Claremont Designs


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Setting the Depth of the Top Reveal on an Edison Lamp

Selecting the depth of the reveal is partly for aesthetic reasons and also for a simpler build out process.  I hinted at these reasons in a prior post about updating the Edison lamp prototype.  Probably the first 5 versions of the lamps I built were similar to the prototype.  Since then, I’ve set the Edison lamp top about an 1/8th of an inch lower.  It’s a minor change but it has significantly reduced the number of times that I’ve had to rebuild a lamp – frequently the corner of one of the pins would chip out when routing the channel for the top.

By lowering the top a fraction of an inch, I’m able to route the front and back of the lamp without using a plunge cut.  On the sides the plunge cut is still required.  Basically what I’m doing is dropping the lamp side down on top of the router bit.  The photos below show the result of the plunge cuts.  The first photo shows the result of two plunge cuts and a little clearing between the cuts.  Technically a single cut on each side would be more than enough, but I’ve taken the belt and suspenders approach.  To make sure that I don’t extend my cut too far, I clamp a stop block to the router table fence.

From there I’ve flipped the side over and drawn lines on the top of the lamp sides.  The lines are shown in the second picture below.  I align the marks with router table fence where the cuts start and stop.  In the picture the left side of the piece is complete.  From here I repeated this process of plunge cuts and marking the sides on the right side of the piece.  Finally I remove the stop blocks, plunge the piece over the existing cuts and then route the piece between the plunge cuts on each side.

This whole process takes maybe 15 minutes to complete properly, but any missteps can result in having to start the entire build over again.  Thankfully by dropping the top a fraction of an inch, the number of rebuilds has dropped to zero.  Final picture below shows the end result – the latest single bulb koa Edison lamp to leave the shop.

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Wrapping 8 Legs

A few posts ago, I showed some of the initial prep work to build some legs for a new entertainment stand.  The process started by dimensioning some wall studs and then laminating 2 studs together.  This formed the core of the legs that I was building.

The next step was to prep the walnut veneers that would wrap the legs.  There are 8 legs and 4 faces that need veneer – no need to veneer the tops or bottoms of the legs as neither would ever be seen.  So 8 legs times 4 faces equals 32 veneers needed.  Ideally I would get each leg’s 4 veneers out of the same board, but this isn’t always possible.  The process is involved, but fairly straightforward.  First a face and an edge of a piece of walnut is run over the jointer.  Next it’s over to the band saw.  The goal is to cut an extremely thin piece of walnut from the board (this will become the veneer).  The process of jointer and then band saw is repeated over and over until all 32 veneers are cut.  Unfortunately both faces of the veneer need to be smooth, and they aren’t smooth enough coming off of the band saw.  So the final step to prep the veneers involves a lot of sanding.  I use a wide belt sander (although I think a lot of people call them a drum sander) to smooth the faces and get the veneers to the final thickness.

Now with all of the pieces prepped, it’s time to start gluing on the veneers.  I first begin with the sides of the legs.  As you would imagine, it’s just gluing and clamping.  The veneers are oversized, so once the legs come out of the clamps, there is a need for some hand planing.  With the side veneers flush to the front and back of the leg cores, the front and back veneers can be applied. If you can’t tell by now, it’s a lot of work to build legs this way.  It would be a lot easier to just start with thick lumber and joint and plane it to dimension.  The challenge in that approach (and this specific situation) is that I wanted the walnut to match (in color) the rest of the walnut that would be used on the piece.  And I wanted strong, stable legs.

The photo below shows the top of a leg and one of many mortises.  By the time the piece is finished there will be 60 mortises cut.  Lots of work left to do, but finally making some real progress.

