Monday, January 18, 2016

Where have you been?

Why haven't I been doing woodworking?

My primary woodworking season is late fall through early spring. In my part of the country that's about five months out of the year. Spring, summer and fall I'm kept busy with yard work and other outdoor activities. Unfortunately a succession of new jobs has kept me busy during my prime woodworking season for about the last five years Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I've been employed and I've parted amicably with all of my employers.

Why start blogging now?

About ten years ago I helped a friend build a nice gaming table top. I helped with the design ideas and tools but pretty much all the work was his. My friend (let's call him Mike to preserve his anonymity) finished the top but didn't have a clear concept of what kind of legs he wanted. Since the top was pretty solid we figured we could make do with temporary legs.

We quickly realized the temporary legs were just that. The legs wobbled and generally did a disservice to the beautiful top he'd made. I talked Mike into using beefy trestle table legs so people could sit at the corners of the table without banging their knees and to hopefully get rid of a lot of the wobble. Mike indicated he'd had enough woodworking and would be just as happy if I just made the legs for him. I promised I'd get right on that.

Well, here we are ten years later, I'm settled in my current job and have the mental energy to spend on woodworking. I wanted something relatively simple I could do in the shop and realizing Mike's table legs would really only be about eight pieces I figured I could bang them out over a couple of weekends.

It actually took me about two months to make the new legs but they came out spectacular. I finished them just in time for his New Years part extravaganza and I know many games were played on that table over the weekend. Everyone remarked at how much nicer it was to play games at a table that felt solid and didn't wobble.

Making those table legs has inspired me to get back into my woodworking hobby and spend some serious time in the workshop over the next few months. I also got my friend Mathieu Lesperance to make me a logo for my website a year ago so I figured I should restart my blog too if only to get his beautiful work in print (so to speak).

What next?

I've got a Mission-Style Quarter Sawn White Oak Dresser I started on about five years ago. The carcass has been sitting in my workshop with the rough cut wood for the drawers sitting on top of it. The panels for the sides have been sitting in my finishing room ready to be put into frame and panel sides. My goal is to finish the dresser this winter and be able to start some other projects that can then sit unfinished in my basement for a few years. For the near future my posts will be about my progress on the dresser - and any side projects I let myself get distracted with. I may fill in with my ramblings on other woodworking subjects from time to time as well.

Mission Style Dart Board Cabinet

[Edit: This entry is being posted January 2016; however, this project was actually completed in December 2013]

I got my first dartboard when I was in high school. It was among the few possessions I took to college with me and it has traveled with me ever since. The first place of my own was a townhouse that had brick walls separating units. Not wanting to ruin my dart tips I created a monstrous foam backer with the cheapest materials I could find. It was 3 ft x 7 ft closed cell foam on top of 1/2 inch fir plywood all covered in a bright blue burlap. It did a spectacular job of protecting my darts; but according to people with taste, it looked hideous.

This blue backstop moved with me when I bought my house and served admirably for a number of years. When my wife and I decided to redecorate the room housing the dartboard we choose to put in Kempas hardwood flooring, a faux finish on the walls that looks like leather and nice base molding and crown molding. A giant bright blue burlap covered foam board wasn't going to fit in so I promised my wife I'd make her a dartboard cabinet to limit the damage to the walls.

Now, five years later, I've finally gotten around to the project and delivered a Mission-style dart board cabinet in quarter sawn white oak. I built it pretty much verbatim from the plans in the August issue of Woodsmith magazine.

So, how did my version come out? Overall I would say that it came out okay.

Construction Details

The Doors

The doors are simple frame and panel construction with solid wood panels instead of the plywood panels specified in the plans. I used solid wood panels because the quarter sawn white oak plywood at my local lumber supplier was not very attractive and had very little flecking. I have done a fair bit of resawing so I was pretty comfortable making these panels from hardwood. The rails and stiles are connected with groove and stub tenons so they went together quickly and were mostly self-squaring.

Door Moldings

The doors have a few pieces of additional trim to spruce them up a bit. The top has a relatively simple piece of cove molding with a 3/8" bead detail an inch or so below it. The bottom of the door has a sill with a 1/2" diameter cove molding.

