March 25, 2012

Entryway Storage Bench

I've been working on a storage bench for the entryway on and off (mostly off) for over a year now and have finally made some progress and pulled some pictures off the camera to post an update. The goal of this project is to build a bench that will fit in the entryway and provide a place to sit to put shoes on, some storage under the seat for the winter gear that always gets dropped by the front door, and some room underneath for a couple pairs of shoes. I sketched-up the design below to fit the space available and generally match the craftsmen/mission style of the coffee table I built.

I'm using some of the oak from the massive 2x12's that I found on craigslist awhile back. When I bought it the guy said it was white oak but now that I've been working with it a bit it is clearly red oak. I wasn't overly thrilled with the wild grain patterns in the plain-sawn oak I used for the coffee table so I decided to try to use only rift-sawn or quarter-sawn pieces with simpler straight grain for this project. Luckily many of the 2x12's were from the center of the tree and the outer edges are mostly rift-sawn or better.

 In order to break the 2x12's down into manageable pieces I started by ripping them in half lengthwise with a circular saw (you can see from the poor picture quality that I started this about a year ago before I got my camera fixed).

I then cut the resulting 2x6 pieces into reasonable lengths to make them easier to handle.

Those pieces were then face and edge jointed to get one flat face and one 90 degree flat edge to provide a decent reference for resawing in half. The picture below was one of my first attempts at resawing based on a pencil line down the middle of the board. This worked but took a lot of concentration so I ultimately built a resaw fence from some scraps so that I could setup the fence to the right thickness and then just run the boards through.

After I got a bunch of raw stock resawed down to standard 1" thick boards I started sorting through them to pick out the boards with the straightest grain for the seat/top of the bench. After I had the boards for the seat/top picked out I milled them square and flat and started edge jointing them to prep them for glue-up. At this point, which was sometime last summer, I noticed that my jointer was out of alignment and was actually making convex edges rather than straight. Fast forward 6 months or so and I now have the jointer dialed in again and the boards for the seat/top are ready to be glued up. A few weeks ago I really started making progress again and I got the frame pieces milled to size and all the mortise and tenon joinery done. 

Next I started working on the panels that will be held inside the groove in the frame members. For the panels  I attempted to find true quarter-sawn boards with decent ray fleck which should look nice when resawn and book-matched back together to make a roughly 1/4" thick panel with a mirror image grain pattern. Below you can see one of the boards after resawing and edge jointing by hand with a #5 hand plane.


For a relatively short joint like this it was fairly easy to get a decent butt joint between the two edges with the #5. Below you can see the rough panel in the clamps with a nice bead of glue squeeze out.

Below you can see the front panel and both end panels after going through the thickness planer to bring them down closer to the target 1/4" thickness. The grain on these pieces was kinda squirrely and being red oak the tearout was pretty bad. I am now convinced that red oak has to be more prone to tearout than most other woods. I'm looking forward to working with some cherry or maple in the future just to see if you can plane it without leaving craters all over the board.

Below you can see the tearout along with the fantastic book matched ray fleck figure.

Since I have no chance at getting these panels smooth with the thickness planer I decided to take another leap into woodworking with hand tools and give it a shot with a Veritas bevel-up smoothing plane. I sharpened the blade with a 45 degree bevel which results in a 57 degree cutting angle with the 12 degree bed angle figured in. The steep cutting angle is a real pain to push through the wood but as long as the blade is sharp it basically eliminates any chance of tearout and leaves a really smooth surface.

In the picture above I added some mineral spirits to the panel to highlight the grain and make sure the surface was smooth and free of any tearout.

At this point I am convinced that hand tools have a place in a modern wood shop. It was a blast peeling off beautiful see through curls of wood and the surface it left was gorgeous. The workout that comes with it is an added bonus.

The need for a decent workbench is becoming apparent but above you can see how I've been making due using the top of my Unisaw with a stick wedged into the miter slot as a planing stop.

Here is another pic of one of the panels after smooth planing and some mineral spirits to show the figure.

With the two end panels smoothed I couldn't resist the urge to trim them to size and test fit them into the end frames.

With the frame apart to fit the panels I grabbed a picture showing more detail on the joinery. The grooves that hold the panels were cut with the dado stack through the top of the leg and then stopped at the bottom mortise. The grooves out the top of the leg were widened to the thickness of the mortises and a haunch was cut into the tenons to fill the widened grooves. This not only fills the grooves but also adds some extra strength to the mortise and tenon joints.

At this point my next step is to smooth the larger front panel. Here you can see a planing stop I rigged up at the left end of the table saw so that I can use the whole table top surface. Based on how much effort it took to smooth the two smaller panels this is going to be quite a workout. Luckily, it is nice and quiet so I can work on it a bit each night without having to worry about bothering the tenant or neighbors with loud power tools...another bonus for hand tools.