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Friday, February 27, 2015

Bombe Chest - Feet and Finishing - Last Installment

Now I have to carve four ball and claw feet.  The feet have a small post which fits into a mortise under the case.  You can see part of two the holes in the picture below.  The molding covers the sides of the mortises.

The bombe chest is a Boston piece, so the ball and claw design should follow the Boston design.  This Boston foot is noted by the fact that the side two toes are swept back as opposed to the Philadelphia which are straight up and down.

The poplar was relatively soft making it easy to carve but poplar does not hold the detail as well as mahogany or cherry.

Cutting them out on the bandsaw is the same as cutting out any cabriolet leg but smaller.  The turns are tight.  And cleaning up the bandsaw marks is more difficult because of the short length.
I made five feet and picked the four best of the lot.

Here you can see me working on the fourth one.  The brown one in the back of the picture is a plaster cast to help me view the finish foot.  I have a number of these plaster casts, Philadelphia, Boston and Newport.  I find them very helpful in visualizing the final foot.

I bandsawed the knee blocks which help transition the feet to the sides and bandsawed a small pattern which hangs down from the center of the chest.

Now it is time to assemble the base molding and glue in the feet.

I had ordered the locks and brass pulls which took a long time to be delivered, so I finished the case first.  I'll get into the hardware later.

The Finishing Process

I sanded everything to 220 grit.  Then I raised the grain with warm water applied with a rag.  When it was dry I sanded with 320 grit.

Now I was ready to apply the water based dye.  I used Lockwood's dark antique mahogany.  I applied the dye with a spray gun.  I do not have fancy spray equipment, just an old compressor and a Devilbiss Finishline HVLP gun which I paid about $150 ten years ago.  Not sure what they go for now.  I also have a Harbor Freight $40 gun which works about the same.

I use a dry spray technique which has a lot of air and not a lot of fluid.  This takes about three sometimes four passes to get the color you want.  But it does allow you to even out the darker and lighter parts of the wood.  This is important with poplar since it has these green patches.

See below the dark patch in the poplar and then the finished look.

It is also difficult to get the dye color finish even because of the bow, there is end grain as the flat part of the side transitions to bow.

After the dye spray dried, I rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool, this removes any fuzzies that the water dye creates.

Then I applied Waterlox Original Sealer Tung Oil finish with a rag.   It takes about six to seven coats to build up the finish.  I sand between coats with 400 sand paper or 0000 steel wool.  

Last, I apply a paste wax and buff to the shine that I want.   That is the finishing process I use most often.

I still had to put the locks and pulls on the drawers.   I mortised the locks into the rear of each drawer, Since the drawers are serpentine I had to bend the locks slightly of make them fit properly into each drawer.

The same was true for the drawer pulls and eschutcheon plates, each had to be bent to match the curves.  While they were not severely bent, there was work to do on each one.

Above is a picture while I was bending and fitting the hardware.   Once the hardware was installed, I removed it and repeated the finishing process on the drawers that I have detailed above.

This is the finished chest but it has not been rubbed out with wax yet.  I dyed the dovetail pins on the drawer fronts dark with a small brush and put blue tape on the tails to keep the dye off of them. This created the contract between the sides and the fronts.

I need to mention that the back and the drawer bottoms where made from 1/4 inch birch plywood. Not very traditional but I worked just fine.

So now the chest is complete.  It took me about 200 hours to build the chest and another 50 hours to do the finishing.  It was a very rewarding experience and I may build another someday out of cherry or mahogany.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bombe Chest - Drawers are Difficult - Fifth Installment

Up to this point I thought I had tackled the difficult parts of the project.  But the drawer fronts and sides where a real challenge.

The only drawer that was a rectangle was the first drawer.  That's where I started. It still had the serpentine curve but that was not that difficult.  I traced the pattern from the drawer blade on to the bottom of the drawer and cut out the rough pattern on the bandsaw and then used a spokeshave to do the shaping.

Above is the second drawer,  this begins the more difficult drawers.  First the 3 inch thick block is cut to a parallelogram.  The lower part of the drawer front sticks out further than the upper.

Then the sides are curved to match the sides of the bombe chest and fit into the drawer opening.  As you can see with the second drawer above.

Then I was able to trace a line on the drawer front top and bottom to match the upper and lower drawer blade curve.  The curve on the front is in two directions.  Serpentine from side to side and bowed from top to bottom.   I tilted the table on my bandsaw to match the angle on the front and sawed out the bulk of the material.

Then I used the Stanley Scrub plane, Compass plane and spokeshave to shape the drawer front.

Once I had the pattern on the front I used a compass to follow the curve and mark the back with a pencil line.  Then I used the bandsaw to cut the pattern on the back of the drawer to 7/8 inch thick.
I did not clean up the back of the drawers as much as the fronts.

Above I am marking out the third drawer to repeat the process of bandsaw and shape.

Above the third drawer front roughed out with the band saw.

