12.09.2013

Get A Handle On It.

I'm in the final stages of finishing my salvaged (mostly) Douglas fir home entertainment center.  This is one of many, many projects I am trying to wrap up inside my home before I can really justify spending some time building much needed tool storage and furniture (cough** Roubo bench... cough**) for my shop.  All the fir, with the exception of the plywood, started (a hundred years ago...give or take) as interior doors in two row homes in Baltimore.  When the homes were demolished, I was able to salvage the doors through a local salvage resale company that was working with the demo contractor.  I used a combination of a DeWalt benchtop planer - for cleaning off years of grime and paint, a bandsaw - to get rough dimensions, and handsaws and hand-planes to get the lumber to its final dimensions and finish.  I have had to be very judicious on the use of this lumber, as I am limited by the dimensions of the door rails and stiles for my pieces, and the fact that I have a very limited supply.

In an effort to reduce the amount of lumber I used, the entertainment center I had envisioned had a lot of open shelving.  After using it for a few months with open shelving, however, my wife and I realized that we are way to lazy to be "open shelving people."  So, in an effort to hide clutter (heaven forbid we just organize things!) I needed to build some sliding doors.  The sliding doors I built are very simple, no frills, clutter hiders.  I am glad that I went with simple though, because this built-in really didn't need another design element.  The idea was to have something peaceful to look at while we sit and vegetate on the couch.

The doors are just butt jointed rails and stiles with dadoes cut in to hold the Douglas fir plywood panel in the center.  The main door I held together with Jatoba splines, and the other two are just tacked in to the plywood panel (cheating, I know...).

Nothing Fancy...
The doors are hung in their openings on cheap sliding closet door hardware, which works surprisingly well.  As soon as I finish the openings I'll post some photos of the completed entertainment center.  The doors, however, really needed handles.  They were hard to open and close by just grasping the stiles.  This gave me the perfect opportunity to try out an idea I had seen in a magazine (I believe it was a Popular Woodworking issue, however, I can't seem to find the article).  Integral carved handles for sliding doors.

Here Are The Tools I Used
Integral Handle


These are nicely understated, highly functional, and are a snap to make.  First I found the center of the stile and laid out my reference points.

R Is So I Remember That This Is The Right Side Of The Door
I marked the center of the stile and the point at which I wanted the carved scallop to start and stop.  The start of the scallop I marked with a dot (on the right) and the end of the scallop is marked with the vertical pencil line.  Next, I denoted my stop point by very gingerly pressing in a one and a half inch chisel into my pencil line, too much pressure will split the wood.

This Line Gives My Gouge A Place To Stop
The chisel line gives my carving gouge a good place to stop.  Next, I honed my largest carving gouge to within an inch of its little life and then made some test cuts on a piece of scrap until I was happy with the quality of the cut I was getting.  This also let me know whether my angle of attack was correct or needed some adjusting for this particular Douglas fir.



Then I made my first cut into the door stile.  This takes several passes.  The goal is to start the apex of the curved scallop on the dot and end evenly on the chisel line.



The next item I needed was the handle.  I cut and planed a piece of Brazilian cherry to 1/4 inch thickness, 2 and 1/4 inch length and roughly 1 inch deep.  First, I planed the short edges of the handle to make the handle a trapezoidal shape, and then I beveled the edges of the top of the handle

I Find It Easier To Hold The Plane Still And Move The Wood

Beveled Trapezoid

I Purposely Made the Handle The Width Of My 1/4 inch Mortise Chisel
I then marked out the handle with a marking knife against the end of the scallop.


Then, very carefully, I mortised out the channel to hold the handle.  Be careful because it's easy to blow out one end or the other with the chisel...like I did.  I test fit the handle after every pass, and it looked best (to me) just below the bottom of the scallop.


Finished.
I held the handle in with a little glue and then I used a little sand paper to clean up some of the lines.  


Of course I'd recommend doing a test piece before you start in on your final project.  I did mine out of a scrap offcut from one of the stiles.


These are so easy, I think I may incorporate them into my tool cabinet design (more to come!)

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