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TOP LEFT: Photo 9 Threading plugs LEFT: Photo 10 A nice shine and edge to the plugs

Few woodworkers have fully equipped metalworking shops, but for anyone with a metalworklng lathe then these little plugs present no problems. For those, like me, who don't have such equipment then a little bit of metalwork, especially in something as easy to work as aluminium, can be accomplished with woodworking tools.

I started with a piece of 9mm MDF, drawing lines to mark the centres before drilling 16 holes 15mm in diameter.

If the holes are tight enough then they will hold the aluminium bar while it is hacksawn off and thicknessed with files and belt sander to 9mm. Now the centre lines are re-drawn over the aluminium and the centres punched so that the plugs can be drilled and tapped, see photo 9.

I suppose this M4 screw to anchor the dowel is not strictly necessary, but it does ensure not being rung up and asked to replace a lost plug.With all the engineering work complete, the aluminium dowels, still held in the MDF, can be polished with a cotton mop in the pillar drill - if the dowels are pushed out slightly then the mop will give them a nice soft edge, see photo 10.

Walking the line

Laura Mays makes a prize-winning table

THIS TABLE is many things. It was the first real design-and-make project that I undertook as a second year student at the Furniture College, Letterfrack, County Galway in Ireland. It is also the table that earned me £200 worth of tools, a jigsaw, and a router, as joint third prize winner at the F&C competition at the 1997 Axminster Tool and Machinery Exhibition. And it is now the table that sits in the window of my parents' house in County Wicklow

The brief

The brief was: 'Frame making in solid timber'. It was to be a prototype for a bedside table, or a coffee table, to be made in a batch of 100 - although in my case that side of-the brief was sidelined, and I concentrated on it more as a hand-crafted object.

It is a feature of the college that students take briefs differently, some adhering carefully to them, others using them as a departure point for pursuing their own interests. There are things to be said for each approach.

This particular table would not be suitable for a large batch, as became apparent in the making.

'The table's spatial interest is lost when it is pushed up against a wall or a bed -it seems to need air on all sides"

Space and design

I designed what I thought was going to be a bedside table, but ended up as an occasional table. Its spatial interest is lost when it is pushed up against a wall or a bed -it seems to need air on all sides.

Initially, a square table seemed to be more interesting. The joints were of intrinsic importance in setting both the style of the table and the ease of making.

The design had to allow for movement of the timber and it had to be stable, but I didn't want to do anything too conventional. After all this was my first chance in college to do a bit of designing.

Lines and planes

I thought of separating out the structure from the surface that would support objects, making the structure into a line, and the surfaces into planes, which would be as separate as possible from the frame.

ABOVE: The influence of Eileen Gray crept into the table

LEFT' Following in the footsteps of Paul Klee - taking the line for a walk

I 78


In the words of the artist Paul Klee, I 'took the line for a walk', defining some of the edges of a notional box. It seemed to make sense to further differentiate between the line and the plane by making them in two different woods that would contrast with each other, but not too much - a subtle contrast.

The wood

As it turned out there was a stock of lacewood (platanus acerifolia) in the college. I had never heard of such a timber, but because of its attractive name, I thought I'd take a look at it. It is from the plane tree, with similarities to both beech and sycamore, but with a lovely flickering-fleck figure when it is quartersawn - hence its name.

It goes well with cherry, which has more colour but is straighter grained. Any two similar, but different, woods might work just as well - beech and cherry, sycamore and beech, maple and cherry, or beech and maple.


Two tables by Eileen Gray, the modernist furniture designer, one of which is purely planes, the other mostly line, provided further inspiration. I wanted my table to have both plane and line. At this stage I was still thinking of it as a bedside table, and wanted to have a box with a flap-down door incorporated somehow into it - but this was soon abandoned as it was too much work, with not enough gain. After all, a second shelf does the same job.


In terms of joints, splined mitre joints were an option, but as the joints are taking a lot of load, it seemed to me that something stronger would be better - and there was ease of gluing up to think of.

ABOVE! Plenty of gluing area makes this joint both strong and attractive

Although I hadn't ever used one before, the spindle moulder seemed to be the answer - finger joints! Lots of gluing area, and good-looking.

