Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cherry Bookcase Project (Part 4)

Alright, first off, if you're just joining me now, you can check out parts 1, 2, and 3 here:

Yesterday I left you guys with a bit of a teaser, and I'm not sure that too many of you have seen it yet, but too bad, since I'm doing the follow-up now. :P

On the last post, I had finished sanding the bottom case (the main bookcase part of the overall cabinet), installed the mouldings, and the bottom was basically done except for the shelves and back.

Since then, I went through what wood I had left, worked out some dimensions, and decided I should have just enough wood to build an upper glazed case (that's glazed as in glass doors, not frosted doughnuts) and I started building it.

I needed quite a bit of long pieces for all the mouldings, and horizontal stretchers, so I decided to use-up this cherry board that I picked up YEARS ago at a yard sale. It was a slightly warped and flawed board (crack down the centre), and not very wide. I had originally thought that I'd use it for a clock case, but antique clocks are RARELY ever made from cherry, so this project was as good a project as any to use it up.

Because of the extremely limited stock of cherry, the upper case isn't going to be all that useful for books. The interior case will only be about 7 5/8" wide on the exterior, leaving me with a shelf/interior of 6 1/2" (because of the back and the front frame taking up the other inch). Some books would definitely fit on 6 1/2" deep shelves, like novels, but I don't have that many of those. Most of my library consists of larger reference books. Instead, I'll likely use the upper case to display small clocks or collectibles.

The following photo shows the basic box for the upper case along with 6 scrap pieces of 1/4" cherry veneered panels. I could make a 6 panel back for the upper case, but I'm not sure whether or not it would look too busy.

Here you can see how I made the top of the case with a jigsaw puzzle of different boards. Why? Because I wanted the extra height. Parts of it are solid wood, and others are particle board (with cherry veneer). All are leftovers. I was also planning to do a matching string detail as the bottom case, so the harsh line between the different parts won't show.

Next, doors. With a constantly dwindling stock of old/new wood, each piece had to be measured and carefully picked. A few of the door frame pieces have screw holes (on the back or edges) that will mostly be hidden. They're held together with a simple butt-joint and dowels.

I always like to do a fair amount of research (since I'm so picky and I want to get the "most bang for my buck", or rather: effort in this case, since most of the stock was free). I wanted traditional looking glazed doors, but preferably without the multi-piece glass and complicated joinery. I've always loved Gothic pieces, and I don't own ANYTHING AT ALL with Gothic carvings or aesthetics, so since the base was pretty plain, I could do Gothic tracery in the upper doors without having it look "wrong" or mismatched. I went through 3-4 books (Antiques, Early American Furniture, Furniture of Old Quebec, etc) and copied several nice designs, and I also have a stock of nearly 150 internet photos of antique bookcases, so I had many options. In the end, I went with this pattern:

The top mouldings mainly came out of that yard sale board I mentioned earlier.

All 8 demi-arcs were taken out of the two upper panels from the previous side panel, and as a side note, the two bottom panels got turned into the sides for the upper case.

To make the segments, I used my drawing to make a pattern, and traced out the pieces. All the "grid" portions of the doors are 3/8" thick.

I won't even pretend that these doors were "easy" to make. They were assembled in a fairly simple manner, but they were still a total time-consuming pain in the ass to do.

All the grid pieces were cut to be 1/2 the door thickness (3/8 in this case, for a 3/4" thick door) and longer on the ends so that they extended 1/4" into the door frame (on the inside), to match-up with my 1/4" rabbet to hold the glass. It's hard to explain, but in photos that will be in "Part 5" you'll see this better.

All the joints for the grids are half lap joints. The notches are cut on the 1/4" ends, and matching notches are cut into the door frame edges. In the following photo, all 4 arcs have been notched and fitted on the upper points. "H" (the second arc) is also half-lapped over the top of "G" instead of being notched into the door frame. "G" continues into the frame, but "H" does not. Again, you can see this better later.

