Now onto the most iconic feature of the Goddard-Townsend Newport furniture, the shell carving. The top drawer of the either the three or four drawer chests receives one concave carved in place shell and two convex applied shell carvings. The center rosette of the shell carvings have many different variants, they various styles of the pedals within the rosette seem to correlate to the date the chest was made, this particular chest which was from 1765 featured double pedals in the rosettes.
A couple of notes about the shell carvings in general; the carving is not for the faint of heart, the grain is always changing direction. The center rosette is some of the most intense carving I have every experienced, the close proximity of the pedals an small overall size of the rosette make this a real challenge.
First the pattern is traced onto the top drawer, we use transfer paper to accomplish this task.
Next the concave area of blocking must be removed from under the concave shell carving, the pattern for this shape is arrived at from the pattern of blocked front drawers. After the area is removed, we mark down 7/16" at the center rosette area and using a compass scribe the material that must be removed from the remainder of the convex shell.
Black lines show area that must be excavated..
Lots of material must be removed, the very edge of the concave area is shaped with a #5-25 Swiss gouge
The remainder is removed with a #7 or #8 gouge, then finally smoothed with a #3
The rosette and rays are transferred to the stock, the area around the outside of the rosette is lowered down 1/16".
The rays that are marked in black and white, will be concave rays. the area we be further excavated with #8 sweep gouges, right up to the line of the termination of the ray. After all the concave rays are carved, the next process will be to move onto the convex rays, these are carved (not shown) using #1 gouges. The trick is to get nice flow from concave to convex (sinusoidal).
The concave carving on this particular John Townsend chest featured a concave shell that had a 'flat' at the base of each convex ray, its kind of hard to tell this is a concave shell (but it is), We see the area between the rosettes volutes being removed.. This chest also featured a semi-circular area between the rosettes which is kind of unusual. Used a tiny vee tool (3mm) to relieve the area above and between the petals, then the petals and area around the petals were 'chipped' carved using a #3 fishtail gouge.
Now onto the convex shells. A previously mentioned, the good news is the convex shells are applied to the top drawer front, so a major or minor catastrophe during carving does not mean throwing away the top drawer as with the concave shell carving. First the rough shell is screwed to a plywood backer board, by securing the carving with screws, it allows us to remove the carving to perform some 'touch-ups" and adjustments..
Center line on convex shell is draw in, the shape for the block front is drawn in on the bottom of the shell using the drawer pattern as a template. As shown here, some of the bulk material from the front edge was removed using a large 20mm #1 carving gouge.
After much of the bulk material is removed from the front edge, the shell is removed from the backer and a rasp and finally a spokeshave is used to complete the shaping of the front edge of the shell. Also on the rear of the carving the outline of the shell rays are traced, this step will allow the edge of the concave rays to be 'tweaked' with rifflers.
The shape for the rays, the center medallion are drawn on the front of the shell, here we see the area beneath the lower ray has been lowered, the lowered area matches the block front contour.
Here we see the area surrounding the center medallion has been lowered down 1/16". Next (not shown) the marking for the rays are drawn in up to the center medallion, after the all rays have been redrawn a vee tool is used to define the rays, the convex rays are carved first using a #1 chisel to complete the task. The concave rays are carved with various sizes of #8 sweep gouges.
The John Townsend four drawer block and shell features three conventional "blocked" drawers that are sawn from one piece of 2 5/8" thick South American Mahogany. The top drawer is constructed differently in that the two applied convex shell and the carved in place concave shell produce the required "blocking" effect.
I was fortunate to get a single piece of 12/4" SA Mahogany that would supply all the drawer fronts (plus one extra) from a single board, so more than 90% of this chest was constructed from three pieces of SA Mahogany, pretty cool.
Here are all the machined drawer fronts stacked on top of each other to show the consistent color and grain only available from being cut from one stick of lumber.
Next we trace the block front pattern on the top and bottom of the drawer fronts.
Next a marking gauge is used to mark out the critical flat section on the front and back of the drawer front, the most critical is the flat section that will the drawer sides will be half blind dovetailed to.
Off to the tablesaw, where we create a shoulder cut next to the critical flat sections.
Next the "cheek" cuts on the front and rear of the drawer front are cut.
After both ends of the flat sections are cut, we temporarily attach a block of wide scrap wood to provide extra support for the drawer front during the bandsaw operation.
Completed drawer front.
Finally the back of the drawer front gets a similar treatment.
You will have to excuse me, I didn't take any photos of the bandsawn drawer fronts being cleaned up. This process was tedious, it used rasps, cabinet files. planes and carving gouges to clean up the bandsawn surface. Here are the cleaned up drawer fronts installed (temporarily) the case. Notice that the top drawer is awaiting its "blocking" process, which will occur in the next step..
After the foot construct tour de force, its kind of nice to undertake a straight forward task occasionally, there are precious few straight forward tasks during the construction of this chest. Next up is the top of the case, the case top is constructed from a one board wide piece of South American Mahogany (20" wide x 37" L x 13/16" t). As previously mentioned, I was fortunate to receive a single wide and long piece of SA Mahogany from my lumber supplier that would yield the case case sides and the case top.
In this photo we see the case top ready to be planed to the proper thickness (13/16"), because of the width of this piece, this task was done using hand planes. After hand planing the case sides and the case top, one now understands why the master employed apprentices :-)
The case top is affixed to case with screws. The screws in the front stretcher are standard non-slotted holes, the rear stretcher uses slotted screw holes, that provide room for expansion and contraction of the 20" wide top. The middle of the case is secured with a wood button, the button rides in a wide slot that also provides room for expansion and contraction.
The edge profile for the case top is via a Amana Tool table top router bit. A couple of things that need to be noted about these bits, they big and remove a tremendous amount of wood, secondly since these bits shape the entire edge of the top, a full size pattern must be used. The solution to issue #1, is to replace the stock 5/8" OD bearing with various sizes of larger OD bearings (every router bit manufacture has a router bearing kit), the final pass is done with the stock 5/8" OD bearing fitted.