A 22mm (%in) square section for the frame meant three fingers and two slots, or vice versa, of 4mm (%in) each for the inner ones, and 5mm (%in) each for the outer ones, without using a wobble blade.

Expansion and contraction

The table is designed to allow for plenty of movement - the planes move together because the grain direction is the same in all of them. The top is slot-screwed from underneath to the part of the frame which wraps around over the top. A 6mm (!4in) steel bar ties the frame below the shelf. A slot is routed out of the underside of the shelf, allowing it to expand and contract independently of the frame.


Before starting to make the table, I made a very quick mock-up using MDF and white deal to check dimensions and sizes. The timber elements are brought to the smallest dimensions I thought I could get away with - I wanted it to look fine and delicate, but not too spindly.

below; Lacewood provides a subtle contrast to the cherry below; Lacewood provides a subtle contrast to the cherry

Biscuit jointed top •

Slot screwed to allow for movement

Biscuits slot into underneath of top

Side biscuit 4 jointed to frame

Slot screwed to allow for movement

Biscuits slot into underneath of top

Side biscuit 4 jointed to frame

a> Hole to take steel bar

Tops and shelves

Firstly the timber was selected on the basis of its grain and the overall quality of the board. Because only short lengths are needed, overall bowing or twisting are not the critical factors they would be in making a larger or thicker top. In fact, very little timber is used - there is just over a third of a cubic foot in the finished piece, but that's not including wastage. The top takes precedence over the rest when choosing boards.

The lacewood and cherry are planed and thicknessed - the cherry to 22mm (%in) square. The lacewood will end up at 15mm ("/¿n), but I left it over thickness, because in college we had the luxury of a speed sander that would take glued up panels to thickness - but this is not really necessary.

If care is taken when gluing up the panels, a quick skim with a jack plane should take out any small discrepancies in the biscuiting.

The panels are biscuited together, in strips of about 60mm (2%in).

This relatively narrow dimension should help stop any warping in the panels.

Everything is left overlength by 10mm (%in) or so. I try to cut pieces to length at the last possible moment, to allow for changes -but remembering to mark where the biscuits are so as not to reveal them when the panels are trimmed to length.

The glue is scraped off when it is still rubbery, and the surface is planed or sanded to level.

Cherry frame

The cherry is cut to length, and marked out for fingers or slots. I alternated them; that is, each piece had three fingers at one end and two at the other.

The spindle moulder is set up using slotting discs and all the three-fingered pieces run through - then the spindle moulder is adjusted for the two-fingered pieces.

This joint can alternatively be cut on a router table with similar slotting tooling designed for use in a router.

It is good to have a number of spare sections to practice on. The inside faces of the frame should be sanded at this stage as they will be harder to access after gluing up. The holes for the 6mm (J4in) steel bar should be drilled at this stage also, on a drill press preferably.

The biscuit slots for the connecting joints from the frame to the side and top pieces, can be cut now or when the frame is assembled. There are advantages to either - error is more likely if it is done now, but it is easier to clamp down the pieces.

Gluing up the frames

Now comes the fun bit, gluing up. Two people are more than twice as good as one - it is very handy to have someone else to hold the pieces while you tighten the clamps. I made little gluing blocks which pressed only on the fingers.

Clamps are needed in both directions to tighten the joints. If the joint looks a little open acrossways a small G-clamp can tighten it up.

A disadvantage of this table is that the joints are glued up sequentially, rather than all at once as in a conventional frame. This means the gluing up process is more protracted than it would otherwise be.

I used Cascamite which has a long clamping time, but aliphatic resin glue would do as good a job, and allow the whole process to be over much sooner. It is easier to glue up the two end frames flat, then go three-dimensional for the last one.

The joints are cleaned up using a block plane if necessary, and a scraper. The frame can then be sanded, through the grades of paper, at least to 240 grit.

Meanwhile, the lacewood panels are cut to length, biscuited, and the slot routed in the underside of the shelf for the bar. Then they can be glued into their configuration, the joints cleaned up if necessary with a plane, and sanded. During the assembly process the ends of the steel bar are glued into their holes in the frame with an epoxy resin like Araldite.


The table is now ready for its final stage, oiling. I used Rustin's Danish oil,


Eileen Gray, the designer and architect, is now regarded as one of the pioneers of modern design in furniture.

