I rapidly realized that this sort of project was on a completely different scale from any I had done before – small. Additionally, my choice of ebony as a primary wood was bringing its own set of problems to the table. Being almost jet black, layout marks are difficult to see, and bright lighting is required for joinery so that everything doesn’t fade into shadow, leaving you working basically blind. Ebony also has interesting working properties. It turns, machines, and planes well, but has an unusual texture. The shavings coming off bear a more-than-passing resemblance to crayon. Anyone that has sharpened a crayon in a sharpener and examined the “crumbly” shavings that result will understand what I mean. Ebony also tends to chip easily from lateral force, making tearout from hand tools a real concern. I get the feeling that these two properties are related.
I went with classic mortise-and-tenon joinery to keep things simple. Due to the scale, I wasn’t able to use my usual technique of hand-chopping the mortises. Rather, I roughed out the mortises on the drill press with a ¼” Forstner bit, and then cleaned things up with a few taps and wiggles of my mortising chisel. I repeated this to create the mortises for the stretchers while I had things set up. As you can see from the comparison with the holdown in the picture above, we are talking about small mortises. Also notice, as I mentioned above, how difficult it is to visualize the layout lines on the ebony.
Cutting tenons was equally tricky. Using a marking gauge on stock this size is difficult. If I were to do a lot of work in this scale, I would make a smaller mortise gauge especially for the purpose. However, this is the scale of work where my Gramercy dovetail saw excels. Cuts were clean and controlled. and cleanup was fairly simple. Due to their narrow shoulders, tenons on the stretchers was a whole different kettle of fish, and one that I will address in a separate post in the near future. I also cut a series of 30 degree bevels on the top of the two posts with the tablesaw to give them a nice finished look.
Once this was done, I did a tentative dry fit to get a look at things. Yes, it’s somewhat clunky, but these parts are still in their rough shape. I’ve still got a bit of cleanup to do on some of the tenon shoulders, but that should be simple enough with a sharp chisel. Additionally, the feet need a roundover on both ends, and I’ve got to shape the curve of the bottom edge of the stretchers. Then, it’s time to shape the hangers for the brushes and razor. I’m still scratching my head on that part of the design. More to come.