Labor

To me, the joinery and detail work is the most fun part of any project.  The dimensioning of lumber? Well… not so much.  It is, however, necessary – and kind of gratifying when you have the pile of dimensioned lumber in front of you.  But it’s just straightforward, repetitive work jointing, planing, cutting, trimming. It’s also extremely loud.  The alternative is to dimension by hand and plane to thickness, but there’s a rational limit to the time I have if I’m to finish this project in my available time. Angus doesn’t like the planer or jointer noise, and as you can see, he’s glad this part is over.

As you have probably seen, cutting into the wood sometimes reveals its beauty.  But it can also uncover problems.  For example, this crack – known usually as a “check” when it appears in the end grain, as it does here – was internal to the board. It didn’t appear until the board was cut.  It has to be cut away to prevent the board from splitting later.  It could  be glued together with superglue, and would probably be strong enough.  But I’d rather remove it and not take the chance.  Fortunately, I have stock to spare for this project.

At this point, all the mesquite lumber is cut, sized, and squared.   That leaves some poplar for the drawer frame, and the secondary wood for the drawer itself. You’ll probably notice that most furniture uses different wood inside the drawers and for the drawer sides than the rest of the piece is made of.  Traditionally, that’s called “secondary wood”, and refers to a a less-expensive wood used for parts of the piece that don’t readily show. It also saves on the consumption of less-sustainable woods (such as mahogany, which is typically harvested from old-growth forests).

To me, it’s also about how the primary and secondary woods look together.  The original Stickley table from the plans was white oak and maple.  This one is mesquite, and it makes the maple look bright yellow next to it.  My first choice for secondary wood was sassafras, but I’ve decided that it’s too light and soft for this project. I’ve settled (for now) on a sustainable hardwood called Lyptus.  It’s harder and denser, and I like the way the two woods look together.

This also creates another challenge.  There’s no plywood faced in Lyptus to use for the drawer bottom.  Which means resawing the lyptus into 1/4″ panels, and making a slatted drawer bottom.  I may yet decide to back off and go with maple, since I can get maple-faced plywood… this is going to be a lot of additional work for the inside of a drawer. Stay tuned.

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