She was born in Ireland in 1878. As a young woman she trained as a painter at the Slade school of art in London before moving to Paris, where she was to remain for the rest of her life.

Her interest in furniture began with a passion for Japanese lacquer work, which she studied under the master, Sagawara - later designing exotic pieces in the Art Deco style. She became known for her interior design and opened a shop in Paris.

In the later part of the 1920s however, her preoccupations shifted in a very different direction when she collaborated with Jean Badovici on an experimental house in the south of France, known as E1027, in which they focused on space and form, exposing the mechanics of the building, rather than disguising them.

Her work won the respect of some of the foremost modernists of the time, Including the Swiss architect Le Corbusler, and the German avant garde group, De Stijl.

Modernists, at that time, were concerned with moving away from the lavish romanticism of Art Deco and were drawing on the influences of primitive art, Cubism, and the aesthetic of the machine.

They were interested in geometric forms, unadorned surfaces, exposed structure, and light and space. Minimalist perfectionism and love of flawless detail and proportions were of prime importance.

Eileen Gray's work was somewhat neglected during most of her life until in 1972, aged ninety three, she was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry. This prompted a resurgence of interest and new editions of her modernist furniture of the 1920s and 1930s were put into production.

There are examples of Eileen Gray's furniture in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris - and drawings and models in the collection of RIBA In London.

BELOW: A steel bar ¡»j-ovides the solution to the shrinkage problem

but there are a number of equally good ones available. The oil is applied with a brush or a rag, and then the excess is wiped off before it dries. The rags should not be squashed together and thrown in a bin. They can self-ignite -my brother tells me he nearly set fire to his flat by leaving rags in a crumpled heap after oiling a table top.

Because the table had ended up on a wooden floor, I stuck little clear plastic glides on it. The oil needs to be scraped back through in order for the glides to adhere properly.


The table has a definite De Stijl or Bauhaus look. It appears modem, and combines spatial interest with traditional values of solid timber and exposed joints.

The frame was not easy to glue up, a flat jig might have been a worthwhile expense of time.

If the weight of more than a few books is to be placed on the top, it might be worth looking at an additional support for it.

But, as soon as I finish a piece, I start thinking about how it could be better and how I would do it differently the next time. I guess that's called the learning curve, but it's what keeps me going from project to project -enthusiastic to try out on the next, what was learnt on the last. ■

BELOW: A steel bar ¡»j-ovides the solution to the shrinkage problem

Cabinet Sauvienon

This neat wall cupboard would suit many purposes - here it stores Bob Wearing's wine

The door

Apply glue to the inner faces of the outer two laminates, make the sandwich, hold together with a few strips of masking tape and place centrally on the mould.

If using PVA glue, work rapidly -Cascamite, Aerolite or Scotch glue all allow a bit more time.

If a vacuum forming bag is available this will do the job well, but it is not essential.

With such a shallow curve, three strong battens as shown will do. The central batten can be plain, that is,

THIS WALL CUPBOARD was made to accommodate the Wearing cellar, but it is a versatile form and could be easily adapted for service as, say, a bathroom cabinet or for general kitchen use.

A careful drawing needs to be made taking account of the intended contents, such as the height and number of bottles, the number and size of glasses and the choice of one or two shelves. Graph paper is useful for this kind of planning and a drawing produced on this will be quite good enough.

on such a small surface, so a 'levelling foot' is recommended, see photo.

With this setup it is easy to run round the template, just cutting into the scrap wood - repeat to make the five ribs. When they are ready, screw the ribs onto a blockboard or chipboard base from underneath.

LEFT! Bacchus to the wall - make to suit your intended contents


In this project the usual order of working is reversed - the curved door is made first, and only then is the carcass made to fit it.

If you decide to make a version with a fiat door, then follow the usual procedure of carcass first, then the door to fit.

The door is built by laminating three layers of 3mm (Kin) plywood. The two outer laminates are oak faced on one side only, though for convenience many will take all three layers out of the same sheet.

A mould is needed for this purpose, see illustration, I found that five ribs were adequate.

These ribs must be identical, and can be made so with perfect precision using a router. Softwood is quite satisfactory for these.

above; a versatile wall cupboard


First make a template, which can be approximately sawn from a plywood offcut which must be just thicker than the depth of your router's guide bush.