Cabinet exterior

The author used purchased cove crown molding; however, since I had been wanting to try making my own for awhile I decided to give it a try. I used the project drawings to determine that the cove was about 3/8" deep and about 1 7/8" wide. With these dimensions I was able to layout and make my own molding using my table saw. I could go into more detail of the technique but Wood Magazine has an excellent how-to explanation of this process.

Unfortunately my router bit collection does not contain a 3/8" bead bit or a 3/16" round over bit (I know, shocking right?). So, I made the bead profile with a low angle block plane. I planed a white oak board down to 3/8" thick then clamped the board on edge to my work table using a hand screw and a quick clamp. I drew the 3/8" bead profile on the end then a few dozen passes with a hand plane formed the bead. I smoothed it out with some 80 grit sand paper.

The cove molding along the bottom of the door was made using my router table and a 1/2" radius cove bit. I needed five feet of this style of molding because it is also used on the chalk trays inside the cabinet. I created the cove on both sides of a wider board and then cut them free on my table saw. The sill detail at the bottom of the door has a slight round over which I made using a hand plane rather than setting up my router.

Door Assembly

I didn't do a great job of sanding on the doors and as a result I rounded over the corners a little bit. It wasn't too obvious until I added the long flat trim to the doors. Fortunately some clamps and glue helped hide most of the flaws.

When creating frame and panel doors the panels need to be stained before being installed in the doors. This prevents an unfinished edge from showing when the panels shrink or shift. Here's a picture of what they looked like in the intermediate stage.

The Cabinet

The cabinet was put together using a tongue and dado in the corners. The back is 3/8" pine bead board plywood. The top and bottom rail in the cabinet are held in place with a bit of glue and pocket screws. The corner brackets were cut on my band saw and sanded to shape using a spindle sander and a block sander shaped to the same curve as the inside of the bracket. I  made five and picket the best four to install.

Cabinet Assembly

This project reminded me again why I hate projects with doors. Despite all the tips and tricks I have read to mount doors it is always a painful chore. I made it a bit more difficult on myself by forgetting to fit the doors before finishing.The doors ended up just a hair too wide so when I mounted them on the cabinet I needed to mount them a little wider in order to get an attractive reveal between the doors.

The Hardware

I purchased the no-mortise hinges and door clasp from Horton Brass as did the author. I thought the quality of the hinges was quite good and especially liked that they came with steel screws for test fitting and extra brass screws for final assembly. It is almost like they knew I would strip a couple of the screws in the hard oak. The door clasp came with slotted screw which I must admit look better than Philips head screws but I do not like installing them as they are harder to not strip or slip off and damage something with the screw driver.

I purchased the rare-earth magnets, cups and washers at my local Woodcraft store. They work quite well...  almost too well and I am considering removing two of them to make the doors easier to open.

The dartboard is not the one I got when I was a kid but one my wife and I purchased to replace it. My childhood dart board had round wires between the numbers which caused a significant number of darts to bounce back at the thrower. This new dart board has triangle shaped wires which will hopefully cause fewer bounce backs. Installing the dart board was as simple as putting a U-shaped bracket on the back and adding some spacer blocks to make the dart board not wobble.

Finishing Details

I finished the cabinet with Walnut Watco Danish Oil and after the oil cured I sealed it with Bulls Eye Amber Shellac. This is similar to how I finished my Craftsman-style nightstand; however, I used an oil based wiping polyurethane on the night stand. I choose the shellac finish for this project for its quick drying and recoating properties. I painted the back with General Finishes Somerset Gold milk paint.

This was my first attempt at using Shellac and my first impressions are not good. The speed at which it dries is great for finishing quickly but in contrast the slowness of polyurethane gives you the ability to push it around fixing mistakes and making sure you've got even coverage. The Shallac dried so quickly that I had trouble getting even coverage without drips. I really like the look of Shellac but I think I need some more practice before using it on a large project again.

Wall Mounting the Cabinet

Since the cabinet was heavy I did get help mounting the cabinet on the wall; however, to make things easy on the two of us I built a brace that held the cabinet the correct height above the floor. The brace was made out of 2x4 pine and held the cabinet the correct height above the floor.


This was a fun project to build. There were no significant errors or gaps in the plans and the final result is a very attractive wall mounted dartboard cabinet.

I tried a couple of new construction and finishing techniques some of which worked (making my own cove molding) and some didn't (Shellac). There were a couple of things which came out less than perfect that I am attributing to being rusty and rushing.