Here we see the full size patter affixed to the underside of the case top, notice the pattern is wider than the case top, this allows the "lead in" area before the bit actually starts cutting the edge.
We are now at the foot construction phase of the project, the bracket feet on the John Townsend block and shell chest. First we will start with the construction of the rear bracket feet.
All of the bracket feet for this chest where cut from this single billet of Mahogany..
After layout of the feet, the side profile of the feet are bandsawn.
The back foot on this chest is sliding dovetailed into the rear foot. Here we first see a dado being cut into the rear foot to ease the strain on the dovetail bit, the next picture shows the sliding dovetail pin being cut in the rear foot.
Next the sliding dovetail "tail" is cut into the back foot.
Here we see the back foot assembled and glued, also note that the side profile of the rear foot has been drawn onto the rear foot.
The side profile of the rear foot will be shaped at the bandsaw. Here we see the back foot secured on a platform 90 degrees to the blade, we then shape the profile of the rear ogee foot.
The rear ogee foot on this chest are unusual in that the back edge of the rear ogee foot receives the same profile as the side of the foot. The trick is how to properly draw the profile on the back of the rear foot, after the rear foot has already been shaped? The trick that I am using was borrowed from none other than Alf Sharp (I borrow ideas from the best), using a scrap of poplar the side profile of the rear foot it sawn into the scrape, the "waste" portion of the scrap is kept. Next the profile for the back edge of the right and left rear ogee foot, is drawn on the scrape and bandsawn. The scrap is now registered on the rear foot (as shown the right rear foot) and the profile is traced ontp the foot..
The profile of the back of the rear right foot..
Next it's bandsawn...
Now onto the front feet, the front feet are mitered and glued with a spline.
Lets talk about the front feet on a "Newport style" block and shell chests, the sides of the front feet are constructed and can be shaped like a typical ogee foot. The front feet follow the shape of the "blocking" of the front of the chest, to further complicate matters, as the "blocked" portion of the front foot gracefully meets the "non-blocked" portion of the front foot, the transition is terminated with a volute..
After the glued has cured, the assembled front foot is mounted to a platform and the profile of the sides of the front feet are bandsawn to shape (we are shaping the non-blocked, right and left sides of the front foot).
Next the front foot is mounted into another platform that registers the bottom of the foot, 90 degrees to the bandsaw blade. We use one of the offcuts to assist with the clamping. Notice the portion of the front foot that is marked with white pencil, this area will be removed from the front of the foot, removing this waste will make carving the front foot easier and quicker.
Here is the front foot after the "non-blocked" portion of the waste is removed, notice that we stop short of the tell tale glue line with the waste removal. The profile of the front foot "non-blocked" portion of the foot can clearly be seen in this photo..
Next the foot is clamped in a shoulder vise and the termination shape of the "blocked" portion of the front foot is drawn on the foot (notice the pattern on the work bench). In the next step the portion marked with white pencil will need to be removed with carving gouges.
Removing the waste.
Blocked termination rough out complete.
Next the "non-blocked" profile of the front foot is carved, this task is not as daunting as it seems, as the glue line at the miter shows what material must be removed,,
Next the profile for the "blocked" portion of the front foot must be shaped and carved (volute). This task is slow and tedious, lots of removing wood and testing the fit on the front of the chest. Here I use a scribe to mark the rough shape of the "blocked" portion of the foot, the shape of the "blocked" portion as see from the top is marked directly from the the front molding..
Here is a what the completed front foot should look like test fit, unfortunately I neglected to take any photos of the carving of the volute.
The bottom case molding on the John Townsend four drawer block and shell is a fairly challenging piece, the bottom case molding assembly is designed as a web frame. The beauty of the web frame design allows the molding to be very securely attached to the chest and most importantly it allows the case sides to expand and contract.. The front molding receives two mortises, the two stile and the rear rail are joined with floating tendons.
The front molding is milled from a piece of 1 1/2" thick x 3 7/8" wide piece of Mahogany, Sketchup produces a pattern for the bottom case molding, here we see the molding after the profile has rough band sawn, being pattern routed.
A custom made router bit was ground with the molding profile, this bit is large and heavy, it removes a tremendous amount of material. When shaping the front molding we staged the cut replacing the 5/8" bearing with a 1 1/8" bearing, then proceeded to a one size smaller bearings for each successive pass...
Here we see taking a pass with a larger installed bearing..
This wacky looking offset router base flush trims a surface level with the rear portion of the base. We will use this setup to remove 1/8" from the top of the molding, the removed 1/8" will 'hide' the joint between the web frame and the bottom of the main case.
Here we see the offset router base in action..
The final fitting of the scribed recess needs to be accomplished with carving tools..
After the recess has been cut and the front molding corners carved, we are off to the slot mortiser to cut mortises for the stiles of the web frame..
The front molding is purposely left long, the molding is temporarily clamped to the case (no shown) and the length of excess material is scribed from the case. Here we see the excess material being cut off up to the rear of the molding.
After the exact length miters of the molding is marked in with a knife from the case, here we see the dry assembled web frame.
At the miter saw to make the cuts..
Here we see the bottom side case moldings after being shaped with the custom bit, the two lengths of molding are being cut free on the table saw.
Finally the bottom side moldings glued and nailed to the web frame
After the drawer blades have been prepared, we then need to perform a fair amount of jointery on the case sides. Here is a quick overview of the jointery involved:
Since there is so much going on with the case jointery we will divide this post into three parts
6) Here we see the area at the top of the case side that needs to be excavated to receive the top rail. Notice that the bead has been removed from the area, next we need to rebate the marked off area 3/16" (the diameter of the bead).
Area removed 3/16"
Mitering excavated area..
Now time to mark and cut the dovetail sockets for the upper rail, notice how the bead and excavated area has been mitered..
the top rail being prepared for miter and dovetail tails.
Finally the glued up main case assembly, whew..
After the drawer blades have been prepared, we then need to perform a fair amount of jointery on the case sides. Here is a quick overview of the jointery involved:
Since there is so much going on with the case jointery we will divide this post into three parts
3) We see the case sides receiving a 1/2" wide dado, this dado will house the web frame that contains the drawer runners, center drawer runner, dust panels and the front sub-blade.
