Finished and put to work

The last piece of the cutting board rack design (once I glued and wedged the base together) is to put in a series of dowels which will hold the boards upright.  As I said in the introduction, if you change the placement, this would work just dandy for a counter-top plate rack, if you were so inclined.

Boring the holes is fairly straightforward, except that these are blind holes.  So, to keep from piercing through to the other side, you must have some way of knowing when your auger bit is deep enough.  While you can mark the bit in a variety of ways, from tape to all sorts of whiz-bang contraptions, I find the simplest and most foolproof is simply to count revolutions.  The bit feeds at a constant rate, so if 14 full revolutions got you to the depth you wanted, just keep boring your holes 14 revolutions.  It won’t slip and has essentially zero setup time.  DO REMEMBER that the lead screw precedes the rest of the bit, so make some allowance for it.

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Once that’s done, you just cut a bunch of dowels.  To keep the ends from splintering, and to keep with the theme I established with the base ends, I tapered off the ends of the dowels.  It kind of felt like I was making a miniature palisade.

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Glue the dowels into the base, checking to make sure they all go to the same depth.

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Finally, after a couple of coats of paint, I put it into the display shelf, and put the cutting boards into it.  Now I can fit three boards (54″ length) into only 24″ of shelf space.  Much better!

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Utilitarian is not Brutalist

One of the things you pick up on when you do research into historical furniture is that there are a few different veins running through the body of extant pieces.  High style has always been flashy and outside the reach of all but a very few.  Then there are the provincial pieces that are a local craftsman trying to replicate a high style form.  Then you have “country” pieces that are attempts to gussy up a plain form.  And then you have crude, makeshift pieces that are just trying to make a place to sit that isn’t a stump.

Somewhere between these last two is utilitarian furniture.  It usually displays a high degree of artisanal competence, and the finish (though it may be simple) will be excellent.  It was created to fill a need, and usually exhibits a lack of overt ornamentation, though the proportions are well scaled.  The most notable examples are the pieces produced for the Shakers, with their clean and restrained lines.

But mention utilitarian furniture and people seem to picture a piece of plywood nailed on to a couple of 2×4’s.  The perception is that “utilitarian” means the furniture equivalent of Brutalist architecture.  All those giant concrete slabs of a building that hunker down and glower over the landscape?  That’s Brutalist.

Done right, however, utilitarian furniture means something different.  It simply means that ornamentation doesn’t factor into the design over utility.  This is furniture that is meant to be used, not show off wealth.  Typically, it was built to be economical.  Labelling something as “economy” usually means “slipshod” these days, but it doesn’t have to be so.  In fact, some little bits of ornament usually figure in.  A little bead around drawer edges or a bullnose moulding around a cornice would be examples.  Utilitarian does not have to mean graceless.

I bring this up because this project reminded me of it.  When all the joints were complete and put together, the base was certainly sturdy, but it seemed a little clunky to me.

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So, I decided to add a little bit of a chamfer on the ends.  This will also keep the square edges from splintering.  I cut out the bulk of the angles with my Disston hybrid saw.

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Then I planed everything smooth and to size.  This little bit of work only took a few minutes, and really de-clunkifies the rack.  Tomorrow we’ll finish everything up.

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Rack ’em

When I finished the display shelf last week, I was relieved to have it gone.  You would not believe how roomy the shop felt once it wasn’t there anymore.  But I wasn’t happy with one aspect of it: how the cutting boards fit.  They took up a whole shelf for two boards and I didn’t like that very much.  Surely it could be more…economical.

So I started with a few offcuts from the shelf, and played workbench Jenga with them until I had a design that looked okay and would arrange the cutting boards nicely.

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This particular build is going to be constructed with mortice and tenon joints throughout.  I started by cutting out the tenons on my short pieces.

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Then I cut through mortices on the long pieces, using the tenons as my template.  Cut from both sides, and REMEMBER to cut your face side last, as this will put any splintering on the backside, under the shoulders of your tenons.

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And finally, the joint will (grudgingly) slip together.  Five more, and then our frame will be ready to glue!

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