RE: SAPFM-ORV Spring Meeting Report - Saturday by Dale Ausherman

David Conley

Well-known member
The Ohio River Valley (ORV) Chapter held their Spring 2024 meeting 27-28 April at Woodcraft of Columbus in Ohio. The meeting was planned and coordinated by Chapter lead David Conley. There were about 18 members or guests in attendance at the 1 1/2 day meeting. We owe special thanks to Woodcraft owner Bob Smith for hosting the meeting in his large and well stocked store. The store workshop was equipped with good benches and a large screen computer display which made it a great place for holding the meeting. Any member travelling through Columbus should plan to stop by and check out this exceptional store.

The Saturday program began with Show-and-Tell, while the remainder of the meeting was dedicated to a group discussion of building various chests of drawers. Attendees brought examples or photos of prior, ongoing, or planned work on chests. In advance leader Conley provided an outline of key design issues and construction tradeoffs usually encountered in building a chest. Attendees were asked to come prepared to discuss their thoughts and experience on these factors.

Charlie Watson kicked off the Show-and-tell with a little metal pin punch (the end forms a small cylinder) which he uses to serve as a center punch for the drill bits to set hinges. He uses a 0.5mm pencil lead to mark the holes, holding the hinge in place. Then it is easy to place the punch directly in the circle that you drew. Hit with a hammer and you have an indented place to fit the drill bit into that has edges all around. Then Charles Murray reminded us of the utility of wood-plastic composites made from wood flour (very fine sawdust) and a matrix such as polyethylene for applications where water may be present. These pre-colored materials can be sawn, routed, and otherwise shaped. He says to be wary of PVC-based products as they can have interior voids. Next Don Wood showed a rosewood-veneered pine panel from an antique melodeon he is restoring. What was interesting was the quality and beauty of the rosewood veneer surface after clean up with a scraper. The beautiful veneer, whose old finish had been heavily cracked with age, was still tightly adhered to the pine substrate with original hide glue.

Board member David Feola showed a newly completed mahogany candle stand with tripod legs and a solid non-tilting top. The legs were attached with sliding dovetails. The post was wonderfully turned with beads and a vase shape. For finish David colored the wood with potassium dichromate, followed by amber shellac, burnt umber shellac, a glaze, and then a final clear shellac. He then reported efforts the Board is making to provide additional educational materials for members (such as the recent virtual video with Dan Faia), guided by a new overall curriculum of future topics. We had a brief discussion of ways to leverage the website to increase awareness of SAPFM to younger members and to increase the amount of recorded educational material on the site.

The last item for Show-and-tell was new member Don Byrkett’s DIY perpetual flip calendar which incremented the displayed day of the month when flipped. Plans for these cool things abound on the internet.

Chest construction discussion began with a discussion of proportions and how to size or resize the outside case of a chest of drawers and how to size the drawer heights. Dave Upperman related that he is building a Townsend kneehole bureau using plans from North Bennett Street School graduate and Vermont maker Pete Michelinie The original three shell bureau was made in Newport, RI by Edmund Townsend around 1770. Dave relates that for the original client Michelinie scaled the plans down by five inches in the top long dimension, with all parts of the piece scaled proportionally, a natural way to scale a case. Peter Howell related that he once scaled a case vertically by adding an additional drawer of the same size to the original design. Dan Reahard related that when he scaled down a tall case clock to fit within his home, he had to narrow the rails and stiles of the tombstone hood door so that the unscaled clock face of the clockworks would not be obscured.

Case construction methods were further examined using construction photos supplied by Pete Michelinie in support of the plans sold to Dave Upperman, in particular the dovetailing of the sides to both the case bottom and a split sub-top, essentially making a starting box onto which other parts of the bureau were eventually attached, including the feet and moldings. Additionally, a Dan Reahard Chester County spice box, built from Steve Latta plans, was shown to exhibit the same approach, i.e. start with a box made from the sides dovetailed to top and bottom. Further, Dan showed that the many drawer dividers were installed with grain direction the same as the sides, and that the unavoidable cross grain installation of side moldings was alleviated by gluing them only at the front with a small nail in the back. He also showed that the various small drawer bottoms were cut long to act as door stops against the case back board, and that the drawer bottoms were attached with tiny wooden treenails (pronounced ˈtrən(ə)l). He also noted that the glue blocks used to join the two halves of the ogee bracket feet were cut slightly longer than the brackets so that the weight of the entire case and contents is carried all the way through to the dovetailed top of the case. And finally he indicated that the bracket feet assemblies were attached to the case with only hide glue, which apparently is often the case for large cases as well.

