Thorsen House Cabinet #3: Basic Component Appraisal

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Blog entry by EläväPuu posted 11-26-2014 10:07 AM 1908 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Preliminary CAD plan and design specifics Part 3 of Thorsen House Cabinet series Part 4: Joinery Considerations »

Things have started to fit into place, if you forgive the awful phrasing. Specifically, I have been identifying exactly which parts of the original cabinet correspond to either fundamental components (“top”, “muntin”, “skirt”, “side”, “base”, etc.) or parts built upon those fundamental pieces such as door frame moulding. A lot of this was done by careful examination of the relatively limited materials available and basic sense checking; for example you would not hack away 50% of a ridiculously-large piece of stock just to achieve a small bead! Whilst I cannot claim to be reproducing the Thorsen cabinet with a huge degree of accuracy, I do believe that by concentrating on the details that an excellent distillation can be achieved.

The most obvious example here would be the crown moulding (sorry, my terminology may be incorrect – do correct me in the comments), which seems to be two immediately-visible steps above the cabinet’s body and one single step forming the basis for the single beading above the doors. As discussed previously, it is my opinion that this helps to allay the “stack of books” effect by locking in the otherwise-separate top to the main body of the cabinet itself. The soft and organic nature of the Thorsen cabinet seems to stem from the removal of overly-obvious transitions from one part to the next, especially in how the whole unit is an integral part of the wall from the pantry to the hallway door frames. It is relatively simple to treat the top as a separate piece, however referring back to the ThisIsCarpentry video on YouTube ( at 0:56 it is fairly easy to see that the top fits right into the cabinet with five distinct levels! Whilst being a complex set of steps to cut across the entire top, it does provide answers to a few basic constructional questions.

Similar to the top, the sides and vertical dividers each contain their own door mouldings and external bead which increases material bulk considerably. Unless I have missed this, I do not see the cabinet’s opening back out behind any of the mouldings other than below the doors. Suddenly I am starting to consider the sheer weight of this piece; it might well be that I have to include the upper and lower dado rails as part of the design since I do not have the luxury of insetting this into a wall! A current estimate for dividers – including the various mouldings – is surprisingly thick with the cabinet sides weighing in similarly-larger than they immediately appear. The top itself consists of five levels. My current model uses a 12mm top level, 4mm first relief, 3mm bead, 6mm outer door stop, 1mm back-bevelled door recess and a 4mm rear door stop. The back bevel is currently at its bare minimum (actually, 0,96mm) to achieve a secure piston fit. Likely this will be increased for “visual acknowledgement” of the bevels presence.

Outside of these two primary parts for the cabinet, the rest is relatively straightforward! The finger-jointed skirt serves to hide the lower part of the carcass and hence the transitions between the horizontal and vertical parts. The lower base board appears to be recessed under the skirt by a few mm. The only remaining question is the moulding around the base of the doors. Does this extend right to the base? I suspect that it does. This would make the entire skirt a separate non-functional property of the cabinet. What can be seen is that the rear half of the front skirt is cut away to accommodate the lower moulding and from underneath the base can be seen extending into this same cutaway. This simplifies matters somewhat as the skirt can be more or less forgotten about until the cabinet is completed!

I’m feeling quite satisfied with my analysis of how the cabinet is/was built. It seems a pragmatic way of turning what is otherwise a standard box into a piece with several levels of detail. The weight of the piece – both structurally and gravitationally – ties in beautifully with the nautical theme of the Thorsen House. The dining room on the whole bears passing resemblance to an officer’s mess aboard a lavish wooden beam sailing ship. Shame that this observation was made before I noted it myself. Curses! Functionally the cabinet is strong and well-built; certainly the sort of build you would expect for a lockable display despite the weak point of the glass itself!

Okay, so enough of my musings. I hope this has opened up some interesting points and ideas for further discussion. If anybody has additional information they’d like to bring to the table (no, that’s another project….) then you are warmly encouraged.

- Carl

_PS. Apologies for the lack of photos. I have many stashed, however I seem to have lost the sources; I don’t feel comfortable re-posting them without appropriate accreditation.

-- "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"

2 comments so far

View sras's profile


4790 posts in 3091 days

#1 posted 11-26-2014 07:16 PM

No one can ever say that the Greene’s were skimpy with materials!

One possible solution for the weight could be a french cleat.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View EläväPuu's profile


31 posts in 1243 days

#2 posted 11-26-2014 08:11 PM

Thanks Steve – French cleats are definitely on the cards. More than likely we’ll also add in a dado rail to the room specifically for the support assist from underneath the cabinet. Initial hang from the French cleats and then positioning the dado, perhaps.

The old world wood the Greenes/Halls had access to was astounding in comparison to the modern day. Our mental conception of the size of those old monsters just doesn’t exist any more! It’s amazing enough to see a huge plainsawn slab near the heart these days, such as the broad slabs at George Nakashima’s old stores. Even then, the magnitude of truly old trees dwarfs anything we see these days. Lumberjacks must have been something else back then.

-- "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"

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