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Larson Kitchen 1Later this fall I will be releasing an Alpha version of CabWriter. I have been working on this project with Greg Larson, owner of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking (nesaw.com). Greg, you might say, is the architect of CabWriter and I am the coder. The pictures you see here are snapshots I took of Greg’s kitchen – remodeled using CabWriter.

You may have heard bits and pieces of CabWriter if you follow me on my Popular Woodworking blog, or my personal blog or website. Today I want to formally introduce CabWriter and give you a hint of its features and show you some of the results to-date. But first there are two questions I need to answer, even before you ask them: what is an Alpha release and what is CabWriter?

What is an Alpha Release?

Larson Kitchen 1In the software world a new product is sometimes released in what is referred to as an Alpha release. The purpose is primarily to get very early feedback and suggestions. A secondary purpose is to build interest. Alpha releases are almost always free and have the following disclaimers:

  1. Functionality is incomplete or may change in future releases. That is, current functionality may be dropped or new functionality may be added in future releases. A CabWriter specific example is that it only works with inset doors in the Alpha release, but in its first product release will work with inset, overlay and frameless doors.
  2. There may be significant software bugs in an Alpha release. This is a direct tradeoff with the desire to expose a new product early. Users are asked to be patient and to take part in its improvement by reporting bugs to the developer. In the specific case of CabWriter reports should be made to me at : jpz@srww.com .
  3. The user uses an Alpha release at their own risk whether for personal use or commercial use. The very nature of an Alpha release is “use at your own risk”.
  4. Using an Alpha release is not a license to use the product release. You will need to acquire a license after product release.

Larson Kitchen 3So much for disclaimers, here is why I am releasing an Alpha version. I will be looking for help from users who want to design and build kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and office or library furniture. I want feedback in the form of constructive criticism, bug reports, feature suggestions and training needs. In return, for those who actively participate, you get the first CabWriter product license for free. If you are interested you can contact me via email and ask to be an Alpha user. You don’t have to participate to be an Alpha user, but only active participants will get a free license. I will, of course, be the judge of who has actively participated.

What is CabWriter?

Larson Kitchen Modeled in SketchUpCabWriter is a SketchUp Ruby script extension (formerly called plug-in). As its name implies CabWriter permits automatic and efficient custom cabinet 3D modeling, shop drawing documentation, cut list generation and DXF output that permits CNC milling. CabWriter is tightly connected to CutList Bridge and hence CutList Plus fx for material optimization. CabWriter takes advantage of the powerful Ruby API supported by Trimble SketchUp; its functional code is written in Ruby while the Graphical User Interface in JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 1There will likely be two or three version with a target range from the hobbyist/weekend warrior to the professional cabinet shop. CabWriter comes with CutList Bridge. So far we have designed, built and installed four custom kitchens and are currently working on the fifth and sixth.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 2The goal of CabWriter is to be able to meet with a client at their residence and within a few hours walk away with a complete 3D design the client can sign off on, including plan and elevation views, cut list and materials list, cost estimate and even DXF output for CNC milling. In the real world of course clients will always want to make changes the next day and for a few weeks later. However, CabWriter makes it possible to complete this entire goal in just a few hours sans further changes. In the next two months we expect to demonstrate this goal including the installation. We will document the entire project from design, through CNC milling to completed installation in a video.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 3Before I show you some of the design output of CabWriter let me list some of its important features:

  1. The entire design file stays with the SketchUp model. While you may export files for Excel, OpenOffice or CutList Plus fx, there is no need to save or archive these files. They can always be reproduced with the SketchUp model file and SketchUp with extensions CabWriter and CutList Bridge.
  2. CabWriter has a large set of defaults all of which can be changed by the user. This makes tailoring CabWriter to a given build methodology relatively easy as well as assigning default material types and names.
  3. CabWriter automatically draws cabinet with any number of boxes, creates and assigns component names, part names and material types and material names. Any attribute that can be specified using CutList Bridge can automatically be assigned using CabWriter.Shop Drawing in LayOut 4
  4. CabWriter permits changing of numerous cabinet and box defaults on a per cabinet and per box basis such as number of doors and drawers.
  5. Cabinets can be edited after they are drawn to change things such as width, height, depth, material, number of doors, drawers etc.
  6. CabWriter Version 1.0 will handle face frame cabinets with inset or overlay doors, or frame-less cabinets.
  7. CabWriter automatically stores CutList Bridge attributes in each component so there is little or no manual entry required.
  8. CabWriter makes plan and elevation views a snap and automatically includes the hatching for material keys.Sheet Optimization in Vectric Aspire
  9. CabWriter is completely functional in the Make version of SketchUp for hobbyists and weekend warriors who wish to design and build their own cabinet. For professionals CabWriter makes integration with LayOut a snap.
  10. CutList Bridge comes with CabWriter and permits near instant cut list generation. Its bridging capability to CutList Plus fx saves material cost with material layout optimization.
  11. CabWriter provides CutList Bridge with the information to automatically create all the DXF files necessary to mill sheet goods on a CNC machine. These DXF file can, for example, can be imported to Vectric Aspire or Vectric Cut2D which will do sheet optimization and output the necessary G code for CNC milling. The DXF files produced by CutList Bridge fx permits use of numerous applications as alternatives to Vectric Aspire (Aspire is the application we are currently using).

Single Sheet Enlargement in Vectric AspireGreg’s kitchen, shown in the previous pictures, and above as a 3D rendering, was drawn entirely in SketchUp using CabWriter. The following images are CabWriter views sent to LayOut. You can see that the drawing set is quite professional and complete. The last two images are the Aspire optimized sheet layout and an enlargement of one sheet. Shortly I will be releasing a training video documenting a complete design. I will announce it and the Alpha release in a newsletter and in my blogs. So stay tuned.

