Order of operations?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by BTimmons posted 07-26-2013 08:23 PM 1618 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3828 days

07-26-2013 08:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak birch stain shellac finishing glue

I’m making a dark box for my friend to use in his wet plate photography hobby/potential business venture. It will allow him to operate a mobile dark room to expose ambrotype images.

The box will be frame and panel construction with overlapping through tenons at each corner. Frame pieces are red oak and the panels are 1/2” birch ply. See the two images below of one side panel, showing the exploded view and dry assembly.

I’ve never done a frame and panel piece before, so I want to make sure I get this done the right way. The overlapping through tenons is another first for me. See below for my first attempt, which came out somewhat hairy but actually cleaned up pretty well after this was taken. The joints are tricky, getting things to fit just right. So…much…mortising…. But hey, I wanted a challenge. It’s kind of a fun decorative element. The ends of the through tenons sit about 1/8” proud of the surface.

Here’s my tentative plan and what I need feedback or correction on.

1) Stain each panel and each frame member separately before glue-up. Thinking of using General Finishes Gel Stain. My buddy likes the dark reddish-brown colors so I might make a mix of two separate stains. Naturally, I will test scrap pieces for color before I attempt this huge undertaking.

2) Glue-up one side frame at a time in sub-assemblies, so as to not rush everything all at once.

3) For the through tenons, stain the end grain nubs that will poke through the vertical members ahead of time, presumably during step 1.

4) Cover the tips of through tenons in blue tape so no glue is absorbed as they are pushed into and through their mortises. Or should I use shellac as a post-stain sealer on the entire piece to prevent glue from being absorbed?

5) Immediately remove tape on through tenons and clean up any glue squeeze-out.

6) Wait a day for all glue joints to set, then varnish the entire assembled box with Arm-R-Seal.

-- Brian Timmons -

9 replies so far

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 3235 days

#1 posted 07-28-2013 05:40 AM

Wow, thoughtful joinery design and beautiful box work. Must definitely be for a good friend.

I think I’d do the same assembly process as you’ve outlined. The blue tape over the tenons is a great idea – should work fine I’d say.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3828 days

#2 posted 07-28-2013 02:53 PM

Thanks for the feedback. Good to know I’m not completely off my rocker.

-- Brian Timmons -

View waho6o9's profile


9136 posts in 3920 days

#3 posted 07-28-2013 03:53 PM

Beautiful work and planning BT.

Some where along the line I heard about hitting the end grain with high grit
sand paper (?) so it doesn’t look darker than the rest of the project. I think
the higher grit keeps the stain from absorbing too much or something like that.

View rrww's profile


263 posts in 3456 days

#4 posted 07-28-2013 05:24 PM

Like waho6o0 said – the only thing I would do different is use about 600 grit on the showing end grain to give a even color.

Good Luck

View Don W's profile

Don W

20295 posts in 3910 days

#5 posted 07-28-2013 08:41 PM

How did you cut the joinery? All by hand or machine? Excellent work.

You will be putting the glue on the tenon and not in the mortise, right?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3828 days

#6 posted 07-28-2013 10:08 PM

Good suggestions about sanding the end grain to a high grit. I’ve heard that before, and will definitely put that into practice now that I have occasion to use that method.

Don – The tenons were cut roughly to size on the table saw, with tons of paring with a chisel to get the fit just right. The mortises were hogged out on the drill press and squared up with a chisel. Oh, how I’ve longed for a hollow chisel mortiser during this project. As for gluing, my thought is to put glue on the tenons, with blue tape to mask off the tips that will poke through the other side, and that tape will be peeled away immediately after it has been pushed through.

-- Brian Timmons -

View IrreverentJack's profile


728 posts in 4186 days

#7 posted 07-29-2013 01:41 AM

Stain and finish the tenon end and tape around the mortise before glue up. If the ends of the tenons are finished you could wipe any glue off, right? Nice project. I’d like to see some of your friend’s work. -Jack

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3828 days

#8 posted 07-29-2013 06:08 PM

Jack – Since you asked to see some of his work, here it is. He mainly likes to stick to portraits so I get asked to sit in front of the lens a lot. Having to sit perfectly still for 10-20 seconds is tricky for some, but it seems to come easily for me.

Me with a Stanley #6 and a block of maple. This one had chemical flaws during processing and the plate was marred removing it from the holder, so the result is overly dark areas and other obvious defects.

Here’s a still life with my Stanley #4. Apparently the collodion or silver nitrate bath reacted to high heat and humidity when this was taken, hence all the cloudiness.

A portrait of me (plus gin & tonic) from a while back. Also the source of my avatar. I was definitely less than sober when this was taken.

Here’s one of me from this last weekend. Definitely the best so far. The details are so much more crisp, and there’s more range between light and dark, without getting washed out in between.

These are all in chronological order, so you can really see them get better over time. Just the natural learning curve one would expect when resurrecting 1850’s technology. A new projection lens that he picked up (used for the last photo seen above) really captures detail beautifully. Well, it’s a new lens to him, anyway. It’s a little over a century old.

All in all, it’s a pretty cool hobby to be even tangentially involved with. I’ve already had to make a couple of lens holders for the front of his camera, but who knows. I might end up making an entire camera or two at some point.

-- Brian Timmons -

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3828 days

#9 posted 07-30-2013 04:17 PM

More thoughts about staining. Would it be better to do a quick spray of shellac and lightly sand it back before applying stain, or would gel stain on bare wood work fine? I’m leaning towards the former option, thinking it might minimize blotching.

What do you guys think?

-- Brian Timmons -

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics