Tall or Wide?

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Project by JL7 posted 03-18-2011 10:06 PM 3266 views 16 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a special project for me – it was commissioned by my Aunt, who is a huge supporter of my work. She basically said build 2 things, whatever you want so she can pass them down to her 2 sons and their families.
Since I’m not much of a planner, I just started building the little drawers (from the tall version) and not really knowing what I was going to do with them. Then came the rounded corners and the case design.

Once the tall one was nearly complete, the idea of the wide version came about. Sure would have saved a ton of time had I thought of it earlier!

Dimensions: Tall – 5-1/4”w x 16-1/2”h x 4-1/2”d, Wide – 9-1/4”w x 8-3/4”h x 4-1/2”d.

Nearly all the wood (except for the Lacewood) came out of the cutoff bin. All the drawer fronts are hardwood flooring scraps. I’m certain that using a dozen or so different types of wood on these projects is a bit controversial, but that’s the way it worked out here… just evolved that way.

Wood List:
Cabinet tops and bottoms – Curly Hard Maple
Cabinets Sides – Lacewood (tall), Curly Red Oak (wide)
Drawer Fronts – Hard Maple, Tigerwood, Eucalyptus, Rosewood, Jatoba, Cherry
Drawer Sides and Backs – Curly Soft Maple (from lumber I milled and dried 2 years ago)
Drawer Slides – Yellowheart
Drawer Pulls – Zebrawood
Drawer Bottoms and Case Backs – Figured Claro Walnut
Rear Divider (wide) – Brazilian Chestnut

The variable spaced box joints were all done on the new Incra table, and the accuracy achieved is really improved using a dead flat table. Because the joints were all tight, I was able to round over the corners with no tear-out.

The finish is all new to me – Shellac with Trans-Tint Dark Vintage Maple dye for the case tops – sand it down good and the Maple really pops – this is really an amazingly good technique and my crappy pictures really don’t do justice. Everything then received a coat of blond Shellac as a seal coat, followed by 3 coats of Arm-R-Seal (Oil and Urethane). Finished it off with the Beall Wood Buff to really make it shine.

I posted the Beall Wood Buff info here along with a sanding board I built, and this was a good project to utilize both. The sanding board really speeds up the process of finishing the little drawers and prevents the edges from getting rounded over.

As usual the mistakes were made along the way – the tall version has round corners for the case back and the wide version is square – oops. Another reason one setup is better than two! The tall one also has a little bigger drawer gap in the center – oops again. Also had some tear-out cutting the notches for the drawer pulls on the first setup – but made some improvements the second time around.

Here’s a couple more photos:

Thanks for looking and appreciate your comments.



UPDATE – 04-03-2011 – Thanks to Eric (EPJartisan) for the great suggestions for improving the back of the fat cabinet (Fernando’s words). I was wrong in my note below – the back is 3/16” thick and there is a 3/32” gap between the back of the drawers and the back, so enough room to improve the back design.

I build an “H” cross section piece out of Brazilian Chestnut for the center divider and cut shallow notch in the top and bottom peices set it in.

Then cut the back in two and put a shallow rabbet on each half to set into the “H”. There is a 1|16” of play on each. Will glue the outside edges and let the middle float.

Photos below:

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

24 comments so far

View kellerbomb's profile


12 posts in 2722 days

#1 posted 03-18-2011 10:19 PM

The “oops” just mean that the projects are unique. Very nice design, and picking the figured wood is always a “win”. Well done.

View rowdy's profile


375 posts in 3471 days

#2 posted 03-18-2011 11:03 PM

Very interesting. I like the tall one best.

-- Rowdy in Kechi, Kansas

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3154 days

#3 posted 03-19-2011 12:41 AM

Those are really great, the wood contrasts are beautiful. I have a question: How much space did you allow for the walnut back to move? Especially for the smaller of the two.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2994 days

#4 posted 03-19-2011 01:15 AM

Thanks for all the great coments…...appreciate it.

e – that’s a really good question – the backs are not acually fastened on yet – just friction fit for now. In hind sight, I am kicking myself becasue I should have made them free floating (like the drawer bottoms) using a tongue and groove. Instead they are just captured in a simple rabbet. I am open for suggestions here, was thinking of maybe drilling some oblong holes for small dowels or wedges of some sort, but can’t quite see that happening very nicely…

If I just glue them in place it will probably not end well? Would do you think?


