Three In


An oiled finish was preferred for these tables but I had my doubts about its durability on the tops. They were coarse textured, with a wild grain, some of which, because of its direction, was porous. The principle of an oiled finish is not to buitd up a layer on top of the wood, but to soak it in to the top surface, wiping off any surplus.

I felt that there would be an unavoidable build-up of a layer of oi! on this surface, and it would mark easily. The fikely use for the tables would entail contact with hot and cold ¡¡quids and alcohol. I could see a constant need for re-oiMng.

The compromise was to give everything one coat of Liberon finishing oil. which I find thinner and more penetrative than some other Danish oiis, carefully wiping off all surplus with kitchen tissue. This coat gave the main colour change to the wood,

I had contacted the technical department of Liberon and been assured that polyurethane varnish would key to their finishing oil, provided it was a single sub coat and allowed to dry for at least 24 hours.

Thereafter all but the tops were given the usual five or six thin coats

of oil, at 24 hour intervafs, wiping off all surplus, and cutting back with a Scotchbrite grey pad between coats.

The tops were given 4 thin coats of satin-finish polyurethane varnish, applied with a sponge pad, which was allowed to build up to a smooth finish. The first two coats were cut back with 320 grit on a hard sanding block to allow the grain to fill. Further coats were cut back with the grey pad to give a similar sheen to the oiled finish.

The end result was very satisfactory, the overall effect being of an oiled finish but with durable, easy to maintain tops.

The expansion plates on the smallest of the three tables

"As the smallest table will have no table below it, recesses are not necessary; and the expansion plates are fitted normally"

(lin by %in) spacer is pinned and glued between the legs, flush with the inside edge, and the 19mm by 19mm (Kin by % in) bearer screwed through the spacer to the side, leaving 25mm (lin) clearance from the top of the bearer to the underside of the table top.

Two expansion plates are fitted to the sides of the tables, above the spacers, through which the tops will be attached.

"They work well as occasional tables and have also been used as seats, step-ups, and even missiles when people have tripped over them1m

Those on the larger two tables are fitted proud of the tops of the sides. They will be recessed into their table tops so that the plates and fixing screws will not foul the top of the sliding table below. As the smallest table will have no table below it, recesses are not necessary, and the expansion plates are fitted normally.

Next, the sides are fitted together to the top frame pieces and the bottom rails - no front top frame, or rails on the larger two tables. They are clamped, checked for square, surplus glue removed, and left to set.

The tops are now finally cut to size, and the edges rounded over to 6mm (!4in) radius. They are offered up to the assembled frames, the expansion plates positions are marked, and the tops removed. The recesses are cut in the two larger table-tops deep enough to clear the plates and screw heads, with clearance in the recess to the front and rear of the plate to allow the top to move.

The tops are finished to 150 grit, and fixed to the frames by screws through the expansion plates, making sure to screw through the correct slot -remember the movement is across the grain!

These tables have been in constant use for a number of years. They work well as occasional tables and have also been used as seats, step-ups, and even missiles when people have tripped over them! All without apparent harm.

The finish has proved successful, the tops are wiped with a damp cloth and the remainder gets, infrequently, a thin coat of teak oil. Though simple to make, their very usefulness makes them a satisfying project.

Angles and tapers

How to make a Shaker-style chest of drawers with tapered sides

THE CLIENT had seen the bun-elm apothecary's chest I had made in an exhibition in the Bowes Museum. He liked it and decided to buy it - and at the same time asked about having a small desk and chest of drawers made.

I happened to have in the house an oak, tapered pedestal desk, which I had just completed for another client. When he saw it he was very taken with the idea of the tapering pedestal, and decided to have one on his desk.

He then saw a tall Shaker-style chest I had made some time ago to my wife's specifications. He again liked it and decided, albeit nervously, that the taper should be used on this companion chest of drawers, to link the two pieces.


My client was very keen on the burr elm, Ulmus spp, not only because of its beautiful figure, but because it was gathered locally from the hedgerows, where elms have all but disappeared.

We rapidly recognised the impracticability of using all burr for the piece - not least because I didn't have enough - as it would be unsuitable for most parts of the construction.

