Madmartigan

Beginner woodworker: nursery furniture

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Following on from my first thread, I thought it might be a good idea to make a project journal so I can keep a log of what I'm doing and maybe get some input.

Having done some previous bits of woodwork as a teenager, I am now getting back into it as an adult. Last summer I fumbled my way through a couple of small/simple pieces.

This year my plan is to make some more furniture for my 6 month old son's nursery. I would like to work with some hardwood, and pull off some nice joinery. My original plan was to make him a toybox (rough plan attached). However,  after making my plan I spotted a few issues:

  • I am limited in the types of box I can make. I will likely not have access to power tools, so I cannot easily modify the thickness of the wood I get (except by hand) and I do not have a way of cutting dados (otherwise I could maybe make a frame and then slide-in panels for the sides).
  • The plan I had uses far more wood than I would have expected. By my best guess, this would be very expensive (though I could maybe switch to pine).
  • The toy box would also be very heavy, even the lid. I was hoping to make something relatively safe!

I then worked out a plan for a shelf. We change his diapers at the moment on a changing pad on the dresser. We also keep his next outfit, diapers, wipes, and all his various powders, potions, and lotions on that dresser too. He is reaching the age where changing time becomes the opportunity to play with all of those things. My plan is a shelf that can hang on the wall above and to the side of the changing bad (not putting anything above him in case something falls). I want a shelf up top, and some pegs below to hang his clothes, towel, etc. Compared to the toybox idea (which I would still like to find a way to do), this shelf seems pretty do-able (plan is attached). In the plan I have the top and bottom of the back as separate pieces that slot into the sides with mortise-tenon joints, however I have since thought I might like to fix the back with a dovetail joint and only use the mortise-tenon joint for the shelf. My plan is to use a mix of cherry and maple so that the joints are a visible part of the design. I have a local sawmill who sell cherry and maple, I am hoping to pay them a visit soon to hopefully pick up some dressed wood.

Tools-wise, I have a knife, cheap back saw, some chisels/hammers. I think my father-in-law has some planes and a panel saw he could lend me. I am hoping to buy a dozuki saw, and a honing guide to sharpen chisels/planes very soon. I am planning to finish it with shellac and beeswax. I like the idea of using a finish where I might also be able to turn any maple offcuts (I think cherry might be less safe because of cyanide-like chemicals it contains?) into blocks or shapes for my son to play with.

I would welcome any suggestions or input.

shelf.jpg

toybox.jpg

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With a back saw and chisels, you can make almost any joint. All it takes is patience. With a drill and a few clamps, you world opens wide. Don't let the lack of fancy tools keep you from building.

That shelf design might be a little weak with the back mortices so wide and close to the edge of the sides. Grain direction of the sides will play a big role there. I would consider closed mortices, instead. And yes, you can cut them using the tools you listed.

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I hadn’t heard of cyanide in cherry so I did a quick search. The leaves, twigs, and bark of cherry contains the cyanogenic glycosides which convert to hydrogen cyanide when ingested. The risk is mainly to livestock when there is a downed cherry tree nearby, as wilted leaves contain more of the glycosides than fresh leaves. I didn’t find anything that suggests that the heart or sap wood contains them.

Cherry is popular for cutting boards and spoon carving, so I think the problem would be well known if it were an issue. 

Looking forward to see what you make!

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Either the shelf will make the sides weak or the top and bottom will. Which ever mortise ends up being cross grain you are better off with a couple smaller tenons or even a few dowels.

Looks like good ideas keep us posted and you will get more advise.

Cherry is a non issue I've been using it for cutting boards for a long time as have may other people. Ask John said above the compounds are in the fruit and seeds. I wouldn't advise making a teething toy for you're kid out of cherry but a shelf or table or toy box will be fine.

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4 hours ago, Chestnut said:

 I wouldn't advise making a teething toy for you're kid out of cherry but a shelf or table or toy box will be fine.

My experience would suggest that anything at their height or in their room will become a teething toy. I've got bite marks on my toy box and coffee table to prove it. :D Either way, they didn't make it all the way through the finish (water based poly) so I wouldn't worry about it. I've given my kids toys with parts made out of cherry and even some exotics without being concerned about it, as long as they were thoroughly sealed.

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Just wanted to check in (no pictures... should have some next update). Progress is pretty slow! Before I began, I bought the maple boards to build the shelf (reckon I actually have more than twice what I needed... hopefully the leftover boards will stay pretty stable until I can return to this hobby next year).

I spent the first day sharpening my chisels, and sharpening up my father-in-law's plane and figuring out how to set it properly. The boards are around 6 inches wide (I got them ripped square on both edges) so I had to glue two side-by-side to make the shelf (going for 8 inches deep).

Second day I came to cut the shelf-board (now ~12 inches wide) down to 8 inches. This turned out to be a major difficulty when my saws were limited to two backsaws (one being the Dozuki) and a crosscut saw (when I needed to make a rip cut). I ended up splitting the shelf (~20 inches wide) down to size with a chisel. I then cleaned up the edge with the plane. I glued up two sets of three boards side-by-side to make the two side pieces. I am trying to keep all of the wood in the same orientation so that if the humidity makes it move it will grow in the same direction.

