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Blanket box in English Oak - *** FINISHED *** + WIP piccies

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With no constructive postings since my New England saltbox shed and with the moisture content of my pile of English Oak now low enough to work with (14 - 15%), and just as I was contemplating a bookcase, my daughter asked if I would make her a blanket box. As this is likely to be a smaller project than the bookcase, I decided that I'd do this first, and never having used english oak I thought it would help the learning curve. I'm not a SketchUp user and my 1/2 scale pencil drawing is too faint to photo, but we're talking of a traditional frame with inset raised panels. Dimensions are 90 cms x 50 cms x 50 cms.

So here's the starting point. One large plank of 1" oak, plus a short length of 2" for the corners.

RogerM-Blanket-1.JPG


Having carefully selected pieces wide enough for the panels, they were just too wide to fit through the p/t - aaaggghhhh! So ripped them down the middle, planed them to thickness (18mm), and rejoined them. For the first time I used my Incra wonderfence to joint the edges and it was simplicity itself.



I used an offset of about 0.5mm and the result was perfect. The chalk mark on the panel is to make sure I join the right sides together. I jointed one panel face up and the other face down to cancel out any setting up errors.



Whilst I suspect that a straight glue join would be strong enough, bearing in mind the joint will not be load bearing, I decided that I would use 3 x oak tongues, a bit like a loose m&t, using the simple jig made for the purpose out of an offcut of engineered flooring and 6" x 2". The slot in the flooring is made precisely to fit the collar on my router, and was made by simply lowering the board onto the 6mm cutter on the router table, and then widening it for a precise fit using the adjuster on the Incra. Simples!

To use it, just clamp the work piece and jig together



and slide router from end to end against the collar. It's important to have the face side of each piece of the panel against the same face of the jig so that they register together precisely.



I then used the p/t to thickness some oak offcuts down to 6mm for the loose tenons and glued up.

The panels were fielded out using a large cutter from Wealden which cuts both the front field and back rebate simultaneously, leaving a 6mm tongue to fit into the groove around the panel frames. My daughter wants the box personalised, so steep learning curve here having never done anything like this before. First I reread some of the excellent threads on this forum on the subject, most notably Olly,and xy mosian and Mike Garnhams thread on cutting the letters which gave me the confidence to go for it. This Video on the Fine Woodworking site was also very useful, and I treated myself to the excellent book, Letter carving in Wood by Chris Pye.

I started off by doing a test piece in an offcut,



and being reasonably happy with the result I set out the actual work piece on the kitchen table. The letters were printed off on the pc using Times New Roman 160 pt in outline, and the corner features were hand drawn on a piece of paper and then scanned for posterity. Then I traced them onto the panels using carbon paper. Incidently, have you ever tried explaining the concept of carbon paper to a teenage shop assistant? Was I talking in Greek? But that's a different story. Here's the layout ready to carve.



Letters ready to be carved.



.... and the corner features.




I started off with carving letters with straight edges only. One reason for waiting until the new year was that I'd rather carve 10 than 09 :?




Then moved on to the curves. Tools used were a varierty of straight bevel edge chisels for the straights, then a small selection of gouges (with a #5,#6,#7 and #9 sweep) for the curves and plus a skew chisel for the serifs. This photo is face on in strong sunlight. There are a few imperfections, but since the finished article will be near floor level in the subdued lighting of a bedroom, I'm reasonably happy with it.



Then on to the corner motifs. I'm not so sure about these, but it's what her ladyship wants!



Spent yesterday in the garage cutting 28 m&t joints for the frame. No photos of WIP, but not rocket science. These are loose tenons set in slots cut with the router using the same simple jig shown earlier. Here it is dry fitted together. With the benefit of hindsight I would use a sliding dovetail to join the top rails to the legs, but past the point of no return now - loose m&t will have to do!



Question. What glue would you use? I have some waterproof PVA, but also considering cascamite or similar? And given that these are loose tenons, would you peg them?
 

Comments

That looks nice, Roger. I like the carving.

