Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Americana - Sugar Chests

While searching for a wedding chest idea, I came across a bit of Americana.  For early Americans, sugar and coffee were expensive and hard to come by commodities. As such required a special place for storage.  Used primarily in the middle southern states from 1790 to 1860, these chests often had a prominent position in the parlor.  After about 1850 sugar processing became much less expensive and the sugar chest was no longer needed.

To prevent insect and rodent invasion these chest were made of solid planks of wood and elevated off the floor with legs.  In terms of the wood source, the planks needed to be cut from a fairly large tree to get a 18-20" wide board without the center rings.  With the unique place and relatively short life the sugar chest had in American history, the prices for antiques in good shape are fetching.  Moreover, the wood to make these chests properly is difficult if not impossible to find today.  Remember, plywood did not exist back then.

I wanted to build a sugar chest as a wedding gift for a neighbor's son and new daughter-in law.  I choose Aspen because it is a bright wood and should not darken much as it ages.  The construction is far from period perfect.  I used blind dove tails to join the boxes.  Also, the bottom panel is light weighted with a panel inserts made of plywood.  Overall the chest is about 32"w x 18"d x 20"h.

The chest is basically composed of two boxes.  The upper is for sugar and the lower a drawer frame for spices.  To keep the top box clean, the bottom of the top box is screwed from the underside.  Then the drawer frame was attached with pocket screws. Finally the bottom was screwed from the underside.

The bottom is shy so the photo is out of focus.  Laughs.  This picture shows the lightweight bottom and screws attaching it to the drawer frame.The feet are attached with center mount leg plates and hanger bolts screwed into the foot.  A decorative moulding was added around the bottom panel to balance the chest and hide the edges and foot attachment.

 The top is attached with double hinges.  I like hinges.

 Cross braces were added to the top for structural support and aging.

Note the interior of the upper box is free of cleats.

Some how, I did not get photos of the drawers.  Sorry.   The drawer boxes are made with dove tails and a 1/4' dato for the drawer panel.

Here are some photos of the finished chest.  All the materials are available at one of the big box hardware stores.  Have fun.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Central Machinery - Sheet Metal Brake Up Grades

Tool, tools, seems like I spend a lot of time trying to figure a way around doing a particular task.  For example, a drum sander would be handy at times.  But unless making a lot of cabinet door panels on a daily basis, hard to justify.  Like wise, a sheet metal brake is not something I would use every day.  So, I have been looking around.  Something can be cobbled up with a couple of angle iron pieces to make simple bends.  However the results are not always very pleasing.  I'm not sure there is an end to the other side of the spectrum,  prices can escalate fairly quickly.  Harbor Freight has a range of benders.  The one I selected is in the middle of the price range.

 After reading many reviews on Harbor Freight tools having poor hole alignment and missing parts that made assembly difficult, I was pleasantly surprised by the Central Machinery # 91012 brake.   The brake comes in two boxes.  One for the completely assembled head and a second box for the legs and feet.  I think it took longer to cut down the boxes for disposal.  I was up and bending material.

The brake is not perfect, I found that the upper press plate would slide back as a sheet was being bent.  Not good.  I found that the locking bolt sits on the bolster of the press plate brackets.   In my opinion the the locator pins for the press plate bracket should be moved about 1/2" forward.  Not impossible to do, but an easier approach is to cut down the shoulder.  The drawings in Project 3 show the details.  Maybe Harbor Freight can ultimately address this issue.

I also found that adjusting the upper press plate for various thicknesses of material was awkward.  Finger tighten the bolts and tapping with a rubber mallet was not going to work.  So, in Project 3 I use a half of a pair of pipe clamps to make the adjustment a screw motion.  As a side note, I used 3/4" pipe clamps because this is what I had on hand.  1/2" clamps would work just the same at a lower overall cost.

The brake is over 100 pounds and I don't have the space to bolt it to the floor.  Projects 1 and 2 add wheels for mobility and cross bracing to prevent the feet from shuffling laterally.  Obviously if you plan to bolt the brake to the floor, wheels are not needed.  I used 4 bolt plate mount wheels that required I cut off the existing plate and welded on a new one.  The supplied lower plate is just attached with a couple of spot welds.  So, I am not sure this will work directly.  I did look at using center stud wheels mounted through the floor bolt hole.  Some additional reinforcement may be needed.

