Step-back Cupboard Build #1: Lumber prep

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Blog entry by rwyoung posted 06-09-2009 06:04 AM 1276 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Step-back Cupboard Build series Part 2: Cutting and more gluing! »

I decided I need a nice place to keep some china what-not that has started to accumulate around here. My parents keep dropping off stuff that they have stored at their house, now it is getting stored in mine…

After much looking around and cogitation on the matter, I decided the first thing to make would be a cupboard, specifically a step-back cupboard. These are open on the top, and a closed cupboard on the bottom. Sometimes two pieces, other times one. Later I’ll look into making a side board/hunt board.

I found a neat looking design that is tall and narrow in the September 2003 issue of Fine Woodworking. The design and article is by Mike Dunbar and he based it on an original Shaker piece. His reproduction is pine, mine will end up being painted poplar because I can’t source decent pine locally. The only stuff is either 3” wide strips meant for moulding or BORG banana-boards. I suppose I could make it from carefully selected 2×4s, 2×6s and 2×8s but that would be way more work than it is worth and a killer amount of planing and re-sawing. Poplar it is.

Step one, draw plans on graph paper to help figure board feet to buy. OK, done. Need about 70BF, with at least 18 BF a full 4/4 or S2S’d 5/4 so I can make the sides a nice, flat, accurate 3/4” thick as that will set the tone for the rest. Having the sides flat and true will make the rest of the build much easier.

Step two, go get the lumber. Done. Got a good price on the 5/4 stuff of about $2/BF and around $1.40 for the 4/4 material. The 4/4 however was S2S’d to 13/16” which is a little thin for my taste. But it can be managed. More on that later.

Step three, start milling for the tall sides. The sides are 78” tall and in an “L” shape, the lower part is 36” tall and just over 17” wide with the upper 2/3 of the lenth at about 11” wide. Since I’m painting this I can make these parts in narrower strips, re-glue to make a larger blank and then plane as needed to get 3/4”. I have at my disposal a 6” jointer and a 12” planer. This means a little bit of creative panel making. Especially the 6” jointer as it has pretty short beds, being a bench top model. The trick is to make stacks of material to clamp to the bench as infeed and outfeed supports. Helps a lot! I happen to use a biscuit joiner to help me when making up panels. Remember, a biscuit doesn’t offer much strength here, just helps with alignment. I’ve found that if I do a careful job of cutting the slots I can have a flatter panel after the glueup. In this case, since I was working with 7/8” material at this point, I set up the fence on the biscuit joiner to center the biscuit in 7/8”. Later, after the glueup, when I mill to final thickness, I need to take off equal amounts from both sides to keep the biscuit centered in the board. Not a big deal but makes me feel better. Furthermore, I keep track of where the biscuits are by marking an unmilled edge of the panel so that later when it is time to trim for length, I can avoid hitting a biscuit. Again, in a painted piece this isn’t a big deal but just makes me feel better.

Step four, realize after gluing up about 2/3 of the material you somehow can’t do basic math and didn’t purchase enough pieces with 8 ft length. Doh! Get one more 5/4 board and finish the glue ups!

Step five, with the blanks complete, cut them to the proper length. The trick here is to clamp them edge to edge and make only a single cut at each end of the large blank. Cut close to the line with a cirular saw and then use a simple jig to clean the edges with a router and flush trim bit.

Important tool skills are:
1) measuring and marking
2) sharpening of blades (or honing as the case may be)
3) getting a good burr on the scraper
4) glue-ups without panic

I’m having fun!

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

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