CabWriter to CNC

I would like to end this post with a short video of a CabWriter designed cabinet set cut on a ShopBot CNC machine. CutList Bridge, which is part of CabWriter, produces all the DXF files which are then imported into Vectric’s Aspire or Cut2D which in turn optimizes the sheet layouts and produces the G code necessary to drive the CNC. This video was shot on October 22, 2015 and is the first CabWriter designed cabinet set cut on a CNC machine. Much thanks to Mason Papaport of Rapaport Design (http://rapaportdesigns.com/) for the use of his Shop Bot CNC. Now pop the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy this special feature film.


Greg, on left, and students on installation day.Each year the New England School of Architectural Woodworking (NESAW at www.nesaw.com) runs a five month cabinetmaking course. The purpose of the course is to prepare students for a rewarding career in the field of cabinetmaking. Over 90% of NESAW’s job-seeking graduates find employment at architectural woodworking shops across the United States.

The industry is in dire need of skilled craftspeople, due to the record number of retiring workers and the declining number of vocational programs aimed at cabinetmakers.

NESAW LogoSign up now. Classes begin January 5th and enrollment ends on January 10th. Visit the New England School of Architectural Woodworking for details.

 

NESAW’s program teaches the fundamentals of architectural woodworking and offers students the opportunity to work directly with members of the community to design, build, and install projects. This combination of skills-building and real-world experience makes NESAW’s graduates particularly attractive to employers, since it means a safer employee, less on-the-job training and a better understanding of the entire project lifecycle.

Greg installing a sink.Students who enter the program to improve their woodworking skills or start their own businesses also gain from this approach, as they better understand how to more efficiently design and build a quality product.

The New England School of Architectural Woodworking is owned and operated by Greg and Margaret Larson. I first met Greg in the fall of 2011 through introductions made by a former student of Greg’s and mine. I wrote about NESAW in my December 21st 2011, March 29th and June 11th 2012 Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletters.

Margaret serving cake at graduation celebration.That year I taught a SketchUp class for NESAW students. During this period Greg and I spoke at length about what students were learning and the time consuming aspects of custom cabinetmaking. Out of those discussions came CutList Bridge and later CabWriter. Greg and I have worked closely together ever since our first meeting and I have spent numerous hours at the NESAW shop with his students. Each year I teach a live SketchUp course to the students. I t is with this intimate knowledge that I highly recommend visiting the NESAW website if you are interested in a career in cabinetmaking. You will find no better program or more caring people than NESAW, Greg and Margaret.


SketchUp is woodworker’s chosen tool for creating shop drawings; CutList Plus fx by Bridgewood Design is the leading tool for generating optimized sheet layouts and materials lists. These two industry leading tools don’t natively communicate. That became history with the introduction of CutList Bridge. Now CutList Bridge 4 is even more powerful and rich with new features and is ready for even better things to come.

What is CutList Bridge?

Attributes TabCutList Bridge is a SketchUp Ruby extension. It extends the attributes of components to include such things as the material type used in its milling, the species or material name, re-sized dimensions, shop method tags, the sub-assembly to which it belongs and much more. These attributes are attached to the component and stored in the model file. The user can export these attribute to either: a .cwx file, which can be opened in CutList Plus fx version 12.3 or higher; or to a comma separated value file (.csv aka CSV) and subsequently imported to Microsoft Excel, Open/Office Calc or any spread sheet application that supports CSV importing. Either of these methods will produce a cut list but CutList Plus fx will also produce a materials list, optimized cutting diagrams and project costing.

Setup TabA very important feature of CutList Bridge is that it stores all components’ material and milling attributes in the SketchUp model file. The user need keep only one file of a design and doesn’t have to worry about synchronizing other files when design changes are made. The CWX, CSV, CutList Plus fx, Excel or OpenOffice Calc files can all be reproduced in about four mouse clicks.

What’s New in CutList Bridge 4?

CutList Bridge 3 added four new fields to the cut list .csv file: Tags, Fin T, Fin W and Fin L. However, they were only available for import to Excel and OpenOffice Calc; they could not be imported to CutList Plus fx. This limitation is eliminated in version 4.0, a major release with new functionality. Some of the new functionality was added to support CabWriter, a future new extension that will add to the SketchUp/CutList Bridge/CutList Plus design process. Other functionality was added to generally improve the extension for all woodworking projects. Here is a list of the new functionality and fixes:

CutList Bridge to CutList Plus fx

1. A Legacy Mode checkbox has been added to the Extended Entity Info dialog box Setup tab. If you do not have either a Gold or Platinum CutList Plus fx license of revision 12.3 or higher you should check Legacy Mode. In Legacy Mode you will not be able to export the Tags, Fin T, Fin W and Fin L columns. Legacy Mode is unchecked when CutList Bridge 4.0 is installed.

2. When using the File/Export to CutList Plus fx command a file is saved in the same folder (place) as the SketchUp model file (.skp), with the same name as the model. The file extension will be .cwx if Legacy Mode in not checked. If Legacy Mode is checked the file extension will be .csv.

3. The Tags, Fin T, Fin W and Fin L columns are now included in a File/Export to CutList Plus fx operation. In CutList Bridge 4 the command File/Export to CutList Plus fx now produces a file with the same name as the SketchUp model file but with the extension .cwx (a.k.a CWX) . Users of CutList Plus fx version 12.3 or higher can now open this file with the command File/Open. The fields are automatically mapped so the user no longer need manually map them with the Parts Import Wizard. In addition, upon installation of CutList Plus fx 12.3, the CWX extension is associated with CutList Plus fx, so the user can simply double click on a CWX file and CutList Plus fx is opened to it.