I would use PVA. If the loose tenons are a good fit, groove them so there is room for excess glue to escape, like this



I used a scratch stock but a saw cut would do. Pegging is probably not necessary but could be quite decorative if you line them up nicely.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 
See? Carving's not that difficult, now, is it? :wink:

This looks very promising and your carving appears to be coming along very nicely. Yes, that Chris Pye book is excellent. I think I made the mistake of carving my letters too deep but, yours do look very neat.

As Paul says, I would also use ordinary PVA - the interior stuff is fine; no need for the exterior grade, although it wouldn't hurt. If you want to peg the loose tenons then, that's up to you. I wouldn't expect anything to move once the glue's gone off though, pegs can look attractive - someone recently did a piece using pegged Dominos... I think it was RossK with a garden bench?

What is important though, is that the glue cures properly. Assuming your workshop isn't well-heated [...although, you are working with the door wide open! :shock: :D], I would try and leave the clamped assembly somewhere indoors while the glue dries. If it doesn't dry clear (white) then, it may not have gone off properly. :?

Also, break the assembly down in to two parts, to make life easier for yourself - glue up the two individual end frames first. Once they're dry, you only then need to attach the longer rails and muntins without any other clamps to get in your way. :wink:

Another tip I've seen in The Woodworker is to put a fair-sized chamfer the inside edge (or arris) of each leg. The biggest problem with legs on blanket boxes is that they take up space in the corners. Losing those sharp edges also makes it more comfortable for whoever's fumbling around inside. :)

I wouldn't have used a sliding dovetail in place of the loose tenons as this would probably leave a very small and weak amount of material at the dovetail's widest point, on the outer face of the leg. Without mentioning the Domino jointer :wink:, you might have been able to use a bare-faced tenon (only one shoulder, on the outer face) and cut a slot for your mortise with a router. Pegs would add the strength where you would normally have a haunch.

Lots of piccies is exactly what we like - please, keep them coming! :D
 
Good WIP post here. It looks like it is coming along nicely! When I made a coffee table I used stub/loose tennon joints and glued up with interior grade wood glue out of the bottle. EVOSTICK was the brand.

I love the carving, I think I'm going to find a piece of oak to have a practice at it myself. Printing of the computer transferring onto the timber. I don't have a workshop at the moment, but I'm sure I could stretch to find a space to have a go at it.
 
I second what Olly says about drying the glue-up indoors. I don't have much experience woodworking yet but I found out over Christmas how PVA glues don't cure properly in the cold. Going from what I worked on I reckon about 5*C is as low as you can go and expect them to cure properly and I found the drying time to be greatly extended then. At around 2*C and lower it didn't really seem to dry and then went sort of powdery when the temperature did rise a little and it set.
 
This looks like an excellent job Roger, well done. I think the carving looks great.
Glue wise pva should be fine. However if i was you i'd splash out and buy a fresh bottle, i'd hate to see you glue that lovely piece up and have the joints fail.
I don't think pegging loose tenons adds a lot of mechanical strength due to the short legth of the grain, but it would add some traditional detail.
I'm looking forward to seeing it completed.
 
Well done Roger! I particularly like the corner details. As for youngsters and carbon paper. I had trouble finding the stuff, Staples in the end. There is a costly alternative called 'Tracedown Paper' available in all good artists shops, but as I said it is relatively expensive.

Keep up the good work.

xy
 
wobblycogs":sdra75k7 said:
I don't have much experience woodworking yet but I found out over Christmas how PVA glues don't cure properly in the cold. Going from what I worked on I reckon about 5*C is as low as you can go and expect them to cure properly and I found the drying time to be greatly extended then. At around 2*C and lower it didn't really seem to dry and then went sort of powdery when the temperature did rise a little and it set.
PVA (and probably other glues as well) shouldn't be stored or used below about 5 degrees C. At those sort of temperatures it goes off and has to be thrown away. Always best to store glues in the house unless you have a permanently heated workshop.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 
Hi,

Nice work with those carved motifs.
Carving letters is tricky, specially the curves. It takes confidence and a steady hand. Usually the more you try to cover up mistakes the worst it gets.

