American Lime

Following on from my guide to working with PAR (or not…), I want to show you more on what I get up to with this regular supply of “painted furniture” work. To start with, let’s talk a bit about the timber itself – which, in case you hadn’t gathered from the heading above, is American lime.

Lovely lime.

That image isn’t the best to use, as it doesn’t give a clear indication of the average length of American lime. That one is quite spectacular, somewhat of a rarity, amongst the piles of wood I usually have to work with. This variant (also known as “basswood”, I believe), is recommended to us as being capable of taking a good paint finish. It’s also supposed to be more stable than its European cousin though, I have noticed some of the spare boards cupping, distorting and even splitting in the high temperatures of my uninsulated garage-workshop, this summer. Robbins don’t stock tulipwood and, although they do offer beech, which is a bit cheaper; I’ve had several problems with that stuff in the past. Plus, being a “true” hardwood, it’s more difficult to work. American lime is more akin to a high-quality, dead knot-free softwood; it cuts, drill and sands easily. You can drive 2in screws in without pilot holes or splitting the wood. What’s more, the dust it produces is very thick and soft. Spongy, even. It’s dry and free of resin (unlike pine) so, it doesn’t cover your machines in a hard crud, either.

So, yes, shelving units were the order of the day on this occasion – sixteen of them (eight pairs), in all! 😯

Now, the great thing about any repetition work like this is that you can batch-produce all identical components at the same time, before moving on to the next machine. After cutting the boards down to length on my mitre saw, I went over to the drill press to drill some holes. You can see where I fitted a temporary stop block in place for the longer lengths, which were only an inch longer than the fence on my machine.

Repeat Stop on the Pillar Drill.

When something’s being painted and you’ve got a lot of them to do, in my mind, there’s no point in using biscuits or any form of traditional joint; especially when they have to be made and sold at a low price. Therefore, I always opt for countersunk screws, in such a situation. The heads will later be hidden with wooden plugs or ‘pellets’. But, the real bonus is that it doesn’t require the use of or investment in any sash cramps! 8)

As I know the boards are already prepared accurately to width, I can use a marking gauge to scribe the positions of my pilot holes in the shelves, so that I know they’ll line up correctly with the clearance holes in the sides, which will make live easier when it comes to assembling and squaring up, later. I think that only a horizontal boring machine could’ve made this step any easier…

Gauging positions of the Pilot Holes.

After that, the units were sanded and went together very quickly. In fact, I had all sixteen sanded and assembled with the screw holes plugged in less than two working days (sanding really doesn’t take much at all with this stuff and it won’t clog your abrasives like pine). All that was left to do (once the glue had cured, properly) was to cut out some heart-shapes in the sides…

After making several MDF templates that I can use again in future jobs, I roughed out each shape with a jigsaw and then cleaned up with a router – the DW621; one of my more recent purchases.

The end result looks something like this, with all units finished and ready for painting (granted, there are only six in this photo):

This is what it's all about, apparently.

One step in the making process that I forgot to mention is the one where I round off the corners of each side. This was done before assembly (obviously!) and, after accurately shaping one on the disc sander, I then used that as a template to mark each in turn before cutting. It didn’t make sense, to me, to produce a template a shape each one on the router table. That would’ve required too much work; too much production time wasted in removing one template and transferring it to the next, when the results don’t need to be that accurate, on this occasion… A pencil line is all you need.

The only real downside to batch-production work like this is that, in a small workshop where you’re waiting for a convenient delivery date or just need to get on with other things, they don’t half take up a lot of space!! 😀 😉

Although I don’t have any photos, the last set of cabinets I made before this lot was a little more complicated, with doors on the front and all. These items are beginning to sell, with people getting out in to the warmer weather so, there’s a good chance I’ll have a few more to make, soon enough – at which point, of course, I will show you how it’s done. This is currently the “bread and butter” of my workshop; paying the bills while giving me a little freedom to try out new things. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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