Sunday, July 5, 2015

Table Progress - Part VIII

Our last episode of the table saw the legs completed and the outside frame added to the table top. At that time, there was still a lot left to do, to reach the point of having something that looked like a table. There still is, but as Aerosmith sang, I have been chipping away, at the wood though, not the stone; oh well, it kind of worked.

It begins to look like a table
The block is a counter-balance because the apron section is not yet
attached to the legs.

The first big thing for the continuation of progress was to get the apron built, in order to do that, I  had to make the four blocks that would join the corners together. Actually, at the time of the last post, they were already made, but I saved that bit for this post, because what I intended to do with them might not make sense until one could see the end results.

Layout of the corner blocks

Because the table top is a section of a circle, the corner blocks needed to be slightly wedge shaped to fit their respective segment of that radius. I decided the best way to make them would be to draw a template on my pattern, and use it as a guide to check the blocks, and to set each angle with the bevel gauge.

There is no right angle to any two sides of the block

I began with a square block, and then, using one face, set the angle for the next face, working off the template; I then marked the block to that angle and planed to the line.

Checking the set angle to the block after planing

Working one side at a time, I went right the way 'round each block, planing or sawing and then planing, to get each piece to match the template.

To remove a lot of stock, sawing is faster than planing

Meanwhile, I still had to finish building the top, and that meant adding the inside frame and the two end cleats. Getting the inside piece on was a bit of a challenge, because the tenons would not let the edge slide on. The solution was to bevel the inside edges of the tenons; the farther they were from the centre, the more angle they needed. In this way, I was able to get the part on. I got too busy doing this and did not take any more pictures of the process, or of the end cleats of the frame which are joined to the sides and serve as a means of locking them together.

In order to get the inside frame on, the corners of
the tenons had to be eased

End cleat, connecting side frame rails

Back to the apron project; I decided a long time ago, that the best way to build this table would be to make a box out of the apron section. Since the top and leaves will be movable, they cannot be attached to the apron or the legs, yet somehow the legs and apron must be firmly connected to each other. By making this section as a box, I will be able to accomplish those two goals.

Planing by hand is much more quiet than with a
machine, but it sure makes a mess

To make the box, I began with the timbers which served as the steam-bending form for the frame. I cut the parts to the correct radius, glued them together, and then planed them flat. Since this is the underside, it does not need to be smooth, and I actually like the rough planed look on undersides of things, If you look at any pre-industrial revolution piece of furniture, this is what all the backs, bottoms, and insides of things look like. (Unless something needed to be glued to it, then it had to be planed smoother.)

Now we are beginning to make some progress...

Another advantage of this 'box' method, is that I now have a way of keeping the apron in the right shape. Over time, it could attempt to distort, were it simply an open frame.

...One of these days it might actually look like a table

I left the ends of the 'floor' of the box a bit long so that they could be trimmed once the sides and corner blocks were attached. That took the guess work out of getting the measurements correct. Most people now-days use patterns and plans to make everything. They wonder what historical plans looked like; they did not look like anything, because no one made them. Cabinetmakers just made the parts fit to each other as they went along, their knowledge of how things should be made and joined, and the power of their mind to imagine the entire project in it completion, was their only guide. (They did use templates for unconventional angles and shapes, though.)

With a bit this large, one gets a work out with this
tool (32 holes)

Once the sides were set, I made the mortises in the end blocks. I also made slots to allow for the bottom of the box as you can see here.

Test fitting - Hey, it fits!

Putting together, and then taking back apart, is a big part of this sort of work. I had not even carved the end piece at this point, but since it had to go together and come apart several more times before final assembly, it did not matter. Even if everything fit perfectly on the first go, one still must disassemble it to drill the holes for the pins, assemble it again to mark the holes for the tenons, then take it apart one more time to drill them.

Scrub planes make great panel planes too

With the test fit of the end, I was able to mark the correct line to cut the end of the floor to. It then had to be re-beveled to go into the rebate in the inside of the apron end.

Mechanical method of attaching two pieces together

I do not like relying solely on glue for joinery. No matter how good the glue is, it will fail at some point in future. If glue was all that was holding the parts together, that means to say that at some time in future, the piece will collapse, I do not want that to happen to anything I build, and therefore, I use mechanical means of fastening things. In this case, were the join between the apron front and the bottom to fail, the apron would have a tendency to spread; to prevent this, and keep it connected to the floor, but not have anything showing from the front, I used double dovetail keys, or "butterflies". This is actually a very old joinery technique; in the book, English Historic Carpentry, by Cecil A. Hewett, there is a large "Saxon" door of pre-conquest (1066) manufacture, which used large double dovetail joinery on its face.

One end to go
The gap in the carved channeling is where the slides for the leaves will go.

Once the first end was joined and pegged, I had a sense that finally I was actually making some progress on the table...

Still a long way to go, but it finally begins to look like a table

...until I made a list of all the things which still need to be done. The list is too long, but the major things are spending a few hours doing the final smoothing with a cabinet scraper, finishing the leaves, attaching the legs to the body, and doing the finishing. By the end of the month it should be completed though.


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