Mix and Match (IX)

This particular piece of furniture was not of the project type analogous to, say, a love child with a difficult birthing. It started out in fact as little more than an idea to throw a plywood shelf in a corner to free up some counter space. Then, well, thinking about it, I realized that I wasn’t feeling too stoked about a piece of plywood, so I took some leftover Black Cherry boards and glued up a shelf. I had then marked out that shelf so it could be cut to fit in around some door trim and another bit of molding. Well, further thought led me to conclude that it would be waste of the Cherry to make something so specific to the location, something I couldn’t readily reuse elsewhere were we to move house someday. So… I then decided I’d make a slightly more involved piece, and that morphed slightly and got more complicated as I dealt with each issue that arose in the process of designing the piece in my mind. Kind of like the mythical frog that boils to death in the gradually-heated pot of water — I hope not!

I wanted to do something ‘quick’ and ‘simple’ but also wanted to treat the materials, even if they are leftovers, mere scraps, with respect and build something that would last a while. Then I realized I could explore some new joinery ideas (new to me at least), and that’s what led to the design of the twin half-tenons attaching the posts to the shelf boards, locked in position by the mitered breadboard ends, and the decision to try out the quintuple through tenon attachment between the stretchers and the posts. That, in turn, led to obtaining a bit of experience working Ipe in a context other than screwing together decking, and to the opportunity to work some fairly small 1/8″ peg mortises. All very beneficial outcomes in my mind at least.

I normally spend a fair amount of time with any piece of construction in the design phase, working out proportions and joinery details. For any piece made for a client, that is invariably my approach. Here, I decided to take different tack and simply work things out in my head as I went along. Indeed, I have known more than a few woodworkers who always work in such a scribble-on-a-matchbook fashion and who avoid drawing and mock-ups like the plague. The problem with such avoidance however is that it is quite easy, especially with pieces you haven’t made before or with joints you haven’t tried before, to overlook some little detail or fail to anticipate certain consequences of certain decisions made. In the case of this project, I nearly painted myself into a corner with the seemingly minor issue of the feet and their attachment to the bottom shelf board. sometimes what seem like afterthoughts can rear up and bite you.

Another issue appeared upon assembly of this piece. The mitered breadboard ends were a tight fit and I held off driving them fully into position in the trial fitting stage since they might be difficult to remove without damaging something. So, when final assembly came, there were some unknowns in the fit, though I was fairly confident that the fit would be acceptable. And acceptable the fit was, however there was one small glitch unrelated to the fit:

You can see a small triangular opening at the upper corner. This was not intended at all. When I saw it I smiled and realized that in configuring the mitered end of the breadboard to terminate in the corner of the stick, I had overlooked the fact that the dovetail tenons ends were not in the same relative position as the faces were on the opposite side of the shelf. The tenons are inset 1/8″ back from the faces. The above issue could have been readily solved by moving the outer tenon to the left about 1/8″.

Well, there you go, there you have it. It’s seppuku for me I guess. If this piece were for a client, I’d have a real mess on my hands, considering that wedges had already been driven into several of the through-tenoned joints. I might have had to remake all the posts and the entire grill shelf. Fortunately, this piece is for our house, and I can jolly well live with those little triangular openings! They’ll add to the piece – a point of conversation even.

Anyway, on with the assembly. It was time to fit the 1/8″ pegs. I carefully made some final adjustments to the draw-bored tenon mortises with a jeweler’s file, then proceeded to insert the Gonçalo Alves pins into place from the outside, with the aid of a smaller hammer:

Emerging into kindness, as one of my old friends is occasionally wont to say:

All the way through, with only a trimming cut to go:

I rechecked the assembly from time to time to make sure my tapping and wrangling wasn’t upsetting the squareness:

I found the odd spot that needed some additional clean up with the plane:

The feet were then dropped in and tapped across into position on the underside:

I’ll leave the tenons long on the underside.

