Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Benches Intermezzo

This post began simply enough. A fellow Lumberjock had requested more details on the built-ins along the wall. They were done as a 90's solution to media storage and bulky TV's, so now for most people, the CD storage and TV cabinetry are, em, obsolete. But they were solutions that allowed the use of a rear-projector TV and audio components in the living room without a lot of hardware dominating that space and with no visible cables. Over the next 20 years, the TV went elsewhere and the audio area became consolidated to the space vacated by the TV. Sometime in the 21st century, we stopped accumulating CD's and DVD's although we still buy them occasionally. The drawers were being used less and less, so it was relatively easy to ignore their faults. My DW occasionally commented that the wood was in need of refinishing. But as anyone who has an old house knows, there always something than needs work.
It turned out that what I thought would be an 30 minute photo shoot when removing the drawers to show construction details turned into a weekend project. And this post developed into a re-visiting of the furnishings I made and then altered as the space evolved. Please bear with a sorta lengthy preamble to show how the built-ins came about. Then I'll get to as well as the evolution and remediation of the built-ins along with changes to the album storage cabinet.
The very crude alteration below is to give an idea of where the archway and the built in cabinet were added to the area in 1995.
The fireplace remained the same except to powder coat the metal face and doors. The archway and cabinet above with drawers below where made with 2x4 framing and plywood/backerboard and plaster on the walls and drywall for the curved ceiling on for the arch.
On the other side I made a cut out of the brick wall to house the rear projection TV. . Conveniently, there was a coat closet on the other side of that area.
That was the only part that was convenient, as making a cut out on a brick wall with a masonry saw generated a awful amount of dust that made its way all over the house- even with the immediate surrounding area closed off with clear tarp.
No photos of that era as using film for that purpose was not worth the time or trouble - I did not start using digital photography until about 2004.
It was worth it, though as the TV only stuck out 4" from the wall. A 40" inch TV in 1995 was a big step up for me as previously I had a 25" CRT (the Stone Ages, huh).
Image result for toshiba 40 inch rear projection tv

14 years later, we finally bought a flat screen TV which went to another room. I had kept my vinyl records and wanted a more accessible place for the turntable.  Until then it had been in the section covered by the stained glass cabinet door. An audio component cabinet was made to fit into the space vacated by the TV. Being able to access the components from the back made cable management less of an irritation. However, our oldest cat Ernie the audiophile was the only one who enjoyed an optimal place for listening.

The wall behind Ernie (R.I.P.- we miss you) was the only place where a double tier album cabinet could go.
In 2012 the living room underwent a major remodel to become a library/music room. Along with that, the audio system in general and computer audio in particular evolved, as did the turntable area. By 2013, I was able to use a small digital server, get rid of the LCD monitor and make the turntable shelf a little higher. The last alteration was to make sections to support the middle ledge as that had begun to sag. It also helped to make pulling out record albums easier.
As this room saw more use, so did the need for more seating. We could not fit another sofa with the record cabinet as originally built. I had anticipated that development and had made the cabinet so it could disassembled and still use the parts. Thus the visible screws.
After making  additional components to match the originals, I gave up the upper shelf space for albums in order to use as side cabinets for the sofa. I've worked with Classique Marble & Granite for more than 20 years and they partitioned the granite top to so it could be used for the end cabinets.
Record storage space  at ground level was lost, but seating is much improved. Both of us can use the lamp in the corner and the daytime ambient light in the room is helpful in the fight against SAD.

Back to the drawers. Part of the problem was that there was a 1/4 inch variance in width between the narrowest which was sliding off the track and the widest which was a tight fit. Those two drawers were disassembled with reassuring difficulty given that they were held together with yellow glue and finish nails (no nailgun or air compressor at the time). I can see the Fine Woodworking crowd wrinkling their nose in dismay, but the drawers and tracks show no signs of compromise otherwise after 20 years. And my manufacturing tolerances have improved. The drawers now slide securely and easily. Festool domino loose tenons are an improvement over the prior glue and nail joinery method.

