Monday, January 24, 2011

Stand and deliver

Allow me, if you will, to remind you of a useful thing to bear in mind when undertaking a project; it will always, but always, take longer than you think.

Then add on twice as much to allow for finishing.

These days I've given up making things for people's birthdays or Christmas. I've actually given up giving, or receiving, anything at all for either event, and rejoice in the freedom and lack of Oscar-winning "Bath Salts! How did you know?" fabrication that was previously necessary. But my mother is about to have a Big Birthday - and when I say "about to", I mean tomorrow - and I wanted to make her something to mark the event. Except I didn't know what, until I saw the William & Mary bookstand in last November's Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Small, unusual, bit of a joinery exercise. Why not?

Why not? Why not?! Because by the time the weather had stopped being abominable and gone away, and the relatives had also stopped being abominable and left after Christmas, and I'd finally got my posterior in gear and the timber acclimatised, I had exactly 10 days to get it done.


The long-term reader will know I don't do speedy project building. I prevaricate. I beat about the bush. I hum and hah. Reader, the nose has veritably been to the grindstone on this one.

I also avoid through mortises, staining (which was going to be necessary given what timber I was working with) and actually following plans, so lots of potential for trouble, and I met nearly all of it. The bulk of the stock prep was done with hand planes and the thicknesser (Planer, 'Murrican folk), and the bandsaw saw plenty of use. But the joinery is all hand cut and no power tools were harmed in the final shaping of the curvy bits.

Of course I was so keyed-up to get the dreaded through mortises right, I managed to make a frightful mess of the dovetails instead, so a certain amount of on-the-job learning on how best to fill gaps in dovetails went on. But before that, I managed to bore the 1/2" holes in the outer frame in exactly the wrong place. Happiness. To add to my joy, when I bought my set of snug plug cutters I was still on a metric kick, so didn't have a cutter big enough. Grrr. So I turned a couple of plugs on the lathe, and had a brilliant idea (if I say so myself) to make a feature of the end grain by stamping the recipient's initials and the Significant Birthday Number on them.

I was also dreading the curvy bits, but actually ended up rather enjoying doing them. Decorative stuff like this is not something I've really had cause to do before, and I may be hooked. Big thumbs up, once again, to my sole Auriou rasp. Yes, they may cost an arm and a leg (and good grief, I've just seen what they cost now - better add another leg), but it's such a joy to use. They may be lying there looking all purposeful, but those other rasps didn't get a look in. A recent post on the Old Tools List suggests I should be ashamed to use rasps and not have done it all with edge tools. Sounds great to me; if anyone feels ashamed about owning any Aurious, I'll take 'em off your hands...

And the finished article. "Finished?" I hear you query. "Haven't you forgotten something?" Well between you and me, I'm not much taken with the feet. More to the point, I'm not sure my mum will be. So I'll give it as-is, and consult on the feet.

I think it looks better than the photograph suggests, but we'll see how it's received tomorrow.

Tools Used (as far as I can recall):

6" & 18" Rule
3" Double square
Low Angle Jack
Mitre saw
Bevel-up smoother
Wheel gauge and mortise wheels
Skew block
Mini sliding bevel
Dovetail Saw
1/8", 1/2" & 3/4" bevel edged chisel
Marking knife
Coping saw
Drill press
1/2" Forstner bit
Letter & number stamps
Pair of compasses
1/4" Sash mortise chisel
12" clamps
Pencil gauge
Rasp (12 grain)
6" half round files (second and smooth cut)
Abrasives, tack cloths, etc to finish


  1. Were those William's feet, or Mary's on the original book stand? Like you, I'm not a big fan of them either.

    I'm betting your mum will be very pleased. You've produced a beautiful result! Congrats on meeting the date.

  2. great explanation, thanks

  3. That turned out rather nice, Alf. I bet your Mum will love it.

    Cheers ;-)

    Paul Chapman

  4. That looks great Alf. I really like the stamped end grain - you can tell a real craftsperson from how they recover from their mistakes.

    Now, if your mother was born in 1980 ...

  5. Auriou rasps are cool, as are all well made rasps. Ashamed to have thought about using them, well just let me say that when new they are sharp, when used lots they go blunt, just like a plane blade or cabinet scraper. They just have a few more edges than a spokeshave.

    All the best Sean

  6. It does look fab!

    Convinced now to have a go, especially since you blazed the no naff feet trail and made it look good.

    Just one question, how do you avoid edge tear-out (spelching?) when using the rasp?

    With more chance of getting enough hen's teeth to super-glue to a strip of metal and use them as a rasp than wrapping my grubby mitts around an Auriou I'll persevere with my motley collection of rasps and files. Unless...the cabinet scraper can do the job, mmmm.

    Seriously though - are they that good, those Auriou thingies?

    Stephen Ruddock
    Still in NZ.

  7. Thanks for the comments, folks. It went down well, and as a plus she doesn't like the idea of the feet either ;)

    Stephen, a bit of a chamfer on the back side is all that's needed to avoid the dreaded spelch. And the Aurious are good, but if I didn't have one I'm pretty sure I'd be happy with the other hand cut rasps I have. Any of them are 1000% nicer to use than the machine cut, that's for sure, and really needn't break the bank.

  8. Love the stamped end grain trick!


  9. Alf,

    The bookstand looks great! Glad to see my article was an inspiration to try some "curvy bits". Keep plugging away (no pun intended). Again, it really looks fantastic. I sincerely hope your nother enjoys your gift.

    Chuck Bender

  10. Thanks, Chris.

    Chuck, I fully intended to go over and post on your blog (which was vey helpful, btw) but somehow... Thanks for the article; it proved to indeed be a nice joinery challenge. Kinda want to make another one now, just to see if I've learnt from my mistakes!


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