The pine horizontal bar is just a temporary one for measurements. With the 4 arcs in their places, I then traced a vertical line on each one. The interior door width is exactly 16" (which worked out beautifully). Divided into 4=4" You can see the 4" reference lines at the top.

4 arcs cut and sanded smooth along that edge.

Next, the 4 arc "pairs" were glued together along their long flat edges (using clothes pins and masking tape). Once glued, they were lightly sanded, and trimmed to length.

The centre bars were done next (and were done AFTER in case there was a bit of deviation in the arches L-R (in case they were slightly off centre from my 4" marks).

Note: nothing is glued yet. Those office clips worked out awesomely.

Next, the last pieces were the two bottom bars. These were cut to fit tightly, and push the arches up into their corners as much as possible (you want a snug fit, not one that's so tight it will deform/force things).

Again, half-lap joints were used. since I have 3 pieces coming together at the middle crosses, the middle joint was done with a diagonal cut (one on the top arch pieces, and one on the bottom bars).

I *COULD* have divided the 3/8" pieces all into 1/8 sections, and had all 3 pieces slot together, but it would have been a lot more work, and this was just as strong.

Yesterday's teaser photo:

At this point, the door grids were done and ready to glue, but I only glued them today. Also note that I haven't yet installed the upper bead detail, or sanded the putty on the crown. The doors and grids will also be routed to match the bottom doors. I'm also pondering adding a crest with 3 finials in a Hepplewhite-inspired style.

Knobs for the upper and lower doors will be hand-turned cherry ones, as will the finials (if I make some).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bookcase Teaser!

I spent the entire day and part of yesterday working on the upper case's doors. I will be posting "Part 4" very soon, but in the meantime, I thought I would post this evil teaser photo.

Monday, March 25, 2013


I took a bit of a leisurely stroll around town today, since I wanted to stop by Source Wood Products which is in the old Cotton Mills (old dilapidated end of town), and I made a few stops along the way to grab a coffee, and photograph old houses.

Unfortunately, when I finally got to my destination, I discovered that they've moved. Not only are they no longer in the old Cotton Mill (which I used to love walking through), they're no longer even in Cornwall. They moved to Summerstown (nearby, but too far for someone on foot - like me). I was really hoping to pick up just a few small off-cuts of cherry to finish the bookcase project. I guess not!

This is a big bummer for me, since they're the only place in town that carried hardwoods/furniture grade lumber. I can always get some off my boss, but I'm really not sure what the situation is there, and it's also pretty damn far to walk.

The good thing, however, is that I took probably around 100 photos of beautiful old houses that I'll eventually post here.

Cornwall Homes

I realize that I haven't posted any more local homes for quite a while. I currently have a stash of about 18 photos left from my favourites. I'm posting half of those in this post, and saving the others for a future post. After that, I'll have to go photograph others.

This post will focus on some of the more popular or better known "beautiful old houses" in Cornwall. These are on the main roads, and are generally in very good condition.

Let's start with the County Courthouse (Old Historic Cornwall Jail). This building served as a prison up until 2002, when it was decommissioned. The original building was built in 1833, with several additions added later. The building has been mostly preserved "as-is" when it was closed down. When visiting the cell blocks, and other sections of the prison, you get a grim feeling of what it would have been like to be confined here. Tons of peeling paint, graffiti, and an endless expanse of cement and iron bars.

Many people were hanged in the courtyard up until capital punishment was abolished in Canada, and the prison is said to be haunted by several spirits (many ghost tours are held at the site).

Part of the original courthouse and front lobby were restored/renovated, and feature beautiful woodwork and stone interior walls (in the lobby).

Read more about it here:

The building itself is quite beautiful, with a wonderful classic shape, stately doors, and beautiful mature trees.

The next most popular old building is the Cornwall Community Museum, also known as the Wood house (named for the Wood family who were the original inhabitants).