The final decision was to use burr for the drawer fronts, to maximise its impact, while still using a relatively small amount. The remainder of the carcass construction was to be in fumed, oiled Brazilian mahogany, (Swietenia macrophylla), to provide a contrast of colour and figure, emphasise the burr, and give a rich final look.

The chest was to be used for clothes storage so cedar of Lebanon, (■Cedrus libani) with its distinctive pleasant smell and insect repellent properties, was chosen for the drawer casings.


The Brazilian mahogany with its relative lack of figure, consistent grain and absence of faults was easily selected, cut and dressed oversize, stacked with separating sticks and put in my conditioning cabinet, see Coping with stress, page 7.

Likewise the cedar of Lebanon for the drawer casings - this stack was weighted on the top.

Selecting the burr was much more demanding. The surfaces had to be examined carefully for figure, colour and faults. Then the provisionally chosen pieces marked with chalk and put together to try and guess the overall effect. Next they were cut oversize, faced, thicknessed, checked again, then wiped with white spirit to show an approximation of the final finished colour.

After a final examination in detail, confirmation of best face, orientation, and position, the pieces were clearly marked, stacked, sticked, weighted on top, and placed in the conditioning cabinet, where they were left for a few days.

The mahogany was removed to begin the project, but the drawer material was left in as long as was possible.

Carcass construction

The carcass construction was fairly standard with the sides housed directly into the top, and the drawer frames housed into the sides.

The complication was in the taper. To make the measurements of distances and angles easier it was essential to draw the front of the chest, full size, on to a piece of hardboard.

Then I transferred the angle of the sides from the vertical, accurately onto a suitable piece of plastic, hardboard would do, about 100mm (4in) square, cut it, and used it as a reference for all machine settings and angle cuts for this piece.


The sides were made up first, each from two widths of mahogany. The figure was matched carefully and the joint strengthened with a ply loose tongue.

A 10mm (%in) deep by 5mm (Xsin) wide slot was cut in the sides and top for the back, taking care to stop the slot in the top short of the overhang.

Next the housings for the drawer frames were cut, except for the top and bottom - these housings were 19mm (%in) wide by 10mm (%in) deep, at the shallowest side, to take the full thickness of the frames.

The top frame housing was 10mm (%in) wide and offset down to avoid the tenon for the top.

The bottom housing was also 10mm Qiin) and offset up, to leave room for the cutout to form the side feet.

All the housings were cut at the required angle by fixing a block onto the router base to raise one side. The ends were chiselled square, and the housings cleaned out carefully.

LIFT! Tapered sides require tapered drawers below: This Shaker-style chest of drawers provided the proportions

Angled base block in use cutting housings

above: The client liked the chest so much he ordered a desk in the same style this tongue well short of the edge, so that it was not exposed when the edge was chamfered.

Next the angled housings in the top, to take the sides, were cut. This was done in the same way as the angled housings in the sides, which were dry fitted to the top to check for a fit.

These housings were 1mm further apart at the back to correspond with the extra length of the back of the frames.

The chamfer on the underside of the top was then marked, and a strip of wood was clamped to the top, in the relevant place, as a fence. A sharp jack plane was used to remove the bulk of the waste.

The plane was sharpened, reset to fine, and the final light finishing cut made.

A light sanding finished the job.

above: Beautiful burr elm and fumed Brazilian mahogany have subtlety of colour below: Angle setting template taken from rod and square is used to set up the router block above: The client liked the chest so much he ordered a desk in the same style


The frames were made up from 50mm (2in) by 19mm (%n) mahogany, the sides tenoned into mortises in the front and back rails.

The back rails were made 1mm longer than the front rails to make for easier drawer-fitting and running. The front joint was glued, the rear joint dry fitted and an expansion gap left to allow for subsequent movement.

The shoulders of the frames were marked on the front and back with the angle marker, 10mm (%in) in on the bottom edge, and cut 10mm (Hin) deep with a tenon saw.

The top and bottom frames were rebated to LOmm (Min), and all the frames were individually dry fitted and finished.


The back was made from 5mm mahogany faced MDF. I intended to use it as a brace during the assembly and gluing up, to help keep the shape of the carcass.

It was cut accurately using the full size drawing on hardboard, finished and check-fitted.

below: The dovetails on the drawer sides are cut normally but because the pins are cut at right angles to the tapered fronts the sides will move downward as the joint is assembled


Assembly had to be approached with even more care than usual. The top could not be fitted after the frames because of the angled housings, so the first stage of the gluing up would be the sides, frames, and top, in one go.