Project 4 came about because I had the sliding ends of the pipe clamps left over.  The drawings show a simple build up for a depth stop.  Current minimum is 4".  I plan to make an extension plate that will reduce the stop depth to 1/2-3/4"

I am always trying to clean out the closet.  So, I used what I had on hand first.  However, all the materials for these up grades are available at a big box hardware store.  You may get your exercise for the week, since the parts are in electrical, plumbing, tools, fasteners, and miscellaneous hardware.  I used a drill press, wire welder, heavy duty 1/2" hand drill, and right angle grinder to make these up grades.

Following are the drawing and details of the project.  I had some other ideas as well, but there a number of things needing bending first.  Have fun.

Disclaimer – Determining suitability of the modifications described here or skill levels needed to make these modifications is solely the responsibility of anyone choosing to replicate the modifications.  There is no intent to criticize the Harbor Freight products described here.  Please be advised, the suggested modifications have not under gone any safety review or risk assessment.  Proceed at your own risk.  These modifications are not approved by Harbor Freight.  Moreover, Changes to the Harbor Freight items would probably void any warranty by Harbor Freight.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

American - Jadong Wedding Chest

As I researched wedding chests I found that Tibet and Jadong had similar characteristics.  Both had the pole holes on each end and the styles were more like western versions. Boxy. From one recount of the Jadong chest, I understand that the groom makes the chest for his new bride to start their home.

 Here is an example of these chests. In the north of Asia a wood commonly used is Elm.  Where as Indonesia the woods are tropical, such as Teak.

In my Americanized version, I used American Oak, a little Pine, and Aromatic Cedar.  No plywood or MDF was harmed in this project.  Overall dimension are about 18"w x 32"l x 24"h.

The construction of this chest has it's roots in American factory furniture.  As a means to reduce weight for shipping and wood usage cost, the factories would design furniture with panels.  The sides of this chest are made up of panels with a 1/4" groove on the edges of the thicker pieces where the scant sheets are inserted.

The sides have tongues cut at each end.  The corner posts have matching grooves. The panels are then cross screwed at the top and bottom of each panel.  There are decorative button plugs covering the screw heads.  The box is squared with corner blocks at the bottom as shown in the picture below.  Also note the cleat material for the chest bottom.

All the materials for this chest can be purchased from a big box hardware store, with the exception of the top.  This came from a wood workers supply house being sold as a glue up table top.

The picture above shows the moulding used to support the top when closed and railing for a slide tray.  Also, there are cross braces added to the top to reduce the chances of splitting as the chest ages.  Note the plug used to cover the screw heads.

Here is a picture of the finished chest with the Aromatic Cedar bottoms and slide tray.

Following are a few more photos of the wedding chest.  This one was given to a neighbor's daughter and new son-in law.

Friday, April 24, 2015

American-Chinese Wedding Chest

A number of years ago I was perusing the listings on one of my favorite antique Chinese furniture stores on eBay.  One of his items was a wedding chest.  I became intrigued and did a little research.  The short version is that when a couple would marry, the bride and groom would place wedding gifts into a chest.  The chests are fitted with a pole hole.  So at the end of the ceremony, the couple would insert a pole and carry the gifts off to make their new home.

The price my favorite seller was offering the antique wedding chest was a little salty, $600 as I recall.  So, I decided to make an Americanized version to give to the son and new daughter-in law of neighbors as a wedding gift.

I made a project plan - that now is lost in deep archives.  If someone is interested in making a similar chest, I have photos of the parts.  Overall the chest is made of pine with a little fir and aspen.  All the wood is standard dimension.  The turned balusters are for stair railing.

The boxes are made with a continuous tenon joint.  Nothing fancy.  On the inside bottom of the boxes is a cleat to support the pine bottom.  On the removeable boxes and the top, the cleat extends 1/2" below the bottom for nesting.

   The balusters and bottom box form the foundation of the chest.  The rail style feet are screwed from the bottom up.  The yoke is screwed into the balusters.

The top is just another thin box with arched ends to give a roll top.  Beadboard is used for the top and box bottoms.  The tricky part of the project is making the boxes close to the same size.  The joinery is simple. Most of the work was done on a tablesaw.  I used standard finishing products.  All the materials are available from local big box hardware stores.

Here are a few more photos of the finished chest.  Have fun.