4) A router is used to cut the sliding dovetail sockets for the three drawer blades, first we use a smaller straight bit to cut clearance for the dovetail bit..
Finally the dovetail socket is cut with a dovetail bit
The drawer blades have been machined with the same dovetail bit used to cut the dovetail socket, here we see one of the four miter's being cut on the case drawer blades. The miter's are cut with a 45 degree block and a very sharp chisel.
A chisel and the 45 degree block is used to cut the miter's on each side of the front case drawer blade sliding dovetails..
After the drawer blades have been prepared, we then need to perform a fair amount of jointery on the case sides. Here is a quick overview of the jointery involved:
Since there is so much going on with the case jointery we will divide this post into three parts
Also worth mentioning is the case sides have been beaded with a 3/32" radius bead on the inner most edge of the case sides, each drawer opening has a 3/32" bead surrounding the drawer, mitered on each intersection.
1) Here we see the bottom of case being half blind dovetailed, also notice the bead on the inside edge.
2) The front most dovetail socket is actually a bare faced half blind dovetail, here we see a jig used to cut in the dovetail angle with a chisel
Finally the miter is being cut with a sharp chisel and a 45 degree block.
Completed front socket ready to receive the bottom of case drawer blade.
Here is the bottom drawer blade with the dovetail tails already cut, the front most tail receives a miter that will mate with the socket cut in the prior photo
Next step is to shape the drawer blades, we accomplish this task by creating a master pattern from SketchUp and affix the master pattern to some 1/2" baltic birch plywood. The master pattern is bandsawn and very carefully shaped using a spindle sander, chisels, raps and files. We then affix the master pattern to the raw drawer blades to rough shape the blades on the bandsaw, then finally pattern route the drawer blades to the final shape.
A white pencil from the art supply store is a helpful addition to any woodworker working darker lumber. Bandsawing the profile leaving a good 1/16".
Using a spiral double ball bearing flush trim to clean up the bandsawn edge.
Next a slotting bit is used to create the rough shape for the 3/32" radius bead on the front of the drawer blades.
Close up of the slotting bit
Finally a 3/32" radius beading bit is used to complete the shaping of the bead..
The result (note: this is a picture of the bottom drawer blade that only has a single bead, unlike the three upper drawer blades) of all the machine shaping. These drawer blades are not complete without plenty of hand work!
Here we see the radii of the drawer blades refined with a nice sharp chisel.
Finally the bead is refined with carving tools and very fine rifflers.
Luckily LaPlaca WoodWorks was able to source two rather large pieces of South American Mahogany that will comprise 90% of the chest from Irion Lumber. The first piece is 4/4 (t) x 22" (w) x 9' 9(l), pictured below;
The good news is this single board is large enough to yield the two case sides and the top. The bad news is the piece was damaged by the freight company, both ends of the board were broken about 24" up from each end of the board.
After thinking about the issue for a while, I felt the best course of action was to layout the sides and top on the board, each case side was towards the end of the board, the top was in the center of the board (thankfully undamaged at that point). After removing the smallest piece of the fractured part of the board, we glued up the damaged areas of both case sides in the rough.
Since the lumber is too wide for my 16" jointer, the only way the top and both sides can be processed is via hand planes. Here we see removing any wind from a case side with a heavily cambered jack (fore) plane.
After being cleaned up with a jointer and smoother planes, the case side looks pretty good, the broken area is very hard to detect, the only telltale is the dark line on the end grain. At this point the case side is only cut to rough length (approximately + 1 1/2"), after the case side is cut to actual length, the repair will be undetectable.
The latest project we will undertake is a John Townsend four drawer block and shell chest. This is a very formidable project, from two angles; the blocked drawer fronts and the carving skill required to for the two concave and single convex shells.
This particular chest is from the book 'Master Craftsman of Newport, the Townsends and the Goddards' by Michael Moses and Israel Sack. The chest is featured on a full page color plate (#3) in the book, the photography is wonderful, this is one serious book, the detailed photographs are amazing (both color and black and white).
Anyway, we modeled the complete chest as usual in SketchUp, the exception was the three shell carvings, I must confess that I could not figure out a way to model the shells... The chest is going to be constructed from South American Mahogany that we sourced from Irion Lumber, the secondary wood is going to be Yellow Poplar.
After the construction of the chests has been completed, the chests are sanded to 180 grit. The next step in the finishing schedule is to raise the grain on all Mahogany components with distilled water, after the grain raising has dried, we finial sand the chests with 220 grit sandpaper. After very carefully masking off parts that will not receive color, the Mahogany components were dyed with a diluted solution of Lockwood Cuban Mahogany dye. A couple of coats of blond 1 pound cut shellac is used to lock the dye into the wood, the Mahogany parts were then glazed with General Finishes Nutmeg gel stain, the gel stain greatly accentuates the color and lodges in the details to make the piece appear older. After the gel stain has properly cured (a couple of days is best) a couple of coats of 1 pound garnet shellac is applied. Finally, the chests receive three coats of Waterlox Original Sealer Finish (OSF)..
We are getting to the final stages of the construction of the chests, at this point we have completed construction of the drawers, the drawer sides, back and bottom are all constructed from 1/2" Yellow Poplar. The drawer sides are half blind dovetailed to the drawer fronts, the drawer back is through dovetailed to the drawer sides. Dovetailing of the drawers has been completed entirely by hand (not documented with pictures). The final stage of drawer construction is the drawer bottoms, which are a glue up of two boards of 1/2" Poplar.
Since the dado in the drawer sides is 1/4", the drawer bottoms are milled with a raised panel bit on a router table..
Finally the drawer bottom is secured into the drawer dado with screws with a slotted groove to allow for expansion and contraction..
The finial detail in construction of the drawers is two create the mortise in the drawer blades that will receive the drawer locks bolt. The mortise is created using drawer lock chisels..
After the drawer front milling process has been completed, at LaPlaca WoodWorks we find it easiest to install the hardware on the drawer fronts before the drawers are actually dovetailed.
