August 27, 2010


August 2010 New Project Kitchen Catch-all

     Ah, new beginnings. So much promise,such a long road. This project was designed to replace a work table in my kitchen that has been a catch-all for all the stuff that comes in the door. You know how it goes: where to drop (and leave) the junk mail no one wants to read; the empty plastic bags that don't seem to make it to the recycle bin; or the key that you can't figure out to which lock it belongs, but can't seem to realize that you will never figure that out. All that junk, crap, stuff. Whatever. So to the right you can see a first assembly.
     Last year I bought some elm, locally grown here on delicious Whidbey Island. Robert Bennett called asking if I would help pay for the sawing in exchange for some of the material. Pete Jordan, Whidbey"s definitive landscape painter and sometimes sawyer, cut the log for us. I dried it at John Shinneman's kiln and lugged back the material, where it has sat for a year or so. I even had a client interested in a desk made from this stock, but the economy collapsed and the so there it sat. This years Guild show loomed and I thought to use the material for a case I had been thinikng about. There was also a remnant of a bundle of Claro walnut thick veneers from Goby Walnut that had been in my shop for a decade or more. The colors worked well together, so they found a home.
       Of course these projects are always a challenge. My drawing was a slip of scratch paper that had been in the shop for some years. Just a general outline really, with no dimensions. I started cutting, letting the material define the project. First the legs, then panels for the back and sides. At first I wanted doors with glass in the upper case but that became too cumbersome, so I left the upper open. I wanted a cork board on the end panels as well. The back panel ended being a really spectacular walnut veneer and the cork panels were replaced with an interesting shelf support system. Another problem cropped up with the working surfaces. There just wasn't enough calm material to make glued up tops, so I went to frame and panel system with the walnut as panels.
     This was a no cost project. I thought to buy some 16/4 eastern walnut to resaw for the tops, but at the more than $10 per board foot cost,  left that as not an option. I did have to buy some substrate material for the veneered panels. I have been using something called poplar light of late. This is a poplar ply wood, available in various metric thicknesses from Eden Saw. Russ Yerger, my fearless and helpful salesman brought it to me from Port Townsend. Eden Saw has been most helpful over the years and even in this bleak economic period they still are invested in the small craftsmen that inhabit our fair isle.
     The drawers also posed something of a problem. At first I wanted something quick and easy. I tried a rabbeted face held with pins, like you find in a tansu. This proved to be a boring solution. Usually when I get to this point I have invested so much time and effort that I just go for the best, and often more complicated solutions (hence,challenging/ interesting). In this case through dovetails was the correct solution. I have some walnut backer that is just wonderful.  These few boards have been with me for at least fifteen years. They are twenty or so inches wide. FYI, backer board is the remnant of veneer logs. You can see the marks left by the holding dogs on the edges. These are usually from the center of the log, often with pith running the center. They have the most wonderful color and grain. Unfortunately, due to the improvement in technology, backer stock is becoming near impossible to acquire.
     Typically, I cut a stopped dado on my table saw for the drawer bottoms. Previously, I spent many hours cleaning these with chisel and mallet. Now I use this little router jig to clean the stopped dadoes. Every little bit helps to move these project along. They take so much time. There will probaly be 120 hours in this case by the time I am done.
     The last bit is always the pulls, which I have been shop making for some time. I use tapped ebony posts that will take an machine screw. Tapping the post  is straight forward. For this project Jon Magill brought me some beautiful box wood, but the color was all wrong. I hunted through my pile of odd bits of exotic woods to find a compatible material. I found a short stick of Australian Iron Bark given to me years ago by Richard Epstein that seems to fit the bill. I typically use an 1/8" brass pin to join the post and bar together.
    The finish for this project will be shellac. An oil varnish finish is out of the question as the elm is so coarse and become blotchy. Shellac is so easy, evne if not durable in wet conditions, but easily repaired.


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