawer, and the top, and I begin to fit the vertical dovetailed drawer partition in my toolbox, until then…

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