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Thread: First Furniture Project...Questions before I begin

  1. #1
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    First Furniture Project...Questions before I begin

    Hi all, I've done a lot of work with wood over the years (3 kitchens worth of cabinets, miles of both interior and exterior trim I milled myself etc), but I've never made a piece of furniture. I've located a plan for a hall table I'd like to build, but have some concerns.

    1) It calls for loose tenon (Domino) joinery, but says you can do traditional mortise and tenon joinery, if you don't have the tools. I can do either. Is there an advantage of one over the other?

    2) The top will consist of 2 pieces of 1 x 6 glued into a panel. The final dimensions with be in the vicinity of 11.75" x 29". The plans show mounting blocks on the back of the rails and screwing into the top. No mention of slotted/oversize holes to allow for movement. Do I need to allow for that?

    I'm making this from 175 year old reclaimed wood from our home, so would like to not make too many mistakes. Do you have other warnings/insights for me?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Lisa Starr View Post
    Hi all, I've done a lot of work with wood over the years (3 kitchens worth of cabinets, miles of both interior and exterior trim I milled myself etc), but I've never made a piece of furniture. I've located a plan for a hall table I'd like to build, but have some concerns.

    1) It calls for loose tenon (Domino) joinery, but says you can do traditional mortise and tenon joinery, if you don't have the tools. I can do either. Is there an advantage of one over the other?

    2) The top will consist of 2 pieces of 1 x 6 glued into a panel. The final dimensions with be in the vicinity of 11.75" x 29". The plans show mounting blocks on the back of the rails and screwing into the top. No mention of slotted/oversize holes to allow for movement. Do I need to allow for that?

    I'm making this from 175 year old reclaimed wood from our home, so would like to not make too many mistakes. Do you have other warnings/insights for me?

    Thanks

    Do you know what kind of reclaimed lumber?

    I would definitely do the slotted/oversized holes for movement...I normally use z-clips to allow for top movement.

  3. #3
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    I haven't milled it yet to be sure, but much of what I've used from other parts of the house has been Douglas Fir or Beech. Since it is all rough sawn, I'll have to clean it up a bit to known what I'm working with.

  4. #4
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    IMHO, loose tenon is easier because you're cutting opposing mortises and then fitting a separate tenon between them. So for simpler joinery where you don't need haunches and other features, a router with a guide is all you need to do the mortises and you can fashion the tenon stock from scrap or off-cuts of your project material.

    And yes, you need to provide for wood movement when you screw the top to the base. For a hall table type project I typically set things up so that expansion and contraction is toward the front of the piece since they are most often up against a wall. So fixed holes at the back and slotted holes toward the front.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
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    Yes, you should accommodate expansion and contraction on the table top. But there is a way to do it without slotted holes and such. You can glue the top to the rails for the middle six inches or so of the 12" sides, and for the middle twelve inches or so of the 29" sides. (I'm presuming the rails are 3/4" thick or so.) When the top expands and contracts across the grain, it will force the long rails to bend. With a top which is only 12" wide, the expansion and contraction is likely to be only a thirtysecond or less. (That actual number depends on the wood species and cut, where you are, and how you heat & cool your house.) The rail can bend that much without stressing destroying anything.

    The benefit to gluing the top to the rails is that it is a positive connection, unlike the more common sliding connections. Strong positive connections are good.

  6. #6
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    My experience with Reclaimed Douglas fir is it very stable. The stuff I took from a house built in the 1920s was dead dry it didnít move at all when I cut it. Wood shavings crumbled into almost dust.
    So if you have Fir I wouldnít worry one bit about wood movement. As long as it doesnít get wet it stable because itís given up its fight. It also kinda stinks

    Good Luck
    Aj

  7. #7
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    Thanks all. If I have time this evening, I'm going to clean up the wood enough to determine the species and hopefully layout the placement of the parts on the piece. I'll be back with more questions, Im sure. This is interesting, but a little unnerving, as it is uncharted territory for me.

  8. #8
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    From the projects you’ve posted, you certainly have the skill and I think you’ll wonder at the end what all the fuss is about. I’ll state a few obvious things to keep in mind; make sure the opposing rails are dead on equal in length (shoulder to shoulder). Make sure the shoulders are square vertically. You can undercut the shoulder depth a slight amount to get a good tight fit against the legs. When I do the glue up, I do two sides first, then complete the assembly. Even though initially only two sides are being glued, I clamp the whole piece to ensure it’s square. And lastly, because I tend to plan for mistakes, I make the base first, then finial size the top. I just find it easier to adjust the top, then to try to resize the base.

    Good luck, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the build.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Hughes View Post
    My experience with Reclaimed Douglas fir is it very stable.
    I will agree with this...it's not likely to become "wonky wood". But it will still have seasonal movement.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
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    No point in having spent the money on a Domino if you aren't going to use it.

  11. #11
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    What they said above Lisa. In furniture, I find that careful layout makes for way less stress and an easier build. This means that your material needs to be solidly four square before you do the layout marking. I prefer to use story sticks for repetitive lengths rather than a ruler. I make them up out of (usually cutoffs) strips of 3/4" wide material somewhere around a 1/4" or so thick and mark them with a felt tip marker. The important length is the one between shoulder lengths rather than overall lengths when layoing out for joinery. A face and reference edge need to be identified on each piece of the build and referred to during the layout. Very important to check each piece for wind (twist) when four squaring as wind throws things off. "I know I very carefully measured this...... why is it not coming out right?" Wind strikes again. Someone above said they prefer to glue up two sides separately first before the whole piece. Good stuff, then see that the two sides face up flatly against each other before gluing the two sides together. See above notes on wind. Use more than one marking gauge as you work so that you don't change settings that are used more than once during the layout. Most hand tool wood workers describe themselves as having a saw or chisel or plane problem and marking gauges needs to be on that list as well. I believe you will kill this and am looking forward to photos. Go Lisa.
    David

  12. #12
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    Thanks all for you help and kind support. I did some work last night in the shop and it is definitely Douglas Fir. The slab I'm using in about 2-1/4" inches thick x 14" wide. I broke it into rough pieces and got the pieces that are to finish 3/4" thick re-sawed. Also got the larger pieces rough ripped to oversize blanks.

  13. #13
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    Well, Phil was correct, there really isn't much to worry about with this build. Last evening I had a block of time in the shop and the work went quickly. I got all the components cut/planed/sanded to final sizes, layouts and mortises cut. Tonight I expect to dry assembly it and make any corrections needed. Then I'm planning on pre-finishing, so will be masking the joints after final sanding. Hopefully, I'll begin the finishing tomorrow.

    Thank you everyone for the encouragement. Since I have around another 500-600 BF of this reclaimed DF, I'm sure I'll be tackling more projects from it.

  14. #14
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    I'm very jealous that you have that stash of reclaimed D-Fir! It's really nice stuff for sure...and you live too far away for me to steal it. LOL
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    Jim - our home was built in 1838 on what was the frontier at the time. Strangely, (I think) the interior walls were framed with these rough sawn DF planks on flat. We re-framed with 2x4 for modern conveniences like electrical outlets. I saved the DF. Most are 14-16 wide, 2 or 2-1/2" thick around 9' long.

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