My current woodworking project is a Mission-style bookshelf that I designed to match the sofa table that I built last year. The bookshelf will sit below a window to the kitchen, so it is low and extra wide to fit that space. To support the weight of the books without sagging, sets of stiles transfers weight from the middle shelf to the frame above and below.
I am building the bookshelf out of cherry. Like the sofa table, all joinery is mortise and tenon. This time I am squaring out the mortises with a new set of mortising chisels rather than rounding off the tenons with a knife as I did on the sofa table — which is making the process go much faster.
If you like the design and wish to build one for yourself, you can download my SketchUp model as a starting point.
Over the course of the past year I built this cherry sofa table based on a design by Scott Gibson in Fine Woodworking’s "Furniture" book.
All frame joinery is mortise and tenon, while the drawers use doweled rabbit joints. The finish is boiled linseed oil topped with 3 coats of Minwax wiping varnish.
Building this table was quite a learning experience as just about every part required techniques that I hadn’t used before. Mortise and tenon joinery, biscuits to align the table top during glue-up, doweled joints fort the drawers, quartersawn veneers for the legs, breadboard-ends, and varnish; all of these were new to me and required a bit of trial and error to get right.
This project certainly had its share of "oops" moments, but nothing that couldn’t be repaired or worked-around. I cut the bottom shelf stretcher one inch too short, but was able to cut it in half and splice in a section with a small mortise and tenon in the middle. Later, I made the hipped-tenons on which the breadboard-ends of the top sit too thin. This was repaired with the addition of some 5-minute epoxy to thicken the tenon.
All that remains now is to choose and install drawer-pull hardware.
This weekend I build an outfeed table for the table saw and a stand for the new planer. The outfeed table was inspired by a design in Jim Tolpin’s Table Saw Magic. It folds down to make room or for moving the saw.
For my Sarah’s birthday I built her a hanging jewelry case. This was my first fine-woodworking project built out of solid wood and it was quite a learning experience. The case is made of Red Birch with dots of Wenge (black), Satinwood (yellow), Chakte Coc (red), Sucaperē (brown), and Purple Heart (purple). It is finished with three coats of Watco Danish Oil after sanding to 600-grit. The outer dimensions are 23 inches tall, 19 inches wide, and 4 inches deep.
I had originally hoped to construct the case over 2 months of weekends, but this time-line turned out to be a little optimistic and though I didn’t count the hours, it didn’t get completed until 4 months after I started. Work on the project went much faster after I got my own table saw at the end of February and could pop downstairs whenever I had a free moment. Until that point I did most of the work in my friend John Filan‘s shop in Weybridge (VT). John is a wood-artisan, master cabinet-maker, and was an amazing resource throughout this project: from showing me the ropes at Lathrop’s lumber mill, to machine setup, to notes on grain direction. Without his expert help (and workshop, and tools) this project would not have been nearly as successful. While I have so much more to learn, at least I now know where to begin and how to safely and successfully use all of the major machine-tools.
I read (after the fact of course) that it is usually best to start with simple projects before cabinetry to avoid dealing with the close tolerances of all of the joinery and inset pieces. I’d have to agree. Though I consider this project to be a success I did spend many periods just staring at all of my pieces, dry-fitting them, and trying to convince myself that if I trim off 1/64 of an inch off one side that they would all fit together properly.
As I mentioned, the case started as about 20 board-feet of rough lumber stacked on the upper rack of Lathrop’s mill. Once in John’s shop it was flattened on the jointer, planed to thickness and made square, straight and ready for use. I had sketched out most of the design prior to starting, but many things changed over the course of construction. For instance, I hadn’t planned for wood movement so the back panel had to become floating and interior header and footer pieces added to replace the strength I was planning on getting from the panel. Similarly, my initial plans to hang trays on the insides of the doors fell away as I contemplated the additional complexity of cramming them into an already-tight location.
The ring-pillow I made from a piece of foam cut into a wedge-shape with rows then sliced into its surface. I wrapped it in dark red velvet and put stitches in the base of the slices, the ends, and elsewhere to keep it all tightly together.