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New Lumber New Edison Lamp

I’ve been working off of the new stack of lumber for a couple of months now. It’s good lumber and I’m happy with the quality of the walnut, but it is definitely different than the last batch of walnut. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

I’ve recently started the 20th lamp of the year (technically it is the 21st since USPS lost one and I had to rebuild it). For those that are interested, this is the 14th out of walnut and the 5th that is of the 3 bulb variety (3 of those 5 have been in walnut). I love the look of walnut and it is my wood of choice, but I’m still surprised that I don’t sell more cherry and maple lamps at the Etsy storefront. I love them all, but sitting on my walnut table I have always found the contrasting maple to be the most striking look.

To “celebrate” the 20th lamp of the year, I’ve gone back to my old format of highlighting the build process of the lamp. To build a 3 bulb lamp I need to shoot for a piece that is 4/4 (this is woodworker talk for a board that is an inch thick; spoken “four quarter”) and at least 4 1/4 inches wide by about 47 inches long. In my last post I wrote about starting the build of leg blanks for a new custom piece. In selecting wood for that piece, I ended up with one extra board (shown in the first picture below). I didn’t end up using that board in that piece, because it had a pretty nasty little bow to it. If you look closely, you’ll see that it isn’t flat on the surface of my table saw.

Fortunately correcting that type of issue is pretty easy for this style build. I’m not going to go into every detail of how I correct the issue because there are numerous posts on this site that talk about the build process for an Edison lamp. Basically it involves cutting the board at a strategic location and then working the jointer, band saw and planer until I get the four boards shown in the second picture. One of the 4 boards there becomes scrap (or turned into coasters), but the rest are destined for dimensioning, time in the dovetail jig and then a pass through the router table. This results in the 5 boards shown in the final picture. From here it is a pretty straightforward build process. The next post related to this build will be for the final “glamour” shots.
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No Wonder Walls Are Never Straight

Shop work finally shifted away from Edison lamps this past weekend.  Step 1 of the new project is to build some legs.  Ultimately, I’m hoping that the legs will be 2″ x 2″ x 30″.  The first challenge I have is that I don’t have any boards thick enough to get a 2″ x 2″ leg.  I could go and buy some 8/4 walnut, but still challenges…  By the time I get the boards flat and square I’m unlikely to still get 2″ x 2″.  Beyond the size issues, it is unlikely that I would get 4 good looking faces to the legs.

The approach I like to take is to build a core out of cheaper lumber and veneer the blank with the same lumber that will be used for the rest of the piece.  The process started by laminating together 2 pieces of lumber.  I like to just use 2″ x 4″ studs available at the local home store.  In this case, I used the highest quality studs available.  Even still, none of the boards were flat / straight (no wonder walls are never straight).  As a result, a significant portion of day 1 was spent jointing, planing, and dimensioning the lumber (the photo below shows the blanks marked up so I can make sure that I’m getting completely surfaced lumber).  This step is important as it both helps to keep the legs straight and it gives me a good flat surface to glue together.

Next posting (if it isn’t another Edison lamp post) will discuss cutting the walnut veneers for the legs…

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Doubling Down on Edison Lamps

This update is coming from the Acela en route to NYC.  It’s been ages since I last posted a meaningful update to the blog, and trips like this are primarily to blame.  I targeted this update a few weeks back, but it’s not until today that I can make an entry.

The orders from Etsy still come in.  And when I’m lucky they come in at the same time, so I can be as efficient as possible with shop time.  In this case, I had two orders for 3 bulb lamps.  I thought that the build was going great.  I was so proud of my progress that I took the first photo below to show the nice looking grooves for the top panel in each piece.  From there I worked to get each lamp glued up.  What I didn’t mention, until now, is the process of cutting the dovetails.  It appears that I grabbed the wrong piece for my jig.  I’m guessing I grabbed a 9 degree instead of an 11 degree piece.  The result is that I have 2 lamp boxes that can’t be used.

So it was off to round 2 of the build.  Trust me that I was considerably more careful this time around.  Everything turned out as planned and I had 2 unfinished lamps; one in cherry and one in walnut.

