If I'm going to build a re-creation of an original, hopefully I will see the item either in a magazine, or in person. I will take a photograph of it or print something up on my computer.
I either guesstimate what the proportions look like, or look at the space of where this piece of furniture is going to go, slightly altering it so it fits my house. Then I draw it up: I have a background in art; and I went to art college briefly as an illustrator. So my drafting skills are quite good.
Once it's all on paper, hand drawn with a pencil or pen, then I just start to break it apart - every single surface with a measurement. What thickness boards am I using? Are they 3/4 inch and what is the depth of the tabletop? What's the width? What's the height of the table? What are the thicknesses of legs? What kind of taper do I have in the leg? What's the exact drawer? So you have a whole blowout…I will draw measurements all over the diagram, and then I do an exploded view for my materials list.
You don't want to have a lot of waste so I break it down into what materials are needed. How much board? What length? What width do I need? Factoring in of course that I have to plane and shrink my material. So then I'm able to get a pretty accurate materials list.
"Cedar Cove" star Dylan Neal builds replica 18th and 19th century furniture pieces in his down time.
I go to my wood source -- whether it's a high-grade wood or maybe it's just a standard number 1 or number 2 pine that I get at a home depot or any big box store. And I order specialty hardware online if needed.
Then I just slowly glue up my boards. Of course gluing up your boards is just basic procedure for anybody building any kind of structure with a case. I prefer using biscuits when I'm gluing up my boards. In the old days I used to use dowels, but biscuits are just so much quicker and give a little more latitude for adjustment.
But then it depends.... if it's really more of a high-end antique then there is not going to be any screws anywhere. It's going to be biscuit or dowel joinery or maybe dovetail depending on what it is. If it's a painted piece that’s not supposed to be an antique then I use pocket hole screws while my face frame is behind and I use a Kreg pocket jig set. Or I might even do the old screw and glue, screwing in stuff, puttying over, painting over and doing a different kind of painted finish. But if I'm in a rush maybe screw and glue is okay too in some applications.
So that is sort of it. I draw it and get all of the measurements of what the finish piece looks like. I blow up all of the different pieces for the materials list and then step-by-step I start building sides and face frames or whatever it is... just a step-by-step process. You have to get it straight in your head what is the logical and efficient way to start building and then of course, as any builder knows, once it's actually built, you're really only half-way done. Then it's the finishing and the finishing can take as long or longer, depending on what kind of finishes you are using.
Maybe you have some lacquers or something that a longer time drying in between your coats. So that can test your patience and for me one of the big lessons in woodworking is patience. You get so excited and you want to hurry to get to the end, so you might kind of skimp on some of the steps because you are in a rush but if you do that you are just going to hurt yourself in the end. So, it's kind of a life's lesson in woodworking about being very Zen about the whole thing -- it's the journey just as much as the final product.
Usually when I finish building something. I will kind of sit, have a beer, look at it and appreciate it and hopefully the proportions and everything look good and suck it up and get ready for the finishing, which is going to take just as long or longer.
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