 Finished shaping the 3rd one,  Getting ready of saw out the last drawer.  Notice how the 4th drawer blank is now a different trapezoid shape.

The four drawer front are fitted and shaped that this point.  There is still more clean up to do.

Now for the drawer sides and dovetails.  I made the sides thicker then necessary about 1 inch thick and dovetailed  them together.  Then I shaped the sides of the drawers to fit the bombe chest sides.

Of course some drawer sides are concave and some are convex.
Cutting the dovetails was difficult but I practiced on some scrap until I got it right before I cut them on those drawer fronts.  I was not going to ruin the drawer fronts.  Way too much work to make them over again.

All done with the drawer fronts, sides and the dovetails.

Now I am in the home stretch.  I need to carve the ball and claw feet and then do the finishing.
So the next installment we will have completed the bombe chest.

Hope you enjoy it.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Bombe Chest - Drawer Blades - Fourth Installment

The cock beading needed to be cut out of the sides before the dovetails for the drawer blades were cut.  I had to develop a way to put the beading on the side.  I have a Stanley Beading plane that could round over the small strip of wood which makes the bead but how to make the small strip of wood. The sides are 7/8 inch thick so I need to lower 3/4 of an inch wide by 1/8 inch deep to leave the 1/8 inch bead but how could I do that.   If the sides were flat I could use a router with a rabbet bit to cut it out.  But the sides are bowed.  I could use a chisel and carve off the material but that would be difficult to get it even and smooth.

Here was the trick I used to do it.  I put a very narrow base of wood only one inch wide on the base of my router in the center and put the bit though a hole drilled in the center of the wood this allowed my router to follow the bowed side but still rest firmly against the curve.  Using a 3/4 inch rabbet bit with a bearing I removed 1/8 inch deep strip leaving the bead on the edge. The bearing rested on the wood that became the bead.  The bearing was large, only exposing 1/8 of an inch of the cutter. The only care was to not tip the router from side to side with only a 1 inch base rest. Once the 1/8 inch was exposed I used my Stanley beading plane to round over the cockbead.

Now that I had the cock beading on the sides, I turned my attention to the drawer blades and drawer runners.  I should have thought about it earlier because there was not an easy way to insure that they would be perpendicular to the sides.  When I started to look at the sides and thought about how to put the groove and dovetails in the sides I first thought about using a router.  But how could I steady it against the curved sides without making some complicated device.  It looks like the router is out. I decided to do it by hand.

I used the drawings to locate the position of each of the drawer runners.  I marked them out with a marking knife and pencil.  I don't have any pictures of me actually sawing and chopping out the dovetails but this is what it looked like after it was glued up. I had to be very careful not to mess up the cock bead on the side because it needs to be mitred with the bead on the blade. When I first cut them they were undersized.  Then I fitted them when I had the blades made.

As for the groove for the drawer runners, I chopped them out with a chisel, they were just 1/8 inch deep.

Now that the grooves and dovetails where in the sides, I needed to make the drawer blades.
I used the drawings to make templates for the runners since each one is different due to the bow on the front of the chest.

Above are couple of the drawer blade templates, only half is required.  Then the length of each blade need to be measured perfectly because you need to add a dovetail and mitre the cockbeading with the side.
So I made an adjustable template for length.

With this template I could test fit the dovetail for each drawer blade and then make the blade exactly the same knowing that it will fit.

Putting the cockbeading on the drawer blades was simpler than the sides.  I mounted 1/8 inch beading bit with bearing in the router table and put the bead on both sides and then used a fly cutter to remove the material between.  I could have used my Stanley hand beading plane.

Above is a practice piece for drawer beading and dovetailing.  There were three blades to make each a different length and shape.

The drawer runners and the rear cross pieces were put together with mortise and tenon but not glued in the back.  This allows them to move with the wood sides.   When I did glue up the assembly I only glued about 4 inches from the front of each blade and put a couple of finish nails in the runners to the sides.

The base molding was made from 8/4 stock.  The shape was traced from the drawing to a cardboard template.  I used several router bits to match the profile and some carving chisels.

I also routed an edge to the top of the chest using multiple router bits.

Mitring the side pieces but not attached yet.  Again they would be glued in the front 4 inches and attached with nails.

Next installment I will tackle the drawer fronts.   Everything was easy up to this point...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bombe Chest - Third Installment

At this point I as still shaping the sides of the chest.  Having used the scrub plane to remove all of the steps from the dado blade, it is time to smooth the surface with a Stanley/Victor  #20 compass plane. This plane is common to ship and boat builders because it can conform to both convex and concave wood surfaces.

I purchased mine on ebay many years ago.  Most of the nickel is still there and the rest of the plane was in good shape.  Of course sharpening the blade is most important.

In the above picture you can see the line scribed on the side from the template.  I need to plane the entire side to the line.

The screw and knob in the middle of the plane allow for adjusting the sole of the plane to fit the contour of the side.

This plane did the heavy lifting in smoothing the sides and bringing the thickness to the final dimension.

