Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tornado Bed: Another project completed

The Tornado Bed - I am extremely pleased with the results.

Finally! I have finished work on the Tornado Bed. Like all of my projects, it seems, this one which began in May took much longer than expected to complete, but I am happy that it is finished and I can move on to my next project. And while it went together very well, I did face one final challenge which had to do with applying the finish to the foot board.

A challenge
As a project develops, challenges will appear along the way and I had two significant ones with the Tornado Bed, both of which had to do with applying the color.

First, I had the issue with poorly stained finials as reported in this blog post. The fix for that was to make a new batch of finials and apply five coats of Charles Neil’s Pre-Color Conditioner prior to stain (click the photos for a larger view).

A second go around. New finials ready for another attempt with stain.

Much better color this time - still not perfect, but good enough.

In the second photo, you can see a much more even color, but the color is still not perfect. This is partly due to the design of the finials which means a lot of end grain is utilized. End grain aggressively absorbs stain resulting in a much darker color. The conditioner helped control this, but end grain being what it is; the result leaves a few noticeable spots of darker color. When attaching the finials to the posts, I simply made sure that the best surfaces faced forward.

The final challenge
I had a problem getting an even coat of conditioner applied to the surfaces of the foot board. Here is a lesson learned. In an earlier post, I email interviewed Nicholas Nelson about the virtues of pre-finishing components prior to glue-up. A quote from that exchange:

"Yes, I pre-finish components before any assembly when required, which is most, heh. It makes life a heck of a lot easier instead of trying to get a good finish in corners and such."

I think Nicholas is on to something. I pre-finished several parts of the head board assembly before glue-up and it went very well. Unfortunately this stroke of genius hit me after I completed glue-up of the foot board. I had considerable problems getting an even application of pre-stain conditioner in the corners where the cross members meet the posts. I also had a problem getting a uniform application of conditioner on some of the boards themselves.

After thinking through all my options, I decided to sand some of the foot board components back to bare wood. I then had to repeat the process (conditioner and stain) all over again taking extra care to get an even application of conditioner.

The lesson
I consider Charles Neil’s Pre-Color Conditioner the best of its kind, but naturally it has to be applied properly. Even with its milky color, it is hard to determine if the conditioner has been laid down uniformly. Basically, you have to view light reflecting off of it while wet. Areas that dry quickly will dull indicating the need of an additional brush stroke or two of conditioner.

This is not a problem with Charles Neil’s product; this would be the same with any conditioner and is more of an issue with the wood. But staining pine means extra steps in the process and more opportunities for errors. For me, from this point forward, I will do everything I can to keep from staining wood at all.

Here you can see the nice color of the wood; it is Minwax English Chestnut.

With all the stain and polyurethane applied, the overall color has a nice warm look. Yesterday, I cut the box spring slats, which was easy to do. With that completed, the bed is finished!

A close-up of the head board panels.

The finials turned out well.

The home this bed will reside in won’t be completed for a number of weeks, so for now, I’ll store at my house. I plan to have one final post with the bed set up in its new home and hopefully a photo of the new owners.

Here is the original design...

...and here is the completed bed.

I want to again thank those who made donations to this project. No telling what this bed would have cost if I had used something like walnut or cherry. I ran up quite a tab with less expensive select pine along with all the supplies for stain and finish. The donors were:
  • Mark and Amy LeJeune
  • Steve and Jane Bell
  • Jack and Mary Branch
  • Betty Branch
  • Jim Branch
  • Jason Herrick
  • James and Susan Dunlap
  • Mary Willis
I also want to again acknowledge Christopher Lindsay who, while I was building my Dad's TV Console, donated a thickness planer he no longer used. The Tornado Bed was really the first project in which the planer got much use. It proved to be vital to the success of the project.

Thank you also to everyone who offered encouragement during this build. And finally, I want to especially thank my wife for all of her support.

This project is being built in response to the historic tornado outbreak that occurred in Alabama on April 27, 2011. On that day, 63 tornadoes struck our state which claimed the lives of 247 people and caused between $2.45 billion and $4.2 billion in property damage (click the image at the right). The Tornado Bed will be given free of charge to a needy victim of the April 27th tornado event.

To view all posts on this project click here. This is post seventeen in this series.

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Jane Bell said...

What a fantastic job you did on this! I know you have a tremendous sense of pride in what you have accomplished and the reasons behind it are just wonderful.

Jeff Branch said...

Yes, seeing the bed set up with the comforter and pillows was a memorable moment for me. This was six months of hard work and I am really stoked about the finished product. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

David Scott said...

There is something about building a bed that is greater than just buying one. I guess because it tends to transcend time and take on a life of it's own.

Beautiful bed.

Jeff Branch said...

Thanks David!

Benjamen Johnson said...

The bed turned out great Jeff! It must feel great to be done and to know it'll really help someone out.

So what's the next project? said...

The finials look great! Is that your design or did you find inspiration elsewhere? I have not seen that shape before. Well done

Jason Herrick said...

Great job Jeff! What a great project for a great cause. Look forward to "the next one."

Jeff Branch said...

Benjamin - thanks! The next project will be finishing the crown molding for my dining room.

Chris - for the finial design, I copied it from a bed I saw in a magazine a long, long time ago. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Jason - Thanks for your encouragement during this build.