Friday, December 29, 2017

Dark Chocolate and Sponge Cake (4)

I notice that this is the 999th post in the history of this blog. Funny how things add up after a while.


I hope readers out there had a relaxing holiday break of some sort.

I haven’t been in my shop much of late, what with the time of year, having had a cold, completing the renewal of my Construction Supervisor License by way of a 12-hour online course, plus working on a couple of different drawings besides the cabinet, and, last but far from least, I haven’t been there simply because of the unpleasantness inherent to working in an unheated shop.

I did put in a little time there yesterday, receiving a second shipment of the Florida Mahogany:

It’s around 180 board feet, all 6/4 and 5/4 save for one piece. A couple of these boards will be used in this cabinet project, while the rest will go into inventory.

Another piece of project stock arrived as well, namely this 12"x12" square of 0.25" thick nickel silver plate:

Nickel silver, aka German Silver, is actually an alloy of copper and has no silver present. I’m going to use this piece, larger than I needed but the smallest piece I could buy from the one supplier that carried plate this thick, to fabricate the door hinges for the cabinet. I am fabricating the hinges because I am unable to find something commercially available that does exactly what I want.

This week, and the next, is shaping up to have temperatures below freezing, and that is certainly not tempting me into going to the shop for any length of time. I’ve become averse to the prospect, and that is largely due to my past experience spending extended periods in the shop when it is so cold, namely the winter of 2015 when we had the infamous Polar Vortex phenomenon. One day during the MFA gate project I was turning over one of the main posts and felt something give in the fingers of my right hand. That injury proved a persistent one, and I was still feeling it from time to time, even in warm weather, some 9 months later.

Then last year, while it was a fairly mild winter, I managed to do a similar number on my left hand, not as bad as what I had done prior to my right, but bad enough that it lingered for months. When I strained my left hand, I had no idea what exactly caused it, all I know is that it started to hurt, felt decidedly weak, and took a long time to get better. I’m getting a clear idea now that working with my hands in cold temperatures is not something I should do if I can help it. I find that after just half an hour in a cold shop that my hands start to feel achy. I wish I had a warm space in which to work at this time of year.

In the shop I can wear gloves for some activities, put hot gel pockets in my clothes, but I can’t wear gloves while operating machinery and generally need to have bare hands on the wood and the hand tools for a lot of tasks. So I end up warming my hands frequently, either with warm water at the sink or by putting them in front of the infra-red heater. I’ve been thinking an electrically heated jacket might be a plan -or maybe a trip to the Bahamas….

Speaking of electric heaters, I put my infrared one on for the first time while bringing the mahogany into the shop, and as I have not been in the habit of using it, I also am not in the habit of turning it off either. I woke up at 5:00 am the following morning and realized that I had left the heater on at the shop for hours and hours. While it is not a fire hazard, it is a gobbler of electrical current, so I was on the road at 6:00 am to the shop, a 30-minute drive, to turn the heater off and not run the electrical bill up anymore than necessary. Then back home again - the morning is to be spent with my young son before I take him to daycare mid-day.

Because of the lack of winter heat and the distance away from my desk where I do design work, I’m think of ways to change my shop situation, and some plans are underway. The may well be something more concrete in the next 3 months, we’ll see….

Speaking of design, one thing I am wishing to do on this project is complete the drawing to every last peg mortise and detail, and am putting together a pile of take-offs (sketches), before doing anything with the wood beyond basic rough dimensioning.

Why the new approach? In the (distant) past I’ve done work from a pencil sketch, and as issues came up in the build I found solutions to those things that come up which the single sketch did not  reveal - a lot of folks work this way. The door hingeing on a walnut vanity I built in 2005 or so springs to mind. A solution was found, but were I to design again I would have avoided making doors with curved hinge stiles in curved openings. Every project seems to have some minor aspect which becomes a challenge to deal with once it springs up.

With more recent project work, I draw the project using CAD, which I find to be most advantageous for the most part.

I’ve found though that the littlest overlooked detail - the one thing you assumed was straightforward and you didn’t need to wring out every detail in the drawing - that is the thing that can come back to bite you in the ass if you haven’t fully considered it. The fitting or action of a piece of hardware, or a decision to add a chamfer to an edge can have all kinds of unexpected associations that sometimes lead to compromises in the finished piece that would have preferably been avoiding if only you had stayed with the design aspect just a slight bit longer.

Basically, I am trying to ‘see’ everything in the route ahead before I start driving it (fabricate). See all those boulders in the river and moves from one to the next all the way to the other side before we start hopping across. It requires being patient when you are otherwise jonesing to cut something up and get it moved along. I’m sure I will fall short of doing this perfectly, but the effort does count perhaps.

So far, just staying with the drawings further than I typically would previously, resolving details to a finer granulation, has lead to a cascade of revisions to nearly every part dimension. The cabinet looks identical. Just little changes for the most part, 1/16" plus or minus, here and there, but it can add up. Some of this process has come about because my forays into resawing the mahogany for panels lead me to use the 'plane it down’ method to obtain many of them, and for the ones I did re-saw, the construction for many of the panels now will be with 2-piece panels, not 1-piece. The necessitates changes.

I have also revised the drawer construction detailing slightly:

The floor, sides and rear wall are of Honduran Mahogany, while the drawer fronts will likely be shedua, as illustrated. The changes are in the joinery at the front of the box, and in the form of the side pieces.

These are now the third iteration of my drawer design (begun on the 'Square Deal’ side table, then taken in a slightly different direction on the 'Ming-Inspired Cabinet’). This time, the drawer sides and runners will be formed as one, machined from one piece of material, instead of taking two pieces and joining them with a sliding hammerhead connection:

This 1-piece 'I-beam’ construction is a little bit stronger than what I was doing previously, and allows the drawer sides to sit further outboard, which in turn modestly increases the interior volume of the drawer. By machining the drawer side pieces and their runners out of solid rather than joining two pieces for each, I can radius the transitions, which again increases robustness and makes the drawer interior a little easier to clean. The contact between the side of the drawer and the side of the opening is still minimal, and the wide running surface for extended durability remains.

In place of the usual view of dovetails one comes across, the is the exposed drawer corner on this cabinet:

I think that looks sufficiently pleasing and interesting - I hope you’ll agree it’s not too 'busy’ at all - and definitely conveys that joinery is being used to put stuff together, for those who might notice or care about such things. The drawer sides being further outboard and 1-piece also opened up the possibility to do a half-blind dovetailed connections to the drawer front, but I prefer the wedged through tenons all the same.

I should be back to material cut out work on this cabinet sometime in the first week of January. In the meantime I think I’ll post again on design aspects for this piece. Now you know what’s coming, you know what to avoid I guess. :^)

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. All the best for 2018 if I haven’t posted before the 1st of January.

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