The description of home-made furniture in this chapter has been confined to the making of the smaller pieces. Some of you boys may be disappointed not to find designs for a library-table, book-case, clock, Morris chair, and pieces of similar proportions, but letters received from readers since the publication of the handicraft book preceding this one, would indicate that small pieces are the more popular. Many boys cannot make large pieces of furniture because of the cost of material.
The Material to use in furniture making will be determined largely by what the local market offers. Perhaps you can get any kind of wood that you want. The quantity required for the furniture shown upon the following pages is small, and the difference in costs between the finer and commoner woods will be so little as to be almost negligible. The wood used in the models shown in this chapter is oak. Red oak and white oak are standard woods for furniture just as are mahogany and walnut. If you intend to finish the work with stain, nothing is better than oak or chestnut. Of the softer woods, white-pine, western-pine, cypress and whitewood are easily worked. With tools nicely sharpened, and, of course, no good workman uses tools that are not, hard woods are as easily worked as soft woods.
Finishing. The kind of finish to put on work will be determined by the kind of wood. If you use oak, chestnut, or other hard wood, having a pretty, open grain, do not paint it, because paint will conceal the grain markings. Instead, apply a finish that will accentuate the markings. The best method is to stain the surface, then shellac and varnish it, or simply wax it after staining. If you varnish the wood after staining it, the open grain must be filled with wood-filler before the varnish is applied, so the wood will present a smooth glassy surface. If you stain and wax the surface, filler is not necessary. Filling the grain conceals the markings to a certain extent.
You can buy ready-prepared wood stains in any colors wanted, at most paint stores. If you wish to, however, you can make up a stain that will answer the purpose every bit as well as a boughten stain, by thinning oil paint with turpentine. Pretty effects can be produced by rubbing oil paint of one color into the grain, then wiping the surface clean, and applying a turpentine stain made of oil paint of a contrasting color. The author does not want you to try out any such schemes as this on a completed piece of furniture, however. Use a waste piece of wood to experiment on, and be satisfied that you will like the results before applying stain to your work.
Soft wood has a close grain. If it has a well-defined grain, like cypress, stain will make a pretty finish. Shellacing and then varnishing is a method of finishing commonly applied to soft woods.
When it comes to finishing furniture with paint, whiteenamel makes a most desirable finish. Give the surfaces two coats of flat-white paint, then one coat of white-enamel. One difficulty with white-enamel is that unless the best grade is used it soon turns more or less yellow. Never thin white-enamel paint with linseed-oil, because this is bound to make it turn yellow; use turpentine as a thinning medium. Painting makes it possible to conceal defects to a certain extent, but do not do careless work with the idea that you can cover up with paint and putty and get away with it. You can't do it. You are not a good enough camouflage artist to hide defects in work that is to be inspected at close range. Putty is to be used as a means of filling nail holes, over the heads of countersunk nails, and for filling in around joints. Work it in after the first coat of paint has dried. It holds better then, because the holes and joints are partly filled with paint.
Before you apply any finish to work, be certain that all surfaces have been gone over thoroughly with sandpaper and made smooth.