The drawer faces have a figuring that I highly prize. I had concerns with the stability of wood with this grain pattern. But again, after 20-some years, so far so good.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Tale of Two Benches, Part 1: Library Room Bench

As my shop regained functionality, DW asked- so what's your next project for our house?  I had done everything except chairs in our home's furnishings as I did not feel up to the angles and curves involved. We had talked about getting another sofa as our living room/library seating was sparse, but buying one was not terribly exciting. The affordable options had the "looks good right now but will be ratty in several years" feel to them.  The quality ones were out of our price range especially if its secondary use was to be a feline scratch post.
Our evolving living/library/music room at that time was needing additional seating and bookshelf space. We both prefer to do our leisure reading in a supine position but there was only room for one of us on our sofa. So based on that criteria, we would look for a chaise. But we also needed to have seating for larger gatherings in which case a sofa would be the choice. We looked at the sofas with the recliner options but by and large were big, bulky and homely and we definitely didn't want to rock that look. While looking at storage solutions, there were some benches with storage under the seat but these were not designed for books and the ones I saw seemed low quality.
The best option for us to purchase would be a sofa, but the most aesthetically pleasing were the benches  particularly those in the Shaker/A&C style. The concept of a multifunction bench/sofa began to develop. Next was research on seating ergonomics. When I  floated the idea of making a multipurpose seating solution as the inaugural project for the remodeled shop she enthusiastically approved even as my verbalizing of the concept was inadequate for her to fully visualize it. She noted though, that was often the case and expressed confidence that if I was going to go for it, that she would be happy with the results.
I had already done a large project- my kitchen cabinet with other than 90 degree joints, but this project was my opportunity to move further past "square" furnishings. Curiously, once I get into the construction of a project, I invariably space out on the documenting of the process. Thus not as many photos of the more challenging aspects of making the bench. In particular I can't find any photos of the assembly of the side arms.

One notable event was that my Jet table saw went out while making the back supports. When I came in from the shop disgusted with that development, DW simply said- well, it's time to replace the saw. She is a bit of an enabler with many of my interests and we had talked about the dust collection deficiencies of the Jet saw. Further, she had dragged me to the emergency room 18 years ago when I sliced off a small  portion of my left index fingertip on said table saw. She also remembered the large welt on my groin from a kickback incident and a broken window from another kickback event. The only replacement that would be worth the upgrade were the SawStop or Bosch ReAxx flesh sensing brake equipped machines.
So on a Sunday, I went to look at the portable SawStop model as I liked the idea of being able to easily transport and use in locations other than my home's workshop. But on comparing the stablility and fence quality of the contractors model vs the portability of the jobsite model, I came home with the contractor's model. I had managed to keep my hands out of the Jet saw harms way for 16 years ( I did have a jointer vs fingertip event after the tablesaw ouwee), but it's really nice to have a saw with the latest safety features and improved dust collection features. An added bonus was a better fence and more power. While there were no cuts on this project that required the additional power of the SawStop, it did come in handy on the next project.
Festool products are often maligned as rich guy's toys but they were essential for this project.   These  show the clamping options of the MFT's.

The clamps themselves are useful when used with DIY bench setups

The ability of being able to make loose tenon joints at other than 90 degrees along with being able to direct glue ups.

The track saw allowed for being able to make cuts at angles both lengthwise and at blade orientation other than 90 degrees.
It also is a much safer and convenient way to cut plywood panels as well.
The portion of the project that had to outsourced were the cushions. I initially tried a guy who worked in a small town 20 minutes from my house. I was less than impressed with the degree of entropy in  his shop and home as well as his timeline for completing the project. I also had the feeling that he thought I might be a difficult/demanding customer. Fortunately, I found a much more compatible upholsterer in Portland. I only had to speak with him for a few minutes to be confident of his craftsmanship and proficiency. We had much in common. We both enjoyed bouncing back and forth between English and Spanish. He was from East L.A; we reminisced about our younger days. I grew up in South Central, but did stuff often in East L.A. and spent a summer delivering sewing machines in his neighborhood. He did a great job with the cushions and backrest.
Once his work was completed, the rest of the project was straight forward. Rather than use my old standby Watco, I used a polymerized tung oil finish that was easier to build up coats to achieve a furniture quality hand rubbed finish (DW-can you get our furniture finish to look like the Moser chairs. Grrr). Called it a day after 5 coats. Not quite Moser level, but better than Watco.
Casters were used to make it easy to move to our den/TV room  if additional seating is needed there. The wife was very happy with the end result and, as they say, happy wife, happy life.
Andy spends more time on the bench than we do; cat's happy too.