Toy box / window bench project


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I've been finalizing some sketches for a toy box / window bench for my 3 year old's bedroom. Her room is not large, and she has a single double window that occupies 2/3 of a long wall. I'll post the sketches once I've finalized the design. My question is really more focused on construction principles, materials, etc. Right now, I have several bf of 1/4 to 1/2" birdseye maple that I'd like to utilize in this project. I haven't decided on the other wood species just yet. I keep teetering between walnut and mahogany, both of which are about the same price per bf in my area. Whatever I decide to do, I'd like to minimize cost as much as possible, so I've been playing with the idea of constructing the carcass using 4/4 poplar (planed to 3/4), then laminating it with the birdseye and walnut / mahogany to get the 5/4 to 4/4 final thickness. This will allow me to use the birdseye I already have, while also allowing me to make the most use out of a couple 4/4 boards of walnut / mahogany resawed down to 3 5/16" pieces.

In some respects, this feels a little like cheating, to me. I don't know if that's normal, if I really am cheating, or if I'm just being silly. Anyway, I'd like to get thoughts on this idea. Is laminating a poplar substrate with the birdseye and walnut / mahogany acceptable? Will there be stability issues w/ regards to excessive movement using this approach, or would the converse be true, would I be limiting seasonal movement by laminating two different species with differing grain directions and dimensional properties? Is there a better substrate I could use, like perhaps 3/4 MDF or ply? I'm looking for a wide range of experienced advice here. Being a father of two children and having limited disposable income, the idea is to design this piece to serve as a toy box (for now), later to be used for storing blankets, linens, jeans, etc. as she gets older...and remember, no matter what I do, I have to be able to justify the cost to my wife. :)

One other question: what is the recommended finish for birdseye to prevent it from "yellowing"? I'd like to keep it as close to it's original dry coloring as possible, preferably without using a white dye.

Thanks in advance.

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Your idea isn't totally off base, but you want to be thinking in terms of creating a 1/16th inch thick veneer that is glued to both sides of an MDF or Baltic Birch substrate. If you laminated thicker pieces together, the different rates of expansion and contraction would lead to warping as one face expanded further than the other. With a really thin veneer, the forces from expansion and contraction in the veneer aren't significant enough to influence the relatively thick substrate, provided that you veneer both sides. Here's a Fine Woodworking article called Bandsaw Your Own Veneer that you may find interesting. You could design your project with frame and panel construction, using solid wood for the frame and veneered panels. Keep in mind that you will be trading a relatively small cost savings for a considerable amount of extra effort. If cost is a primary consideration and you don't want to go through all that work, a solid wood frame with a plywood panel may be a more practical way to go.

Rory

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The frame and panel construction idea actually seems like a decent way to go. I have a router table now, so constructing the frame and panel should be relatively easy. And actually, after working with the design sketches a bit further, I think that would actually be the best way to go. I did know about laminating both sides, but I forgot to mention that in my OP. I think it's probably going to be more helpful when I post the sketches I have. Hope to have those finalized and posted this weekend.

- One quick question, though - with 1/16" veneer, what would be the best way to attach that to the substrate? Contact cement or some other quick-bonding adhesive?

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In the article I mentioned, the author says, "On a typical panel, I glue the face veneer and backing veneer at the same time. I roll yellow glue onto the substrate, put the veneers in place and slide the whole package into the vacuum press. Before I had a vacuum press, I used cauls and deep-reach clamps to accomplish the glue-up, and that worked perfectly well, too."

What I've seen done is create a sandwich with two layers of 3/4" melamine-covered particle board (the white shelf boards you can find at Home Depot) on both the top and bottom of your panel, and then some beefy hardwood blocks across the panel to distribute the clamping force. When you see a picture of this setup it looks like overkill, but you need a significant amount of clamping force to create a good glue bond when gluing down veneer. Yellow glue works fine in my experience for veneering panels.

Rory

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"...Before I had a vacuum press, I used cauls and deep-reach clamps to accomplish the glue-up, and that worked perfectly well, too."

Another trick is to put the panel on a flat surface (assembly table), put a flat panel on top, and then use weights to provide clamping force. I've heard of people using 5 gallon buckets full of water. This is nice because you can get good pressure in the center of a large panel.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another trick is to put the panel on a flat surface (assembly table), put a flat panel on top, and then use weights to provide clamping force. I've heard of people using 5 gallon buckets full of water. This is nice because you can get good pressure in the center of a large panel.

Those are both very good ideas. I've actually used both methods to apply pressure to wide 2' x 4' panel glue-ups where I needed a total of 2 1/2". I know that when I laminated my router table top, I used contact cement to bond the laminate (formica) to the MDF / Masonite, then used a j-roller to make sure I had a flat and air-free bond as I removed each dowel. That worked very well.

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