Monday, January 24, 2011

Museum Show Chiffonier

Here's the next installment on the making of the chiffonier that I'll be showing at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History show the coming summer.

Two of the most distinctive elements of this piece's design are the sculpted bonnet and base. Both are made of wenge, a dark, dense, black/brown wood, that will give weight to and ground the piece. Both are stack laminated and then shaped. This series of photos shows the steps involved in making the bonnet:

First, pieces are face-laminated to achieve the required thickness for shaping. In this case, to accommodate the width of the part, it was made in three sections and then glued together after shaping (you can see the mortises for the floating tenons that will help with both alignment and glue joint strength) ....

Next, the built up blanks are rough cut to shape on the band saw....

Finally, the subparts are glued together and the entire piece is shaped ....

The base was created in much the same way, with the pieces in each layer being bandsawn roughly to size before glue-up, then the whole part being shaped afterward ....

Stay tuned for the next installment on the making of this piece, when I'll talk about the distinctive features of it's seven drawers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Desk Continues ....

Happy New Year, and welcome back after what hopefully was a good Holidays with a minimum of weather-related headaches.

Well, the desk is moving right along. The slabs are finished, and the structure of the cases is taking shape. Because the walnut slabs are so large, and in their "natural" state, some stabilization was the first order of business.

In the small slab, there were a couple of significant cracks that could continue to open over time with seasonal movement, so I bridged them with butterfly inlays. Butterflies are a very elegant way to stabilize natural slabs, first popularized by George Nakashima. It involves cutting bow tie-shaped pieces of hardwood and inlaying them across a crack. These are wenge, and are about 3/8" thick. In the picture you can see the simple band saw jig used to mill them, and the finished product.

The large desktop slab presented a different challenge. Surprisingly, there were no cracks to deal with, but at over 2" thick, and nearly 40" wide in some parts, cupping over time would be inevitable - in fact, it started to move around a we were surfacing it on the big CNC router! So braces were installed to keep it as flat as possible. Of course you can't just screw a brace to a piece of wood that size, or seasonal movement would eventually cause unwanted damage. Screwing the brace on with elongated holes to allow for movement is a popular technique, but the screw heads are unsightly. So, as with last summer's bench, the most elegant solution is sliding dovetails. To accomplish this, good stout braces of straight-grain ipe were milled with four 2" long integral dovetail pins. Matching sockets were then routed into the underside of the slab, and the brace dropped in and slid home. The dovetails allow the slab to expand and contract with environmental changes, and keep everything in plane.

With the finish on them the slabs look pretty great!

The next step is putting together the casework that these babies will sit on. The cases will be made using web frame construction, in which each part is made of a solid wood frame filled with a plywood panel. This method allows for the strength and edge/corner durability of solid wood, but avoids the problems associated with seasonal movement and cross-grain joinery. The only down side is that all those frames mean lots of frame members to cut joinery into (I'm using floating tenons) and to pre-finish before they can be assembled (the picture only shows about half the panels).

That's where we are, so stay tuned as the work progresses.