The stone house dates to around 1840, and features beautiful Greek Revival details (popular at the time), such as the front door columns, and the style of the interior casings. Three generations of the Wood family lived in the home up until the 1950s, and then the house became the local history museum. The home was more recently moved to its current location in Lamoureux Park (a much more scenic location not too far from its previous site), and a very large archive/basement/storage area was built under it.

At one time, there was a large ornate Gothic gingerbread porch on the front of the house.

If you want to see some of my interior shots of the Wood House, I have some at the end of this post (last 6 photos) I made back in 2007 when my friend Larry visited. You can also see a few goofy photos of me in there, and Ottawa.

The next house is the former Chesley Inn. This house was built in the 1820s, and served as a meeting place for the community, and a place for travellers to stay. It's not exactly on a main road, but it's one of the oldest buildings in town, and one of the only ones built in this Georgian style. It's in need of some care (paint, shutter repairs, and yard maintenance, but it's a beautiful home with tall ceilings and several fireplaces.

Next is this beautiful home (I believe the style is Italianate, but I'm not 100% sure). It's currently occupied by lawyers' offices for Adams Sherwood Swabey & Fallon. The building is kept in absolutely pristine condition. Just this past year, they completely stripped and repainted the front archway, and replaced the light fixture. The previous year, they reglazed/repainted the 8 cupola windows. I do believe that all the arched windows are replacements, but they are high quality and custom made to match the originals exactly. The building probably dates to around 1870-1880.

I don't know the story behind this one, but it's on one of the main roads (Second Street), and the bright red roof with green trim is quite eye-catching. The building was sold a few years ago and I have a few interior photos.

Lastly, this is a wonderfully detailed Victorian on the corner of Second & Amelia. It's across the street from the site of the old public library (now an art gallery and custom framing shop), and also across the street from Central Public School (which was largely demolished and completely rebuilt in a modern style).

Original windows, porch details, and doors. An interesting note that I'll point out, is that the triangular embossed/decorated roof panel, as well as the upper column "brackets" have been used on a few other Victorian houses in town, which makes me think that at one time they were "stock items" or available to order from a catalogue.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bookcase Update & Another Oil Painting

So I finally got the right sand paper to finish sanding the top for the bookcase. I had to go back twice, since apparently they now sell "sticky back" rather than velco back paper, and I got the wrong ones initially.

I also milled and installed the trim moulding. I'm really happy with the finished outline. I was originally just going to use a small cove, but I made two samples and I opted for the Roman ogee instead.

Lastly, I picked up another nice oil painting for super cheap (5$). It's painted on a sheet of masonite, so it's definitely an amateur piece, but it's pretty well done, and it reminds me of picnics at a park we used to visit in the summer. There was a second painting (on canvas) that was the same size and in an identical frame (by the same artist), but it wasn't nearly as nice, so I left that one behind.

I hate the frame, but the shape and size are ok, so I'll be painting it. Either gold, black, or a combination.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vanity Update

I ***FINALLY*** installed knobs and the bullet catches on the vanity. Still no cash for the counter top though.

I chose very simple brass knobs.

Cherry Bookcase Project (Part 2)

Alright, it seems almost mind-boggling that I've already been working on this project for a month. It's true, though, that I've only been working on it a few hours a day, and only "when I feel like it", or when it wasn't insanely cold out (since the garage is unheated and not insulated. so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad.

It seems so slow, though, since a project like this could have been thrown together in 2 days at work. Especially since all the panels were already made.

Anyhow! The bookcase is nearly done now. I can't do much more on it until I get more sand paper.

If you want to get caught up on this project before I go any farther, check out part 1 here:

Alright, when I left off last time, I was still deciding whether or now I still wanted to reuse the original euro hinges, but I decided to scrap those in favour or some more appropriate hinges. I'll also note that if I had kept the other hinges, I would have needed some blocks inside the cabinet's frame to hold the clips for the base of the hinges, and they would have been in the way for the books and shelves (not practical).

I decided to just route-away some rectangular sections and patch the holes with a matching rectangular block of cherry glued in place. It doesn't look that pretty, but the new hinges hide it partially, and it's not visible on the exterior.