4. Fixed an issue with Add material when the material name contained the inch unit mark ("), which caused weird behavior with the list drop down boxes.

5. Some users have experienced problems with materials.csv files that contain Euros currency. This problem is solved in CutList Plus fx version 12.3.

The attached images show the new Extended Entity Info Attributes and Setup tab and a sample cut list produced with CutList Bridge 4 and CutList Plus fx version 12.3. The video below is a ten minute introductory of CutList Bridge 4 and CutList Plus fx. You can also view it on YouTube in a larger format.

 

Where can I get CutList Bridge 4?

You can purchase CutList Bridge 4 in the Popular Woodworking Shop Woodworking on-line store.


SketchUp is woodworker’s chosen tool for creating shop drawings; CutList Plus fx by Bridgewood Design is the leading tool for generating optimized sheet layouts and materials lists. These two industry leading tools don’t natively communicate. That became history with the introduction of CutList Bridge. Now CutList Bridge 3 is even more powerful and rich with new features and is ready for even better things to come.

CutList Bridge Extension for SketchUp

You can purchase CutList Bridge 3 from the Popular Woodworking On-Line Store.

What is CutList Bridge?

New CutList Bridge 3 TabsMany of you have used this tool before, but for those of you who have not, CutList Bridge is a SketchUp Ruby extension. It extends the attributes of components to include such things as the material type used in its milling, the species or material name, re-sized dimensions, shop method tags, the sub-assembly to which it belongs and much more. These attributes are attached to the component and stored in the model file. The user can export these attribute to a comma separated value file (.csv aka CSV) and subsequently import that file into CutList Plus fx to produce a cut list, materials list, optimized cutting diagrams and project costing. If the user doesn’t have a CutList Plus fx license the CSV file can be imported to Microsoft Excel, Open/Office Calc or any spread sheet application that supports CSV importing.

A very important feature of CutList Bridge is that it stores all components’ material and milling attributes in the SketchUp model file. The user need keep only one file of a design and doesn’t have to worry about synchronizing other files when design changes are made. The CSV, CutList Plus fx, Excel or Calc files can all be reproduced in about four mouse clicks.

What’s New in CutList Bridge 3?

CutList Bridge 3 now supports component numbering capability including manually by the user, automatically in alphabetical or numerical order by CutList Bridge 3 and automatically by CabWriter. CabWriter is a new SketchUp Ruby extension to be announced later this fall. CabWriter automatically draws custom cabinets using a simple and powerful user interface; see the CabWriter drawn kitchen below. CutList Bridge 3 is CabWriter ready.

A CabWriter Drawn Kitchen

A new Tags field has been added to tag critical shop operations such as adjacent component grain matching. Any shop critical operation can be tagged in this text field and can be alphabetically sorted to assist in efficient performance of these shop operations. This field will also be supported in future releases of CutList Plus fx.

Re-sizing of thickness capability has been added to the Resizing field. And now there are three new fields to export the finished or As Drawn dimensions. These too will be supported in the next CutList Plus fx release.

There are a number of internal changes that make CutList Bridge 3 ready for CabWriter as well as the next version of CutList Plus fx.
For more information on CutList Bridge 3 see the CutList Bridge User’s Guide. Below is a partial cut list of the kitchen shown in the above image exported to CutList Plus fx.

A CutList Bridge Generated Cut List Exported To CutList Plus fx

 

Where Can I Get CutList Bridge 3?

CutList Bridge 3 is distributed exclusively by Popular Woodworking. You can purchase CutList Bridge 3 from the Popular Woodworking On-Line Store.

Is there a Training Course for CutList Bridge 3?

PWUlogo_300Yes. There’s a three segment on-line course titled Using CutList Bridge 3 and given by Popular Woodworking University. Each segment is approximately one hour long and covers creating a cut list for three types of woodworking project: Furniture Pieces, Custom Cabinets & Structures such as a shed, home and home addition.


Will Beemer demonstrating the locking dovetail prop.I discovered the Heartwood School while attending the recent NWA Saratoga Woodworkers Showcase and wrote about it in my April 3, 2011 Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletter. All I knew about the school at that time is what I had seen at the show and read on its website. I sent the owner, Will Beemer, a copy of my newsletter and he wrote back inviting me to an active class. I took Will up on his invitation and visited Heartwood School on June 23, a damp and rainy Thursday.

Background

Shaping a tenon's seat with a spokeshave.Located in Washington, MA in the Berkshire mountains, Heartwood is run by Will and Michele Beemer. For the past 34 years Heartwood has been teaching students to design and build their own homes, mostly in timber frame construction.

Will has an extensive background in home design and construction, as well as teaching design and construction. He has taught at Cornell, Palomar College in San Diego and Colorado State University. He has written for Fine Homebuilding, Joiner’s Quarterly, Wood Design & Building, and Timber Framing. Michele is office manager, provides lunches for the students, is an on-site instructor and an author.

The first timber frame built by students houses the cafeteria, classroom, shop & library.Heartwood has a full range of courses in design and construction that run from April through October. Courses include energy efficiency techniques, fundamentals of woodworking, traditional cabinetmaking, building a workbench for woodworking, converting trees to timber and much more. They even teach SketchUp for timber frame designs.

