Trouser Press


Derek Jones

Monday, January 13, 2014

There was a time a few years back when you couldn’t move for American black walnut burr. It was cheep - relatively speaking - in good supply and readily available in large leaves. Like all things ’stylish’ that phase eventually passed but not the desire to create a little interesting contrast now and then. The burr in this panel is European walnut, which tends to be lighter in colour than the American used to construct the stiles and rails on this panel. In their raw state it’s hard to believe these two veneers would work well together; the quarter-sawn American having a grey/purple tinge and the European, a rather unpleasant look of Dijon mustard about it. But a touch of polish can work wonders and this stage is often something that clients don’t get to enjoy.

I’ve had a few surprises recently specifying bog oak for veneered work. The samples have been anywhere from jet black to mid brown, which I know is about right but hard to be consistent over a series of extra panels ordered after the main event. The black line on this panel is bog oak cut from a 3mm thick veneer. A groove was routed out using a 3mm spiral cutter to a depth of around 2mm. A Lee Valley inlay corner jig was used to square the corners up. Just locate the jig in place and strike the corner chisel with a hammer to get perfectly aligned corners. Box maker Andrew Crawford developed this tool primarily for use on inlaid work, but I"ve used it to square the corners of lock and hinge mortises.

I’ve been meaning to try this liquid hide glue for a while now and actually found it on the shelf in my local timber yard with the rest of the Titebond adhesives. It"s a good choice for this part of the project as there"s likely to be some inconsistency with either the width of the groove or the thickness of the inlay. The dark colour will mask any gaps and any excess can be mopped up cleanly and won’t leave a trace in the surrounding veneers. In facts the chipboard substrate is very porous so there wasn’t a lot of cleaning up to do. Chipboard wasn’t my choice of substrate but all will become clear.

The inlay was about 1mm proud so needed trimming off with a block plane and then a cabinet scraper before sanding flat. There were a couple of 8mm diameter fixing holes that needed to be located so the original hardware could be attached. Drilling these out would most certainly tear up the veneer so the best means of clearing the holes is to punch through the veneer with a flat bottomed piece dowel slightly smaller than the hole.

To finish I used my quick shellac finish, which starts with a couple of coats of sanding sealer, sanded back each time with 320g followed with a few rubbers of clear polish. If your workshop is nice and warm you can easily work this up to a mirror finish in less than half an hour. A dab of mineral oil on the rubber every now and then will keep it from sticking and allow you flatten as you go. Try doing that with a hardwax oil. By the end of the day or the next morning you can wipe the excess mineral oil from the surface with a soft cloth or the heel of your palm. If it’s still a bit cloudy put a fresh wrap of cotton around the rubber and charge it with a little meths. A few strokes across the surface should clear things up. At this point you will have softened the shellac a little so you will have to wait before waxing.

And all this effort to disguise a run of the mill trouser press. Now I bet you didn’t see that coming?


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