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View abie's profile


875 posts in 3800 days

#5 posted 03-19-2011 04:06 AM

Great Job
I especially like the handles
gives me an idea of how to make one for my box to be shown soon.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2994 days

#6 posted 03-19-2011 05:10 AM

Hey Bruce – thanks for the comments – I will keep my eyes peeled for your new posting….

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View steliart's profile


2700 posts in 2717 days

#7 posted 03-19-2011 10:51 AM

great work on them, i like the tall best

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of all inventions

View Jason's profile


659 posts in 3537 days

#8 posted 03-19-2011 02:45 PM

Those are some great looking boxes. I like the fact you used a number of different woods. Helps add character if you ask me.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Jason - Colorado Springs

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2917 days

#9 posted 03-19-2011 03:42 PM

I love the fact that instead of hiding the joints, you decided to celebrate them!

For the back problem, how about cutting a rabbet into the backs around the edges then use cleats to hold them, much like you’d put glass in a case door? It would solve the movement problem by allowing the backs to float and you could use yet another wood for the cleats to keep with the theme of celebrating the joinery.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View sras's profile


4812 posts in 3158 days

#10 posted 03-19-2011 06:23 PM

Beautiful work! I like the lacewood sides on the tall one. I like BigTiny’s cleat idea – it could work out nicely. Thanks for sharing

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 2856 days

#11 posted 03-19-2011 06:37 PM

wonderful design


View Mcnervy's profile


108 posts in 3133 days

#12 posted 03-20-2011 12:24 AM

These are fantastic
incredible design augmented by great wood selection
nicest jewlery tower I have seen
Great project

-- Bennett; If it can't be fixed with a hammer its an electical problem

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2994 days

#13 posted 03-20-2011 05:11 PM

Wow – thanks for all the great comments.

Big Tiny – The back panels are really thin to start with: ~1/8”... That doesn’t leave alot of room for a cleat but I am still considering the concept – thanks for the tip. I will likely just glue the back on the tall version and call it good. The wide one needs more thought.

The Lacewood on the tall version really does go better than the Oak. I have plenty of Lacewood and probably should have used that on the wide one also. I was aware of the risk at the time, but the story behind the Oak was it came from some REALLY rough boards that were stored outside for a couple of decades that I picked up for almost free on CL. When I found the 2 little boards in the cutoff pile with the curly waterfall grain, they were nearly the correct size for the project, so I went for it…..

Thanks again for all the comment.


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3154 days

#14 posted 03-20-2011 11:32 PM

I think the 1/8” stock will most likely warp and crack before stressing your box joints. lol,

This may be an easy fix… cut them in half plus an amount for movement, and peg them to the case sides leaving a space in the middle. I would make a little “T” shaped spline (out of the walnut stock if possible) to run down the back and cover the movement space. Tack the strip at the top and bottom, but free floating, yet if you have room for it, put another thin board (horizontal but on the inside and halfway down the back) for additional support between the spline and the backing. Should be 4 cuts and 2 extra thin boards, no glue.

If you gather what I mean… the flat side facing out, the “T” between the back pieces, small cross piece to hold rigid at the mid-point. It is the back and does not need to be resistant to impacts like the front and sides will… 1/8 does not offer much for strength either.. so go with an easy fix that can add more interest for anyone who peeks at the back.

Say, How did you get the figured walnut so thin without tearing that grain to shreds? Love to compare techniques.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2994 days

#15 posted 03-20-2011 11:55 PM

Hey Eric – great suggestion thanks….I understand what you are describing and it makes sense. I will have to see how much clearance I have inside the case – I didn’t leave much space behind the drawers.

I aquired a decent size stack of this figured walnut from CL and it is all 1/4” or thinner. I did acually get away with running it through the planner a few times, but used the drum sander for the final thicknessing.


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

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