My Visit

Checking the cut of an Eastern style tenon saw.Using my GPS I managed to find a small sign on a wooded road in Washington, MA. It said simply – Heartwood. I turned onto a paved and winding drive, which turned to a dirt drive that broke out into a clearing. The view reminded me of a childhood campground. Nestled in the woods to my left was a timber frame building with a sign over the door, once again announcing I had arrived at Heartwood. To my right were two long tents, open on all sides, like the tents used for a country fair. Under the tents, and protected from the rain, were eighteen students, an instructor and owner Will Beemer; all busily working away on 7” x 7” timber frame beams.

Tents set up to provide shelter from the rain.Trucks and cars were scattered everywhere, randomly parked under trees and I saw no defined parking area. As I sat there looking for a place to park my truck Will approached, introduced himself and welcomed me to Heartwood. He gave me a quick orientation introducing me to students, staff and showed me the shop, classrooms, library and kitchen. The latter rooms all resided in the timber frame building, which was the first building the students constructed when the school was opened in 1978. Will and Michele were not the owners at the time, though Will was an instructor. In 1985 they purchased Heartwood and have owned and operated it since.

"Get out of here with that camera so I can work!"Heartwood’s business model is simple and elegant. It brings together property owners who desire a timber frame home, barn, shop or other structure with students who wish to learn timber framing. Sometimes the owner and student are one in the same.

Everyone is busy but there is no panic. The raising is tomorrow.The first half of the business model is an owner who contracts with Heartwood to design, mill and erect a timber frame for about $30 a square foot. This includes frame only; finish materials, pre and post construction are the responsibility of the owner. If the owner’s site is more than 1.5 hours from Heartwood, trucking and other costs may be extra. Timber frame materials are rough cut Eastern White Pine, un-planed. Since Heartwood is a school for woodworkers and all work is done by the students, the owner must accept occasional constructions flaws, though Heartwood does its best to hide such mistakes. From my observation I doubt this is ever a real problem. The work I saw was top notch.

Now, that's a chisel!The second half of the business model is students. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and experience levels. Some have never held a woodworking tool before or never made a wood joint. Some are experienced woodworkers but who have no experience in timber framing. Many are hobbyists who want to build their own timber frame and attend the school to learn how. Still other are professional woodworkers or construction professionals who want to expand theirs skills and trade. I counted two women wielding chisel and mallet in this class of eighteen students.

Finished work ready to load on the trailer.Sometimes a class is held without a contracted owner. In that case a modest sized timber frame is crafted on speculation, though finding a buyer never seems to be a problem. The class I visited was building a studio for a contracted owner. Raising day was Friday, June 24th, the day after my visit. But there didn’t seem to be any schedule pressures, nervousness or frenzied activity. All seemed to be in control. There was a large stack of completed beams and the work-in-progress seemed near completion.

I believe this is a hand cut brace.My brother-in-law designed and built his own timber frame home and barn from hand hewn timbers. So I am familiar with the excitement of raising that these students had to look forward to. As I am writing this article on the 24th I am looking out the window at the rain coming down. Par for the course in the trades and a good lesson for the students.

Lots of mortises are needed for a timber frame construction.My primary interest in woodworking is furniture crafting. The interest I share with these students, however, is hand tools and joinery. The dovetails, mortise and tenons I use in my joinery are not all that different from those used in timber framing with the exception of size (I will post a follow-on article on one unique and interesting joint used by these students). Most of the joinery these students use are cut by hand with a combination of handsaw, chisel, mallet, spokeshave and drawknife. To be sure, those joints are larger than one would use in a furniture shop, but they are used in very similar ways.

How's that for a mortise bit?In my shop I use a power mortiser and I was surprised to see the timber framer’s equivalent sometimes used by the students. It is driven by electric motor and plunges in to the timber much like a plunge router would. However, instead of a square chisel and drill bit, the cutting blade is three – stacked side by side – chain saws. The beams used are 7” x 7” and the tenons are 1 ½” thick. So I suspect the chains are designed to be 1 ½” in width when stacked, and long tenons are formed with Looks like instruction on how to use the power mortiser.repeated plunges, though I failed to ask about this. A fence can be adjusted to place the tenon the appropriate distance in from the edge of the timber. It appeared to me that the “blade” could be plunged a little more than eight inches for a through mortise, or adjusted less deep for a stopped mortise.

The dovetailed tenon half of the locked mortise and tenon joint.Most of the mortises I saw were hand cut with a mallet and chisel. A couple of students were being instructed in the use of the power mortiser. So this may have been the one signal that the scheduled raising was requiring the use of more rapid methods, though once again I failed to enquire about this.

Friendly conversation over Michele's lunchtime meal.I was struck by the accuracy and smoothness of finish of the hand cut joints. Obviously not the kind of finish you would find in hand crafted furniture, but still I found myself needing to wipe my hand across the joints and marvel at the smoothness. I picked up a few tools and checked out the sharpness and found myself approving what my hand felt. As I studied the joinery I could see the light pencil lines that provided guidance for hand cuts. All in all I could relate to the work of the students and I even had a feeling of wanting to join in. That’s when Will came out of the timber frame building and yelled “Lunch”.

Lunchtime at Heartwood

Michele at work in her kitchen talking to the students.When Will invited me to visit he said I should plan to arrive at noon and join he and the students for lunch. I had read about Michele’s fine cooking on the Heartwood website and I was eager to sample the food. My eagerness was aided by the fact that I was just plain hungry. Hunger is a feeling I get if I spend too much time watching others hard at work. So I joined the rush to the dining room.

A 1 personpower drill press. Notice the dual crank.Dining at Heartwood is cafeteria style and all the food is home cooked. I had a soup, sandwich and crab salad. If you are a New Englander there are three chowders of choice: clam, seafood and corn. I love all three and I thoroughly enjoyed Michele’s corn chowder and crab salad.

