Recently my wife Amy opened InnerStasis Therapeutic Massage. Perhaps you recall the live edge sycamore desk I built for her new space.
Amy needed a way to showcase her brochures and business cards in a unique and attractive way. After considering the design for a bit she drafted up a rough design on grid paper. She wanted the displays to be constructed from black walnut. I have a lot of black walnut stored around the house and workshop but most of what I have is thick and suitable for carving. It would be a shame to resaw the walnut I had so I decided to stop by my local lumbar yard and purchase some rustic black walnut.
With the lumber in the workshop I resawed and planed the wood square. Following the design the wood was cut to size on the table saw. The construction was simple, no joinery or hardware was used. Each part was carefully glued and clamped into place in various stages. This isn’t the most sturdy of assembly methods, but the pair of displays should last a very long time. To complete the displays I applied some water based poly and sanded the surface to a nice sheen with mineral oil and 600 grit sandpaper.
Exciting times are upon the Chismar family. My wife Amy is branching out and starting her own massage business full-time. A stickler for decor, Amy requested my woodworking skills to build her a live edge desk for her new office. Of course I jumped on the opportunity for such an impressive project! The two of us made the short journey to Boards and Beams in Fairfield, NJ to shop some slabs. We spent about an hour examining what was available and selected an eight foot long sycamore slab, three feet wide at one end and about a foot and a half at the other.
We loaded the slab into my vehicle and brought it home. We didn’t have a place to put it, so we left it in the car for a for a few days (not a great idea) until I built a pair of sawhorses to support the slab while I worked on it outdoors. The weekend arrived, sawhorses built and the slab was placed on the sawhorses. Reluctantly I inspected the slab for likely warping from sitting in the car unsupported. To my surprise the slab was perfect. Whew!
I went to work creating two grooves on the underside of the slab at each end to attach lumber to prevent the slab from cupping. Over the next week or two the slab remained outside while I shaped and prepared the surface for finishing. The autumn weather finally turned and brought rain and cold, the slab needed to be moved into the house. With little room to place the slab in our home I decided the kitchen was most suitable as a temporary workshop.
A day or two passed and something didn’t look right. I grabbed a straight board and placed it on the slab. Yup, the thing started to cup. At the time I didn’t have the supports attached because the slab was so stable. The change of environment didn’t agree with the slab. In a hurry I purchased several one inch steel square tubes to create extra supports to halt the cupping. On the underside of the slab I cut a one inch wide dado across the grain every sixteen inches down the length of the slab. The square steel tubes were placed in the dados and fastened with lag bolts through elongated holes in the steel to allow the natural movement of the slab. The photo reveals the closest steel tube with elongated holes, the photo was taken before the holes were lengthened on the other.
I also inlaid the stem and leaf Innerstasis logo to the top surface of the desk. Two bow-ties were added to the slab as well to hold together a thin weak spot near the front edge. To accomplish this, both the inlay and bow-ties were traced on the surface and a router was used to remove the inside material. The inlay and bow-ties were then glued into place. The leg of the desk is a section of a cedar tree trunk a friend gave me from his yard. The cedar bark was removed and the surface was sanded before applying finish.
This was a fun project that required a few weekends of work to complete correctly. A bonus is the cupping of the slab has reduced to almost flat, thanks to the steel braces hidden underneath. One of the amazing things about woodworking is most of the labor occurs in the unseen areas of the finished piece. And this desk was not an exception to this rule.
A friend asked me to build this two-tier unknot corner shelf as a Valentine’s Day gift for her husband. She specifically knew the shelf she desired and clearly described its design. The project was to be built with no hardware and install easily without a hundred screws damaging the wall.
I took a day or two to think about the project and decided to build a prototype of the shelf using a two by four. I drew a schematic of the shelf on a scrap paper and transferred the measurements to the lumber. I also constructed a corner jig out of plywood. The jig keeps everything square and provides something solid to clamp to as the glue dries. With the unit complete I experimented with various ways to install it. I placed a mirror hanger on the back of each vertical support, but with no support in the corner the unit was unstable and drooped away from the wall. After much thought and experimentation I discovered the easiest and strongest support was a mortise in the shelf and a tenon attached to the wall.
The shelf was to be a blond color with a matte finish. While visiting the wood store the decision was made to use ash wood. I purchased a beautiful piece of 5/4 ash lumber 7 1/2″ wide and 8′ long; enough lumber for two complete shelves. The lumber acclimated in my workshop a few days and it was planed to an inch thick. I proceeded to (1) crosscut the length of each section. With all six sections cut to length I (2) cut 45 degree miters for the left and right sides. (3) Each section was then ripped to 3 1/2″ width. (4) A stacked dado blade was used to make a 1/2″ dado across the back of the top shelf sections. Pieces of ash were glued into the ends of the dado to create a mortise.
I waited for the glue to dry and (5) cut the corner miters on the top and bottom shelf sections. I considered various ways of strengthening the joints of the assembled sections. In the end the use of biscuits was the victor. Using a power biscuit jointer I cut biscuit mortises into the surface of each joint. Working one at a time each joint was glued with a biscuit and clamped. Gluing and clamping requires patience and scrutiny to insure each connection is square in every direction.
I waited a day for the glue to set and then started the finishing process. Using a random orbital sander I sanded every surface with 80, 120, 180 grit sandpaper. The sharp ninety-degree corners and edges were slightly rounded with the gentle touch of a cabinet scraper and a sanding block. Rounding the harsh corners provides a luxurious surface to touch and allows for a durable finish.
I applied three to four coats of polyurethane finish by hand, lightly sanding between applications. The polyurethane finish hardened over a duration of few days and then sanded with steel wool to reduce the glossy appearance. A super silky feel and rich luster was created on the finish by buffing the surface with rottenstone. I am happy with the complete piece. At my friend’s request I delivered the shelf days before Valentine’s Day. The photos with the books are of the shelf installed in their home.
Because I made two of these shelves I have another currently stored in my shop. Maybe I’ll install it in my home or perhaps someone will be interested in purchasing it from me. Either way, it’s a win. And please be sure to have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
This is the beginning of a saddle style pub stool from wood from the fallout of Hurricane Sandy. I collected the wood while hiking in the forest and walking Fleur in my neighborhood. The legs are made from beech wood; as will the remaining support structure. The seat is made from a beautiful piece of basswood I collected from a fallen tree in a park near my home.
I receive a great deal of satisfaction making lumber from what would otherwise be firewood. It is fun experimenting different ways of milling lumber at home with a minimum of tools. Sometimes things work out great; sometimes projects find their way into the chimenea. Good and bad outcomes are welcome and there is always something to be learned.
Hopefully my saddle style pub stool will cooperate and become something beautiful. So far, so good. The support structure will be entirely mortise and tenon construction, formed with handsaw and carpenter chisels. This project is sure to keep me busy for the coming days.