Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shaker Style Lap Desk

A Lesson in Hand-Cut Dovetails

This is a small project I made this past winter. A gift for my wife, a school teacher who always sits with a pile of books and papers on her lap, it proved to be a pretty useful gift. Although it looks like a simple enough project, the joinery quickly became a lesson in cutting dovetails by hand.
The piece is a Shaker design I modified slightly in overall dimension. This version seemed to actually fit on my lap better and the angle of the top was adjusted as well. I used Black Walnut for the piece, the main carcass has hand cut through dovetails and sliding dadoes house the inner shelf, dividers and bottom.
The drawer was built in a very traditional way, solid wood for the interior as well as the drawer bottom. I used Butternut for the drawer sides and back with Poplar for the bottom. The top lid has battens on the interior to help keep things in place; I fastened these with Maple dowels down through the top for added strength as well as a visual accent. A fun piece to build it didn't take up too much time and doesn't need a whole lot of material. I used a hand rubbed oil finish on the exterior with wax on the inside. You could easily change the dimensions of the piece to suit your size requirements.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Treasures From the Far East

Hollows and Rounds...Made in China?

Being a user, collector and lover of hand planes I'm always keeping my eye out for rare or unusual styles. When recently surfing around the Japan Woodworker Online Catalogue I discovered some wooden bodied, Hollows and Rounds that are being manufactured in China. China? I thought...Why not, every thing else is made there so I decided to take a closer look. I've always wanted a nice old set of hollows and rounds; I've searched e-Bay, online and local antique tool dealers but always found that most you come across are over priced old planes that you'll need to spend a lot of time refurbishing to get them back to a user friendly state or are simply nice old tools for someone to put on a shelf and look at. I wanted something I could use and hopefully not have to spend a small fortune on.
After reading the description and studying the photos of these planes I decided to order a few select sizes. They're manufactured in China and arrived well-packaged in cardboard boxes with a borg logo on the side. (no Trek-ie affiliation as far as I could tell)

The description on the Japan Woodworker web-site said the planes have been manufactured in and around Hong Kong for the past 20 years by Mujingfang. They decided to begin producing these high quality Chinese Style Planes seeing that previously, it was a cottage industry with little or no quality control. Furniture makers in and around Hong Kong use hollowing and rounding planes to create moldings and for shaping pieces of furniture. The plane bodies are hand made from well aged Rosewood and are nicely contoured to fit the hand.
They are 6-1/4" long and width varies according to size. The blades are high carbon steel and although needed honing and sharpening on arrival, the extremely reasonable price made it worth my while. They are sold as a set of one hollowing and one rounding plane for each width. I went with the 1/4", 1/2", 1" and 1 1/4" widths. After using these planes for the past six months I'm very pleased with the quality and performance; as for the very-affordable prices all I can say is...Resistance is futile.