Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hutch Upper Unit -- Completed!

It's finally done, yes the upper unit of the hutch is finished! I was working on the shelves, and for two of the shelves, I added wine glass holders. Here are a couple of pics of the unit:

Note the new door closer in the picture on the far right. It's a new device made by the Blum company, and is designed to be used with their "compact" face frame hinges. It works much better than their prior device, although it is a little more expensive. You can shut the door fairly hard, or very easy, and it will slow the door down and ease it into the closed position. Really a nice feature.

I got out the chainsaw today and started cutting up a large evergreen tree that has come down in a wind storm a few months ago. I cut some nice 2" slices, to be used in some sort of rustic furniture piece. More on that in a future post.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nail Gun Safety

I started using a nail gun several years ago. I was putting pine tongue-and-groove wainscot on the walls of my mom's camp. A friend told me, "You're crazy if you think you can nail it all up by hand". Usually statements like this only encourage me, but in this case I listened and bought a brad nail gun and compressor. It worked like a charm, and I continue to use it today. I've purchased a couple other nail guns since then, one which will shoot finish nails up to 2" and also a pin nailer. A pin nailer uses a 23 gauge nails, commonly available in 1/2" to 3/4" lengths. Pin nails are typically used to securing the rails and stiles of a cabinet door, once it is glued up and under the control of a set of clamps. Drive a few pin nails into each of the four joints, and you can remove the door from the clamps.

Last evening I was using the pin nailer to attach a 1/4" by 3/4" strip of oak to the wine glass racks I was fabricating. On one of the remaining pieces, my nailing hand was going faster than the hand that was holding the strip, and I shot myself in the fingertip.

I was lucky; the nail entered through the tip of my fingernail and out through the fleshy part. And I was lucky I missed any bone - that may have slowed the nail enough that it would have lodged in my finger.

So here are my rules for nail gun usage:

1. ALWAYS where safety glasses. Buy several pairs and keep them scattered all over your shop, so there is always a set nearby.

2. ALWAYS keep track of your hands. This means that both hands are always in sight. No reaching behind a cabinet with one hand, and nailing from the front with the other. Keep this image in mind when you want to break this rule:

Again, I was lucky. The 1 3/16" brad went through a 1/4" of plywood, and lodged between my thumb tip and thumbnail. It only went in 1/4"; most of its energy was spent going through the plywood.

3. GO SLOW. There is really no hurry worth getting a nail stuck in your hand. If you have ever tried to pull a nail gun nail out of a piece of wood, imagine you (or a doctor) pulling that same nail out of you! Ouch.

When you are done using your gun, disconnect the air hose from it. That way if you bump it, or it falls, or you kick it, there is no danger of a discharge.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


After searching the city of Rochester for something a little fancier than plain glass, I ended up at my regular supplier for plain glass. There's a sort of "glass mafia" out there. More on that in another post. So I picked up the glass on Friday, and got it installed in the doors that evening. I use a brown colored, rubber retaining strip to hold the glass in the frame. The retaining strip is held in place with 23 gauge pin nails, which are so small they cannot be easily seen. One style point: When I designed the doors, I made sure that the rails (the horizontal members of the door) matched the rails on the side panels. See how they're aligned? I think it makes the unit look more cohesive, in a subtle kind of way. In the next post I'll cover the process of making the shelves.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Upper Unit Nears Completion

I got involved with some other stuff around the house, and work slowed on the upper unit of the hutch. But now it's got three coats of finish on it, just one more to go! I'm using my tried-and-true mixture of satin polyurethane and Watco natural oil, mixed in a 3:1 ratio. The Watco oil thins the poly out enough so that it can be wiped on, which eliminates brush marks. I've used this mix on kitchen cabinets, and it's very durable, and also easy to repair if the need arises. My dad found the recipe for this finish in a wood working magazine, probably twenty years ago.

I find that once the finish starts getting applied to the article, it changes from an unfinished arrangement of wood to a piece of furniture. It always surprises me, it is one of the magical parts of making furniture. In between coats of finish, I use 220 grit sandpaper. It does two things: first, it roughs up the surface so that the next coats of finish will adhere better, and second, it insures that the surface will feel soft to the touch. Two coats before the final one, I use 400 grit paper. Prior to the last coat I will use 500 or 600 grit paper, being especially careful to smooth any of the "show" surfaces - those surfaces which are likely to be touched when someone is looking over the piece. They have to be as smooth as glass.

While the finish coats are drying, I'll be busy building the shelves for the upper unit, as well as applying finish to the two doors. More on that process in the next post.