My second commission – part 4


This past weekend I finally mustered enough courage to take on the Witpeer stock for the trapezoid leg of this table. You might remember the picture below, which is were I got to with these boards some weeks ago. The Witpeer (meaning white pear) is the light coloured wood at the top of the pile.


On Friday afternoon I fed them to my electric planer, just to get rid of some of the nasty stuff. Of course the problem is that the planer does not get rid of any wist, bowing or cupping (length wise any).


They then sat clamped to each other overnight, awaiting the major assault by hand plane the next day.


Like most of these African wild timbers I mess around with, Witpeer is freaking hard. Therefore, if you have a serious amount of work to do like this, it is best to go into battle with razor sharp cutting edges. Now can you imagine anything better to do with your first cup of coffee on a Saturday morning than sharpening a couple of plane blades.


First flattening the water stones.


Then touch up the cutting edges.


Two planes ready to rock.


The first board was not too bad as you can see from the reading on my winding sticks.


The next board unfortunately had at least 5 times more twist, which made me realise that I was a tad optimistic with the two planes I prepared. Clearly I needed to call upon the savage beast that is my shop made scrub plane.


In the pictures below you can see the telltale scalloped appearance left by it’s heavily cambered blade.


The extent of the wist in some of the boards necessitated the use of a wedge to stop it from wobbling all over the bench.


It took the best part of 5 hours of hand planing to work my way through 7 boards on the Saturday morning. By the time I was finished all seven were marked as illustrated in the picture below. The flat (or face) side were marked as usual (bottom in picture) and the opposite side had scribble all over it to help identify when it is completely flat during the process of lazy planing (aka planing with an electric planer).


Once the lazy planer did it’s damage, the boards looked like this. As you can see, the Witpeer has quite a few areas of visual interest. The cracks will eventually receive Nakashimaesque butterfly keys.


Just to remind you of were this stock fit into the project I include two pictures of the prototype model. The stock that I am preparing will form one of three layers of timber that will ultimately make up the big solid trapezoid leg. The leg will have an overall thickness of 44 mm (therefore exactly double the thickness of the top of this table) of which this layer will make up 20 mm. It will be the timber you see when looking at the table from the end seen in the second picture.


At this stage I had to quickly work out the exact measurements of the trapezoid leg using the prototype as my guide. It came to these numbers (in mm of course).


Once I knew what to aim for I straightened one edge of each board by hand planing and used that as a reference surface to rip the other edge with the help of the table saw.


After nearly two days I ended up with boards looking like this. This means that I am now just about at the stage were most woodworkers start their project. In other words with straight, square and wind free timber. The only difference is that apart from well prepared stock, I received some blisters and muscles on the house.



Aoife’s bed – part 2


Part one in this thrilling series can be found here.

The rabbet/rebate where the slats will be fastened to the long rails were cut on the table saw and cleaned up using my no. 78 Stanley rabbet plane. As you can probably deduct, I found this particular plane in a dilapidated state without a lever cap and lots of surface rust. It therefore received a complete rehab, which included the challenge of producing a custom lever cap fashioned out of brass (ala Lie-Nielsen) and a idiosyncratic lever cap screw. You can read the whole story here.


Bed parts resting to fight another day.


The future owner helped me to assemble the bed for the first time and it fitted together like a charm, first up.


She clearly did not realise that we need to add a few more essential parts.


Checking whether I have enough slats, before processing them further. As I mentioned before, this is Tasmanian Blackwood (born and raised in Africa) that was reclaimed from crates my father built several years ago to transport all his tools to me. Therefore it is clearly not the pristine stuff you would use for other parts, but will be doing the dirty work while hiding under a mattress anyway.


I pulled out my shop made Jack plane (with it’s blade bedded at 50º) to square the slat stock up. The 50º bedding angle made planing the TB much easier as it tends to have schizophrenogenic grain direction.


The Scots pine received a treatment of turps mixed with tung oil, followed by two coats of shellac, followed by three coats of Woodoc 5. The photos below were taken at some stage during the finishing process.


Didi and Aoife helped to rub the surfaces down with 0000 steel wool between each coat.



I bought a 1969 MGB in Cape Town during the Easter weekend. It necessitated my father to help drive the other vehicle back to Windhoek as my wife ran the 56 km Two Oceans Ultra-marathon the day before we headed back. That pretty much took her out of the equation as a driver. We completed the 1600 km drive over two days as I did not want to push this grand old Lady too hard.


Anyway, that meant that my father who got me interested in woodworking in the first place, had his first visit to my shop. Quite a few of the tools I am still using on a weekly basis used to serve him over many years in his shop. It was a wonderful privilege to work with him in my shop and show him what I have been up to over the past few years.


