Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jefferson Cases-Done



Last night I finished up the final, smallest case to top off my set of Thomas Jefferson book boxes.

This has been the largest single dovetailing project I've ever done. Well over 120 individual joints. All were cut by hand using the Lie-Nielsen thin plate dovetail saw. I'll say one thing. "Cut nail" joinery is looking mighty attractive right now.

Material is steamed beech, with three coats of Minwax Antique Oil. All surfaces are hand planed, followed up with paper to smooth the ends of the pins and tails.

The backs of the cases are 1/2" beech, with a beaded shiplap, just like in the article. I fastened the backs with clout nails. I imagine this case will be around for several hundred years.

I made a few changes to the design on the cases. First, on the base (plinth) I designed a cyma reversa with fillet profile instead of using the profile from Chris' cases. I thought the base needed a little beefing up, and this profile seemed to fit a little better to my eye. Next, I changed the dimensions of the cases slightly. The bottom case is the largest, with the case above a tad shorter. The rest of the cases are all from the plans. Thirdly, I changed the depth of the cases for two reason: to better fit the books I have, and so I could layout the dovetails so the spacing is consistent from case to case. I think this helps to unify the look of the piece, while still keeping the separate "book box" theme.

Here's what I like about this project.

1. The cases are all the same. Same layout, same marking gauge settings. I could get setup to build one, and then finish the rest without mental effort.

2. The 48" wide cases work well for wide uninterrupted spans. And this works because each shelf is in effect 1-1/2" thick, especially when the cases are assembled and screwed together from underneath each "shelf" pair. Couple this with the solid back nailed to the back of each horizontal member and you end up with a very rigid structure.

3. The cases do not dominate the shop. I milled all the wood for the entire project in one shot, then stickered it in the corner of the shop as I built each box one at a time. First I built the plinth and lowest case, finished it, took it in the house, and then moved onto the next box. I never had more than one box taking up shop space at a time.

4. Our Moxon vise was indispensable for this project. There are a few commercial versions of the Moxon vise available on the market now. And I've used a few of them, including a couple shop-made versions. I am absoltely spoiled on the handwheels. Their mass and virtually friction-free movement meant I could focus entirely on precision sawing. Frustrating workholding really disrupts my concentration. The Moxon has been wonderful.

Here are some more pics of the piece, in my office.









19 comments:

  1. So you leave the lines on your dovetails. I've always really like that look but not really seen anyone else do it. Very nice, thanks for sharin'.

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  2. Beautiful work! Really nice choice on the steamed beech, it looks a bit like alder. The dovetails match up perfectly and add a wonderful decorative detail to the cases. I'll be bookmarking this page for reference when I tackle these down the road.

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  3. Awesome! Just Awesome! Love the way the dovetails look like bow-ties when stacked together. Very cool you should be hapy and proud!

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  4. Most of the people I know also leave the baselines on the dovetails, as a telltale "cut by hand" mark. I know my grandfather hated the look of them, saying that it was sloppy, which I think is odd considering how well they are executed, nothing sloppy about it.

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  5. Now that is a wonderfully executed project!!! I love those sleek lines and curves. A perfect medley of brass, steel and bois de rose! Oh...and the bookshelf is nice as well! ;)

    Luigi

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  6. Thanks everyone. And thanks to Chris Schwarz for inspiration. And the Mario Bros. (at least one of them)

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  7. Geez...I just noticed the lawn bowling ball...looks like the ones they used in that "Cocoon" movie...could it be?!? Wow!!!

    Bowser

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  8. I'm sorry, I wasn't born when that movie was made. You must be really old.

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  9. Great job, but what about that banjo looking thing in the corner...

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  10. That's actually a voyageur paddle. My great, great, great, great, great, great, great, GREAT Grandfather had one of those when he was fur-trapping along the Hudson. They double as bison clubs.

    Gaston

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  11. Matt, that's the king of instruments. It's an oud, and ancient string instrument, and the progenitor of the modern guitar. Not as clumsy or random as a banjo; but an instrument of elegant expression for a more civilized age.
    Here's what one sounds like when played well: http://youtu.be/9mNxwgAmTKM

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  12. Gorgeous work, Jameel: Simple Lines, Solid, Elegant. I need some bookcases and this will inspire.

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  13. Very Nice work Jameel, i feel in love with this book case when i saw it in Pop Wood and I've been considering building one ever since. The choice of using beech was a wise one.

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  14. Those are prrrretty pretty nice! Love the wood selection- timeless design!

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  15. These are beautiful! May I ask where you acquired the beech? Are the wider bottom shelves edge glued boards or single wide ones? Thanks!!

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  16. I am late to the gate. As usual. I have been pondering this project since it first popped up, a year ago. Dug through the Monticello Site information; and, then bumped into Schwarz' article recently. You had fine tuned the gross elements of his design that I found nagging.

    And, one inconspicuous elevation ... that starts glaring when forgotten! I will need to go to pine for mine. It will be somewhat tricky gluing up the boards, however. Shelf depth will be a little greater than yours. Dang; and beech has so little figure, too!

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