Third day I bought another saw. I could not find one tailored for rip cuts, but I found one which seems like it would be able to do it (Stanley Fatmax Box Saw). I cut the side pieces to roughly the right shape. I got pretty disheartened at just how slow everything was progressing. The maple seems a lot harder to work than the pine I used last year (my chisels are sharp enough that I can pretty-much sculpt the pine with them without much pressure... the maple is not so cooperative). Also my inexpert planing (probably set incorrectly) has led to some small chips and chunks being torn out of faces that should have been flat and square.

Just at the end of day four now. I started cutting the mortise for fixing the shelf to the sides. Cutting it all the way across was going to take forever, so I instead made two one-inch wide mortises at either end of the shelf. I will be cutting one-inch wide pins at the end of the shelf to slot into those holes. The challenge now is how to cut the middle part between the two pins (no access for a saw, except there is a coping saw around, but I doubt I could cut a straight line with it). Current plan is to split the middle part off with a chisel again. I also dug up some power-sanders (a random orbital sander and a detail sander) that I am going to try to use to clean things up.

My plan for tomorrow is:

1) Finish cutting the pins on the ends of the shelf to fit the mortises.

2) Cut the top and bottom back pieces.

3) Dovetail-joint the back pieces onto the side pieces.

4) Cut the clothes-hanging pegs to slot into the bottom back piece

5) Round over all of the front-facing edges

6) Sand the hell out of everything.

7) Tidy up!

I have maybe eight hours. Wish me luck! Any tips would be appreciated.

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A handsaw (sharp one) can be used to make 'plunge cuts', that is cuts that don't exit the edge. If you aren't well practiced at sawing a straight line, clamp a straight edge along your line, and move the first tooth at the tip of the saw along the line to plow through. Its a little slow to start, but will get the job done.

As I recall, most japanese pull saws have a dead space at the tip, so a western style saw is needed for this.

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4 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

As I recall, most japanese pull saws have a dead space at the tip, so a western style saw is needed for this.

Say what?

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I think that's great.   If it's like my projects though, by the time you finish the kid will have outgrown the need. :-)

With our first kid we used the changing table for about six months, and then he was able to roll and sit up and at that point we just started changing him on the floor.   We used a basket with the supplies and a changing pad, so we could grab it and go.

When you finish this, I'd go back to that toy box.   It's entirely reasonable to make it out of good quality pine, and it doesn't have to be complicated.  The only thing with a toy chest is you want to cut some relief on the front and sides about an inch so the top only hits in the corners, to give room for fingers and then use some torsion hinges which hold the lid up, so you have to specifically pull down on it to close it.

 

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14 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

A handsaw (sharp one) can be used to make 'plunge cuts', that is cuts that don't exit the edge. If you aren't well practiced at sawing a straight line, clamp a straight edge along your line, and move the first tooth at the tip of the saw along the line to plow through. Its a little slow to start, but will get the job done.

As I recall, most japanese pull saws have a dead space at the tip, so a western style saw is needed for this.

My dozuki saw does indeed have a dead space (no teeth) at the tip. I was able to use it though by chiseling out a small cube at each end of the cut I had to make. It worked perfectly.

I managed to cut the two back pieces, but the bottom one is a bit too narrow to joint onto the sides. It could fit if I make the shelf and the top back piece both narrower. Alternatively, I am now considering just gluing it in place (it does not have to bear much weight).

The shelf fits into the side-pieces nicely. I cut a dovetail joint between the top-back piece and the sides. Unfortunately I made the pins a little too big and when I was trying to "encourage" the two pieces together (with a mallet) I split the side-piece along the wood grain. I should have shaved down the pins but I was in a rush. I have glued and clamped the side piece back together. I now need to shave down the pins for all of the joints so that they fit together snugly but don't require too much hammering or leave unsightly gaps.

Technically I am out of time, but I still need to cut the hanging-pegs, round/sand everything, and glue it together. I was planning to do the finishing (shellac) after everything is assembled. My holiday to work on this is technically over, but I am hoping to make some progress (including tidying up) the next two evenings after work.

10 hours ago, Minnesota Steve said:

I think that's great.   If it's like my projects though, by the time you finish the kid will have outgrown the need. :-)

With our first kid we used the changing table for about six months, and then he was able to roll and sit up and at that point we just started changing him on the floor.   We used a basket with the supplies and a changing pad, so we could grab it and go.

When you finish this, I'd go back to that toy box.   It's entirely reasonable to make it out of good quality pine, and it doesn't have to be complicated.  The only thing with a toy chest is you want to cut some relief on the front and sides about an inch so the top only hits in the corners, to give room for fingers and then use some torsion hinges which hold the lid up, so you have to specifically pull down on it to close it.

 

Our boy is at that 6 month point. He does try to roll over and wiggle away now when we change him. For his toy box I am keen to try to make something that he can't hurt himself with! I had not considered shaping the sides in the way you suggest to reduce the risk of that. Thanks.

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10 hours ago, Tpt life said:

Say what?

I should rephrase - the pull saws I have personal experience with all have a small section with no teeth at the very tip. May not be true for all japanese styles.

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