I prepared everything carefully, finishing all the pieces I could, and dry-fitted the whole thing. I used battens with shallow notches cut in them to hold the sash clamps level and stop them slipping .

Cascamite was made up and applied to the front and back of the frame housings, leaving the sides of the frames a dry running fit to allow for future movement.

As the grain of the top and sides was running in the same direction, glue was applied all along the housings in the top and to the top of front and back rails of the top frame.

The back was dry-fitted to help keep the taper even. The frames and top were positioned and sash clamps were placed across the front and back.


Housings for the front feet were cut 6mm (14in) deep on the front of the sides and the bottom frame. The feet were cut to size, dry fitted and finished.

Cutouts for the feet on the sides were made and the edges finished.

The angled shoulders on the top of the sides, where they fit into the top, were cut at the front and back, and the sides finished.

The top was made up from three widths of 19mm (Kin) mahogany; like the sides, the figure was carefully matched and the joints were strengthened with a ply loose tongue. Care was taken to stop the slot for

Angled base block in use cutting housings


The carcass was wiped over with white spirit to show any glue marks. It was left to dry and hand sanded to 320 grit.

It is essential to remove all surplus glue before fuming, particularly around joints. Check the whole piece for marks, blemishes, and raised grain - it will be too late afterwards!

It was then placed in a polythene tent with some saucers of about SfI oz of 880 ammonia and left for 24 hours.

Fuming works particularly well with oak and the longer you leave it, the darker it will get. Make sure the tent is well sealed with tape. Alternatively you can make a sealed box, but this is really only practical for smaller items.

Ammonia is dangerous and toxic. Contact with skin and eyes will be extremely painful and even momentary inhalation will cause nausea and vomiting. Ammonia has a particularly adverse effect on the eyes and contact causes permanent damage.

Protective clothing must be worn, including strong anti-chemical gauntlets, a face mask suitable for coping with toxic fumes, eye protection and suitable coveralls.

Use the chemical outdoors if possible; if used indoors make sure the working area is well ventilated, adding extra fans if necessary and ensuring that the fumes are routed to a safe place.

Never flush into the drainage system, instead, put it into a container after use for proper disposal.

The evenness of the taper was checked by measuring the diagonals, which should be equal, as with a square construction.

A further check was done with the plastic angle setter on each drawer frame and all seemed to be well.

The top was held to the top rail with G-clamps and all was left overnight to set.

The next day the back was carefully slid out, glue applied to the slot and the backs of the back rails, and the back replaced and pinned to the rails. Glue was applied to the foot housings and the feet fitted.

Fitting drawer components

Now that the carcass was complete I fitted the drawer components. The top and bottom of the sides needed to be cut at an angle so I set the table saw blade and the planer fence to the correct angle using my trusty angle setter. I also cut the slots for the drawer bases on the table saw while the angle was set.

Next I cut and fitted the drawer fronts, remembering that because of the taper, anything taken off the bottom edge also reduces the width. To reduce the height without altering the width, plane the top edge.

I cut the slots in the fronts to take the drawer bases. Using the fronts as a pattern I cut the backs. The backs were 5mm (Xtin) lower than the sides, they fitted on top of the base, and because of the taper, must be lined up in exactly the right place.

I cut strips of 5mm ('/tin) ply by 13mm ('Am )wide, and fitted it in the base slot cut in the drawer fronts.

LEFT: Another tapered carcass being cramped up showing cawls to ensure even pressure on all Joints

below: Pins are marked out at right angles to tapered drawer fronts

BELOW RIGHT: Sides are assembled moving down the tapered front allowing for the offset hi porous mahogany. The chest was wiped off with a soft cloth between coats and no oil was allowed to build up on the surface.

It was left to harden for 24 hours in a warm dry place. The surface was then cut back with a Scotchbrite grey pad, further light coats applied every 24 hours - and cut back with the Scotchbrite pad, until the desired effect was achieved.


I was pleased with the unusual look of this tapered piece and, more to the point, so was my client!

