Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The gift of giving.

It's fun to give. At least it's fun to make things to give. This was the first year for me for making Christmas gifts. I had a pretty elaborate plan on gifts I wanted to make. Well, I only accomplished one project, but I really enjoyed it.  A LOT!!  I came across a post in woodnet classifieds a few months ago for these P.O. box doors. I had seen someone online make banks out of similar doors a while back and I always wanted to do it. So, I jumped and bought 4 of the doors.  Here is how they turned out!

These 2 were made for my Sis-in-law's boys in PA.  The wood is Brazilian Cherry (aka Jatoba).
These two are for my sister's kids.  The one on the left is Purple Heart for my niece and Walnut on the right for her older brother.

If you would like to see the process of how I made these banks, I invite you to read along further!

I wanted to be as original as I could be with this project.  I only had an idea and these 4 doors to go from.  So I began with some simple measuring and a quick sketch-up on the computer.  I basically just started with the dimensions I had from the doors.  The doors have 4 metal tabs for which to attach with screws.  I took the dimensions off of these tabs, then the door frame.
 I messed around in sketchup until I had the dimensions close enough to work with.
Originally, I had decided to use a different wood for each bank.  But this beautiful piece of Bocote was not big enough for my dimensions.  Lucky for me, I had enough Jatoba for 2 banks, so I just used that.
L to R - Walnut, Bocote, Purple Heart, Jatoba.
Bocote is out and Jatoba is in.  Cut to rough lengths.
 Jointed and planed to half inch final thickness, all by machine.  Not a fan of this part of the process with hand tools.
 Keeping grain direction in check, 4 sides of the banks cut to final dimensions using a simple crosscut sled on my tablesaw.
Time for joinery.  I almost always prefer cutting my joinery with hand tools.  I don't even own a dovetail jig.  Dovetails are way overkill for this project, but I love dovetails.  And I really need practice.  And because I am a bit anal, they are marked out with chalk for pins and tail boards.
 I begin with the Walnut "prototype" box.  Hey, if I screw this one up, I have a bunch more Walnut laying around.  (sorry about the gratuitous tool porn shot)
Not a dovetail expert, but I have had some practice.  First corner went together pretty satisfactory.
 Now goes the second corner.
 Hey!  That looks like a box!  It's a little big for the bank door, but I planned it that way and you'll see why a little later down the page.
Dry fit assembly of the "prototype."  Still working out a few details, but it is close to the picture in my head.  
 Simple floating panel in a tongue and groove for the back.  I like this, a lot; it's clean and simple.  It works really well with the squareness of the box as it is.  But I think the problem will be that the whole box will be rounded over on all edges.  So I think this back panel will need a little something extra to stand out.  Shouldn't all sides of the bank be appealing?
 Lets see what a hand plane can do with these back panels.  Shall we try for a "raised panel" look?  Looks pretty nice.   I think we can work with that.  The boss (wifey) approves at this stage.  Onward! 
 Details pretty well ironed out on the prototype, lets move on to the rest of the banks.  Time is ticking.  To save a little time, I went from 5 pins on the prototype to 4 pins on the rest of the banks.  Nevermind the bottles of CA and accelerant in this shot!  There were no mistakes or blowouts in this project, nothing needed fixing!  Keep moving, nothing more to see here!
 Joinery cut...Glued up...Wiped down...times 4.
A friend saw my prototype and suggested that I set the door frame back just a little, maybe a sixteenth.  I liked that idea.  So when I glued the material in to mount the doors, I set them back about a sixteenth from the front.  Nice little detail.

The rest of the process went pretty quick and I didn't take any pictures.  After they were all glued and assembled, I used a roundover bit in the router table on all edges and then a bunch of sanding, sanding and more sanding, up to 320 grit.  I really took my time with the sanding as I had a pretty good idea that these would be something that you would want to pick up and hold and feel.  

Since the Jatoba banks were going to PA for xmas, and xmas was about a week away, I didn't have time for a long finish process.  So I used several coats of garnet shellac, brushed on and allowed to dry.  I tried to stay ahead of the major drips and runs for the most part, but I wasn't really anal about the finish being perfect.  After about 4 or 5 quick coats, I got out some 400 grit sandpaper and put a few drops of water on the boxes and started rubbing them out.  It wasn't working out as well as I hoped and thought maybe I needed something other than water.  I tried a few drops of jajoba oil that I use for my hand tools and it worked MUCH better.  Don't ask me why, I don't know.  But I was able to rub out the Jatoba banks to almost a mirror shine as you can kinda see in these photos below.  And they were so silky smooth to the touch.  I finished up with just a very thin coat of paste wax and buffed them out with a cloth.  Complete finish done in about an hour and a half.  Perfect.  Time to pack them up and get them in the mail.
A couple days after I sent these out, I got a voicemail from my 12 year old nephew.  He said, "Thanks Uncle Justin for the banks!  They are flippin awesome!"  Well, I guess I can't ask for anything better than that!  haha

I was so pleased with the finish on these first two banks, I should have done the same for the Walnut and Purple Heart banks.  But I recently purchased the Masterpiece finish system from Highland, and since I have never used a oil/wax finishing system before, I wanted to give it a try.  No offense to this product.  Its a good product!  It looks nice, feels nice and applies pretty easily.  The problem is that I really didn't have a lot of time for error.  Luckily I didn't have any error.  But what I did have was a god awful case of stomach flu the weekend before Christmas.  So I lost a couple days that you really need for this type of system.  But I somehow got 2 coats each of steps 1 and 2 and then 1 coat of the step 3 wax finish.  I was actually buffing out the wax Christmas morning, meanwhile our truck was warming up outside to go to the family gift exchange.  Whew, close one!

I still prefer the shellac finish on the Jatoba banks.  I just like the feel of them better.  Not to mention it was so FAST!  But these turned out very nice too and I am 100% happy with them.

Hope you like them!  The kids seem to.  I had a blast making them.  I think I will start next week on my Christmas gifts for NEXT year.  I wonder if I will get them done in time?!?!  Bye for now!
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