For this piece we chose to use half mortised drawer locks on the larger bottom three drawers, the locks that we used are Horton Brass LK-4. An important point to remember, on most half mortised locks the center of the lock pin is usually not centered on the lock body, this is case with the locks we used for this piece. Since we needed to install a total of six locks, we chose to make some jigs to make the task easier. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we modeled the three jigs from an article from Fine Woodworking #145, we needed to make adjustments to account for lipped drawer fronts..
The first jig is used to create the key hole centered on the drawer front, two holes are drilled (1/4" and 1/8") using brad point bits..
Next the mortise for the lock plate needs to be milled, I chose to make the lock plate jig a bit on the small side, invariably the plates on brass locks tend to all be slightly different sizes. First I use a marking gauge to establish where I want the bottom of the plate to reside..
After the lock plate jig is attached to the back of the drawer, a small router is used with a top bearing pattern bit.
Here we see the lock body template attached to the back of the drawer (notice how the lock body is offset from the center line of the drawer)
Since this is a deeper mortise we use a full size router and a longer pattern bit to excavate the lock body..
The routing process for the mortise for lock plate and body completed, next the corners for the lock plate and the lock body need to be squared up using a nice sharp chisel. Additionally the mortise for the selvedge (top of the lock plate) needs to done by hand also..
Starting process to mortise the selvedge area
Completed lock mortise..
Finally with the lock installed..
Whew, now that the six locks have been installed, it now time to focus on the Chippendale plate pulls that we sourced from Londonderry Brasses. The pulls are constructed of four piece parts, two posts, the pull handle and finally the plate itself. The drawer fronts need two 1/4" holes drilled to receive the posts.
The back of the drawer needs a counter bore, this is done since the lock posts are not long enough for the 7/8" thick drawer fronts. In the 18th century cabinet makers had the same issue, they solved the short post problem by chiseling a mortise around the post, i used a 5/8" forstner bit to perform the counter bore.
Notice the authentic square brass nuts..
There is actually quite a bit of preparation that needs to be completed before the drawers can be dovetailed..The drawers for this piece features lipped thumbnail profiled drawer fronts..
After the drawer fronts are finial milled and cut to proper size, the thumbnail profile on the drawer fronts need to be milled on the fronts of the drawer.. We perform this task on the router table using a 1/4" radius round over bit.
Drawer front with thumbnail profile..
Next a rabbet (rebate) needs to milled along the back of the drawer fronts, the 1/4" x 1/4" rabbet is cut on the top and each side of the drawer front. The rabbet is cut on the table saw using a dado stack, here we are milling the rabbets on the sides of the drawers
After the lip is milled on the back of the drawer fronts, we next need to mill the 1/4" x 3/8" dado that will house the drawer bottom.
At LaPlaca WoodWorks We try to build our reproduction pieces using traditional materials, so instead of using plywood for the back of the case, we use wide secondary boards instead. For this chest the back boards are 1/2" thick Poplar ship lapped boards with a vee grooved edge.
At the router table we use a vee router bit to profile the edge of the board
After the edges are Vee grooved we next need to cut the dado for the ship lapping, the dado is 1/4" x 1/2" cut on alternating sides of the board..
Next the edge of the dado needs to be profiled with the vee groove bit, this is done on the router table, after resetting the fence..
The chests with the vee grooved ship lapped back boards installed..
We first need to make a full size template for the case top, the full size template is necessary because the router bit we will use to shape the edge of the case top profiles the entire edge, without the template the bit would continue to cut into the the edge of the top, the bits bearing needs a reference surface, which is the MDF template..
The case top features a rounded edge that seems to be the style during the 1760's, we printed out the profile from Sketchup, glued the paper template to some 1/4" plywood. After the 1/4" plywood template was properly shaped the template was used to shape the actual 3/4" MDFf top template..
I was fortunate enough to get Mahogany lumber wide enough to make the case top from one 21" wide Mahogany board. The only way that I can process such a wide board is completely by hand.
The tool of choice to perform the initial flattening is a jack plane with a cambered blade.. This tool takes pretty thick shavings and quickly rough flattens the board, removing any twist (wind), after finishing with the jack plane the next plane that is used is a very lightly cambered jointer plane..
Yeah that's a Lie-Neilsen #5 jack
Next we see a photo of the top with one side properly flattened (face down to the bench). After one face has been flattened, a marking gauge is used to mark the boards thickness (13/16") around the perimeter, the gauge line is used as a reference when processing the second side of the board.. As a side note, we need to remove a good healthy 1/4" of Mahogany, lets just say if one did this on a daily basis, there would be no need for gym memberships, it is quite the workout. Now I remember why a bought such a wide european jointer/planer, but alas it is not wide enough to process the wood for the chest top..
The top after both sides have been planed, the top "glows" from being hand planed, there is nothing quite like the finish from a hand plane..
The template affixed to the bottom of the top.
The bit used to shape the edge of the top is pretty large and takes off a tremendous quantity of material. I cut the profile on the case top using multiple passes, I replace the stock 1/2" bearing with a 1 1/8" bearing for the first pass, then each successive pass the next smaller bearing is placed on the bit..
One of the early stage passes.
After the final pass, the bit leaves a bit of clean up work that must be completed by hand. First the thin piece of Mahogany that was not shaped needs to be fared into the rest of the profile, this can be easily accomplished with a very sharp low angle block plane.
Finally the corner profile needs to be cleaned up with some carving gouges to complete the edge profile process..
Last, but not least, the cove molding the resides under the case top needs to be milled and attached to the case. The cove bit is a 1/2" radius cove bit (seen in the router table).
Molding installed under top. Since this molding is being attached in the traditional fashion, only the front molding (which is a long grain glue-up) and the first few inches of the right and left side molding (cross grain) can be glued to the case sides..
Next is the construction of the two Mahogany fluted quarter columns that flank the drawers. I can speak for myself, the construction of the columns is without a doubt the most challenging part of the construction of these chests. The quarter columns are constructed from four pieces of 1 1/4 square stock, two of the columns are Mahogany, the other two columns are Poplar.
