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Stickley Display Stand


Feb 2008

An Old Design, In Reclaimed Pine...

In designing this project, I started with a classic old design from Gustav Stickley. This comes from the book "Making Authentic Craftsman Furniture: Instructions and Plans for 62 Projects (Articles from The Craftsman, Edited by Gustav Stickley)" . The project is a Magazine Stand / Display shelf.

My first goal was for something simpler -- simpler construction for one thing. So the through-tenons had to go. I was fairly concerned as to how their absence would affect the look, and consulted with several woodworkers for their thoughts, and decided that it would be fine.

The original design was about 42-44" high. I wanted something taller, closer to 52-54" high. Consequently, I also needed to adjust the other dimensions, making it a bit wider and deeper as well.

The original drawing as well as my own plan can be seen here:

I need to confess to a little misdirection. In the title above, I refer to "reclaimed pine". This is true - I wouldn't lie. However, please banish all thoughts of old-growth pine salvaged from the bottom of a river, or of ancient timbers rescued from an old mill being torn down. It is made from pine. And the pine was reclaimed.

But what it was reclaimed from was a waterbed.

Yes, this is built from an old waterbed frame that one of my neighbours tossed out on garbage day, and I rescued from the side of the road. You may laugh, but free wood, is free wood!

The boards were planed down, ripped to width, and cut to length. the angles were a bit tricky to sort out, but soon enough the sides were put together with biscuits for the joining method. (Simple Joinery was a goal!) The stock is a full 1" thick, so I used two biscuit slots at each joint, for added strength.

If you look at the drawing you will see the angle of "88.7" degrees. That is not a typo, and yes it was a pain to work with that. That'll teach me to design things this way. When designing, I started in Sketchup (a 3D drawing program) with a square "board" that was 12.5" wide by 54" tall. I wanted the top to be about 10" wide. So I measured in 1.25" on each side, made some marks, and then drew up my rough sketch on that. This worked great in the drawing program. But that is how I ended up with a silly angle like 88.7 degrees. Next time I should start with a reasonable angle first! That shouldd give me fewer headaches in the shop.

There is no back on this piece. As such, I was concerned with the potential for racking. To prevent this, I added two 1 x 1-1/2" runners under the top and bottom shelves. This would give a bit of vertical rigidity to the piece I thought. But you will note that they are not shown in the drawing/plan above -- this is an example of how I start with a plan, but in the shop sometimes I tweek the plan if I feel it is necesary.

Joining the shelves to the side was the next major step.

If you look at the original inspiration drawing, you see that the top and bottom shelf were attached with through tusk tenons. However, there is no hint at all as to how they attached the middle shelves. With all those thin vertical spindles, there really is not much "meat" in the carcass for them to work with. It's a puzzle.

My original intent was to make this a simplified stickley design. So I was NOT going to do any mortise+tenon and I was definitely not doing the through-tusk-tenon of the original inspiration design. I planned to bash this together using biscuits. Not the strongest joining method in the world, I admit, but certainly strong enough for this. Also, since I was using full 1" thick stock, I would double-biscuit all the joints (two slots one above the other at each biscuit location). And that is what I did for the sides.

However, once the sides were assembled, and I set about planning the keyhole slot, I realized that there was simply not enough room for using biscuits to attach the side. I still have no clue as to how stickley attached their shelves.

Fortunately, I also possess a pocket-hole jig, and that was used to attach all the shelves. Being 1-1/2" thick stock, it did require longer coarse thread screws.

As an aside, all knots were treated with CA glue (Superglue) around their edges, to help insure that they stayed tight.

Here is the piece, fully assembled, in all it's "Raw Wood" glory. (Forty Pocket Hole Screws later...)

Normally I like to let wood just be it's own colour, but there's always exceptions. I found the pine in this project to be far too pale and bland. For this project I chose the reddish tint of Varathane's "Cabernet" stain.

I first stained a few test pieces, and after it had dried, brushed on some water-based varathane diamond finish (a poly.) I noticed that the fine print of the stain advised using a wood conditioner for pine. But I just went ahead with the stain. Then I pulled out my copy of Flexner's book and read up on Wood conditioners.

The next set of test pieces first had a coat of Varathane's wood conditioner on it. I then waited almost a full 24 hrs (as Flexner advises, and as the can doesn't - it advises 2 hrs) for it to really dry, and then again wiped on the stain.

Below are the results. The two top/left pieces have conditioner and stain (the left-side piece also has one coat of varathane diamond finish on it) and the two bottom/right pieces have only stain and then diamond finish.

The blotchiness is very apparent. Yes the two unconditioned pieces also look darker. That is a factor of the topcoat. I got a bit impatient and proceeded with finishing the main piece before also putting two coats of diamond finish on the test boards. The lack of blotch was quite apparent, so I knew for sure I was going to use the conditioner.

The finished stand:

It has one coat of varathane wood conditioner which has dried 18+ hours. It then has one application of varathane cabernet stain wiped on and wiped off ~5-10 minutes later. That was also allowed to dry for at least 24 hours. After that are 4-5 thin coats of Varathane WB diamond finish (semi-gloss) brushed on with a foam brush.


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