Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tiger Maple Chest of Drawers -- Part 3 of 3 -- Eric Johnson's Furniture

Hello again,

It is time to finish up this project.  This is the third part in the 7-drawer chest of drawer trilogy.
In part two, I described dovetailing the drawer dividers into the case sides.  I am going to skip over the dovetailing of the drawers because it will make a good subject for another blog.  So, I will begin with the molding.
 molding and joinery
A few years ago, I had this molding profile custom made by Custance Brothers Woodworking in Ashland, NH.  I brought them a molding design I wanted and they cut the knife for me.  Now it’s very simple.  I just bring them some wood and they run it through their shaper using my custom-made knife.  It comes back to me almost ready for a finish.  This is really saying something, because most of the time I use tiger maple and as you probably know, tiger maple can be very chippy.  I highly recommend them if you need molding, architectural millwork, or other related projects.  Check out their website.  http://www.custancebrothers.com/.

Next comes the “best” part—sanding, sanding, sanding.  I have a drum sander that I run just about all my wood through as I am building.  However, at this stage there are scratches and dings that happened as the piece was being built.  Because I run 150 grit paper on the drum sander, I am able to start with 150 grit sand paper on my random orbital.  I start with my 6” sander and then I go to my 5” sander.  The reason I do this is because my Porter Cable 6” leaves very noticeable orbital scratches and my Dewalt 5” doesn’t.  The 6” sands very aggressively and fast, so it’s nice to use on large flat surfaces.  In the picture, I am sanding the molding.  I know I said it doesn’t need much but once I glue it onto the case, I need to make sure the corners look good and sand out wherever glue squeezed out.
Once I am sure I have all the scratches and glue squeeze out taken care of, I move on to the finishing steps.  This is kind of a scary step because it is difficult to recover from any mistakes.  I often will wipe the whole thing down with paint thinner to hopefully show any imperfections.  Once that is dry, I sometimes will wipe the whole thing down with water because I want to swell any long scratches that I may have overlooked.  If there are any, I will circle the scratch with pencil sand it out once it is dry.  Finally, if I can’t put it off any longer, I will mix up my dye mixture and spray it onto the piece.
 applying dye

I don’t worry about the quality of the spray; I am just flooding it onto the project.  I spray a section such as the top and then I will wipe off the excess.  I do this over the whole piece, inside and out.  I know this sounds like a lot, but it is easy and fairly forgiving. 

A few years ago I wrote a blog about my finishing procedure, so I won’t go into much detail here.  If you are interested you can read it here

Here are the steps I use.  Step one, I spray on the color and wait for it to dry.  Step two, once dry; I flood on a coat of boiled linseed oil.  I will let that dry overnight.  Step three; in the morning I will flood on a coat of thinned spar varnish. This seals the oil in and creates a barrier between oil and lacquer.  After about 20 minutes, I wipe off the excess finish.  I let this dry overnight as well.  Step four; I spray two coats of nitrocellulose lacquer then lightly sand with 400-grit sandpaper using water and soap as a lubricant.  Once this is done, I will wipe the whole thing down with mineral spirits again.  Step five; once the mineral spirits is dry, I spray another 3 or 4 coats of lacquer.  I let this dry for a couple of days, then I rub out the finish using the method I described in the other blog mentioned above.

I also finish the drawers.  I know some very good woodworkers who don’t, but I have never heard a good argument to support their viewpoint.  I use shellac and I apply it with a foam brush.  I use just two coats and then rub it out with 400-grit sandpaper.  I wax the sides so that the drawer slides nicely.
After the piece is all done I now add all the runners and back stretchers.  By waiting until now to assemble the interior, I am able to make the inside look as good as the outside.  To me this is important and a source of pride.  I really like the clean look of the interior and the contrast of the primary wood and secondary wood.

chest of drawers interior 

Well, that is it.  I hope this has been informative.  I know many of you are not furniture makers and won’t be building anything this involved.  I also know that many of you enjoy custom, reproduction and antique furniture.  I write this in hopes that you will come away with an appreciation of what goes into building a piece like this.  Some custom furniture makers out there have a feeling that I am giving away trade secrets and that’s hurting our cause.  I don’t believe this to be true at all.  I believe the more information that is out there about hand made anything; the more people will be interested in what we do.   I believe Norm Abrams has done a lot for custom woodworkers in getting people interested and somewhat knowledgeable about what is involved with woodworking and with that knowledge, folks can better appreciate fine craftsmanship. 

tiger maple chest of drawers
Thanks again for stopping by.  As always, if you have any questions or comments leave them in the comment section and I will do my best to address them.
Until next time,
Email: info@ericjohnsonsfurniture.com
Campton, NH

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