As I mentioned I had made templates and jigs to assist with build process.

 These are the side profile templates.  The thin one in the middle is 1/8 in. tempered masonite.  The two wood blocks match the curve on the inside and outside of the case.  They can be pushed along the sides to see that shape conforms from the front to back.

Here is one side almost completed.  The plane of course can not cut all the way to the end since the end blocks are in the way so I used a spokeshave to get close to the end.  

Later I will use a card scraper of smooth out the surface.

One side done. Outside.

This is the inside of the same piece.  I spent as much time on the inside at this point,   probably should not have but I wanted the drawers to slide smoothly against the inside.

There are different styles of bombe chests.  Some do not have curved insides. On those the inside is left flat except for the drawer front.  These are much easier to build since you do not have to shape the drawer sides to match the curved sides.  But I chose to go the whole 9 yards and curve the insides which means later you will see me shaping the drawer sides to fit the case sides.

The next step was to cut out the front curve on each side of the case.  Notice that the curve on the front of the case matches the curve on the side of the case.  So the same template can be used to trace this curve on each side.  Cut it out with a bow saw, jig saw or coping saw.  Leave a little extra and clean it up with a spokeshave. Also, I cut off the top and bottom blocks at this point using a hand saw and table saw.  Make sure they are square.

Next I glued up a panel for the bottom 7/8 in. thick. I laid out the dovetails, cut them and chopped them out.  I am a tails first man.  Then I matched the tails on the bottom to the sides of the chest and traced marks for the pins with a marking knife and pencil.  I use a pencil so that I can the knife line.

Here are the pins laid out.  Notice that I am using one of my blocks to support the chest side in the vise.  This help keep it perpendicular. 

Here I am using both of my curved support blocks to hold the side while I chop out the pins.
Once dovetails were chopped out and fit the two sides where ready to be attached to the bottom.
However, the top needed to be made next.  

I selected two nice looking pieces of 4/4,  milled them to 7/8" and glued them up.  While I was waiting for the glue to dry, I used a dovetail router bit to apply a dovetail shape on only one side of each of the sides.  By only putting the dovetail on one side of the panel allows it to slide more easily into the top.  

Once the top panel glue was dry, I used a dovetail router bit to put a matching one sided dovetail groove in the under side of the top board. This is a stopped groove that does not go all the way through the top.  You do not see the dovetail groove in the front.  I think it stops 3/4 inch from the front.  This half dovetail groove allowed the top to slip on to the two sides without too much trouble.

Once I had dry fit the sides to the top. The carcass is complete but I can not glue it up yet.   

Next is the drawer blades, dovetails and grooves for the drawer runners need to be put into the sides.

I tackle that in the next post.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bombe Chest - Second Installment

Well thanks for all of the encouragement to continue the bombe chest build.  We left off with hogging out the material to make the bulbous sides.

No one made a comment about the modification to the radial arm saw.

The cabinet side was about 20 inches wide and the radial arm did not have enough travel for the blade to reach the end of the work piece.

So I had to add about 4 1/2 inches to the radial arm, which was made from cast iron.


I took a piece of white oak and made an extension exactly like the track that the saw ran on.  Long 1/4 inch bolts holds it in place with tapped and threaded holes in the end of the arm.  The little piece of metal on the end stopped the saw from running off the end.

Now the dado would run clear to the end of the table which was necessary to cut the cabinet sides.

Once the initial step cuts were made in the sides, it was time to start to clean up the steps and smooth both side to the lines of the pattern which were traced on the sides.

The ends will be cut off later but for now they help square up the side panel.  Also there is a support piece I left in the underside that will be chopped out later.   You can see how much material has been hogged out by looking at the ends.  Imagine wasting all that expensive mahogany just to get this shape.  I suppose you could veneer the popular if you wanted a show wood.

One way to do it in the 18th century before power tools, they would saw kerfs across the board about 1 inch apart and then chop out the material with a chisel.

Here I am using a Stanley #40 scrub plane which has been reconditioned.  New blade and brass leaver cap.  The leaver cap doesn't have a leaver just a threaded brass knob.
The blade has a curve to it which cuts a shallow depression.  But it takes a lot of material off quickly.
You can see above that the steps are getting knocked off the top of the bulge.  The lines created by the saw kerfs help my eye maintain the shape horizontally.

Another View of the progress

 All Scrubbed!  Now I still have to get it smoothed and to the line.  There is about 1/32 inch to go for the most part at this point to get the material to the line.  I still have to do the other side first.

Here I am working on the inside curve.  I have knocked off the center support and now scrubbing the steps off.   The Stanley #40 did a great job and made quick work of shaping the sides.

All Scrubbed front and back.  You can see the Stanley #40 laying there on its' side on the bench,  I think it is tired and needs a rest.

One done, now I have to do the other side.   Back to the scrub plane.   I think my arm hurts at this point.   

We will work on getting it smoothed out in the next installment.