The curved edge of the template will be set back from what will be the finished size. To calculate the amount of this setting back, deduct the diameter of the chosen cutter from the diameter of the guide bush and divide the answer by two.

For example a 30mm guide bush, minus a 10mm cutter is 20mm; divided by two this gives 10mm. Thus the template must be 10mm behind the desired finish line.

This calculation becomes extremely messy if imperial and metric units are mixed; not recommended.

Pin the rib material to scrap plywood or blockboard and then pin the template on top.

The router is not going to sit nicely

J 94

122 JL

square edged, but the two outside battens require planing to a slight angle in order to take the cramps well.

To stop slipping, add a few pieces of double sided tape. Cramp on the central batten, pull down and cramp at the sides.

Hinges will not screw to the plywood edge produced so two lipping strips are required. Make these strips over-wide to allow for fitting to the carcass, groove them to accept the panel, round over the inside comers and glue in place.

  • Oak faced ply
  • Softwood rib

Cramping blocks

Add double sided tape to stop slipping «.

  • Oak faced ply
  • Softwood rib

Cramping blocks

Add double sided tape to stop slipping «.

ABOVE: Making the lamination, end view of mould for door

"If a vacuum forming bag is available this will do the job well, but it is not essential"


Next prepare the sides, top and bottom.

The top and bottom must, at this stage, be over-wide. The exact shape will be scribed from the door later. The sides are made 6mm (%in) longer than the inside height of the carcass, which will be dowelled together. Clearly mark the top, bottom, left and right sides, then the joints 1,13, 01 & IV. The true faces are inwards and the true edges are to the rear.

Drill 8mm (5/iin) dowel holes in the ends of the sides. Precise spacing is not necessary; 5 or 6 dowels will do.

Cramp a block, in turn, on the top and bottom, at the inner edge of the cabinet. Insert dowel marker pins in the two outer holes of a side, hold this tightly against the block, then tap smartly to give a marking.

Drill these two holes, ideally using a pillar drill or a drill stand if possible. Repeat on the other three corners.

Glue in the dowels, wash off surplus glue and saw off to length. Tap up joint No.l, then, with a sharp marking knife, scribe round to mark a housing. Remove the waste to a depth of 3mm (Xin), then repeat for joints n, hi & iv.

Arrange a small nptch to the front corners of the sides to conceal the joints. When satisfied with the joints, insert dowel marking pins into the remaining holes, mark these centres and drill the remaining holes.


Rebate the two sides only to accept a back panel of 6mm (%in) oak faced plywood. If the cupboard is small, maybe the 3mm (&n) plywood already used will suit.

Prepare two hanging rails with stub tenons to fit the back panel rebates.

Using the same setting, rebate one edge of each for the back panel. Round over the inside corners of these then drill and countersink for hanging screws. Put three locating dowels into each.

Cut the back panel to fit but glue nothing at this stage.

Cramp the carcass up firmly without glue, then plane the door at its top and bottom to fit. Aim for a tight fit with a thin card under the bottom edge.

The next stage is important. Check how well the door sits on the two

Screw holes for wall fixing

Stub tenon*

Locating dowel


sides - if there is any twist, that is if the door does not sit perfectly flat, correct by dismantling and planing one or both sides where necessary.

When satisfied, draw a 'parallel' to the door front on both the top and the bottom carcass members. This can be done with a large washer, or a plywood disc with a central hole.

Dismantle and trim the carcass top and bottom to size, then work the mouldings to the front edge. Rout a finger grip on one side of the door.

Finish and fittings

Clean up and apply your chosen finish to all parts, then the carcass can be glued up.

When the glue is dry, fit the hinges and drill for a small magnetic catch -arrange the hinges on the right or left side to allow the best lighting in the intended location.

My cupboard has a small liner of Formica fitted into the bottom of the cabinet. It is not glued in place, so that it can be taken out and wiped to remove drips from the bottles. ■

Screw holes for wall fixing

Locating dowel


Door rail to take hinges

• Door built up from 3 layers

Finger grip

Door rail to take hinges

• Door built up from 3 layers

Finger grip

BELOW: Bob's levelling foot in action

BELOW: Bob's levelling foot in action

ABOVE: The mould for the door panel

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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