Friday, March 5, 2010

Table takes shape and I frieze my ass off

Above you can see a sample of the joinery I used between the aprons and the legs.  The twin tenons in between the applied edge and the leg, combined with the top being doweled into all four legs will give the table great racking strength and avoid the need for any kind of stretcher lower on the legs.
You can see that this is a serious mechanical press.  Inside was the bottom panel of my table, once again veneer construction and sandwiched under great pressure to ensure that everything bonds as it should.  The thing is intense, we've actually crushed pieces in it when we cranked too hard on the clamps.  Even with the 4 inches worth of cauls, you can sometimes crush shallow valleys into softer materials if you get too excited about the tightening.
The joinery dryfit.
I had to establish the dimension of the top of the leg in order to reference from the outside for the joinery.  This was in order to ensure a consistent offset between all of the legs and the aprons.
The applied edges going onto the drawer partitions.  Notice the baked-in edge between the outer veneers.  We sandwich those in so that you have a long grain glue surface onto which we apply our edge.
The bottom panel is held in with a series of splines around the three sides.  The front edge is once again tenoned into the legs.  I elected to go with a panel on the bottom at the suggestion of Lord Godfrey, one of our guest teachers, instead of a web frame because as he pointed out, it looks clean and finished from underneath.
The chamfers we cut on the tablesaw and bandsaw and then cleaned very carefully by hand with chisels and files.  It was a very intense process because unlike most handwork where a small error can be cleaned up by taking a little more off or whatever, in this case a slip leaves a less than crisp line and is quite obvious.
The top after veneering and being cut to shape.  The curve, while symmetrical, is not a radius but actually tightens on each end and is flatter in the middle.  The process of refining the curved front and curved sides with a spokeshave was really enjoyable.  I like being reminded of how far I've come since September.  All of the above, 7 months ago would have sounded like gibberish to me but now...
I guess I kind of gave up on having this done by break when I was convinced to do a Frieze around the top of the table.  I think Robert sees the maple as boring because he suggested it and I saw it as an opportunity to not only try something new but also add some flash to the top.  This photo is of the first step in that process, routing a channel around the edge of the table.
A Frieze involves glueing individual pieces around the perimeter using either grain or prismatics to make a pattern.  In this case I chose to alternate the grain 90 degrees, but the prismatic effect works beautifully as well.
I spent almost 2 whole days patiently fitting and gluing on the little squares.
In the end I was really pleased with the effect and felt it was well worth the time and energy.  Do not however, hold your breath to see this type of thing in any of my work in the near future.
With the Frieze done it was time to flush off the edges again and apply the solid wood edges.
And lastly, the top can be planed down, flushing the edges, the frieze and the top veneers.  At this point I have put it aside, awaiting the rest of the table before I will really surface it, finish it and get to see how it truly turns out.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Been busy working away!

I can't believe it's been more than a month since I posted anything...that's bad.  The good news is that in the last month much progress has been made on my table.  When we got back from Portland I got right into it and so far everything has gone well.

The first step was harvesting the legs from the 12/4 maple I brought back from Vancouver before Christmas.  I chose wisely this time and found five very nice straight, rift sawn legs.  Yes the table only has four but it never hurts to have an extra.  Rift sawn means that the end grain runs 45 degrees, corner to corner.  In some places this meant having to "rotate" the cut.
Rift is important because it gives you the straight grain on all four sides, instead of having some flat graphics which would be ugly on a leg.
The aprons of the table are all veneered, with a lumber core substrate.  This means that the center core is made up of strips of poplar, glued together.  Cutting them releases tension in the wood and allows you to glue them back together in alternating directions so as to make it more stable and less likely to warp.  Next, you laminate commercial veneer (the 2nd and 4th pieces in the photo) with the grain going perpendicular  to the direction that the poplar runs.  This "cross-bands" the poplar, locking in any potential seasonal movement.  Finally, you veneer the core with your nice wood, in this case maple (the two outermost pieces in the photo).  I know this is a lot of blah, blah, blah, but the technique is quite interesting because it frees you from the limitations of solid wood construction by stabilizing it.  It's really just fancy, home-made plywood.
Above you see the applied edges for the bottom of the aprons.  The dooewls are simply to locate it  when it comes to gluing it on.  Sometimes an edge is just an edge but in this case, it will be shaped to give the chamfered profile around the bottom of the table.
 One of the best things about being at school is the different perspectives that everyone has on something.  One day , we had a guest teacher in who looked at my newly applied edges and legs and thought that the edges looked thin and the legs too heavy.  After considering this input I decided that he was right and chose to remedy the problem.  Without going into detail, the leg thickness have a very specific relationship with the apron thickness so this meant major surgery on what I thought were finished pieces.  First I ripped my nicely shaped edges off in order to later apply thicker ones but I also ended up ripping through the middle of my core (above) in order to thin them down to match the legs.  I had to cut through the middle in order to preserve my nice veneers on the outside like liposuction, you have to suck out the fat, not just lop chunks off the outside.
Above you see the pieces post-op with their new thicker (taller) edges. 
Sometimes it gets loud in the workshop, especially for the little woodworkers.
As this is beginning to get long, I'm going to make a promise to myself, and to you that I will post again while we're home in Calgary this weekend.  I have many more interesting photos that will show the table taking shape.