Peter Howell exhibited detailed measured plans and construction photos for a six drawer chest as another example of case construction details. This chest was a club project for the Valley Woodworkers of West Virginia. Peter’s version encompasses many period features including ogee bracket feet and fluted quarter columns. The design features several modern approaches to dealing with cross-grain wood movement including a method of attaching a side molding to the side of the case that allows movement. The construction photos include detailed text instructions and show the use of several high-end precision shop machines typical of the Valley Woodworkers exceptional woodshop.

Very unique case construction methods were used by David Conley in making his small Federal chest of drawers. David had a wonderfully-figured mahogany board to use for the chest but there was not enough for the entire chest using conventional construction methods. So he resawed the board to create approximately ½ in. thick panels for the sides and back. He then made interior side “panels” of secondary wood in a rail and stile frame that provide structural strength and stability. The exterior side panels are then ½ in. thick mahogany, retained by rather thin mortise and tenon joints with the adjoining legs. The side panels are only glued at the top tenon, while the rest of the panel is allowed to float in the lower mortise and tenon joints. The drawer runners are set in on dados and screwed into the internal structural panel, making for easy replacement in the distant future. The drawer blades in the front and back form the remainder of the structural case.

The inspiration for David’s inlays came from a photograph of the Tambour desk (documented as No. 184) by John and Thomas Seymour on the title page of Winterthur’s American Furniture, The Federal Period by Charles Montgomery. David added fans, and a simpler inlay design across the tabletop’s front edge. The inlay includes satinwood, ebony and boxwood. The panels on the front legs are stacked satinwood with one surface of each sand shaded, giving the appearance of an additional thin layer of ebony inlay between the strips. The piece is finished with orange shellac.

Continuing with the meeting theme of case construction, Charles Murray next shared methods for cockbeading of drawer fronts or drawer openings in the case. Why cockbeading? Charles related it helps protect the edges of drawer front veneering, and also protects the face of the drawers and cabinets from general wear and tear. Cockbeading also has decorative value as it can also hide small variations in the fit between drawer openings as it casts a shadow line around the drawer fronts.

The inlay on David’s chest led our group into the inlaying methods used by David for the chest, including sand shading techniques and various ways of making of the little “dots” in the bell flower arrays on the legs. Some suggested the use of an adjustable Japanese screw punch with six tip sizes from Mnuizu via Amazon. Then we heard more from Dan Reahard on how he achieved the line and berry inlay on his spice box. Dan gained instruction on the work from an early Midyear conference instructional session with Steve Latta. The various circular lines for the inlay were cut using Latta’s wooden shop-made radius cutters. This era was prior to Steve’s commercializing his cutters in concert with Lie Nielsen. Steve produced a Lie Nielsen Fundamentals of Inlay: Stringing, Line & Berry DVD which is still available from LN but only via streaming video. Lie Nielsen no longer sells the Latta set of stringing tools: thicknessing gauge, straight line cutter, radius cutter and slicing cutter, although there may be some in the used tool market. Veritas does now sell the Veritas String Inlay Tool System which has similar functional capability.

- Dale Ausherman
For the Sunday morning session we imposed on Dave Upperman to review the construction slides for the Townsend kneehole bureau as provided by Pete Michelinie with the drawings sold to Dave. These covered all steps including drawer blockfronts, cockbeading for drawer dividers and case openings, drawer dovetail construction, kneehole tombstone door, moldings, mating ogee bracket feet, and all carved and applied shells. Assembly steps were also indicated.

The meeting concluded with Dave giving a quick review of glass cutting and glazing techniques directed towards installation of small panes in cabinet or secretary doors. He described his favorite glass cutter, a part of an older Craftsman model 37260 Deluxe Multi-Cutting tool kit, still available used on the internet. He puts a little oil on the glass and uses a metal straightedge with double sided tape to ensure a straight scribe line. For interior glazing he prefers Durham’s Rock Hard water putty. Alternatively one can use something like an Amana Tool 54190 Carbide Tipped Leaf Edge Beading bit to route wood glazing strips. You make a single pass down a wood edge then use a table saw to cut off two strips at a time.

The fall 2024 meeting for the ORV chapter is scheduled for October 26 and 27, 2024 at the Columbus Woodcraft store. The topics will be hands-on carving of a Rosette for a gooseneck molding, sharpening bench chisels and V gouges, rehandling carving gouges and socketed chisels, and sand shading inlays.

- Dale Ausherman