Over lunch I talked to several students I The classroom is on the second floor across from the library.sat near. One was from a town not far from where I was born and raised and we shared news of that area. I learned that students stayed in B & Bs, hotels, friends homes or even commuted to Heartwood. Those I talked to came from all over New England and New York, though I suspect Heartwood draws from a much wider area as well.

The comfortable portion of the library. There are additional bookshelves out of view.After lunch I took more pictures, including the shop, library and classroom. The library has a wonderful collection of books on timber framing, general construction techniques, drawing, energy efficiency and many other home building related topics. If I go back to Heartwood I would like to spend some time in this library and get some titles for my own collection.

I said my goodbyes and thanked Will and Michele for the visit and lunch. I left feeling I had visited a woodworking school I could really enjoy and learn from. And I left with more questions than I had answers. So one day I hope to go back and talk with Will in more depth – and of course have another lunch.

Heartwood Update

I'm guessing this is a vertical support post with both mortise and tenon joinery.I spoke to Michele on Friday late. She and the class had just returned from the raising. All went well and the class finished the raising early afternoon. Though it rained in my area the rain held off at the building site. The raising marked the end of the class. Eighteen students were going home newly proficient in timber framing. It doesn’t get much better than that.


Finished Panels With 3 Coats Of Wipe-On-Poly Picking up from where I left off in Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 1, I finished all five panels. Three panels will be framed in the headboard and two in the footboard. Just like panels in frame-and-panel construction you must add a few coats of finish to the panels before encasing them in their frame. If this step is skipped unsightly unfinished edges are visible as the panel expands/contracts through seasonal changes.

Trundle Bed Shown With The Trundle Out The next step in Trundle Bed Crafting is to tackle the swan necks that top the headboard. I began by printing out a full scale SketchUp drawing of one swan neck. They are mirror images of each other so all I need is one paper template. However, the swan necks are constructed with two layers glued together and the result is a 3 1/4” piece of stock. Since I need to shape four pieces, all with the same top curve, two of them share the same bottom curve, and two have a bottom curve that is 3/4” away from and smaller than the other two, I decided to make one hardwood template. Using the paper template I traced it onto 3/4” thick cherry stock being careful to arrange the grain for best strength. I rough cut the template on the band saw and completed the shaping on the edge sander.

Completed Swan Neck Cherry Template The completed cherry template, shown left, will be used in a series of steps with template router bits. The Swan Neck presents a number of interesting challenges for the woodworker. The first one is its thickness. The Swan Neck is 3 1/4” total thickness made of a sandwich of a 2 1/4” back and 1” front. I designed it as a sandwich to make shaping easier and doable with my current collection of shaper and router bits. But even the back is wider than my longest 2” template bit.

The Cherry Template Is Traced On 2 1/4" Thick Stock Fortunately I have two 2” template bits; one with a bottom bearing and one with a top bearing. So I used a three step procedure to shape the Swan Neck backs. I traced the cherry template on 2 1/4” stock. I needed two of them and they need to be mirror images which was simply a matter of flipping the cherry template.

Rough Cutting The Thick Back On The Band Saw The first step in this three step procedure is to rough cut the thick Swan Neck back on the band saw. My band saw had a 1 1/4” re-saw blade mounted in it and I should have replaced it with one much narrower allowing me to follow the curves smoothly. But being lazy I simply hacked away at the stock with the re-saw blade. You can see the resulting burn marks created by a 1 1/4” blade struggling to follow comparatively sharp curves. But with no damage to the blade I was able to cut to within 1/8” of the outline making the job for the template router bit minimal. When I was done I had Side A and Side B of the Swan Neck back and the template.

Shaping All But Top 3/4" Of Swan Neck With Bottom Bearing Template Bit The second step in this three step process it to attach the template to the appropriate side of the one of the Swan Neck backs. Appropriate side means keeping the side labels matched, for example Side A facing up on both, but with the template on the bottom. I attached the cherry template to the Swan Neck back using double sided sticky tape (carpet tape). In this step I use the bottom bearing template bit and with the template as a guide and shape all but about 3/4” of the Swan Neck as shown at right.

Complete Shaping With Top Bearing Bit In the third step of this process I replace the bottom bearing template bit with a top bearing template bit, remove the cherry template, turn the Swan Neck over and use its partially shaped surface as a template. See the picture at left. I have to use this three step process on both Swan Neck backs. But I am not done; I still need to shape the Swan Neck fronts. However, they are only 1” thick and only require rough cutting and one template bit. But there are still some tricks that need to be employed to complete the Swan Necks as you will see in Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 3.


Well, I have finally started crafting the trundle bed I wrote about in the Trundle Bed Design series. Many family and unrelated projects got in the way of this project for some time. But no more excuses. The show must go on.

Headboard And Footboard Panel Details I decided to begin with building the panels for the headboard and footboard. The headboard requires a panel 22 57/64” tall by 40 1/2” wide and two panels 8 3/4” tall by 40 1/2” wide. The footboard requires two panels 8 3/4” tall by 40 1/2” wide.

The final thickness of the panels is 5/8”, but I prepare my stock for 3/4” and bring it to final thickness on the drum sander after glue up has been completed. This will allow me to take out any slight mismatches in the glue up joints which are unavoidable. In addition the drum sander can bring the finish panel to precisely 5/8” with 220 grit paper. That way, after shaping the edges, I can immediately apply several coats of finish, which I always do before affixing panels in their frames (The headboard and footboard are essentially a frame and panel construction.). Subsequent shrinkage of the panels will not reveal unsightly voids of finish.

