If this year's batch of holiday gifts has a theme, I guess it would be "wooden things that help express your creativity." Let's face it, our schools are so overwhelmed with their quest for arbitrary test-taking prowess and over-the-top athletic myopia that little time or energy remains to foster a sense of personal expression in students. The workplace, no matter how enlightened, rewards individuals for doing one task well, doing it consistently, and doing it in a context of institutional consensus. In either case, the way you spend your time is measured, judged, and recorded by outsiders.
But creative pursuits offer a tonic. No one sits in judgement over the "effective use of your time", and if you give yourself permission, you can surprise yourself with the sincerity of what you have to say.
One of my daughters plays guitar, and I really enjoyed making items to make her practice more meaningful. My other daughter writes, and I think she is looking forward to using this year's gift of bookbinding supplies. My wife is interested in making jewelry, and so my final holiday project is a workstation to hold supplies and serve as a creative benchtop.
Tom Fidgen's book, Made By Hand, arrived at just the right time as I started thinking about design. His contemporary pieces reflect his own process and remind me a bit of the designs of Krenov and John Reed Fox -- good company indeed. I decided that my cabinet would take a similar shape to the drawer section of his "Picture Perfect" project. Cherry and birdseye maple would be the materials and I would, wherever possible, use hand tool techniques.
I started with a 10' by 6" length of 8/4 cherry and a couple of odd shaped boards from the common rack (hey, $2.50 bd. ft., how can you go wrong!). The legs came first as I marked out the dovetail for the top rail.
I wanted plenty of support, so I decided to have rails around the top and bottom of the four legs. I started by marking out the length of each mortice and marking a center line. I then drilled along this line with a 3/8" bit and cleaned the mortice with a chisel.
The next step was to mark the mortices/slots for the six drawer frames. These would be mitered and haunched to give visual effect and support. Again, I marked, drilled, and in this case, sawed across to create the mortice.
In answer to the "I now have a mortice with round ends and tenons with square ends" question I generally use a mortice chisel to square the hole. I think it is easier and feels more professional. Once these are complete I was ready to shape the legs.
I wanted the legs to flare at both the top and bottom. I also wanted the joinery to fit, so any shaping would take place on the two exterior faces of the legs. I started with only a spokeshave to work myself down to the shape by degrees. I dedicated the better part of a morning to this and arrived at a shape I liked.
Once this was done, I did transfer the shapes onto the other legs and bandsaw the profiles. Using the spokeshave I compared the legs and adjusted them to match.
With the legs complete, the next step was to make the drawer frames.