Here the two Mahogany quarter columns are being glued with brown paper separating the two quarters.
Planing the two Poplar quarter columns.
Final glue up of the four quarter columns, I used hot hide glue suppressed with 20% salt to perform the glue up..
Blank mounted in the lathe, the profile of the top and bottom of the capitals.
The complete turned columns are mounted in a jig to start the fluting process..
After the columns are fluted, the four quarters are separated from each other. I found I got the least amount of drama during the separation process if I soaked the columns in a tub of hot water, the hot water loosens the bond of the hide glue and keeps the quarter column from exploding into a million pieces DAMHIKT.. Here we see the quarter column glued in the case with the top and bottom blocks..
The chest features bracket ogee feet, the feet are constructed from 8/4 Mahogany (1 7/8" net). The front feet are mitred and splined, the rear feet are dovetailed to the secondary back feet..
We are using a 1 3/8" Famag Bormax forstner bit to shape the 3/4 circle part of the foot. Lots of chips
The Famag Bormax did a wonderful job, crisp and clean..
After a visit on the bandsaw the foot is starting to take shape..
After a visit on the spindle sander, the next phase of the foot construction can take place.. Here we see the rear feet receiving half blind dovetails, we use a forstner bit to remove most of the waste between pins, the rest is done using chisels..
A completed rear foot assembly..
The front feet need to be mitred, for this project I chose to use the tablesaw.. If I had to do the task again, I would pick my sliding chop saw..
Next we use a dado stack (two outer blades only) to cut a 1/4" dado for the front feet splines..
Here we see the rear feet receiving the ogee profile, the foot is placed on a platform and the profile is bandsawn.
Here is one of the front feet receiving the ogee profile on the second side of the foot.. You can clearly see the 'glue joint' which is the tell tale for the second pass on the bandsaw..
A foot after both sides of the front feet have been shaped on the bandsaw.. Next the foot needs some work with block plane, rasps, cabinet files and a scraper..
Finally, the finished foot complete with glue blocks, is screwed and glued to the bottom sub-frame.. The only missing component of the bracket feet are glue blocks to reinforce the miter..You can also see the Mahogany bottom of case molding attached to the Poplar sub-frame.
The chest subase frame will be mounted to the bottom of the assembled case with slotted screws, the assembled bracket feet and the bottom case moldings will be attached to the subase frame. The frame is a solution to preventing a cross grain gluing issue with the lower case moldings.. The styles have very deep 1 1/2" tendons, I used the rather untraditional European style loose mortise and tendons..
Below is a picture of the 3/8" x 3" loose tendon with a glue groove cut..
Here we see the frame screwed to the bottom of the case, the front facing style is traditionally screwed, the rails and rear facing style is screwed using slotted screw holes.. The slotted screws will account for the seasonal wood movement, between the main case and the frame.. As we will see later in the build process, the bottom case molding is only attached to the frame, as are the case feet..
We leave the frame over size by about a 1/16 on the front and sides, we will use a flush trimming router bit to make sure the frame is absolutely flush with the rest of the case..
We use a Whiteside 3282 cove and bead with a B2 beading replacing the normal B3 1/2" bearing
The Mahogany bottom case molding is mitered and glued and nailed to the sub-frame (only!). The sub-frame prevents any cross grain glue issues, as if it were just attached to the case sides.
The photo below show the top drawer blade and top drawer center divider being glued into the case. The top drawer center divider is blind sliding dovetailed into the top drawer blade, the notch in the top of the top drawer center divider receives the front case rail, the front case rail has two tendons 1/4" x 1/2" that will fit into the the front case styles (the three parts are currently sitting on the top of the case)..
The front case rail and styles being glued up and clamped, the piece of MDF is a spacer to keep everything square..
Close up of hidden screws used to secure the front rails to the drawer blades along with a well placed dab of hide glue.. The recessed area will eventually receive the corner columns, the quarter columns will hide the screws..
Finally we need to finish the joinery for the drawer runners and the front and rear drawer blades. The front and rear drawer blades will have three 1/4" x 13/16" mortises cut in them, the drawer runners will have 1/4" x 3/4" tendons cut on each end of the runner, only front end of the drawer runners tendons will be glued, the back tendons will be dry to allow for expansion and contraction of the case sides..
Pictured is the drawer blade sub-back (the drawer blade sub-back will be glued to the front Mahogany drawer blade) receiving a 1/4" x 3/8" dado, this dado will contain the drawer dust panels.
The rear drawer blade receiving a 1/4" x 13/16" mortise..
The Minimax Elite slot mortiser does a beautiful job..
The drawer runners receiving the 1/4" x 3/4" tendons on the tablesaw with a dado stack..
Finally the front drawer blade can be glued to the drawer blade sub-back.
Clean-up of the front drawer blades with a card scraper..
After the case bottom. case sides and the top of case stretchers are all glued up, we can now complete the joinery necessary for the front and rear drawer blades. The front and rear drawer blades will have 5/16" x 2", 7 degree sliding dovetail pins cut on them, the drawer blade pins will fit into a housed sliding dovetail socket that consists of a 7/8"x 1/8" dado and a 5/8" x 5/16" x 2", 7 degree sliding socket.
Since housed sliding dovetails are (ahem) fussy joints, a good tip is to make sure that the guide bushing is set concentric to the armature of the router, Dewalt includes a cone device with the 618 series router. Even with all this care, one still may need to touch up the width of the dado with a side rabbet plane..
First cut is the 7/8"x 1/8" dado, we mount a 1 1/4" guide bushing in the router and use a 7/8" wide straight bit to cut the dado.
After the dados are all cut, next up is the 5/8" x 5/16" x 2", 7 degree sliding socket. The router has a 5/8" 7 degree dovetail bit mounted, we are still using a 1 1/4" guide bushing..
The competed housed sliding dovetail socket..
Finally we use the same 5/8" 7 degree dovetail bit, this time mounted in the router table to cut the 5/16" x 2" sliding dovetail pin on the end of the front and rear drawer blades.. A good tip here is to purchase two identical router bits, mount one in the router in the table, the other bit in the hand held router (I used Whiteside D7-625 dovetail bits)
The first step in the main case joinery involves blind dovetailing the case bottom to the case sides. We mark the waste with a white charcoal pencil, just in case..
