Oh, That Sweet Smell!

Some steps in a project are more enjoyable than others; some are downright fun! Such is the case of making tongue and groove panels from Port Orford Cedar. First a bit about the wood. Port Orford Cedar is not a true cedar, but a species of cypress that grows in the Southwest coastal range of Oregon down to Northern California. It is used locally for boat building and instrument making but I chose to use it for the bottom of the chest and drawers because of it’s wonderful, ginger-like aroma. It also has beautiful straight grain that makes it easy to plane. I bought my piece of wood at the Washington, Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival last year.

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It was about 1 inch thick so I resawed it and planed it down to about 3/8″ thickness. It hand planes very nicely but you still need a very sharp blade to avoid tear-out in the softer areas of the growth rings. I then ripped it into about 3″ wide strips and cross cut it to width for the chest and drawer bottoms.  Sometime back I had purchased a “mis-matched” set of 3/8″ match planes that turned out to be more mis-matched than I thought. I needed to do a little work on the grooving plane to get the groove centered on the 3/8″ stock and it needed a new wedge. After some deliberation I decided to add a small thickness of quarter sawed beech to the fence.

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I cleaned up the fence area with a chisel and tried to remove any oil or wax residue with a variety of solvents. I then ripped a piece of beech slightly oversize and planed it to exact thickness. I glued and clamped it into place using Titebond.  I had a broken piece of wedge that I just copied using some beech and careful chisel work to get an exact fit.

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The plane was not very usable in it’s original condition and not overly rare so I do not feel bad about bringing it back to a useful life.  After sharpening up the blades and some adjusting, they were both a delight to use. Little curls of that wonderful cedar were spilling out of the mouth and onto the floor and filling the garage with a sweet aroma.

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Here are two pictures of the completed bottom. I decided to just let the bottom sit on the rails and not fasten it in any way. I may change my mind but it works well. 

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The next installment will take a look at the drawers. Thanks for looking!

 

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5 Comments


  1. According to design i think it may have taken a long time but finally a great work and a great result. amazing.

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  2. Personnally I’m not a craftsman but it always fascinates me to see the dedication people put in every single project. I might try someday with lovely cedar from home.

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  3. David Jeske

    Thanks for the kind words and perspective. It has been a very enjoyable project and I have been learning a lot as I plod along. Hannah is in college now… maybe it will be done for Christmas!  I have been moving my entire shop so that has also slowed things up a bit.

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  4. It may have been frustrating for you to run into so many delays on this project, but I find this pace refreshing. So many times I’m in the wood shop trying to maximize my productivity as if I’m a factory assembly line and it feels like I’m taking all the joy and soul out of the making. This is one of the reasons I’ve started using hand tools. It helps me slow down, to appreciate what I’m trying to do, and to have feeling in my work. Some of my favorite projects are the ones where I took my time, like moseying through the park and enjoying the scenery as I went. I have the fondest memories of those projects where I enjoyed every step because I wasn’t forcing myself to be like a machine.

    I think in years to come, you and your daughter are going to look back on this hope chest with very fond memories. She’s going to look at it and think about how much love her father put into it, and you’re going to look at it and think about your little girl growing up. You’re nearly there. Enjoy every last step.

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