Gimcrack Avoidance Mission

DSCF2001What to build next?  The co-sleeper allowed me to get a few basic skills under my belt, so I was ready to determine what was going to be splintered into shape next.  Clearly, the pending birth of a firstborn was not the best time to invest in new tools, but at least they were ready to go when I was a few months later.

I scoured the web for ideas – furniture sites, Pinterest, and even Pottery Barn.  Despite the success of the co-sleeper, Nicole was now afraid that I was going to turn our house into a gaudy collection of wooden kitsch and gimcrack.  So even though this would be my first piece of furniture, there would not be much leeway – it was imperative that it complimented the mid century modern/shabby chic style that was favored in our house.  Pressure = ON!

On Pinterest, a stout and stylish little end table caught my eye – a mitered box nested into a simple stick legged frame.  With its straight lines and minimalist modern appearance, it was a great model for a first time furniture project.  I clicked on the link, and saw that the table could be purchased for a mere $800!  The value was subjective of course, and though my creation would not be offered for sale in the free market, for some reason the market cost helped seal the deal. I would make a table with these lines, and it would be fashioned from walnut.

My jointer was a 6″ model (it was spring of 2012, and I was not aware of “hand” tools much beyond a cordless drill, random orbital sander, and a chisel), so my wood selection was limited to that width or less.  After getting stock to the right thickness with square edges, the first step was gluing up wider boards.  In hindsight, I could have done a better job working the grain to be a little more fluid around the end grain-free surfaces, but I was not sweating that level of detail at the time.

end table

The miter process ended up being easier than expected.  Naturally  I was concerned about having gaps in the corners, and wasn’t sure how to glue up a box that you couldn’t clamp edge to edge. Then I came across an article in Fine Woodworking that showed how to lay the boards out flat and in order, then tape them together at the joints. Once glue was applied to the joining edges, simply roll it up like a sleeping bag and tape the final edge together – no clamps required!  Then burnish the edges with a screwdriver to close up any hairline cracks and strengthen the corner, and let cure overnight.

Voila! A beautiful box with tight 45 degree corners!  And I even had enough insight to rabbet the rear edges to embed a back board!

photo 1-1

I used the box to finalize dimensions for the base, which was built with mortise and tenon joinery.  The whole thing was smoothed out with my old orbiting sander, after which I applied a boiled linseed oil and shellac finish (only because Tommy Mac used this method on  a recently viewed episode of Rough Cut).  My first real piece of furniture was ready to be entered into the homestead.

Over the past year, Norah has used the table for her book collection.  Several times a day, books are pulled from the table and loaded back in. Despite the heavy activity, the finish has held up quite well.

Having something made by your own hands influencing the look and function of a space is quite gratifying.  I was now two for two on successful projects and the shop was just getting warmed up!

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