In the spirit of doing everything a second time, I also decided to revisit the first lamp I ever built.  It was minor, but I must have been too aggressive with my sanding of the top front edge of the lamp.  The result was a little “dip” on the top.  Well that lamp was back in the shop to correct that mistake.  While I was tackling that issue, I decided it was time to upgrade the lamp to a full dimmer switch and some higher quality light sockets.  In the second picture below, the original prototype lamp is sitting on top of the new unfinished lamps.

So doubling down on Edison lamps…  lots of multiples this time (2 lamps, built them twice due to my error, and bringing the original prototype into the shop for a tune up).  Ultimately, the 2 unfinished lamps will be off to NYC and Canada; the improved prototype should be destined for Etsy.

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Fitting Non-Mortise Hinges to a Sideboard

I’m finally getting to some of the final steps of finishing off the sideboard base that has been occupying one of my workbenches for the better part of a year. In the previous post, I described how I wrapped the doors with a thin strip of walnut to improve the gap that surrounds the doors on either side of the buffet. The last challenging step in the build is to align the hinges. I almost always use non-mortise hinges, so the only real challenge is to locate the screw holes as perfectly as possible – easier said written than done. I start by installing the hinges to the base of the cabinet, and then I transfer reference marks to the door. The marks don’t go directly where I will drill a pilot hole, so it is a little more complex.

To start the process I locate the door in the opening, with the hinges completely open. I also make sure to use a spacer, so that there is a gap at the bottom of the door. I then “close” the hinges so they rest against the face of the door frame. From here, I mark the holes in the hinge. Next it is a lot of work with a square and a depth gauge. First I mark the top and bottom of the hole and then I transfer those reference marks to the side of the door. I then go back to the hinge and use a sliding depth gauge to determine the front and back reference mark for the hinge hole opening. Because the hinge allows for a little adjustment, I should be good as long as I get the pilot hole somewhere within the opening, but I take an extra step. I connect the corners and draw an X to locate the center of the hole. Ultimately this is where I will drill my pilot hole for the screw.

The photos below show all of the reference marks and the doors installed to make sure that no other adjustments are required. Next step is to finish the 220-grit sanding, break all of the sharp edges, install the knobs and pulls, and apply several finish coats of an oil urethane blend.

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Improving the Fit of a Cabinet Door

One of the first posts I ever made here was related to a sideboard that I was building. That was a little over a year ago. It’s still not done… It’s not complete for 2 reasons. First I have been busy with other projects and paying customers. Second, there are just a number of extremely frustrating components to this build. Many, many months ago I worked to stiffen up the cabinet. It was a minor fix, but frustrating to have to do. I’ve also spent countless hours perfecting the fit of the drawers. I’ve finally dialed all of that in and now the only thing left is the doors. The doors haven’t been easy. Slightly out of square openings (related to the earlier need to stiffen up the cabinet) led to a very difficult fit for the door. The challenge with doors is to get the proper gap all of the way around the door (this is even harder when the opening isn’t perfectly square).

After lots of hand planing and sanding, I had an even gap around the door. Unfortunately the gap was too large. Originally I considered rebuilding the door, but ultimately I decided to work with what I had (this piece is more of a prototype and learning experience than something I’m selling to a customer). To build up the width and height of the door, I have glued thin strips of walnut to the outside of the perimeter of the doors. To create the strips I took thin pieces of resawn walnut and passed them through my wide belt drum sander until each strip was less than 1/8″ thick.

The final pieces were glued on today. The picture below shows the final step in the glue up. The challenge with the doors, is that I like to cut the sides at a 5 degree angle (it helps in opening and closing the door). Cutting the angle isn’t hard, but clamping it up and keeping the glued on strip from slipping while maintaining enough clamping pressure and keeping the center panel from buckling was not easy. I’ll be curious to see how this dries up. Hopefully it comes out well; otherwise I will be building 2 new doors on the next trip to the shop.

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