Edges Are Always Prepared With A Hand Plane Before Glue Up Preparing stock for glue up requires the standard jointer, planner, jointer and table saw sequence to face and edge the boards. But the final step for me is always preparing the edges by hand with a hand plane. This accomplishes several things. First it removes any oils on the edge that exist from handling or are naturally secreted by the wood. This is especially important if the time from wood preparation to glue up is hours or days. Second the edge is given a glass smooth surface void of machine marks and scratches. Third I get a better edge, i.e. perfectly straight and square.

All these add up to a better looking and stronger glue joint. One of the tests I use for a properly finished edge is that I can get  a continuous, very thin shaving, of equal width all the way to the end, and the length of the shaving is the full length of the board. Notice the shaving above right. A Lie-Nielsen smooth plane is the one I use for the final cuts. But I will start with a jointer plane if the edge is close to straight, or a block plane if I have to cut short local areas to correct for a bow for example.

Headboard Panel Glue Up When I have finished preparing the edges with a hand plane I immediately glue up. If I have a number of panels to do, as in this case where I have five panels, I’ll prepare all the stock on the power tools. But only the edges for one panel at a time is prepared on the hand plane so that the time from edge preparation to glue up is short, keeping the edges from getting soiled or dinged.

I have tested glued edge joints numerous times and always found that a properly prepared and executed  joint will always be stronger than the wood itself. How long a joint will last I will never know because I won’t live long enough to see its failure. But the accelerated life tests manufacturers perform indicate these joints will still be going strong hundreds of years from now (barring abuse such as prolonged exposure to water, high heat or direct sunlight).

One other idiosyncrasy I have is that I always leave joints clamped overnight. True, the manufacture says you can work the wood after only one hour of clamping provided there are no undue stresses placed on the joint. But I am not sure what an undue stress is. This is an analog world we live in. Stresses don’t magically become undue at 10 lbs of force but not 9.9 lbs. So I am conservative but feel much more secure this way.

The Performax Pro 22-44 Is Used To Final Thickness The Panel After curing for an evening the panel is ready for final thicknessing. I do this on my Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander. To gauge when a side has been entirely sanded and flat I mark the panel with red carpenter’s crayon in wide horizontal lines. When the marks are completely gone I have succeeded in flattening the side. See the picture at right. I use 220 grit paper for this final step. I will sand it one more time just before applying finish with 320 grit and an oscillating rotary sander.

I am careful during glue up to put the good side of the panel up, i.e. away from the clamp’s bars. This allows me to clean the entire surface unimpeded by the bars of the the clamps. See picture above left. I clean the other side too, but the bars always obscure some glue. When dried the backside will have little glue hills which I level with a putty knife. Still, there is remaining glue to be removed. So the backside is the one I drum sand first. Then I turn it over, mark the good side and continue drum sanding until I reach final thickness.

On a panel this wide each pass actually requires two passes. As you can see in the picture above right, the panel is wider than my drum sander. The 22-44 in the name implies you can sand a 22” wide panel in one pass, or one as wide as 44” in two passes. One note of caution about drum sanders; you must not let the work piece stop while going through the drum sander. If you do the sander will sand a horizontal valley into your piece deep enough that you may not have enough thickness left to remove it.

Squaring The Panel On My Large Panel Cutter Once the panel is thicknessed I use a hand plane to create a square and straight reference edge. I then use that edge in my large panel cutter to square the panel to finished length. This panel cutter has been a life saver and workhorse for me. If you don’t have one I strongly suggest you make one soon. With it I can cut large panels (wider than a kitchen cabinet end panel) perfectly square every time, and with ease. The panel shown is 24” wide and 40 1/2” long. This panel cutter uses both table saw slots, has a high fence to keep your hands away from the blade and has a block that completely covers the saw blade as the fence passes it.

Inspecting The Panel With Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner) When the panel is cut to size I wet it down with mineral spirits to inspect for any remaining glue spots. Hopefully there are none. This step also gives you an idea of what the panel will look like when finish is applied.

Of course, this being cherry, it will darken considerably with sunlight and age. Most of the darkening takes place in the first few months of exposure to strong light, but it continues for a long time. In the picture at right the wood came from two piles, one which had not been subjected to light and one which had (it was on top of the drying stack). These pieces will darken to the same color in a few weeks time.

However, you will notice some sapwood in this panel. Purists argue that you should remove all sapwood when crafting fine furniture. I respectfully disagree. I have always felt that nature does a better job of designing wood than we do. I like to expose all “imperfections” in the wood, including dark pitch pockets in cherry, or cats paw markings. I feel they add to the piece. I am sure that the Shakers didn’t throw out pieces with these imperfections, and if its good enough for the Shakers, it’s good enough for me.

A Full Scale Print Out Is Used As A Template One of the really neat features of SketchUp is that you can print drawings to scale. I printed out the headboard to full scale (1:1). It took about 23 sheets of 8 1/2” by 11” paper, though most of them were blank and I put them right back in the paper stack. I taped one side of the swan neck together and then encapsulated it with self sticking clear plastic and made a template, which I then traced on the panel. Only one side is needed for a template because the curves are mirror images and you can flip the template.

The Delta BOSS Is Used To Remove Jig Saw Machine Marks After rough cutting the swan neck curves, I used my Delta BOSS with course paper to sand away the machine marks left by the jig saw. I usually use my band saw to cut shapes like this, but a 1 1/4” re-saw blade was mounted on it and I didn’t want to take the time to change to a smaller blade. The BOSS oscillating sander does a good job, however, in the end I had to finish the job with lots of hand sanding.