Here we are drilling the pilot holes for the screws to fasten the slats into position in the rabbet mentioned earlier. We decided to drill the pilot holes at approximately 60º to ensure that the screws would pull the slat into the corner of the rabbet, while at the same time holding it down. I am not sure whether that is explained well, but it is the best I can do with my English.


Wax on, wax off. One day the student becomes the master.


Ready to screw the slats into place. If you have 12 slats you need 11 gaps between them. Therefore one way to work out what the size of the gap should be is to slide the slats to one side and divide the remaining space into 11 using your dividers. Once you know the size of the gap it is easy to cut two scrap blocks of wood to that measurement to use as spacers while screwing the slats into place.


In the picture below you can see the two custom made spacers in action. I am working from left to right in the picture. The toolset for this particular job included a Millers Falls no. 2  hand drill (ca1938), Stanley Yankee no. 131 spiral ratchet screwdriver, some oil to lubricate the classic type wood screws, and the screws of course.


One more coat of Woodoc by the Master himself and Bob Demers’ your Uncle.


We will look at he process of making the headboard in the next instalment. Just to tickle your fancy, this is the piece of timber I chose for the headboard. It is a piece of Without (aka Cape Holly or Ilex mitis). The Afrikaans name is spelt the same as the English word without (obviously), but actually means white (wit) wood (hout).


Aoife’s bed – part 1


As you can well imagine, the whole ordeal with our daughter forced us to reassess a few things. One of the less significant byproducts of this process was that I moved her bed to the top of my to-do list. We bought a typical crappy yet expensive (for what you are getting) pine bed for her room when we moved into the house in 2011. It came apart all by itself within two years due to the extremely poor construction and workmanship. It has now been propped up against the wall for months to stop it from collapsing.

I decided on a fairly common Japanese style of construction, which does not necessitated any glue-ups and processed some more of my pile of Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestrus) for the project. The beam that was destined for the side rails was so huge I had to ask my gardener Adam to help me rip it into two pieces on the bandsaw.


Here I am squaring up two sides (face side and face edge) by hand before doing the opposing sides with the help of electrons.


My version of a crochet in action.


In the picture below you can see my sliding-deadman-cum-leg-vise showing off it’s versatility. For heavy and thick beams like this it works well to have the beam sit on a dog (as pictured) while the leg vise jaw secures it up against the side of the bench.


As usual, my shop made scrub plane made short work of removing heaps of material.


Here you can see the aggressive camber on it’s Lie-Nielsen blade.


I did the fine tuning with a circa 1896 type 8 no. 8 Stanley jointer plane (not pictured).


Rail stock prepared and awaiting the next assault on it’s integrity.


In the meantime I dug out some Tasmanian Blackwood that my father used to build crates to transport all his tools to my current shop 5 years ago. I really like using and reusing wood like this. It adds value to the story of the piece of furniture. In fact, every bit of timber in this bed used to be something else in a previous life. The Scots pine comes from a crate that was used to transport a massive machine from Germany to Namibia.

The Tasmanian Blackwood were processed to become the slats of the bed.


Cutting the Scots pine for the legs.


Just have a look at how perfect it came out of this legendary Landgon Miller’s Falls no. 75 ACME Mitre saw box.


Squaring up the leg stock by hand planing.


I did the measuring out of the tenon locations by using the actual pieces as they were destined to fit together. As you can see that all transpired on my shop made assembly table.


The Langdon mitre box also came in very handy to cut the shoulders of the tenons. You can see the stop on the arms that allow one to set the exact depth of cut. The cheeks were cut on the band saw.


I usually employ my Stanley no. 10 rabbet plane to plane the cheeks down to the exact measurements.


The slots for the tenons in the top of the legs had to be as close to perfect as possible as it is very difficult to remove material after the sawing is done. Therefore I took to it with my Bad Axe Roubo Beast Master. You will notice the three short cuts in the waste which I made to warm up. Completing this many monster cuts by hand certainly saves on Gym membership.


The waste was removed with my shop made bow saw followed by chiseling.


Legs being cut to final length.


Next up, the fitting of the massive tenons into their respective slots.


Once both tenons for each leg fitted perfectly, I used a shop made marking knife to mark out the exact location for the two slots where the tenons hook into each other.


The picture below should give you an idea of what the tenons look like in the end. They hook into each other inside the slots at the top of the legs. This is a surprisingly sturdy joint, even in the absence of any adhesive. The absence of adhesives allow the wood to move freely during changes in ambient humidity and it is also easy to take apart in future to collapse the bed for easier transport.