That was pretty much that. The completed piece:

Another view:

A look at one of the 1/8″ pegged connections with everything trimmed clean:

Looking from below at one of the post-to-top-to-breadboard end connections:

And a view of the same post where it meets the Black Cherry shelf below:

While that does look like a pen mark on the Cherry, I can assure you it’s just a black streak in the material. Cherry has these funny fine black lines in it here and there – you can see another one on the exposed tenon. The breadboard end needed a lick with the plane at the time of the photo.

My wife is quite sensitive to any sort of chemical fumes, and since this piece was going to be near a heat source, and given that the shop is unheated and getting a finish to cure properly would take a fairly long time, I elected to simply clean up any slightly rough areas, scrub the piece with a 3M polishing pad, and the rub in a coat of wax. That, my friends, was the fastest finishing job in history.

What is this thing supposed to do, you may ask? As I mentioned in the 7th post in what must be one of the subtlest hints of all time, this is a new fire station: it’s a toaster oven stand:

With the rice cooker on top, and a shelf to keep toaster oven accessories, we have some space freed up for some other small kitchen appliances we frequently use. Another view:

I hope you all enjoyed – or at least managed to stay awake for – this mini build thread. Did you think the woods used went together, color wise, fairly well? It’s simple little piece, the making of which had its share of successes and failures. Perhaps it was barely worth blogging about but things are a bit slow otherwise, and besides, no one was exactly advising me against such a move. I’m glad I made this small stand and learned some good things in the process. Though it was relatively ‘quick’ to make, the labor hours that went into it do make such a piece a fairly expensive proposition if I were to make one for a client. Nothing new there. My wife seems pleased with the result and I’m sure the stand will serve us for many years to come. Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way on your travels today.

10 Replies to “Mix and Match (IX)”

  1. Hey, Chris –

    Hard to really tell from the pictures, but it does seem that the colors work together fairly well, although I'm not a big fan of species mixing.

    The joinery you used, as always, showed me stuff I've never seen before. And the precision of your execution is a delight to see.

    But what I have never seen anybody comment on is the fact that your blog is so well written, and so enjoyable to read. Puts a little smile on my face when I see you have posted a new entry.

    Happy new year, and my best to you and yours.


  2. Hi Chris,

    FWIW, I found this series as interesting, if not more, as anything else you write about. In fact, this might just be the right amount of complexity (in terms of joints) that I might be able to pull off, if I were to attempt these types of joints. I am going to look at the photos again and see how everything is hanging together.

    One thing I wish for is to see how you cut those fancy through mortises. My attempts of through mortises have always vexed me to no end and I would love to see how you get them so perfect and seeming ease!

    So, definitely this project was worth reading about.


  3. Hi Chris,

    I have never commented before, but I read your blog very regularly. I find it very informative, and well done.

  4. That has to be the best looking toaster oven stand I have ever seen. 🙂 Beautiful work on the joinery and overall it looks great.

  5. Mark,

    thanks for your comment. I'm also quite cautious when it comes to species mixing – in fact, it's an area of work where I tend to feel quite unsure of myself. i thank you for your compliment about the readability of the blog, though in looking it over today, I found a few typos that needed correcting as per usual!


    your positive comments are much appreciated.I encourage you to try out the joints yourself -even if they come out less than perfectly, you will learn something that will help make the next ones even better. As for through tenons, I think that a couple of key points are to work with square and evenly dimensioned stock, and work in a manner so that the tool approaches the cut from each side at the same offset relative to the arris of the stick. I hope that makes some sense.


  6. Brandon,

    hey thanks for venturing a comment – good to hear from you and happy to learn you are enjoying reading these posts.

    Damien and Jeff,

    your kind words are much appreciated!


    and anyone else who may be reading the comments, Happy New Year to you too!!


  7. Great project Chris, and well concealed over the preceding posts I must say! I must agree with Mark the blog is very well written and I keep an eye out for new posts all the time.Well done, I know this project will see many years of faithful service.
    Happy New Year!!

  8. Brian,

    nice to hear from you, and yes I guess I did tuck these posts in among a few others. The stand seems to be holding together so far.

    Happy New Year to you as well.


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