Results after the blind dovetails were sawn and chopped out with chisels..
Finally the case bottom fitted.. Notice that the case bottom is a glue up of Poplar and Mahogany, the Mahogany front of the case bottom is notched exactly like the drawer blades were..
The back edges of the case sided need a 7/16" x 1/2" rabbet cut, the rabbet will hide the Poplar case back boards.
The top of case stretchers are blind dovetailed to the front and back of the case top..
Now that the main parts of case joinery has been cut and fitted the components can now be glued up...
After all of the lumber was finial milled to the proper thickness and lengths, the front of each of the four drawer blades for the case need a 1" x "1 notch cut in the front corner of each drawer blade.. The notch provides the space necessary for the turned fluted quarter columns that flank the drawers in the chest.. We used a marking gauge to define the waster material, then use a cross cut sled on the table saw to waste the material..
Finally off to the bandsaw to remove the remaining waste.. We cut a bit shy of the line and pare off the remaining material..
The South American Mahogany lumber (specifically from Peru) arrived from Irion Lumber, after a few weeks acclimating to the humidity level in my newly built heated and air conditioned shop, we rough milled all of the lumber necessary to build the two chests. Rough milling the lumber yielded two 55 gallon bags of Mahogany and Poplar chips, here is all the rough milled lumber stacked and stickered, re-acclimating..
The only part of the case lumber we haven't rough milled is the lumber for the drawer boxes, the back boards and the case top.. Now onto the case top.
Irion supplied lumber for the top that will be one board wide, its currently in the rough all 20 5/8" wide of it.. A better shot of the ruler below..
Ah one of the beautiful features of SketchUp is generating templates of the components that have been modeled, we print the templates and affix them with some spray contact cement to some 3/16" baltic birch plywood. Baltic birch plywood is easily shaped, doesn't contain nasty voids like other forms of plywood and the baltic birch templates are more durable than MDF (which we use for larger templates like the top of the case)..
The newest project LaPlaca Woodworks will be undertaking is a pair of Chippendale five drawer chests, these chests were featured in the book The New Fine Points of Furniture Early America by Albert Sack. As our usual process at LaPlaca Woodworks we have modeled the piece in SketchUp the image below is a rendition by SketchUp what the completed chest will look like.
The chests are going to be built from South American Mahogany that LaPlaca Woodworks has sourced from Irion Lumber, the secondary lumber will be Yellow Poplar that has been sourced from Groff and Groff Lumber.
Actually the most important step in the finishing process, is to come up with the entire finishing 'schedule' (or recipe) that one is going to use to finish the piece. This schedule should be performed on scrap pieces from the project (ideally), or at the very least on scrap pieces from the same species. For instance the water based dye we use a LaPlaca Woodworks to accent the color of the South American Mahogany used on the Boston Blockfront chest, contains no binders, so after the dye drys the wood takes on a completely different appearance, that usually is just terrible looking. Each successive step in the process changes what the final color will look like, so unless the complete finishing schedule has been pretested, the final outcome will be a surprise (maybe a good or bad surprise) at $15+ a board foot for Mahogany we would like to keep surprises to a minimum.
First we use a very diluted water based dye to accentuate the color of the South American Mahogany, as I previously mentioned the dye contains no binders. This means the dye can be moved and to an extent removed with simple water, to 'lock' the dye we brush on a couple of coats of 1.5lb cut blond shellac.
After the shellac has dried, the chest gets abraded with gray Scotch Bright Pad and then gets an oil based glaze based on a gel stain. The shellac serves two purposes here, one to bind the dye into the wood, secondly to keep the glaze coat from 'grabbing' the wood too aggressively, so the glaze can be moved about. The glaze accentuates the the dye and adds a dimension to the coloring that either product alone cannot achieve.
After the glaze has dried properly (in a couple of days), we then apply a couple of coats of shellac, in the case of this chest the shellac used is a garnet shellac at a 1.5lb cut. The garnet shellac helps to slightly color the wood (garnet shellac is reddish brown in color) additionally and adds chatoyance to the finish.
Finally we add a couple of very 'tightly' applied coats of Waterlox Original Finish to the chest, Waterlox is a very durable phenolic varnish that has a very nice semi-gloss glow after 3-4 weeks of curing..
The finished project is located here..
After the building of the project has completed, the next step is finishing preparation. It has been said that after the building has completed, the craftsman is only 50% completed with the project, I am a firm believer in that age old saying, finishing takes that long.
First step the finishing preparation is completely sanding the project to 180 grit. After sanding to 180 has been completed, the entire case is then wiped down with distilled water. The distilled water step raises the grain, we need to perform this step since the case will be dyed with a water based dye. The raised grain is then smoothed with 220 grit sanding.
After the case has been sanded and grain raised, the next step is to treat and end grain with a stain blocker, I use 3/4 lb blond shellac as a stain blocker. The treated end grain is then smoothed with gray Scotch Bright pads. If the end grain is not treated, it will dye much too dark.
Last step in the process is mask off any areas that we don't want to be dyed, with Scotch Blue Painters tape.
Now we need to start the process for the drawer fronts, the drawer fronts are milled from 12/4 Mahogany stock to a finished thickness of 2 5/8". After the drawer stock is milled to length, width and thickness, we next need to start the actual shaping process, after the drawer fronts are fully shaped the final thickness of the drawer fronts will be 7/8" net!!...
First the ends of the drawers where the drawer sides are dovetailed to the fronts are milled much as if we were creating a mortise joint, first the tendon shoulders are cut (not pictured) then off to the tendoning jig on the table saw to mill the ends so they are 7/8" thick..
The very first and most important face to establish is the flat surface where the drawer sides meets the back of the front drawers..
Here is a shot after the face is cut..
After we have eastablished the face for the rear of the drawer then next cut establishes the front of the drawer..