Next, I started to rebuild the face frame. The sides and bottom were easy, but I had to calculate the exact width for the middle brace, and the height for the top ones.

Since all the current pieces on the front and sides are sun-bleached (and permanently messed-up), I used matching blocks of wood from other parts of the old cabinet, so that I'd have a continuous "sun-bleached line" going around the top of the cabinet. I have a photo and a bit more of an explanation farther down.

Face frame done, and door edges routed with a 3/8" rabbet around the 4 interior edges. I'm still deciding if I want to use those large wood knobs.

Here's that sun bleached line I'm talking about.

Basically, cherry is well known for it's sensitivity to sunlight. If you're working in a workshop that has natural light, you need to be very careful with cherry. If, for example, you place a board of cherry in the sunlight with a square lying on it, in as little as a few hours you will end up with an L shaped shadow permanently printed onto your wood plank. Likewise, if you have a pile of cherry boards near a window, everything in the sun will darken, and you will end up with shadow lines along the edges of your boards. At our old shop (which had lots of south facing windows), we quickly learned to throw old blankets on top of piles of cherry pieces.

You *CAN* sand some of the discolourations out, but it's tedious, and a lot of the time the exposure is fairly deep into the wood. In the case of this cabinet, there used to be a really wide (and ugly) moulding along the top of the cabinet (now removed). You can see the moulding here:

This moulding was covering the wood for YEARS. In the photo with the sun-line above, I already sanded the pieces down through the varnish to bare wood, and the line isn't going away. To get around this problem, I milled a small bead moulding to cover the line. There will still be a difference in the shade of the wood on each side of the bead, but it's not noticeable and all the lighter wood sections will eventually darken (basically everything will end up matching in a few years). You can see the bead detail farther down.

Next, I ordered some hardware for the cabinet: 2 locks, 2 keys, 2 escutcheons large enough to cover the sun-bleached knob locations, 4 3/8" offset hinges, and some shelf hardware. My order came up to around 66$ but I also had some knobs for the bathroom vanity, and 2 barrel bolts for the Office built-in with the order. So we'll say 40-50$ish. That's about all I'm spending so far on the entire project, plus a few nails, screws, and varnish.

While I was waiting for the hardware to arrive, I decided to plane down a whole bunch of old scrap wood t-g boards from around the house. A lot of this old wood could have been used for clock repairs, antique reproductions, or other projects, but then again I still have a lot more wood, and this is a CHERRY bookcase, so I decided to go ahead and use the old wood. This was mostly boards that were part of the basement "corner shanty" which you can see in this old photo. The entire thing was a crooked, useless mess and I took it down.

Most of the boards were either warped, cracked, painted, or all of the above.

For the back boards, I needed these 3/4" boards planed down to 1/2", Not too bad; only 1/4" to remove off a few boards, right?


Huuuuuuuge pile of saw dust, and it probably took at least an hour.

And here's a quick preview of what those old boards look like. They are random widths, and I plan to add a bead detail on them (I haven't done that yet).

Next was the base. At first, I was going to make just some simple (haha yeah right) turned bun feet, but I really didn't feel like doing all the glue-ups for the blanks, cutting them to size, setting up the lathe, and turning them (especially in the freezing cold), so I abandoned that idea. I remembered that I still had a box full of cherry off-cuts from the old woodworking company I worked at. I found 4 pieces just large enough to make the sides and front feet.

Picking a design was hard. I'm VERY picky with details (as I'm sure you've noticed if you've been reading for a while), and I spent a few hours looking through some of my furniture books, internet auction photos, and searching the web. I didn't find exactly what I wanted, but I did get a few ideas. These next two (horrible) photos show 2 foot options that I drew-up. The photos are upside down, since the cabinet was lying on its top.

