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I can't remember the first time I saw Arts and Crafts style furniture, but it was love at first sight. I'm sure I must have been 9 or 10 years old, I didn't even know it had a name, I just loved the furniture that my Grandparents had ... and as it turns out, it was Arts and Crafts furniture. I wish I had it now.
There is a huge following of people like me who love the look of this bold, square furniture. In this video I am making a pair of bedside tables from the plans from a book by Robert W. Lang called "More Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture" - 30 Stickley Designs for Every Room in the Home. ISBN 13 - 978-1-892836-14-4 and should be quite widely available in book stores and often in better woodworking stores as well. I do not know where the drawings came from or how they got into this book. I have not been able to find a picture of these exact bedside tables so perhaps they are in a private collection somewhere, but I would love to see what the Stickley version of these look like.
Although not in the traditon of A&C, the tables I made will feature some splated alder that I collected myself from the forsest ... you can watch that VIDEO HERE
Like most Stickley furniture, in an ideal world, these should be made from Red Oak but in my case I used Red Alder as that is what I had on hand and it's a wood I love to work with ...
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I'm not sure why it happens, but sometimes I get involved in building something that turns out to be one my favorite builds ever ... this is one of those projects.
Not long ago I made a video on some of the elements that go into "distressing wood" in an effort to make wood look old and well used. In this article we take that information and apply it to the making of an antique style Ice Box, something that would have been built and used between the 1880s and 1920s. This piece of furniture was crudely made, probably by people with few tools and little knowledge of woodworking. There are very few of these pieces around anymore, most have long since been scraped so in order to have something like this means recreating it.
I don't know why this piece of furniture caught my eye, something about it was appealing. I love old and antique furniture and this little ice box seemed like a nice piece to replicate. Anyone looking very closely at it would not be fooled, and certainly any furniture expert would not be deceived by the replication of a piece of furniture like this but in a room full of furniture, this piece stands out by giving the illusion that it has been around for many decades and could likely have been rescued from an old barn or disused cottage in many parts of the world.
Because this piece was to appear old I worked hard at finding rough cut lumber that had nasty knots, cracks saw marks, chips and gouges in it because this would all add to the finished affect.
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I don't know who coined the phrase "what's old is new and what's new is old" but it certainly fits well in the entire furniture making industry. There are many companies that work hard making new furniture look old. It's not that they are trying to fool anyone, they are filling a market need. There is lots of old furniture around in various states of condition but sometimes it's quicker and easier to replicate the furniture than it is to go out an find it, then to carefully restore it specific condition.
The elements that go in to making new wood look old are as varied as you can imagine and basically there is no right or wrong way of doing it, you just do what ever works. All that really counts in the end is how the finished piece looks and if it lives up to your expectations.
Of course the first thing to choose is the type of wood you want to use and if you want to stay true to replicating a specific piece of furniture you would want to use the same wood, but, as I said, there are no rules, if you want to use a different kind of wood, you need to experiment with how the finished wood will look and this means working with different finishes, like dyes, stains and top coats ...
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There is a lot of wooden furniture and other wooden objects that were designed hundreds of years ago that just do no have much functionality in today's world. This doesn't mean they aren't attractive, just that the uses for them have passed. For example, candle boxes, these are smaller wooden boxes used to hold a small supply of candles. Most homes don't need a small warehouse of candles so a box to hold them is not much use.
This is partially true with many things, and even this antique designed bathroom vanity. Some people could have a problem finding a place for it in their home. 100 years ago, most homes had one. I had a large bowl on top and often some sort of a pitcher with water and was a place to go and wash your hands. Now we do that in a sink with hot and cold running water. Still, I love the designs of these old wash stands and have been wanting to make one for years. I really am not sure what you I will be able to put it to, but we will see if we can fit it into modern living in our home.
The challenge with this build was to make the entire cabinet, and doors using only my doweling jig so that we could compare the differences with the build we made entirely from a pocket hole jig a few weeks earlier.
The design of this cabinet is such that it could be used for a multitude of things including plants on to and storage inside, it could be used as a small library cabinet. I could be re-purposed as a very trendy looking bathroom vanity or it could even be uses as bedroom storage and decor.
Part 2 of this build is making the doors, and to keep to the theme of this build, we needed to make them using our dowelmax jig, just as we made our past video using only pocket hole technology.
As a rule, when making doors, I prefer to make them using the router and router table, it's quick and easy, and just something I have become accustomed to doing. I found making the doors using the doweling jig worked well and for anyone who does not have a router table and the associated door bits, using a doweling jig is a great alternative.
The details of the door building are later on in this article ...
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Pocket hole joinery is nothing new, it's been around for many years and still remains a strong, viable option for creating all sorts of woodworking projects. It's very versatile and can be used from everything from jig making to custom furniture making. One of it's greatest assets is the fact that you can disassemble pocket hole joinery in order for fix or modify it and put it back together easily. After the holes are drilled, assembly can be very quick because it's a simple matter of using the special wide head screws to put things together.
In our case we are making an entry way table and part one is making the legs and frame. The wood we are using is kiln dried red alder, a super wood to work with, easy on the tools, hard enough to make fine furniture, and takes most finishes with ease.
The first step in making anything is to determine sizes, and for our project we elected to use square legs 1.5" square by 32" high. The apron for the table would be 5.5" wide and other than the legs and some drawer parts, everything else would be 3/4" material. The lower stretchers for the table would be 2" high, enough to support a small shelf.
In part 2 we work on a couple of simple drawers for our table. In this video we describe some of the options in drawer making how to adapt them to your build.
The drawers are veneered on the front to match a veneering that will be happening on the table top.
And of course the last component is to put a top on this carcass and so we decided to laminate a veneer on to MDF and then add some natural wood edges to really make it "pop" and this is what our finished table looks like.
The details of the top are pretty well described in the video.
When finished ...
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Every woodworker loves to receive FREE WOOD, such as pallet wood. But like most things that are free, there is a catch and that catch is the free wood can dull or even ruin some of your good woodworking blades so special precautions are needed. Even after you have dis-assembled a pallet, and you think you have removed all the screws and nails, there could still be some left that only a woodworking metal detector will find (click read more to see links) ... OR, even worse, there are almost always little rocks and dirt that are ground into the wood that will dull or ruing a blade instantly.
I love to use pallet wood for certain projects, it gives a great look with little work, but most often when I am using pallet wood I will only use my circular saw, my jig saw and my reciprocating saw. Blades for these units are reasonably prices and easy to get. I NEVER run pallet wood through my jointer, planer or bandsaw, and only occasionally with a throw-away blade will I use my table saw.
To me, the trick with making pallet furniture is to make it look elegant, despite being made from pallet wood. In the case of making this bookshelf, in order to make the bookshelf look less clunky, we decided to change up the end pieces ....