Tuesday, April 20, 2010

shaker boxes

I'm going to post a few more photos from this last weekend. The box on the left is a swing handled carrier. I hope to make one of these this next weekend. The photo below is of cherry veneer. I was impressed by how big in diameter the tree must have been to get that size piece of veneer. I used the extension cord for scale. It was a big extension cord.

This photo is of the veneer storage. The smell was wonderful. He had some of the most beautifully grained wood that I have ever seen. Walnut, gorgeous pieces of curly and bird's eye maple, ash, and tons of cherry. He said that he had to get small producers to take on the work because he had very specific specifications and the big producers didn't want to mess with it. He had used lots of sawmills over the years because they kept going out of business. By the way, he was also a boatbuilder and had several classic wooden boats hung from the ceiling over the veneer storage.
The next photo is of the tack machines. He bought the machines, manufactured in the late 1890s, from a company that was going out of business. He makes 9 sizes of copper tacks used to put the sides of the box together. The machines worked well and made tacks, though the machines looked a little like Civil War era gatling guns.

This photo is of my boxes when they were just sides on Friday night. They have pieces of wood called shapers in them. He had prepared the strips of veneer with the fingers already cut and the holes pre-drilled. I recut the fingers, shaping them and giving them the characteristic 10 degree bevel, and feathered the inside edge of the wood to form the overlap. We left the strips of wood in a hot water bath (over 180 degrees to melt the lignin in the wood) for about 20 minutes and then bent them around a wooden form to make each size box and top. Then we tacked them, put the shapers in them and left them to dry overnight with a fan on them. On Sat morning, we shaped the top and bottom with the belt sanders. This was a much more difficult job than making the sides, because they had to fit so exactly. There isn't any glue used in the construction of Shaker boxes. The tops and bottoms are pegged together with wooden toothpicks. I learned several lessons...the overlaps have to fit exactly, otherwise there is a space when you fit the bottom into the band (and you should use carpenter's glue to fill the gap), the pegs should be evenly spaced and match between the tops and bottoms, you have to support the fingers all the time while you are tacking, and most problematically, you have to get a snug, rounded fit (but not too tight) on the top and bottom boards.

This is Chris on Sat morning. She isn't tired now and looks much happier with her work product than she was on Friday night. She has just sanded the top and bottoms of these boxes and fit them together. Now she will drill the holes for the pegs, peg each together, break off the extra, and sand it even with the box. I have started to finish mine today. I sanded with 220 sand paper, then wiped on one thin coat of Watco Danish Oil and let it dry. I resanded with 400 grit tonight and will put on another thin coat tomorrow. They are looking pretty good. Chris will get hers done this weekend when she has time off from school.

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