A good friend of mine is getting married and part of the announcement included the locations they were gift registered at. I called him up and told him that I was happy for him but I wasn’t going to shop at some store for a gift and he should expect something I made for him. He had commissioned me to build him a cherry Morris chair and Ottoman in the past so I made some suggestions (coffee table, side table, headboard, etc) that would match his furniture. He thought about it for a bit and then sent me a couple emails of cabinets that they liked and listed them in order of favorites. I took one look at his number one pick and thought “I can make that!”. LOL.. How many woodworking tales have begun from such an innocent thought? So here are the two pictures he sent me:
I liked the style and I liked the challenge implied in the build. What I didn’t like was the fact that the only dimensions I could find on the cabinet were simply internal dimensions and nothing else. I unsuccessfully searched for more plans and/or dimensions without success, but I did find a picture supposedly of the original piece:
The main differences between the two seem to be minor shape changes with the cloud lifts and bottom stretcher profiles and the original most assuredly has the G&G ebony splined breadboard top while the reproduction piece seems to have opted for an aesthetic ebony spline only. Hard to tell from just these pictures but that’s what I think. And of course the original has door pulls while the repro seems to use the push-open/push-close magnetic catches at the top and bottom.
I was able to upload the first two pictures into Sketchup and used that software to set the perspective on the piece and using the only dimensions known to extrapolate, roughly, the dimensions of the individual pieces. So armed I set forth to build the box.
My first problem was that the height of the box exceeded my short bed jointers ability to accurately straighten an edge and, remembering my early adventures in woodworking without jointing, knew that without straight edges the whole thing wasn’t going to work out well at all. My father in law had given me a very old #8 Stanley and coupled with a straight edge I got down to business. Only took me about three hours work to joint all eight pieces.
Of course my straight edge wasn’t long enough to cover the entire edge (65”) so I had to fudge it a bit however things turned out pretty darned straight. And yes, I know that there are other options for accomplishing this task, but something about the piece made me want to use hand tools when possible. I think it’s called mental illness or perhaps masochism.
I next turned to my options for making those eight pieces into four 90 degree corners. I considered a rabbet and butt joint affair as too weak, I thought about a fancy groove and rabbet joint but trial pieces convinced me that there was too much room for error. I was going to go for a splined miter but was finally led to the lock-miter router bit. I had not heard much good about those bits in the past because they have a reputation for being fiddly and fussy at setup. I am happy to relate, however, that those stories are completely true. Ultimately the rewards for about 10 minutes of setup work paid off in a very strong and most importantly, self aligning miter along the entire edge. Note to those inclined to glue up a 65” long joint…bring LOTS of clamps!
IMPORTANT SHOP TIP FROM UNCLE DYNABLUE Pay close attention to the direction of the little interlocking stubs the router bit creates. Clamp one way and you pull the two snugly together; clamp crosswise and you risk snapping off those pieces and having to redo your work.
Clamp to to bottom in this picture:
NOT top to bottom in this one!!
Don’t ask me how I found out about that because my therapist says I’m not ready to discuss such things yet.
Next blog covers the joys of cloud lifts and side stretchers.
Thanks for reading!
-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....