I enjoyed the challenge of making the tapered carcass and the tapered drawers. The combination of burr and mahogany was effective, and husbanded my ever depleting stocks of solid bum

When viewed from the front the majority of the chest shows bun' nicely framed in fumed mahogany, getting maximum use out of the burr used. ^

and colour of the burr - and the colour and silky finish of the mahogany. What is more, it improves with time and tender loving care.

The burr was quite porous and the oil penetrated well into the wood, helping to stabilise it.

The first coat was liberally applied, left to soak in, and refreshed every 15 to 20 minutes until no more would soak in.

The burr took considerably more oil and more coats than the less

The backs were cut to the correct height, put on the edge of the bench and the fronts offered up to them until the backs registered on to the protruding ply. They were then marked with a knife, cut and checked for fit.

After the backs had been cut I oiled the backs of the drawer fronts to help stabilise the burr, applying several coats before the drawers were assembled.

Drawer dovetails

The dovetails were marked on the sides, cut just short of the line on the bandsaw, and finished with a chisel.

The positioning of the pins was critical as they would be cut at right angles to the tapered front. Consequently the sides would move down the front as the joint was assembled.

I marked the horizontal and used a set square to measure the amount of this offset. Allowing for the offset, I marked the pins on the edges of the drawer fronts. The backs of the pins were marked with a set square from the edge of the front, and the waste removed with a router, dovetail saw, and chisel.

The joints were glued up and the drawers assembled, with the cedar of Lebanon faced MDF bases glued in all round for extra strength.

Pulls were made from offcuts of burr, and pegged, glued, and screwed into the fronts.

The drawers and stops were fitted remembering that if any adjustment to the height was made from the bases, it would result in a corresponding reduction in the width of the drawer, because of the taper.


Danish oil was the preferred finish as it brings, out the deep richness of the figure

Keeping up w

RIGHT: Clean Shaker-inspired lines and ripple sycamore give a light modern look to a traditional piece

Making a Shaker-style tall clock

For quite some time i have wanted to make a long case clock. Not one of those massively ornate monsters, but something elegant and simple. The obvious place to start researching my design was with Shaker furniture. In Thos Mosers' excellent book How to Build Shaker Furniture I found a good example which could be modified. It was a fairly standard Shaker design, with simple lines and no ornament, although it was bigger than I wanted - and was painted dark red! I will never understand how the Shakers reconciled their philosophy of simplicity with their habit of painting their furniture in, sometimes quite garish, colours.

"The obvious place to start researching my design was with Shaker furniture"


I decided to use sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) which, with its light airy look, really suits Shaker styles. I would add interest with the careful use of ripple sycamore and a fumed oak door pull.

I chose a traditional two-weight clock movement and a 'bim-bam' chime, with a simple black and white dial and plain black hands - all of which were in the Yorkshire Clock Builders' catalogue.

When making a clock of this nature it is necessary to choose the movement first and adjust the dimensions of the case to fit the pendulum length and swing, front to back clearances of the movement and any chime assembly, and the drop required for the weights. All this information was given in the catalogue, or is available from Yorkshire Clock Builders who are very helpful, see Suppliers.


Because of the ceiling height of my cottage, the maximum height for my clock had to be 1980mm (78in) which was somewhat shorter than Mosers'. I also cut the front to back and side to side measurements pretty fine to give the slim, elegant look that I wanted - which resulted in a small footprint, which could give some instability in a piece of this height. Gripper rods at the edges of fitted carpets can also accentuate the problem by tending to tilt the clock forward.

"When making a clock of this nature it is necessary to choose the movement first and adjust the dimensions of the case to fit"

A clock maker I spoke to said that he always chocked the front of tall clocks to give a slight backwards lean for added safety, and Yorkshire Clock Builders confirmed that this would have no effect on the working of the movement. This 'lean back' feature was often built into Victorian tall book cases, the plinths being cut lower at the back so that the weight of the full book case was against the wall behind it.

I decided not to build the lean into the clock case but to chock the front with thin pieces of ply, which would have the advantage of being adjustable. The floors and walls in our cottage are not necessarily true!


I went to Duffield of Ripon, a timber merchant with whom I have dealt, almost exclusively, for many years, and chose some nice clean sycamore with a subtle figuring as the main timber for the case and bonnet, and some well figured ripple sycamore for the bonnet door frame and the edge of the lower case.

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