Friday, February 06, 2015

Speed Woodworking

What's that saying - one man's trash is another man's treasure? After this week, I couldn't agree more. A customer came into my shop with a wooden part that belonged to a table - similar to to the one below.  

And damn! - was that part in bad shape! It looked like someone tried to repair it with silicone, and smothered the wood in a poor attempt to fix it. Ugh, I barely wanted to touch it. 

On top of that, the sliding dovetails cut into the piece were broken. 

In short - it was a mess. 

But here's the thing - this table had great sentimental value, and she wanted repaired at any cost. To be honest, the table was very poorly made, and it probably didn't cost very much, even when it was new. 

Call me a sucker, but I hated the idea of putting in a few hours into making this part for her, and charging a lot of money for it. I need to figure out a way to do it quickly, and for not much money. 

Normally I would turn a piece like this on the lathe, but that takes time, and you know the saying - time is money. So I decided to do a little speed woodworking. 

I took some 8/4 lumber and using my big round-over bit, I roughly formed it into a cylinder.  It didn't need to be perfect, just close. 

 I kept the ends of the piece square, so that it would be easier to route the sliding dovetails on the router table.

The piece is less than three inches long,  but working on a piece that's always scary. So I kept it longer than I needed for now. I picked out the appropriate dovetail bit to cut the slots, and put it in the router table.

 Luckily, I have a good set with different bits, 

and this one fit perfectly. 

Of course, I did a practice cut, to make sure the bit height was right. 


Cutting the first slot was easy, I just used the square ends of my wood to keep the spindle from spinning. But then I marked off 60°, and  tacked a piece of wood to the end of the board, so that I could rout the next slot. 

I rotated the peace another 60° and routed of the third slot. 

And Bam! – as Nikki says – the piece was almost done. 

 Router tables can do some serious damage to your hands, ask Neal Grossman! So I was glad I kept the piece long. It was much safer to work with it that way.

 But now - I cut it to length, rounded the bottom over (again on the router table) and installed the hanger bolt from the old broken part.

  Not bad for 45 minutes. I told you – speed woodworking!

A little stain (I did some tests) 

and a shot of lacquer, and this piece look nearly brand-new. You know - not all the things I work on in the woodshop are rewarding. But that's okay; they pay the bills.

Some of my buddies tell me I'm crazy for taking on some of the silly repair work I do - but honestly, if I don't do it, who will? Most other woodworkers would've said – throw that table away, it's a piece of junk. But to my customer - it held significant value. 

Who am I to argue with that?


Julie @ followyourheartwoodworking said...

Fabulous as always, Jamie!!

Anonymous said...

Nice work. I don't see any problems with repair work like that. It's all woodworking!

Lynn Willis said...

Brilliant, Jamie!

I would have opted for the lathe to make this piece (and I don't have a round-over bit that large). You said that you used the router to round the piece in the interest of time. How much time did you save by doing so?

Wood It Is! said...

Lynn, I think making this "dowel" with a router bit probably cut my time by 50%. It took longer to put the router bit in the router table than it did to make the dowel. Maybe 5 or ten minutes from start to finish. I don't think I could have turned this on the lathe that quickly.

You should see the next two repairs I'm working on! Apparently - someone's been taking their frustration out on old wooden chairs! Stay tuned!