On a side note, if you have a laser printer you could have used an household iron to transfer the printed pages onto the boards. It works like a decal.
 
I've never had any experience of letter carving, but it's one of the most difficult things to do well so it looks to me like you've had a really good stab at it. I think it's one of those things (like cutting dovetails) that the more practice you get, the better it becomes.
I'd also agree with what others have said about glue...these sort of weather conditions aren't right for a complicated glue up unless you've got a permanently heated 'shop or can do the job indoors. I'll have a lot of veneering to do later so I've decided to leave it 'til the Spring when things will hopefully get a bit warmer - Rob
 
Thank you all for your kind and helpful comments.

Paul Chapman":e8tcluj5 said:
I would use PVA. If the loose tenons are a good fit, groove them so there is room for excess glue to escape, like this



I used a scratch stock but a saw cut would do. Pegging is probably not necessary but could be quite decorative if you line them up nicely.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
Thanks Paul. I've cut a shallow groove on each side of the loose tenons with the ts, and if truth is told, there will probably be a little room for glue to squeeze out around the end of the tenons. Like the scratch stock btw.


OPJ":e8tcluj5 said:
As Paul says, I would also use ordinary PVA - the interior stuff is fine; no need for the exterior grade, although it wouldn't hurt. ............................
What is important though, is that the glue cures properly. Assuming your workshop isn't well-heated [...although, you are working with the door wide open! :shock: :D], I would try and leave the clamped assembly somewhere indoors while the glue dries. If it doesn't dry clear (white) then, it may not have gone off properly. :?

:
Yep - PVA seems to be the concensus. I have a new bottle that I have kept indoors. I tend to work with the garage door open to improve the light. Frankly, it's no warmer with it closed.

OPJ":e8tcluj5 said:
Another tip I've seen in The Woodworker is to put a fair-sized chamfer the inside edge (or arris) of each leg. The biggest problem with legs on blanket boxes is that they take up space in the corners. Losing those sharp edges also makes it more comfortable for whoever's fumbling around inside. :)
:D
Plan to do that. Not quite decided how to do it yet, but will probably take the widest chamfer off using a 45% chamfer bit on the router table, and use that as a surface to plane down to an as yet to be decided line.

joiner_sim":e8tcluj5 said:
I think I'm going to find a piece of oak to have a practice at it myself. Printing of the computer transferring onto the timber. I don't have a workshop at the moment, but I'm sure I could stretch to find a space to have a go at it.
Sim - just read those threads, watch the video (linked above) and just go for it. You don't need a workshop. I did most of the carving on a B&D Workmate in the kitchen where it was warmer. It creates very little mess and no dust. Just be wary of the light in a kitchen though. It tends to be uniform, and it is useful to have some directional lighting that casts some shadow, to spot any imperfections, and turn the work frequently to check it out with light from different directions. Just sharpen your chisels until they are as sharp as a very sharp thing, and get stuck in.

cerdeira":e8tcluj5 said:
On a side note, if you have a laser printer you could have used an household iron to transfer the printed pages onto the boards. It works like a decal.
Great tip. I'll give that a try. It would have been very useful for the corner motifs. And for the letters you could print them in mirror image. Just need to remember though that there are slight variations in what is printed and what is carved. For instance, the serifs are carved to a point whereas the printer squares them off. Also the bottom of V, M and W need to extend a very small way below the reference line to give the illusion that they are actually on it. Likewise withe the tops and bottoms of S,G,C and O need to extend marginally above and below your reference lines. These tips are covered in Chris Pye's book - an essential reference for letter carving imho.

woodbloke":e8tcluj5 said:
I'd also agree with what others have said about glue...these sort of weather conditions aren't right for a complicated glue up unless you've got a permanently heated 'shop or can do the job indoors. I'll have a lot of veneering to do later so I've decided to leave it 'til the Spring when things will hopefully get a bit warmer - Rob
Haha. fat chance Rob! :D It needs to be finished in time for a trip up to London on 22nd Jan, so I'll be gluing up in the garage and then moving it indoors immediately to cure overnight.

