Catching Up (Part 3)

I left myself (since I'm the only person I know who reads this)* at the end of the last installment with an ethical cliff-hanger: to re-draw the second board's drilling-template with 121 holes, or to leave it with 111?
I've noticed that proper writers rarely resolve end-of-chapter cliff-hangers in the immediately following chapter: the fate of the maiden lashed to the railway track on page 143 is not to be revealed on page 144. Page 144 will open with a quietly reflective passage on the pleasures of train travel, followed by a lyrical account of the beauties of autumn in Northumberland, before introducing an entirely new character in a railway-carriage, seated in a first-class compartment (in rather  out-dated books), reading The Times.....and so on. Meanwhile the reader of course knows that somewhere ahead is the lashed maiden, assuming that the train is on the appropriate track. (This whole nonsense is known as "dramatic tension".)*

However, the amount of dramatic tension to be squeezed out of a reader not knowing if an obscure woodworker on a small island off the west coast of Canada will drill 111 holes in a cribbage board, or 121, has now probably been vastly exceeded by irritation, so I'll simply say: "Bob, if you ever read this, don't bother to count the holes in your son's Christmas present. There are in fact 121 holes, as traditionally prescribed".

After drilling the correct number of holes, there remained only the issue of pegs and a peg drawer. The pegs were to be bone, cut from a deer antler, but the peg drawer? I wanted a simple recess on the underside of the board with a sliding wood cover, like a pencil box. But this is not altogether simple to make, and I already had quite a bit more irrecoverable "billable" time into this project than the outside estimate. to be quick and effective? Out with the router:

First, using a keyhole bit, a template guide bushing and a template, cut a recess for the sliding lid:

DSCN4831      DSCN4833

         Underside of router with bit and bushing.                              Template and recess after cutting.

The template is secured with micro-pins. Better might be double sided tape, or a larger template with room for clamps.

Then using a second template and a straight-sided bit, cut the deeper recess to hold the pegs:


This is a 5/16" bit with a 1/2" bushing. This combination ensures that the peg recess is smaller than the lid recess.

Making the lid: To make the lid from a single piece of wood presents only one problem - how to continue the edge rebate for the slide around the semi-circle at the end? It's hardly worth making a jig for just two sliding lids, so it occurs to me to simply make it from two pieces: first cut and shape the lower piece which fits into the slot made with the keyhole bit; then make a smaller upper piece carefully rounded and fitting flush with the board's under-surface. Then glue them together:

DSCN4828    DSCN4829
Lower slide lamination tested for fit.                             Shaped & fitted upper lamination ready to glue to lower.


Fitted slide ready for finishing and finger-pull recess.

Finishing the boards:

I love oil: it's easy to apply, not susceptible to dust, simple to repair, but it does not do justice to absorbent decorative woods - for example, figured Western Maple. It muddies the grain, dulls the surface, and is altogether a waste of nice material and hard work.
Some years ago my friend Dave Hargreaves died, and his widow Veronica was faced with a large basement crammed with a lifetime of Dave's finishing projects, finishing supplies and tools, and heaps of random bric-a-brac (including a gross of unfinished tea-trays, cases of Indian brass-ware (with three sizes of brass elephants), a massive work-bench, two boats, antique and not-so-antique antiques, a lovely old horn phonograph and wax cylinders (I think I remember wax cylinders - or were they from Gerry Layard's ancient dictaphone?).
Soon after Dave's death Veronica called me, in tears and at her wit's end. How was she to deal with the basement? In the end some friends and I organised a giant garage sale, as well as a number of private sales, and ultimately disposed of all the tools and supplies (& most of the bric-a-brac), leaving the potentially valuable items for Veronica to advertise or take to the auction.

Among the things I bought for ms. elf ( a felicitous spell check emendation) were a couple of spray guns and a compressor. The compressor has since proved useful as a dust blower, as well as a source of compressed air for a finish nailer, and more recently, a micro-pinner. One thing it has not been used for, however, is spray-finishing. Many years ago, when I was keen on such activities, the now moribund SSI Woodworkers' Guild arranged a workshop with Terry Warbey. At that time Terry made (and says he is now making again) dulcimers and other stringed instruments, and was nice enough to share some of his expertise. I popped in to see how things were going, just in time for a demonstration of spray finishing. Grabbing a guitar by the neck, he took it and a spray gun outside into the sunshine, and casually gave it a coat or two. It looked gorgeous.
Unfortunately my own efforts have been nowhere near as successful. Possibly that is an understatement. Spray guns and I do not get along. They're fussy beasts, and seem to need cleaning once in a while. Perhaps there is such a thing as a disposable spray gun?

Ah, but there is. It's called a spray can. A quick trip to Windsor Plywood, and back with a quite expensive can of Watco spray lacquer.

A final digression: The clear protective lid on the Watco spray lacquer cannot be removed without cutting it off with powerful shears. My attempts to remove it by following the directions on the lid caused the can to explode, covering me, the bench and the floor with a curiously agreeably smelling sticky liquid:

Watco Spray Lacquer

Lacquer pouring from the punctured spray bomb. (Aptly named)

So I hopped in the truck, went back to Windsor, charged a second can to my account, and asked them to take the lid off. Jeff tried, but in the end was forced to cut it off with a pair of shears - not an easy task either. I wrote to Watco, pointing out the potential dangers of exploding cans of highly volatile lacquer. No answer as yet, and, frankly, non expected.

Oh! - the pegs:

Cribbage pegs

Working with bone or ivory sounds quite romantic. Actually it's not. It smells like a pathologist cutting up a femur, or like a bad day at the dentist with the slow-speed drill and a dull burr. It also makes a fine dust which may well be a perfect carrier and distributor of any number of vile and incurable diseases. I had to supplement the antler with a chunk of thigh-bone of unknown provenance. Supposing it had been a mad cow? (Or a mad deer?)

Is my brain now slowly disintegrating and becoming Red-River Cereal?

Yes, but probably not from band-sawing bones. (The fear remains...)

Above are the band-sawn peg blanks.

The finished boards: 

Decorative cribbage boards     Decorative cribbage board

Decorative cribbage board

A well deserved win.


*J. says that she does.
*Tolkien takes this trick to an absurd extreme:  At the end of Volume 1 of "Lord of the Rings"  (page 423, Allen & Unwin original edition), we leave Frodo and Sam fleeing troops of ferocious orcs and setting off for Mordor, "seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of the Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow." We don't meet up with the hobbit pair again until page 209 of  Volume 2: " 'Well, master, we're in a fix and no mistake,' said Sam Gamgee." Sam?? Which one was he?