This panel is rather large for the BOSS table so I used adjustable roller supports to carry most of the weight while still making it possible to easily manipulate the panel. Note that the circle in the top middle of the panel is not cut out at this point. If I would have cut it out at this point, the shaper, which will be used to shape the edges, would likely destroy the delicate points that are formed by the circle (see the first picture).

Shaping The Edge With A Large Cutter I Am Especially Alert The next task was to shape the edges. During design of the bed I chose to do this on a shaper because I could get a cutter that would form a wider shape than possible on the router. But the cutter has a rather large 5 1/2” outer diameter. Plus the shape of the swan neck is such that I had to expose most of the cutter to be able to manipulate the panel during shaping. This makes for a somewhat risky and dangerous cut. In situations like this I am always super alert, especially during the start of a cut when the shaper can grab the piece and throw it, or throw sharp pieces at you. Also, I am conscience of where my hands are at all times.

The Circle Is Cut Out With A Jig Saw Finally I cut the circle with the jig saw and repeat the BOSS and hand sanding process. When cutting pieces like this where the panel has to hang over the edge of the table, I make the cut in sections, and support the cut-off by clamping it to the panel. That way it will not unexpectedly fall an split a piece out ruining the panel. These little extra steps can save a lot of work and material and pay for themselves many times over.

The Completed Panel Ready For Finish When the panel is completed I wet it down with mineral spirits again. This time I am looking for scratches or dings. This sometimes happens due to the hard surface of the shaper and BOSS tables. If I find a mark I remove it now. If I were to skip this step the imperfection would surely show up after finish is applied and would be much more difficult to repair at that point.

This concludes Part 1 of Trundle Bed Crafting. In Part 2 I will make the swan neck frames the will encapsulate the panel. Stay tuned.


Tiger Maple Finished With Golden Amber Aniline Dye Well Santa and Mrs. Claus have finished their list and have checked it twice. And now the nice little boys and girls in their family will each receive one of these reproduction mirrors for Christmas. I described the origin of the original, from which these are reproduction copies, in “An American Chippendale Mirror Makes A Great Gift”.

Tiger Maple With A Clear Finish Willow and I made six mirrors in all. Five are tiger maple and one is a combination tiger maple and cherry (I have a fetish for mixing woods). Four of the tiger maple mirrors were stained with Moser’s 1490 Golden Amber water-based aniline dye followed by 4 coats of hand rubbed Minwax Wipe-On Satin Polyurethane. This was followed by one coat of hand rubbed J. E. Moser’s Premium Quality Paste Wax.

The remaining two mirrors have a clear finish; 4 coats of hand rubbed Minwax Wipe-On Satin Polyurethane followed by one coat of hand rubbed J. E. Moser’s Premium Quality Paste Wax. The cherry frame, below left, will darken substantially over time as it is exposed to light. This will provide a nice contrast to the blonde finish of the tiger maple.

Tiger Maple And Cherry With A Clear Finish The tiger stripes are striking in all three mirrors. I am partial to natural (clear) finishes. However, the Golden Amber stain is a more traditional finish for tiger maple pieces. It’s simply a matter of taste and that is a very individual thing. Fortunately, the recipients chose their desired finish. Yes, Santa let them peak using the “anyone over 26 years of age can peak rule”. I think they will enjoy them for years to come and hopefully they will be passed down for many generations in our family.

I must admit, when Willow told me we were going to make these for the kids as Christmas gifts, I was feeling a lot of “Oh Humbug” – read “Pressure”. But now I am Ho, Ho, Ho Jolly. Merry Christmas to all and to all a Happy New Year from Chiefwoodworker.


Duelling Dubbys - Right And Left Dubby Jigs The title of this blog should be “Progress In Crafting American Chippendale Mirrors”, or some such thing. But as often happens to me while working on a project, a thought catches my attention and I can’t get rid of it. Over the last few days, while working on this project, it happened that I had to use a commercial fixture and build another fixture; or was it a jig? Woodworkers often confuse the two and use these terms incorrectly, as I have done here – and many times in the past. So I was compelled to do a little research.

It turns out there are many mechanical engineering and fabrication books written that give the definition of, and explains the use of, fixtures and jigs. They are perhaps the most useful source in answering this question. I have a number of woodworking books in my library that also give us some guidance. There is also the dictionary. After reading a number of these sources the difference is still not clear.

However, taking the common elements you can boil the definitions down to the following:

  1. A jig holds and guides the work piece
  2. The fixture holds the piece while it is worked on

Setting Blade Height Correctly & Dubbys To Cut 45 Degrees Produces Horizontal Corner Slices OK, so what is a tenoning jig? Does it hold the piece while it is worked on? Or does it hold and guide the piece. It is universally called a jig, but it does no more guiding a tenon than it guides a piece I cross cut without its use. I am doing the guiding, or perhaps you can argue it is the table top miter slot that is doing the guiding. But the tenoning jig certainly isn’t. So perhaps the definition should be:

  1. A jig holds a piece and is movable while working the piece
  2. A fixture holds a piece and is fixed in place while working the piece

With this definition I can actually determine what I am working with. Now I can clearly say a tenoning jig is indeed a jig, and the Supreme Drill Press Table I wrote about a few weeks back is clearly a fixture. More importantly, I can say the two helpful tools I use in this blog are clearly jigs.