Hopefully I'll be cutting the recesses to take the panels tomorrow, adding chamfer detail to the external frames and doing a final dry fit complete with panels before putting a finish on the panels prior to glue up. This is to prevent shrinkage revealing unfinished wood along the edges of each panel.
 
Just in case no one has noticed, it's b****y cold outside, but with a deadline to meet, it's been business as usual and spent much of the weekend in the workshop.

Next job was to rout a 6mm groove all around the frame to take the panels. Then a light chamfer was taken off the edges of the frame to soften the look and feel. I did this with a chamfer bit on the router table, simply sliding the workpiece between 2 stops.



Next comes one of the favourite parts of any project - a dry fit.



The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the back rail is raised above the top by about 3mm. This because in a fit of enthusiasm, I got carried away and cut the groove for the panels in the wrong side of the rail. aaaaggghhh!



My initial thought was to fill the groove with a piece of offcut, but then decided an easier fix was to turn the whole panel upside down, as shown, and then adjust the fit by adjusting the loose m&t. All it took was to lengthen the mortise by 3mm and cut a new loose tenon and case solved. No one will see the errant groove on the underside of the bottom rail, which will be partially covered by a plinth anyway. This is one of the great reasons for using loose tenons. If there is a total fvxk-up/design change , it is an easy job to adjust the loose m&t, whereas a traditional m&t would be a real PITA.

Next, knock the whole thing apart and finish the panels. This is the state of a new filter in my Trend Air Ace after about an hours sanding, with both the main garage door and rear doors open for ventilation. And to think that once I never used to wear any dust protection at all!



I've treated the panels to 2 coats of Liberon Finishing Oil before assembly. This will be followed with one more coat on the finished item, followed by clear bison wax. The look in the photo under artificial light makes them look more yellow than they actually are.



I considered various finishes, including Osmo polyX and plain Danish oil - but settled on the finishing oil because the local shop had some, and polyX would have meant a longer drive and it's over £20 a tin and the budget is already running away on this one! Now for the glue up of the end panels.



While these are drying and I await the freeing up of the clamps, I get on with the lid. First having thickness the stock some weeks back and stacked it in the back bedroom to acclimatise, I set to joining the 3 pieces together. Lids take a fair bit of stick, so I've used 5 loose stub tenons over the 90cm length for added strength and also to register the edges, using my trusted mortice jig and router.




Ready to glue up.



I find that when clamping up a piece like this, the easiest method is to take it up initially on the pipeclamps that run the full length of my bench, and then to add the sash clamps afterwards.



Obviously it then needs to come indoors before it freezes!



Ready for marking out for the breadboard ends now - at which point I stop to think, and perhaps you guys can offer some constructive suggestions.



There are to be breadboard ends 8cms wide, with (I think) 4 tenons and a full width stub tenon, a bit like this.



The stub tenon will stop about 2 cms from the end for aesthetic purposes, and room left for movement as shown. But how to cut this accurately?

The bread boards themselves should be easy. Just cut a groove on the router table using a 6mm bit.

But whilst the lid is pretty flat, I'm not confident of cutting the tenons and stub tenon on the router table. It will only take a very minor flex in the top to make the tenons vary in thickness and therefore a poor fit in the bread board.

Maybe clamp the lid flat onto a couple of pieces of stout straight stock and rout the tenons to thickness with a hand held router held against a straight edge?

Or maybe fit a loose stub tenon in grooves cut on the router table and fit loose tenons in deeper mortises cut using the mortise jig? These would be firmly glued into the lid, and then pegged and glued into the boards for the 2 tenons either side of the centre, and just pegged for the outer 2 through slots in the tenon as shown above.

Any ideas guys? My own thoughts are to clamp a piece of straight timber across both sides and try to cut them on the router table first. I can then cut a groove in the bread board to match the tenon I end up with. If that doesn't work, I can simply cut off the tenons, maybe with a pass of the router along a straight edge and go down the stub tenon and loose tenons route. But I'm open to suggestions.
 