Too fancy:

A little too plain/angular:

The third design turned out well, and I cut them out on my scroll saw (not the best tool for this job, but it worked out alright). I'd suggest using a band saw, or a jig saw (I have neither, since my vintage jig saw kinda crapped out on me).

The entire bottom skirt and mouldings are all held together with mitres, biscuits, and lap joints, along with a few glue blocks and screws, followed by a bunch of sanding and a bit of puttying.

With the base done, and enough wood pieces set aside for the top, I noted that I might have enough wood to make an upper cabinet to sit on top. I really like the idea of a very tall (nearly floor to ceiling) bookcase, so I might try to get it done. The only issue is that I don't have cherry for the shelves and the back for the upper cabinet, so the interior would either need to be painted pine (since I'm not spending a crapload of $$$ on cherry for this), or carefully stained pine (to look close to cherry/mahogany). I'm leaning heavily to a painted interior. Maybe light green, beige, or light blue (something historic that pairs nicely with cherry).

This would be the approximate size of an upper case. I'd make some fancy glass panel doors for it. I could make it a bit taller if I also added 2 drawers, but that's also adding a LOT of extra work.

Hardware received and installed (door hinges and locks):

Top glued up. The top is a scrap section of 5/8" cherry veneered particle board with 3/4" x 3" mitred boards on the three exterior edges (biscuits again).

And finally, here's where I'm at today. The top is now routed and sanded on the bottom side. What's left to do is just to sand the top (on the good side), sand the doors, and then mill and install a cove or ogee moulding to go along the top edge of the cabinet (to transition between the cabinet and top where the blue arrow is, and also to hide the screws). I just need to make a trip to "the big orange box" and get some sand paper discs.

I'll also need to finish-up the back t-g boards, and cut 3 simple shelves.

Lookin' pretty good for a pile of "scrap", right?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living Room

I started doing some more work/demo in the living room.

I don't know if you guys remember or not, but when I took out the flooring and baseboards in the living room, I partially damaged the bottom part of the old air duct in the interior corner of the room. You can see it in this photo.

This duct used to be part of the old heating system (second system?) before it was re-updated, and it's a stacked rectangular duct that used to feed 2 rooms (Bathroom vent currently under the tub - abandoned, and the front half of the Master Bedroom). They left the old vertical duct in place, and just ran a new round duct into it. Looking back on this, I really should have just torn it out when I reconnected the duct for the Master Bedroom (since I had it in pieces and I would have had easier access).

I wasn't sure if I should just patch it, or redo it, but it was busted in such a weird way that it would have been hard to smooth out (not to mention that I'm not sure how well the compound would hold on bare metal).

The original stack was coated in some type of cloth material (probably fireproof asbestos insulation), and then it had a combination of paint and wallpaper, with lots of caked layers of drywall compound over this. It was cracked in places, and VERY lumpy.

I decided to remove it for 2 main reasons. 1: it was ugly as hell and would be hard to patch/fix, and 2: it would be easier to attach my crown and baseboards to a properly framed drywall corner.

Removing this thing (which was slotted down into the floor, and nailed/attached up into the ceiling) was NOT FUN. It was super messy, aggravating, and dangerous (I got a few small cuts on my hands until I finally got smart and grabbed some work gloves).

I managed to remove the slightly busted-up bottom segment first.

With the bottom part gone, I was then able to loosen and yank-down the top. I didn't want to disconnect/disassemble my new ducts inside, so I had to cut away the rectangular duct, which took forever.

It looks like I'll also be able to shrink this down a bit (maybe 2-3" in width).

I also framed out most of the doorway casings (plinth blocks will go in last - after the floors are refinished). You can see how much the wall/floor slopes on this doorway compared the the square opening of the Office door. I'm pretty much out of my new MDF boards (I need to get more), so these casings are a real mix of pieces. MDF on the right, an original Ash board on the left, scrap painted pine for the header, and new parting bead & crown in silver maple.

I'm also working on that Cherry bookcase some more. I just ordered some hardware for it and if I'm lucky, it might come in tomorrow, if not, Monday.