One of the reasons why we have been using Sketch Up as late of is it allows us to create very intricate and accurate patterns needed for the more complicated pieces, like this blockfront chest. Now using the printed pattern affixed to Baltic Birch plywood to draw the profile of the drawers..
Now off to the bandsaw to first establish the shaped front of the drawer, the extra material on the rear of the drawer front makes it somewhat easier job at the bandsaw..
The the drawer fronts are cleaned up with carving tools, rasps, files and block planes (ice tea is optional)..
After completing the shaping of the drawer fronts it's now time to bandsaw and clean up the rear of the drawers... I found it best to stay clear of the very tight curve at each side of the rear of the drawers, instead we just established some 'steps' that makes the carving job a little less daunting..
Getting close to the final shape of the rear of the blockfront drawers, just need to clean up the flat areas..
Next we need to fit the hardware to the drawer fronts, whenever we get to this stage at LaPlaca Wood Works we know that we are getting close to the end of the building stage. The brasses for this chest are Chippendale style escutcheon pulls sourced from Londenderry Brasses, we used CH 70 pulls and CH 71A escutcheons. The posts for the pulls were too short for the 7/8" drawer thickness, so we needed to counter bore the rear of the drawer to receive the cast nut..
Couldn't help myself here is a shot of the drawer fronts with the fitted brass pulls..
Next we need to miter the ends of the drawer blades (aka. dividers), the ends of the cock beading is mitered to receive the front case side mouldings, the front case side mouldings complete the cock beading up the sides of the drawer openings...
The best and really the only way to perform this job is with a block profiled to 45 degress clamped to the drawer blade and a nice super sharp paring chisel to pare the material, in this case my trusty Blue Spruce paring chisels are used..
Now the block is clamped to front of case side moulding and them we pare the miters after the center of the area is dadoed by sawing with a razor saw and removing the excess material..
One Completed miter job, 5 more to go..
Finally with the front side moulding glued into place..
Next we are machining the bracket feet for the chest, the back are fairly straight forward, the Mahogany 1 3/8" back side feet are half blind dovetailed to the 7/8" thick Yellow Poplar back foot. The front foot, is a conglomeration of a Mahogany 1 3/8" front side foot mitered to a 2 1/4" thick front foot, the extra thickness is needed to allow the front feet to follow the blockfronting bulge on the front lower case moulding. The feet after being band sawn and spindle sanded..
The back side feet being dovetailed..
An assembled back foot..
Front feet receive a 1/4" dado that will contain a spline, notice how the miter is offset..the excess material will be cut off the front foot to match the profile of the front case molding after the foot is glued up..
Dado being cut with two outer blades of dado set, with blade set at 45 degrees
Front foot with spline test fit into the dado, now ready for glue up..
Now after the front feet are glued up, we need to go off to the bandsaw to profile the front of the feet, first we load a nice sharp 3/8" band into the bandsaw. The front feet are clamped to a jig that holds them 90 degrees to the bandsaw blade..
Next the front of the feet are bandsawn.. The first cut removes the flat area in the front of the feet...
Then the profile that follows the bottom of the case molding..
The front base moulding on the Boston Blockfront chest needs to be mitered before the moulding is glued to the case bottom, mitering this moulding is not as simple as tossing it on the miter saw and cutting a 45 degree on each end (unfortunately).. The miter joints are actually miter lap joints, this reinforces the weak miter joint and also allows the bottom moulding side pieces to float on the case bottom for expansion and contraction.
The photo below shows the bottom of the front moulding, the two miters are actually a 90 degree flush cut that lines up with the outside edge of the case sides and then the required 45 degree miter, unfortunately I got caught up in the action and forgot to take a photo of the miters being cut. We needed to use a 45 degree miter sled on the table saw to cut the miters with the blade at full height!!
The underside of the front moulding also contains a 'pocket' that is one half of the miter lap joint.. This will make more sense when we see the side mouldings in the next photo..
Next with the side mouldings, we cut a giant 2" wide by 7/8" deep rabbit in the top of the side moulding, seen being cut on the table saw..
The side moulding with the finished rabbit.. The rabbited area will now fit under the case bottom and case side joints, the rabbit also allows the side mouldings to meet up with the front moulding that sticks out proud of the case bottom by....11/16"
The off to the trusty Kapex to cut the miter joints, the Kapex is nice in that it will cut a horizontial 45 degree miter both left and right, the Kapex also has a nice feature where the depth of cut can be limited as shown here..
Finally the finished front edge of the bottom side moulding (the right moulding shown here), notice how the stub tendon will fit into the pocket cut into the front bottom moudling (yeah yikes)
It's been a while since we have posted updates to the progress of the Boston Blockfront project since we have been busy finishing the Boston Oxbow chest project.. I have to say that finishing is my least favorite furniture building activity, lots of sanding, more sanding and then some more sanding...
Anyway, in a prior blog entry we moulded the bottom of the case mouldings, now the front moulding needs to be 'detailed'. Here is the bottom moulding as it comes off the router table..
Now notice that the profile is 'rounded' in the inside 90 degree corner, this is as far as the bearing guided router bit can reach, the remaining material must be 'detailed' using carving gouges and rifflers. Now the after photo..
Actually the beaded area below the cove and fillet area also needs to be detailed, but it's not shown in this photo..
Now onto the Boston Blockfront case top, the case top starts as a two board glue up of Mahogany 40 1/4 " x 20 3/4" x 13/16". First we need to create the sliding dovetail socket that will attached the case top to the case sides. First we need to create a dado in the underside of the case top, it's a pretty good size excavation, 20 3/4" x 5/8" x 1/2", this needs to be staged with a plunge router..
After we create the dado, next we use a 14 degree x 3/4" dovetail bit plus a 3/4" bushing in a fixed base router to create the sliding dovetail, no staging the cut here...
The case top has a pattern that is a 7/8" offset of the pattern of the drawer blades, we make a plywood template of the offset, then use the plywood template to pattern route the front of a piece of 40 1/4 x 20 3/4" x 3/4 MDF..