That's looking good, Roger.

With regard to the breadboard ends, I'd go with loose tenons. Far simpler to cut and probably more accurate.

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 
If you'd rather do the ends the traditional way (sorry, Paul! :wink:), I would do it as you have illustrated, with a series of tenons and haunches to reduce the likelihood of twisting and distortion. Only glue the central tenon and elongate the holes for the dowels on the outer tenons.

There is an easier way to cut the tenons, using a simple jig as illustrated below (this is something I picked up from FWW):



It should make sense. A simple jig 'wraps around' the top and remains in place as you flip the panel and cut the cheeks on each side (it ensures a parallel cut). The router's base butts up against the edge of the jig. Their example was help with wedges driven in from behind (between edges of top and jig) though, you may wish to devise your own solution.

And the mortises in the end caps could be cut on a mortiser or with a router - ideally, you'd want a second fence to improve stability.
 
Thats a good one olly.

Im about to descend on a blanket box myself soon and will use a jig like that. I guess the jig if held accurately to the timber will also help against any breakout.

g
 
Thanks, George but, you're reading it wrong! :D

You could easily redesign it (to prevent breakout) but, on this one, the edge of the router base rides against the edge of the jig. So, the base is always on part of the table top, rather than the top of the jig. If you had the right kind of cutter then, yes, you could run the bearing against the MDF to trim it flush and prevent breakout. In this situation, I would make the jig slightly wider to offer the router base plenty of support - the last thing you'd want is for it to tip, ruining both your jig and the job!! :x :wink:
 
Time to grasp the "bread board ends" nettle! Thanks to Paul and Olly for your inputs. In the end, when I came to mark up, the amount I had to play with if considering tradional M&T ends was marginal, so loose tenons it is! First job was to cut a square face on one of the ends, using 3 passes of the router against a straight edge, and with the router supported by the breadboard end which has already been thicknessed at the same time as the top.



Out comes the mortise jig again to cut 6mm x 50mm mortises in the ends. I got to 25mm deep with the router, and deepened them to 30mm with a chisel.



The matching mortises in the ends were done in exactly the same way. With the loose tenons glued in place, I then used the router against the straight edge to rout down to the face of the loose tenons. First pass was just slightly short of the tenons.



To take up the final bit, I locked the router on the plunge stop, then raised the adjustable bar enough to slip a thick piece of paper underneath, then lowered it to trap the paper between the adjusting bar and the screw stop. Lock the plunge mechanism in place, lift the adjusting stop bar and slip the piece of paper out. Then lower the adjustor to take up the gap left. This enabled me to shave the thickness of the paper off on each pass until the full length stub tenon was down to the same level as the loose tenons. Hopefully the pics explain what I'm drivelling on about!



Without moving the straight edge, plunge through the workpiece at the ends into a supporting piece below. This was completely flush with the face already cut and provides a reference to register the cutter against when it comes to cutting the other side. In the picture it doesn't look flush, but that's because of a few "whiskers" on the exit - I guess I should have used a piece of scrap to prevent this very slight breakout, but the face is completely flat.



Square up with a chisel and then turn over and repeat for the other side. A matching long mortise was cut in the end piece on the router table, and then widened a fraction of a mm at a time using the Incra until I had a snug fit. Then glued up the middle 2 M&Ts, including the stub tenon, but leaving the outer tenons unglued to allow movement.

Whist that was drying, I fitted a plinth all the way round.



The breadboard ends cleaned up nicely.



Then 3 coats of Liberon finishing oil and a couple of coats of clear wax later, it's all finished.









Overall, I'm happy with the result. It'll need a few more coats of wax to bring out the full potential, but it has to be delivered to my daughter in 2 days, so it'll give her something to do!
 
You should be very happy with that result, Roger, and it doesn't appear to have taken too long, either. :wink: Didin't notice those chamfers on the rails before - a very nice touch.
 
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