Methods and Techniques

 

join·er··y   (join-r-y) n. : 1) The art or craft of a joiner; cabinetmaking.  2) Work done by a joiner; fine woodwork.

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In order to produce the finest articles of woodcraft, BLUE MOUNTAIN CUSTOM WOOD PRODUCTS  uses only the finest methods of  traditional joinery, many of them centuries old, and a few that we have developed ourselves.  During the last century, some joint styles became more prevalent, due to the rapid expansion of industrialized furniture manufacture, while some traditional joints (such as dovetail joints on drawers) became less common because they were either not cost-effective or not possible to cut efficiently with the machinery of the time.
The purpose of this page is to aid your understanding of the quality of our workmanship, rather than to detail the many separate methods we use to obtain our results.  If you have any questions regarding our methods or techniques, please call us.  We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

WOOD SELECTION

All of the woods that we use are hand selected for a particular project because, even within a specie of wood, there is great variation in the structural and visual characteristics of each board.  For example, a board which may be ideal for a table leg may not be right for the table's top. 
 

 

MILLING

         

The process of milling includes jointing, ripping, planing, crosscutting, shaping and sanding.  The process of wood selection continues during the milling phase, when particular boards are sorted for use as particular components of the project.  Once sorted, the fun begins, and we use a variety of machinery and tools to achieve final dimension on each part; typically to within 3/1000ths of an inch.
 

 

ASSEMBLY

         

During the assembly phase, each part is "dry-fitted" to ensure a perfect fit prior to final assembly.  Any tiny dimensional adjustments are made here. When I am satisfied with the results of the dry-fit, we assemble the piece using the best wood adhesive appropriate to the particular joint.
 

 

FINISH

    

Generally, the finish on a piece of furniture involves a pigment such as a stain, and a topcoat of a clear, protective variety; or else it involves paint.  When wood is finished in a way such that the grain is visible, the wood selection process is most important to what the finished piece will look like.  The wood in the table top above was selected for its transverse grain structure, and then assembled so that adjacent pieces of the top had grain going in a direction transverse to any other adjacent piece.  Sound complicated?  In reality, it's much easier to understand than to explain.  If you look at the two photos above of the finished table, the diamond in the center appears darker than its surrounding from one direction, and lighter from another.  This effect changes gradually as you move around the table.  It is caused by how light reflects from the transverse grain, and can be either enhanced or destroyed by the choice of finish used.
 

 

JOINTS

Basic box and drawer construction

The beauty and tradition of the dovetail joint owes its history to more than decoration.  Most woodwrights and cabinetmakers regard the dovetail joint as the strongest joint for a corner such as that found on a drawer. Unless otherwise specified, all of our drawer boxes are dovetailed at all four corners.

    

3/4" cherry in dovetail jig                                                                   cherry drawer box     

 

 

Machining

In order to produce truly custom pieces and components from wood, it is often necessary to devise ways of cutting and shaping wood stock which are as unique as the item being produced.  At these processes, we excel.  At times, a process may require the manufacture of a specialty guide or template, referred to as a jig.  At other times, a cutting or shaping operation may simply require the alteration or enhancement of an existing machine, such as a drill press or a table saw.  For example, the original design for the kitchen island pilasters called for a large, flat surface, onto which mouldings were to be applied (left).  Our clients had decided that they wanted flutes (long, round-bottomed lines similar to those on Greek columns) cut into the pilasters.  Since the blanks had already been cut from a single piece of wood each, and since the face of the blank was now at two levels, flipping them face-down on a router table would not produce absolutely clean results.  In order to start and stop the flutes at precise points, and to space them accurately, we modified an industrial drill press (right) with excellent results (below).

    

 

 

Hardwood Flooring

Solid hardwood flooring has been, by far, the most popular form of flooring material for centuries.  Not many years ago, it was one of only three basic materials considered suitable for interior floors; the others being tile and stone, such as granite or marble.  With the wide-scale development and production of plywood for subfloors, permanent, wall-to-wall carpeting largely replaced area rugs.  When synthetic flooring materials became commercially widespread, the homeowners' options increased exponentially.  With a plywood subfloor, materials such as sheet linoleum and linoleum tile became popular because of their endless variety, ease of installation, inexpensive acquisition, material durability and ease of maintenance.  Combined with the rapidly rising costs of domestic hardwoods, due primarily to the increased pressures of legislation limiting the harvest of lumber, hardwood flooring (and other articles of hardwood) became relegated to the realm of those who could afford it.
In recent years, however, a rollback in some of the earlier lumber regulations, combined with significant growth in the tree farming industry, has resulted in wider economic accessibility to articles of hardwood, including flooring material.  Unfortunately, with the past relative extinction of the solid, 3/4" hardwood floor, came a reduction in the number of people knowledgeable and skilled in its installation.  Today, commensurate with the law of supply and demand, many flooring contractors charge a premium for its installation.  This is due in part to the fact that the installation of synthetic flooring is more economically profitable for the contractor.

At BLUE MOUNTAIN CUSTOM WOOD PRODUCTS, solid, hardwood flooring is the only type of flooring we manufacture.  This is because we are a company who works only with wood products.  While our tools are extremely modern and of the highest quality available, our methods of installation are ages old, and time-proven.  Many of the floors in America's oldest homes are original, and are tongue-nailed, tongue-and-groove.  A difference in how we do things and how they did things 200 years ago:  They used iron nails with smooth shanks, and drove them with only a hammer and a device called a nailset (used for sinking the nailhead below the surface).  We use a 2" flooring cleat with a serrated shank (below, left) and drive it with an industry-leading flooring nailer invented in the 1950's (below, right).

                          

The result is the same, best-quality flooring, installed with far greater speed, accuracy and with a better nail than was possible in years past.

 

Removal of tile, grout and slip-sheet, down to clean subfloor.

Next, moisture barrier is installed (we use 30lb. felt), followed by wood nailing strips called sleepers.  We used a planer to alter the thickness of the sleepers where dictated by the uneven nature of the subfloor.  The result is that the sleeper array is entirely level, and so the finished floor will be.

 

 

    

Next, installation of floorboards (left), followed by a three-step sanding using a random-orbit floor sander (right).

    

These particular cabinets were finished on-site, using an HVLP system and best-quality, water-based products.  The advantages to water-based products have increased greatly in recent years.  Among them are superior durability, absence of yellowing over time, safety of exposure to material, a distinct lack of odor, ease and speed of clean-up, and decreased cure time.  For more on finishes, Click Here.  

The kitchen island was designed, built and finished entirely on-site. The doors and drawers atop the island are being prepared for spray finish.