Tag Archives: shellac

Blanket Chest – The Wrap-Up

Did you think I had run away?  No such luck.  The Mississippi summer heat rendered wood finishing nearly impossible in a non-climate-controlled shop.  Sweat dripping on freshly-applied dye or shellac almost invariably results in a re-do of that step, so I had to find periods of cool to get this project (literally) finished.  However, the end has finally come.

When we left off last time, the top had been routed, and everything was ready to be finished.  Like most woodworkers, I’d rather be building than finishing, and painting ranks at the bottom of my list, somewhere behind a root canal.  Nevertheless, the body of the blanket chest received a coat of primer, followed by two coats of Porter gloss white, which matches our interior house trim.  You’ll recall that I pre-primed the panel bevels prior to assembly to prevent bare wood peep-out when (not if) the panels shrink.  If the paint had been a different color, I would have applied a coat of that as well.  Of course, you have the same problem later if you re-paint in a different color, but I digress.

Now it was time for the top, the only part that would really look like wood.  Since the rest of our bedroom furniture is some variant of Golden Oak (I know, I know), I had decided to use the same color on the red oak top.  For jobs like this, when the piece will be shaded from the sun, aniline dye is my hands-down coloring agent of choice.  I used Trans-Tint’s Golden Brown, mixing 1/2 tablespoon to a cup of water.  After two coats, the results didn’t seem very impressive:

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Don’t worry, it gets better.  Dyes, and wood in general, always look a bit drab prior to the addition of the topcoat.  That’s when the magic happens.  In this case, I applied five thin coats of Zinsser Bulls-Eye Shellac, and followed that with a rub-down with paste wax and steel wool to smooth things and remove a bit of the gloss.  I generally prefer a more subdued sheen for most projects, and find that it stands up to wear a bit better.

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Here’s the same wood with the shellac applied.  Neat, eh?  Like I said, Golden Oak isn’t my favorite, but it matches the rest of the furniture that my wife picked out.  Need I say more?

One of the beauties of shellac is that it can be easily renewed by a light sanding and re-application of another coat over the top of the old.  The alcohol allows the two layers to dissolve together, becoming homogeneous.  This prevents the flaking that can occur when top-coating polyurethane.  Of course, don’t spill your alcoholic drinks on it, or you’ve got a problem.

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And now, the moment of truth.  Here is the finished product in it’s intended home, at the foot of the master bed.

What do you think?  It’s a little taller than my wife expected, being a bit high for her to sit on, and I reminded her that the height was to her specifications.  Talk about an argument-settler!  Besides, it’ll hold more. However, I think a slightly shorter design would have looked better in this location.  The width and depth worked out well, leaving a good path between it and the dresser directly across the gap.

However, to my eye, the overall color scheme misses the mark – reminds me of a church pew.  Of course, the paint can be easily changed if an alternative color scheme suggests itself.  As for the top, while the color doesn’t match the bed very well, it’s a near-perfect match for the rest of the furniture.  Also, it can be easily changed out at a later date to give the piece a different look – breadboard, frame-and-panel, stained, painted, you name it.  The chest itself should be good for a century or two – I hope.

I also hope you’ve enjoyed this project.  Blanket chests designs are a dime a dozen, but the point of this exercise was to design and build the piece from scratch to perfectly fit a particular application.  If you have been encouraged to try your hand at your own designs, this project will have done its job.

More projects are in the wings, and things will speed back up as the weather cools down, so stay tuned!

Shaving Rack – Finale

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Sometimes I’m a bad blogger.  I get so caught up in the steps of a project that I forget to photograph what I’m doing.  After final-shaping the hanger brackets I drilled the mortises in the stretchers.  Using through-mortises here made fitting and assembly much easier, since I could use a float to adjust the fit of the joint.  In fact, the joinery was good enough that clamps weren’t needed to hold the parts together.  This was good, since I had no idea how I was going to clamp such oddly shaped pieces.  After that, I did the rest of the glue-up as a single step.  This might seem odd, but the shape and fit of the various pieces made this practical.  However, as you can see from the photo above, it made for an odd combination of clamps.

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When the clamps came off, I saw that the feet weren’t quite level, and the rack rocked a bit. This was not unexpected, and in fact is almost inevitable.  One of a woodworker’s prime functions is to level out the accumulated errors of construction so that everything fits correctly.  In this case, a little planework to make the bottom of the feet coplanar solved the problem.  In doing this, I also had a chance to angle the verticals slightly forward so that the brush bristles were clear of the lower stretcher, thus reducing finish damage from water.  I had toyed with the idea of adding small risers to the feet, but discarded it due to the look it gave the piece.

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Once the feet were leveled and everything was sanded, it was time for the finish.  I decided on sprayed shellac, since it’s an easy finish to renew, and some water damage will be inevitable no matter what.  For a project this size, the airbrush is the perfect tool, and handled the SealCell without problems straight out of the can with a #3 needle and tip.  A quick sand with 220 grit and another coat, and this project was done.

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And here is the rack standing in its permanent home.  If you look in the mirror, you can see the through mortises on the back of the upper stretcher.  As I thought, the razor bracket in the middle does look bigger, but it’s also shaped somewhat differently, so I don’t think the overall effect is troubling.  It is definitely minimized with the razor in place, as in the picture below.  This shows the rack fulfilling its intended function, hopefully for many years to come.

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People have wondered why I designed this project for one razor and two brushes.  I’m not a big collector of razors or brushes, though I DO have a fondness for shaving soaps and aftershaves.  One razor and matching blade that works well is all I would use in any given stretch of time.  However, having two brushes allows me to use them in rotation, thus giving time for each brush to dry out completely between uses, reducing the possibility of mildew.  This is along the same lines as alternating pairs of shoes to allow them to dry and prolong their useful life.

This has been a fun project that allowed me to work purely from an idea and a rough sketch, and let me make use of some of the little good pieces I had stashed but had forgotten about.  If this has piqued your interest in double-edge shaving, check out the wonderful instructional website, Shaving 101.  It can get you started on the road to an enjoyable morning ritual.