As you may recall, in the summer of 2020, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) asked me to build a Welsh Dresser for her Christmas present. I managed to finish this beast and get it installed in our home with just days to spare (see Squirm No More: All Is Revealed!).
I had thought this would be the end of my woodworking activities for a while. However, sometime around the beginning of September this year (2021), Gina asked if I could build her some plant stands. She even showed me a picture of what she was looking for — three matching stands around 1-foot, 2-feet, and 3-feet tall.
Well, it has to be acknowledged that I do enjoy hanging out with my friend Carpenter Bob at his workshop, so I thought “Why not?” As always, of course, I spent far too much time overthinking things, but eventually I had a large piece of a cardboard salvaged from an old box covered with rough sketches of the contours of the three central poles and a shape for the feet that I found pleasing to the eye.
Sad to relate, I just realized that I didn’t take any pictures of the three poles or the platters being turned on the lathe (bummer). Oh well, it’s too late now. While I was turning the platters, I started to think that the original stands have a rather simplistic appearance, so I decided to up the ante a bit. I had a quick Google while no one was looking, and I found an image of a Celtic knot that seemed appropriate for the task at hand (this was a low-resolution image of only around 200 pixels square, which explains why it looks a bit rough here).
Once I’d finished turning the platters, I loaded the Celtic knot image into Paint.net and scaled it up to the desired size (6.75” diameter, as I recall). I then used a piece of typewriter carbon paper to trace this knot onto the three platters. The next step was to carve out the lines forming the knots. At a first glance the results look three dimensional, but this is just a trick of the eye — the platters remain flat with lines carved into them.
One final task was to add the stippling effect. Carpenter Bob has a piece of steel bar a few inches long with a cross-section of about 0.25”. Into one end he’s cut lines at 90° to each other leaving a matrix of small pillars about 1 mm square. All I had to do was hit this with a mallet to impress the dots into the wood as shown above. Although this may not look like much here, the carved lines and these dots hold the final stain, and the dots add a nice texture effect.
The image to the left below shows the three stands following the first fitting of the legs (at this stage, the legs haven’t been given their finishing touches). This part was a tad tricky because I used dovetail joints to attach the legs, and the inside of the legs had to follow the curve of the central pole. The poles themselves are about 2.25 inches in diameter. The top of the poles, which you can’t see in these images, look a bit like tiered wedding cakes. First, I reduce them to a 1-inch diameter that allows the small support disks to sit on the top of the poles. At the very top, I reduced them to a 0.5-inch diameter to attach the main platter. Once everything is glued together, the result is to provide strong supporting platforms for whatever ends up being placed on the stands.
The image to the right above shows the stands following staining and polishing. One thing I just realized looking at this image is that the small stand appears to be leaning to one side, but this is just a distortion caused by my smartphone camera. I measured all three platters with a clinometer before finally gluing everything together (in case I needed to make any final adjustments) and again after everything was glued, and none of them were more than 1° from being perfectly horizontal.
The wood itself is poplar, while the stain I decided to use is walnut. The image to the left below shows the final treatment of the legs. All I did was to apply a small rollover to the upper edges along with two thin grooves. Also, I added endcaps to the bottom of the columns to cover the dovetail joints (I turned these endcaps as part of the columns themselves).
The image to the right above shows the top of the small stand. This really illustrates how the hand-carved grooves forming the Celtic knot — along with the little stippling holes — hold the stain to provide a nice amount of contrast. The final seal and polish make everything look rather spiffy.
I’m happy to report that these stands were a Christmas success. The only problem is that Gina thinks they are too nice to use for plants. In addition to not wanting any water to damage them, she wants the carvings to show. As a result, they are currently in our family room carrying candles and vases.
So, what’s next on the woodworking front? Well, Gina just informed me that what we really need to make our lives complete is a nice piece of furniture that looks like a chest of drawers in the same style as the Welsh Dresser. However, the front needs to be able to open allowing the user to pull up a chair and use the top as a sewing table, as part of which the sewing machine itself needs to smoothly rise out of the base (I wonder if this effect would be improved by dry ice and multicolored lighting effects).
So, we can all look forward to a follow-up column next Christmas. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts you’d care to share regarding this year’s offering?