Saturday, March 22, 2014

In Progress

Here's a project I haven't written much about on my blog. Mainly because progress has been slow, and I always forget my camera when working on it. Back in October (September?), Bill drafted a beautiful design for a wooden Shaker-style island/cabinet for my kitchen. Since then, we've been building it together, in fits and spurts, from reclaimed wood from The Rebuilding Center. It's been coming along slowly, hampered by our two months of surgery/recovery when we didn't work on it at all, but now it's finally taking shape. I've been learning so much from Bill, who is an extremely talented woodworker and boatbuilder. He has a fully outfitted workshop in his basement, and I've learned how to use new tools: dovetail saw, drill press, handplanes, mortising chisels. I still refuse to use the table saw though. It will be awhile before I get comfortable around that one.

I've done only a small bit of woodworking and whittling in the past, so most of the techniques are new to me, and I'm loving it. Wood is such a neat medium, and under Bill's guidance, I am starting to hone my instincts for determining grain (which direction should I chisel from?) and figuring out how to work with warped or twisted boards. One of the most satisfying things has been cutting into old boards that are dark and moldy on the outside, and finding beautiful, sweet-smelling, tight-grained wood on the inside.

Over the last couple of months, I had gotten all of the mortises and tenons cut and chiseled out, and recently we've been fine-tuning them, getting the joints to fit together tightly. Yesterday we got the last ones done, and fit all of the posts and rails together. Bill snapped some pictures on his phone:

Wedging one of the rail tenons into its mortise.

It fits! (I'm pretty sure there are photos of me as a two-year-old with this exact same expression on my face after having achieved some great feat)

 The frame, all fitted together. (Behind it, you can see the skeleton of the 16-foot Shetland-style sail and oar boat that Bill is building)

I'm very excited to have this in my kitchen. It will replace the very low and very ugly Ikea table that current provides me with extra counter space. The new wooden one will have two drawers plus an open front, with room to store bags of flour (which currently live on the floor) plus a variety of other things. The side and back panels will be tongue-in-groove, and Bill is going to teach me how to make hand-turned wooden knobs for the drawers using the lathe. One of the best things about this cabinet: it's custom built for my height, so its counter will be 39 1/2 inches off the ground: taller than most kitchen counters, which make my back ache because I have to bend over so much when kneading bread or washing dishes. It will be like Julia Child's kitchen, which her husband had custom-built to accommodate her six foot frame!

It's great to be working on a different kind of project, together with Bill. I like the old-fashioned simple but sturdy style of Shaker furniture and I am looking forward to seeing what the finished product will look like. By the way, I highly recommend The Woodwright's Shop, which is free to watch on the PBS website. It is very entertaining and covers a lot of the techniques that we're using on this project.

Now, speaking of projects, it's time for me to head off to my garden and do the first planting of the year!

No comments: