So, I’d made a White Horse with a Scroll Saw. Now I needed a use for it.
About a year after I had first practiced with the scroll saw, MakeWalkRead said “I could do with a book stand for the kitchen. Something that will hold a big thick cookery book at an angle, keep it out of the cooking mess and keep it open at the right page.” Challenge accepted…
…and perhaps I could use that horse as the background to the stand?
Something like this? I would have to think a bit about how to make the book’s platform, of course, and whether I could adjust the angle of the stand. I’ll come to those details later. First, I will think about the frame.
I found some strips of Ash in my woodstore. A bit rough, and not very square, but with some planing and sanding I could probably produce a couple of metre-long sections of about 3½ cm by 2cm wood.
Have I described how I plane wood? I think I said something about the process when I wrote about the TV Table. To paraphrase or recap, or in case I forgot back then, here’s a quick summary: first make sure the plane’s blade is sharp (a lengthy process, which I would be better off writing in a separate post.) Second, make sure the blade is lined up inside the plane correctly. This is best done by practice planing a scrap of wood. The plane has a knob that adjusts the depth of the blade and a lever to adjust its side-to-side pitch, so to set the blade you go through several practice passes on this scrap piece, varying the depth and pitch. You can judge the setting best by looking at the waste that comes off as you plane. You want the blade to scrape off the thinnest possible layer that is an even thickness across the width of the plane, and unbroken down the length. Kind of like this piece:
Third, identify which direction the grain runs in. Grain invariably runs at an angle to the surface of the wood, and you want to scrape with the grain rather than against it. So far, I’ve only been able to figure this out by trial and error. Here are some errors for reference:
Basically, it is really hard to plane around a knot! My first instinct is to try and measure out the wood so that knotty bits end up in the scraps rather than the worked piece… More seriously, I ended up working out a routine for planing that runs differently for different parts of a piece. In the picture above, the horrible cuts came when I planed towards the knot, and this happened when I planed in either direction. So, I switched to starting each pass at the knot and always planing away from it. It wasn’t ideal but I did manage to tidy that mess up in the end. I soon had a pile of sticks that could make my frame and a few other bits of the stand.
The request for a book stand came just after I had had a lesson in making Dovetails. Perhaps I could use this project as an excuse to practice those? Time to get out the ruler, and PowerPoint, and figure out how these might work.
My White Horse board was 29.2cm wide by 21cm high. I would need the frame to fit around that with a little overlap so that I could pin and glue the board into place. I had plenty of room at the top and bottom of the picture so could allow a 10mm overlap there. The horse’s head and tail came close to the side edges of the board however, so I went for a slightly smaller 4mm overlap on these pieces.
Factoring these overlaps together with the thickness of the wooden strips (which ended up 3.3cm wide in the end) meant I would need two strips 25.6cm long and two that were 35cm long. The sketch shows where dovetails and pins will be cut, and helps to confirm that the recess for the board won’t overlap with cuts needed for the dovetails.
Now I can begin to form the dovetails. I chose to make half-lap dovetails since I wanted the joints to be visible in the top of the frame rather than the sides. This meant I would begin by sawing and chiselling off half of the thickness of the pieces that have the dovetails.
Had I been in the studio where I took the woodworking course, I would’ve removed this wood by sawing across the width then into the end of the piece. However, the saws I have available at home are a bit too brutal for this, and not fine enough to let me cut cleanly and reliably (I’m glad I had a practice go…) So, after cutting across the grain I opted to do the rest of the removal with the chisel.
The first step finished up like this:
Then I could form the dovetails in the remaining wood, like this:
Next, I chisel the pins down to half of the depth of their pieces. I began by making several saw cuts in the area to be chiselled out.
This would make the chiselling process easier.
This is the step that takes most time, and takes a lot of patience.
I should mention, I first marked out the tails using a scribe and ruler, then marked the pins by tracing the tails as they were cut. This way, if I had made any slight errors in a tail (inevitable really!) then they would be matched in the pins and the dovetail would still fit together.
And here’s how they eventually fitted.
Then it was time to get the router out, to cut the recesses that the picture would fit into. I used a guide on the router to keep the recesses a good constant thickness.
While cutting the recesses I needed to take care of the tails and pins I had cut earlier. For the end pieces that had the dovetails, the recesses would run the whole length of each strip, up to the shoulder of the tail. I made up a rig that covered the tails and allowed me to manoeuvre the router without risking cutting the pieces by accident.
For the top and bottom pieces that had the pins, the recesses would need to stop before the end of the strip. The rotating router bit would of course leave a curved end to the recess, so I was careful to stop short with the router and then finish off with a chisel by hand.
And with that, I had a frame for my picture!
I will need to neaten up the dovetails a little, and put a lot of sanding and polishing effort into the frame to make it sparkle, oh, and make the tray for the book to sit in, and build some legs to make it stand up … but that can continue in the next blog.