New Projects–Backgammon table and Mexican chair

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This is going to be a post where I’m proud of myself. The following are the first pieces of furniture I’ve ever made from scratch. Not from a class or kit–I started with sheets of wood and went from there. I did follow instructions, though; these pieces are both from The Scale Cabinetmaker, which is full of wonderful plans for all kinds of detailed pieces of furniture.

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Armed with confidence from the classes I took in Tuscon, I scoured my back issues of the magazine, which I’d subscribed to long ago, to try one of the projects. I’d always wanted to but didn’t have the time, skill, room, or tools to do them, or so I thought.

I was looking for projects that had few parts, easy joints (butt joints versus mortise and tenon or others), and no parts that needed to be machine turned (I don’t have a lathe). I also needed proects that used standard thicknesses of wood (I don’t have a planer to make specific thicknesses).

These two projects were perfect–not too easy and not too difficult. They’re both 1″ scale.

The chair is from issue 16, number 4 of the Scale Cabinetmaker. It’s a side dining chair from a set of Southwestern / Mexican furniture.

I made the chair out of basswood, stained walnut. The plans called for it to be made from walnut, but I didn’t want to use more expensive wood if I was going to mess it up. But it turned out well enough that I’d like to try another in walnut.

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The most difficult part was the carved back splat and the carved piece in the front under the seat. I hand carved those with tiny cuts then used a needle file set to smooth out the rough carving.

The other difficulty was cutting the angled back legs, which are one piece (not two glued together). I cut it freehand on my scroll saw, but if I do it again, I’ll try a miter fence to help keep everything straight. A sanding block was a great help!

The backgammon table was fun to make. It’s more complicated than it looks, with a subtop, a bottom, aprons around the bottom, and the carved pockets in the top.

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This was from The Scale Cabinetmaker Vol 17, No 3. The biggest change I made was the tabletop. Instead of drawing it by hand as in the article, I made the top on my computer using Paint Shop. (Probably Photo Shop would work, but I happen to have Paint Shop.)

I created a new file in the exact dimensions of the tabletop. The article gave the dimensions of the points (triangles), so I turned on “preset shapes” and created identical triangles, then filled them in with alternating red and black. I printed the tabletop on my color ink jet then sealed the picture with clear nail polish (about the only thing that doesn’t run the ink). It was perfectly sized (I was stunned it worked!)

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The plans also explained how to make the dice and playing pieces. I changed the playing pieces–instead of cutting off thin slices of dowel, I painted some wood veneer and then punched out the pieces using a 1/8″ paper punch. I painted them red and ivory instead of red and black, because I wanted the pieces to be more easily seen.

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I am so pleased with how these projects turned out that I’m eagerly looking for more to try!

(Back issues of The Scale Cabinetmaker are available here:

What I made at NAME

The number one reason I went to the NAME convention this year was for the opportunity to take workshops. I was happy with the ones I chose, though there were many others that would have been great as well (choosing was tough). But there are only so many days, so many hours. Below are photos of what I made, plus kits I bought that I’ve started to put together. (Click photos for larger versions)

Corner Cupboard (Class with Shannon Moore)

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The cupboard is made with cherry hardwood. We scalloped the shelves, fit everything together, installed the working door. It’s a lovely piece. I finished it with paste wax (though in these pics, it’s unfinished).

Arts and Crafts shaving stand (Class with Shannon Moore)

This Arts and Crafts stand was a half-day class, the wood again cherry. Drawers and door are working, mirror swivels on its stand.

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I finished this one at home, adding the final hardward and mirror, and finishing it with varnish and paste wax. The finish brought out the richness of the wood.

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Inlay hall table (class with Pam and Pete Boorum)

Probably the most challenging class, but I learned a lot and came out with this beautiful piece of furnture! We did the inlay of ebony and cherry on the top (mitering the ebony border and then the cherry border around that was…interesting). We also cut all the pieces for the table, including tapering the legs using a jig on the power saw. Drawers are working. The hardest for me was using the router (shaper) to put the lip on the table top. I’d never used a shaper before so I wasn’t sure how much pressure to put on it (or not put on it).

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Hepplewhite Dressing Table (class with Shannon Moore)

I signed up for three classes with Shannon Moore, and I’m glad I did. I learned so much! This class was a Heppelwhite dressing table, also a challenge. (The toiletries case on top is a separate kit I bought from Lisa Engler).

The table is made of cherry and mahagony. We learned to curve the drawers to match the curve of the table, apply veneer, and create the look of inlay by sandwiching. There was much sanding! I brought the table home and finished all the sanding then finished it with varnish and paste wax. Came out beautifully!

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I went a little kit crazy in the sales room. Found lots of nice kits for accessories in all scales. I started pulling out one kit a day and making it (time permitting–sometimes it goes to 2 days). I decided that there’s a difference between collecting and hoarding, so I started making the kits. 🙂

Regency era toiletries box

First, the kit from Lisa Engler called “Napoleonic Influence.” Because I write mysteries and romances set in this period, I was attracted to it right away. It’s a very cool little kit, making a leather box with bottles, hairbrush, powder boxes, shoe brushes, and nail and teeth cleaning. I can imagine this belonging to an army officer, looked after by his valet or batman.

I thought it would look great on the Heppelwhite dressing table, since the table is from the same period.

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Secret book and Vintage sewing display

These two kits caught my eye, because they’re so unusual. The “Secret Book” is by the Betterleys, and the vintage sewing display I bought from Dorothy’s Doo-Dads.

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The Secret Book is a cool little “I wish I’d thought of that” kind of thing. It makes a little box that looks like a book, with a tiny room that slides in and out. They come in two sizes, a larger one, and this one called “A Teeny Weeny Secret Book.” It’s about the right size for a 1″ scale book, and so can be a knick-knack in a 1″ house. (I put it on the fireplace mantel of the bedroom of The Blue House B&B). I bought one of the larger ones as well, which I’m looking forward to.

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The vintage sewing accessories shadowbox has a tape measure, scissors, a wooden spool of thread, ribbon, lace, buttons, and more. It all goes together in a little frame–I hung it on the wall of the downstairs hall of the Blue House B&B.

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I keep reaching into the boxes of kits–good stress relief on a busy day.

The number one thing I took away from the woodworking classes was–don’t be afraid to sand! I hear over and over not to sand too much in case you ruin the square of the piece, but I think it’s made me too timid. I sanded the heck out of the ebony / cherry inlay until it was smooth, smooth, smooth, and I bet I could have done even more. If I hadn’t sanded the drawers of the mahogany / cherry dressing table like crazy, I never would have finally made the curve it’s supposed to have. After all the sanding, the finish made the wood rich and smooth without coating it (if that makes sense).

I learned *a lot* in these classes, incuding things I didn’t know I didn’t know. I plan to take more classes in the future, whenever I’m able!