The Greenwich Frame, Part III: Plugging Away

Following the sanding, I moved on to the part I was most leary of: the ebony plugs. Just getting the ebony had proven an issue. I had taken too long ordering it from Bell Forrest, and through no fault of theirs I wasn't set to receive it until two days after I needed it. Forced to find it locally, I turned to woodfinder.com and found Exotic Woods USA in Northport, about 20 minutes from my house. A quick call and trip up there resulted in 3 nice ebony pen blanks. Using the technique shown in Kelly Dunton's recent Fine Working article the narrow ebony sticks proved easy to cut. I then used Marc's pillowing technique. By pillowing, cutting and repeating I was easily able to make 10 (1 test, 8 real & 1 spare) little ebony plugs.
Pillowed plugs, ready for action.
Luckily, I had ordered my Veritas square hole punch in time. Following the simple included directions it proved quick & easy to make 8 simple shallow square plug mortises. The key is to square the hole punch before making the hole, so that you’re plugs will sit square to your stock. Since on of each pair of the shallow mortises ran into a Domino mortise, I dry fit Dominos to provide a backing and prevent blow-out that could have later prevent the Domino from fitting.

Achieving perfect, square holes was quite simple with the Veritas Square Hole Punch

You can fit square holes over round pilot holes.
No that the rails and stiles were ready, I proceeded to glue-up. With only 4 Domino joints, glue up proved very easy and only required two parallel clamps and an empty bench. I ended with a bit more glue sqeeze out than I would have liked, and there is a wisp of light visible between the edge of one rail and the connecting stile, but as the glue cleaned up easily and the light disappears once the matting was installed in the frame I’ll call it a successful glue up.
A fairly stress free glue up.
The final pieces to be assembled were the ebony plugs. To install them I pared the sides of each plug slightly so they would fit in the mortises and applied a small amount of Tightbond III glue into the mortises. Then I fit in the plugs and drove each down with a wooden mallet. Since I made each plug and mortise by eye, they’re slightly even, but probably not enough for any one to notice.
The Walnut becomes even richer in tone during the finishing process.
For finish I used blond shellac. I applied 6 coats of a 1 lb cut. Rather than go through the work of mixing my own shellac flakes (I could be missing something here, but that seems way too much like work) I instead used Kenneth’s fantastic Woodshop Widget to determine how much I should dilute some Zinnser shellac to get to a 1 lb cut. I applied the shellac with a rag and sanded it with synthetic steel wool before and after the final coat.


See the frame take shape
The Greenwich Frame, Part I: Design
The Greenwich Frame, Part II: Fabrication Begins
Dyami PlotkeFrames6 Comments