Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Breaking Down Slabs

  Winter had put the kabosh on my efforts at woodworking, as it had for many people without good shop heating, but now I'm started again, both on the hand tool cabinet and a new mini-lathe stand to accomodate a bed extension. With weight added. With drawers. With storage bins. My designs tend to evolve.
  As for the tool cabinet: first step is to break down all these big slabs into manageable pieces I can run through the band saw or table saw, planer and jointer (which is a only 6".)  I'm using a Black and Decker Skill Saw about 35 years old, but it works fine if I make two depth cuts instead of just one. It's crucial to have this heavy wood well supported on both sides of the cut, so I've jury-rigged two sets of saw horses under the workpiece, and I'm good to go. I wondered today why there is a term for 'man-handling' big heavy things, and no term for 'woman handling?'  I think I do pretty well for a weekend warrior nearly sixty-five years old. I don't know if I'll be able to move such things when I'm seventy, so I'd better get this project done!  Infirmity may sneak up on me when I'm not looking.

  What's done is laying on the back assembly table to acclimate before final milling...rails and stiles for the bottom unit of the cabinet. The upper, small pieces of Elm were coated with BLO to see what the overall color would be. I plan to cut mortises and tenons, then dry-assemble the bottom unit frame work before cutting and gluing the panel pieces to go inside them. That way, I won't have to depend so heavily on my fractional mathematical skills to judge cutting the pieces. The cabinet does not faithfully follow Megan Fitzpatrick's Step-Back Cupboard in PW, (see previous post: Megan's Step-Back) because it will sit behind my small work bench, and space is a bit different than she built for, so I can't use her cutting dimensions from the magazine.  Nothing like making more problems for myself!  But, it will be the way I want it, which is what matters.
  I'm cutting wood for two projects at once here, so I'll try to keep them separated and make clear what I'm working on at the moment.  I consider the lathe stand a necessity to get out of the way, and the floor-standing cabinet a labor of love.  So, for right now, I'm busy working and oh-so-thankful for Spring!


  1. You coated some of the elm with BLO to see the grain? Sorry - what's BLO? I've used mineral spirits or turpentine myself.
    Re your four sawhorses for cutting. A long while back, PW published plans for a cutting grid - two low, sturdy horses, each about 40" long with 3 slots cut in each horizontal to accommodate 8' 2x4s. I can set my saw (also B&D, and older than yours by about 5 years) to cut through the whatever resting on top and just barely into the grid itself. Take it apart and store when not needed. Not better than 4 horses - just different.
    Looking forward to seeing how this goes.

  2. BLO is boiled linseed oil. Many things will show up the grain, but I'd seen this wood with this oil on it, glowing honey-gold, and I wanted to see if my timber had the same effect. I think with multiple coats it should do nicely. And the grid you mention, John, I remember because I'd built it many years ago, and used it several times for sheet goods. I found it too difficult to store, though, and disassembled it. I now cut on a vertical support system that takes up much less space. These slabs needed horizontal support, being so heavy, and the sawhorses are working. Thanks for the memory, though. I'd forgotten about that grid!

  3. The wood sounds lovely - looking forward to seeing the project.


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