A Jig Enables Cutting Vertical Corner Slices OK, having wasted a lot of time, energy and blog space on that overdone thought I can write about “Progress In Crafting American Chippendale Mirrors”. The picture frames thus far are joined with end grain to end grain joinery; a joint which is notoriously weak and needs reinforcement. There are traditional ways of doing this, one of which is to cut corner slots and use splines. For reasons to be explained later I used a modified version of this joint. To assist me I turned to one of my favorite and most used jigs, the Dubby from In-Line Industries. In the first picture above you can see Left and Right Dubbys set to 45 degrees. I am using them to cut horizontal slices in the corners of the frame. Two opposite slices are cut with each of the two Dubbys producing the slices you see in the picture ant right above. These are the first of two cuts needed to remove triangular shaped pieces.

The Weak Corner Pieces Are Cut Out And Roughed Out Long Grain Pieces Will Replace Them To make the second cut I needed to build a simple jig. Shown in the picture above left is a vertical board with support stock glued 45 degrees to an edge. The picture frame sits in these supports allowing a properly set fence and blade to cut the corner pieces out. These corner pieces will be replaced with similar roughed out corner pieces  with the grain arranged such that there is long grain to long grain joinery. I trace multiples of these corner pieces on a rectangular piece and rough them out using the band saw, leaving just enough along the edges to assure complete coverage. After they are glued in place I use a patterning bit in the table router to trim the edges flat.

You Can Visually See The Reinforcing Nature Of This Joinery Change In the picture at left you can see the results. From this picture it should obvious the improvement in joinery strength. Imagine picking up the end grain to end grain piece and snapping it with your fingers. No problemo! Now imagine picking up the replacement piece and trying to snap it. Good luck!

Another thing to remember is that a properly glued long grain to long grain joint is stronger than the wood itself. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies and wood working articles. You can demonstrate this in your own shop easily. Glue two pieces edge to edge (1/4” to 3/4” thick). Let the joint cure for 24 hours. Place it in a vice with the joint near the jaws of the vice and hit the protruding piece with a hammer or mallet. You will notice (provided the joint was glued correctly) that the board will split in the grain of the wood, not at the glue line.

So why did I use this modified spline instead of the traditional joint? Because I need to cut 1/4” by 1/4” groves along the top, bottom and sides to accept the scroll work. Doing so would remove a substantial amount of the spline. Further, the resulting joinery when the scroll work is glued in place would be long grain to end grain. Stronger than end grain to end grain but not as strong as long grain to long grain. Does this make a difference? Yes a little, especially if you are expecting your work to last for hundreds of years it does. That said, it’s six of one, half dozen of the other.

These Mirrors Are Ready For Staining & Finishing In the picture at right is the finished glued up mirrors ready for stain and finish. The strange uneven coloring is a result of using mineral spirits to search for unwanted glue spots before completing the sanding. It will disappear after drying. The mineral spirits also give you a good preview of what the tiger maple will look like when finished. You can see it is quite spectacular. The frame at right in the picture has a cherry picture frame and tiger maple scroll work. The one at left  is entirely tiger maple. I love mixing wood types. The cherry will darken over time and the tiger maple will lighten slightly making the contrast even more noticeable.

My wife and I are excited about finishing these mirrors and giving them to our kids for Christmas. A few hundred years from now I hope a descendant will write a blog like An American Chippendale Mirror Makes A Great Gift explaining their origin.


Willow At The Bandsaw Cutting The Scroll Work In An American Chippendale Mirror Makes A Great Gift I wrote about my wife’s (Willow’s) mission to craft mirrors for Christmas gifting. I call this a mission because once Willow decided this is what she wanted to give our family for Christmas there was no stopping her. I got my instructions – create the plans, mill the material, set up the machines and then get out of the way. I turned my shop over to a tornado. She blew through my bandsaw, Delta BOSS, sanding station, drill press, work bench, rasps and files leaving chips and dust in her wake. She left no doubt this was the first project to pass through Swamp Road Wood Works that would be completed on time. The results were every bit as stunning as the pace was fast.

The Templates And Rough Cut Scroll Work The first stop was the bandsaw. Not having a scroll saw I mounted a 1/8” blade. The design called for 1/4” tiger maple, so a 3 HP 18” bandsaw was a little overkill, but none the less made for quick and easy cutting. I printed 1:1 drawings on card stock to produce templates. Willow traced the templates onto the material and cut out the scroll work pieces, leaving the pencil marks. The edge finish was rougher than a scroll saw would produce. It was obvious there was a lot of sanding in Willow’s future. You can see from the picture below that she took to the task with a smile.

Rasps, Files And Hand Sanding Provide Great Results Many of the scroll work curves had radii smaller than the Delta BOSS or drill press would accommodate, so Willow used a combination of rasps and files followed by hand sanding. In the picture at left you can see an assortment of rasps and files behind her. All told the bandsaw work and edge cleaning took two and a half days. Fortunately the shop is cozy, brightly lit. With the radio alternately tuned to NPR and sports talk for listening pleasure what more can you ask for?

All Pieces Are Sanded And Matched With A Picture Frame

After all pieces were sanded and the picture frame molding milled, sets were chosen by matching wood grain and color. You can see one set in the picture at right. The scroll work will be inserted and glued into a 1/4” deep x 1/4” wide slot in the sides, top and bottom. The recipients will choose the finish. One very popular finish is Moser’s 1490 Golden Amber water-based aniline dye stain followed by Waterlox Original Tung Oil. This enhances the tiger stripes, making them jump out. Another finish I like is simply MinWax Wipe-On Polyurethane. I have made tiger maple tables using both finishes, a Shaker Drop Leaf Table with the Moser dye and an Office Table with the Wipe-On Poly. Both are shown on my Gallery page and both produce excellent results.

I have to agree with Willow. These will make excellent holiday gifts and will be passed down in our family for many hundreds of years, much like the mirror that inspired these reproductions. Now that’s a gift that keeps giving!

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