The full size MDF pattern will be used to pattern route the front of the case top, it will also be used when the edges of the top are profiled, a full size pattern is necessary as the the whole edge of the top will be profiled. Since the top is so large, rather than wresting with the top on the bandsaw, we use a saber saw to remove the waste on the top..
Now off to the router table with the mdf pattern attached to case top to pattern route the front edge with the 1/2" spiral double ball bearing bit (this bit is awesome)..
Then finally using a special 18th century table edge bit by Amana Tool designed by Lonnie Bird, we profile the front and sides of the case top. This bit removes a tremendous amount of material, so we stage the cut by replacing the stock 5/8" bearing with larger bearing, taking 5 passes with a smaller bearing in each pass, finally ending up with the stock 5/8" bearing installed (as pictured)..
Now on to the dust panel construction, the whole sub panel assembly is made of Yellow Poplar. Behind the Mahogany 'drawer blade' (or drawer divider) is the drawer blade sub-back, it gets glued to the front drawer blade and rides in a shallow 1/8" deep x 7/8" wide dado in case side. The drawer blade sub-back receives a 1/4" w x 1" deep rabbit, as does the rear drawer blade, the rear drawer blade also is dovetailed into the case sides using a blind sliding dovetail..
Each of the drawer divider rails received a 1/4" x 1" tendon on both ends, we cut the tendons on the tablesaw using a dado stacked cutter. The one inch thick piece of MDF makes sure the tendon shoulder is properly spaced, but gives us proper clearance when using the miter gauge. Using the miter gauge and the rip fence (without a spacer) is not a safe practice, it is a kickback waiting to happen..
And finally this is what the semi-finished drawer blade sub-back (we are still missing the actual dust panels themselves) looks like. The gap at the back is intentional, it allows for the case sides to expand and contract.
First we are pattern routing the drawer blades using a 1/4 " spiral double ball bearing flush trimming bit..
Next we need to need to start creating the beading on the drawer blades, this is done with a 3/8 slotting bit in two passes...
Finally the actual bead is cut using a 3/32 radius beading bit with an oversize bearing..
The beading on the drawer blades is not complete, as the router cannot cut the bead in the sharp corners, this needs to be completed by hand using carving gouges and some riffers (note how the bead is now properly shaped in the 90 degree corner)...
Next step to remove the excess material from the sliding dovetail pins on the drawer blades, as the drawer blades actually stand proud of the case sides (as seen in the picture above) by a scant 1/2 (15/32 actual), this leaves room for a moulding that is applied to the case sides, that contains the cockbeading for the front inside edges of the case.
Next up is the all the jointery, first the bottom of the case sides and the case bottom are assembled using half bind dovetails cut into the case sides. The dovetail pins are cut by hand, then as a tip we borrowed from Glen Huey we remove much of the waste with a forsner bit in a drill press, then chop out the remaining waste...
The front moulding on the bottom of the case it then jointed to the front of the case bottom with the signature Boston giant dovetail joint..
The case sides then receive a shallow dado and finally the dovetail sockets for sliding dovetail for the drawer blades (aka. dividers)..
Finally the top of the case sides receive the signature sliding dovetail pin that will secure the top of the case to the case sides..
Next we need to cut the half blind dovetails on the bottom of the case sides. The first photo is of the dovetails marked out, then sawn, the pencil marks remind us which is the waste that needs to be removed..
Here is where the Sketchup templates that have been printed and mounted to Baltic Birch plywood start to pay dividends, the next three pictures we are template routing the front moulding, then profiling the front and side base mouldings...
Here we are attaching the prepared template to the 1 9/16" thick Mahogany stock.
Next after bandsawing the profile oversize then using a Whiteside spiral flush trimming bit to match the template exactly..
Next after profiling the front and side mouldings with a Whiteside Cove and Bead bit..
Nice and crisp profile..All that needs to be done is to cleaning up the sharp corners with some carving tools..
The lumber for Boston Blockfront chest has been finial milled to thickness, the photograph is of the chest top which consists of two boards of Mahogany, one of which is 16 inches wide, the finial dimenstion of the top is 42" long x 20" wide x 13/16" thick. We use hot hide glue for all glue up's, the glue is period authentic and also has the added benefit of being very reparable in the future, unlike many modern adhesives.
Templates are yet another reason we at LaPlaca Woodworks have been prototyping our 18th century reproductions with Sketchup, it's not the easiest thing in the world to print a full size template from the non-professional version of Sketchup, but it is possible. When completing complicated pieces like the Boston Oxbow or the Boston Blockfront the templates are very valuable
I promised myself that going forward we need to do a better job documenting the progress on projects, that is the purpose of this blog that I have created. Anyway.. Although it's not the most exciting post in the world, I have documented the lumber selected for the main part of the case,the lumber we buy at LaPlaca Woodworks is all rough sawn lumber, at this point the lumber has been rough milled +1/8" over in thickness, then stickered and stacked to let the lumber re-acclimate, before final milling..
It important to point out that none of the lumber required for the drawers or the back of the case is included in this stack of lumber, after we start assembling the case we will then rough mill the lumber for the drawers.. Then after after we start the assembly of the drawers we then mill the stock for the case backboards..
The very latest project LaPlaca Woodworks will be undertaking is Boston style Blockfront chest, the chest has been modeled in Sketchup I know it seems kind of strange to combine 21st century design software with 18th century designs, but I have found that 'virtually building' the project in Sketchup really helps when we start with the real wooden components, this is the second piece of furniture that LaPlaca Woodworks has been completely modeled in Sketchup, the first piece was the Boston Oxbow chest that is currently featured in Chests
As our first entry in this blog we will show what the modeled chest will look like, this particular chest was modeled after a chest featured in the book Boston Furniture of the 18th Century on page 81. This chest is going to be built from South American Mahogany that LaPlaca Woodworks has sourced from Irion Lumber, the secondary lumber is Yellow Poplar that has been sourced from Groff and Groff Lumber. The chest features four graduated drawers that will be carved from 12/4 mahogany stock the chest is 35 1/2"h x 21 9/16"d x 40 w. At this point we still haven't made a decision about the style of brasses (either a escutcheon or rosette style pulls).