Thursday, December 6, 2012

Practical Woodworking Day 3

As a class, we have all survived day three of Practical Woodworking. I look at what used to be three rough boards and am happy to say it's starting to look like real parts of a table!

Yesterday we started the morning with lessons on various techniques for carving out mortises. Mortises are the rectangular holes that we are carving into our table legs to put the tendons of the table skirt into them so they hold together level and strong (a lot like a puzzle piece). We were told that using chisels is one way to dig out the wood once we have measured precisely and drawn out where the mortise will need to be. To the left, you can see Jeff teaching us how to accurately measure and draw out a mortise.

Because using a chisel is useful in more ways than hollowing out mortises, Eoin gave us a lesson in how to sharpen chisels and/or cabinet scrapers. Who knew there were so many ways to do it? But, what is comes down to is needing a fine sandpaper-ish surface. Whether it be in the form of actual sandpaper or a water or oil stone, the fine rough surface is the best and quickest way to sharpen those metal tools.

Here is a perfect example of how many ways they present information for us to understand. The left set of steps illustrates how a chisel should look as it is sharpened. The middle steps illustrate what the edge of a cabinet scraper looks like as you sharpen it. And, the drawing to the right shows us how to view and label out table legs. Each leg needs to be numbered so we can remember which way they face and which position they will take under the table.
When the lessons wrapped up right after lunch, we were put to work. I had to catch up on my table top so after a dry clamp to make sure my two boards matched up, I took to putting it together with biscuits. Suzanne was nice enough to help me with the process as I drilled holes in the center edges of my table top boards. Then I went on to use wood glue to glue the center edge and slid the biscuits into the holes I drilled for them. My table top is currently held together tightly by clamps but it should be ready for it's final joining, planing, and ripping today!

After my table top was glued, I moved on to nearly finish up my legs. I used a paint scraper to remove any glue that had been squeezed from the middle of the two pieces so that the glue wouldn't chip the blade of the jointer when I went to run it through. This process was fun but it was a lot harder than it looks. I think it's been made evident that I need to build some upper body strength for this job!

When the glue removal was complete, I found the flat, face side of each leg by laying it on the table to find which side didn't wobble. I ran that side through the jointer and then rotated the leg once and did it again so I had to perfectly perpendicular sides. From there, it was necessary to make sure the other two sides were parallel to the ones I had just made. To do this, we needed to make sure to mark the jointed sides with x's so that we wouldn't lose them. Now, it was on to the planer.

Teamwork on the planer! We ran two legs at a time through the planer to make the non-x sides parallel to the x sides. Once that was completed, we needed to make them square. By setting the planer to our desired thickness, we ran the legs through making sure to plane each non-x side as a pair so that the same amount was being cut off each time keeping it square and right-angled. The method they use to make sure to keep things straight is writing an odd and even number on each side as they come through so we know which sides have been planed and which haven't.

Now that my legs were square, it was time to put in some mortises. As I mentioned before, Jeff explained at least four different ways to cut out mortises but the easiest, quickest, and most accurate method was using a router. Not only a router though! Jeff, faced with the struggle of carving out these mortises so many times but it taking far too much time and effort, has created a jig. This jig stops the router at the start and end of the exact length of our desired mortise. Beyond that, it holds it straight against the leg face so that the mortise is straight and accurate.

Here I am hard at work using Jeff's jig and the router to cut out my mortises. Each leg has two mortises cut out of it. Like I said, the jig makes it almost effortless. I carved out my eight mortises in a matter of two minutes. Much easier than measuring, marking, and chiseling! I am very much looking forward to learning more about the creation and assembly of jigs.
Nearing the end of class, Jeff and Rob showed us how to joint and plane our table tops. Naturally, because we are dealing with a natural material, there are bound to be flaws and difficulties. Noah, found himself with a could of knots on the top of his table. The problem with this is when he put it through the planer, the grain was torn out around the knots because it wasn't going the same way as the rest of the board. Jeff took this as a learning opportunity and called us all around to tackle the issue. He lightly wet the grain around the knot and ran the board in the direction that the largest grain issue was running. This fixed a large portion of the tear out. Then, he showed us how there was only a small amount of roughness left so that would be taken care of with a sander. Now that the majority of the board was smooth, it was easier to take care of the small area of difficulty.

Another day, another step closer to our tables. Today, we will deal with our table skirts and, if you are me (and behind), you will joint, plane, and rip your table top! Until tomorrow, I bid my readers a great Thursday!

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