OK so we’re going to make a tree and set a box in it. Sounds pretty simple, just a different support system for just another box. How hard can it be? The challenge here is to reach the threshold of belief where the viewer’s eyes, which already want to see a tree, do see it and say “yup that’s a tree”. Anyone who has freehand turned legs for a piece of furniture will understand this. They don’t have to be identical. They just have to be close enough to allow the very forgiving eye of the viewer to concede that they are. Here the tree didn’t really have to look exactly like a tree, it just had to reach the threshold to be seen as a tree. Falling short of the threshold it would be seen as something like “I guess that’s supposed to be a tree”. It’s actually pretty easy to sketch a tree that looks enough like a tree that people recognize it as one so how hard can it be to sculpt one?
So lets get started. We’re going to need a trunk so we’ll glue up a cylinder and go from there. It should be thick walled because we’ll want to shape some kinks and curves in it to help with that threshold and we’ll want it to be off center like the sketch.
There are a couple of design parameters that loom when you come to turning the sketch into a cabinet support system. For one it has to support over the whole area of the weight bearing surface. For another it has to be robust enough to withstand the use and abuse it may have to endure over what you hope will be a long lifetime. These considerations will explain the long sturdy roots and thicker than sketched trunk. In this photo the bird’s mouth cylinder has been rough turned on the lathe, shaped on the bandsaw and faired out with a foam covered sanding drum in the old ShopSmith 10ER. Now I’m mortising for the roots.
Here the roots have been roughed out and fitted. Symmetry has been avoided to give it a “real” organic feel and the longest root has been left to the back side of the cabinet. So far so good but this is the easy part.
Looking at the last photo it is clear that the roots just don’t work fitting square into the trunk. Here I’ve chosen to try to present the illusion of the roots fairing into the trunk without going to the trouble of adding and sculpting a lot more parts in what is going to be an unnoticed part of the piece. Unnoticed that is as long as it “looks” right. I’m also starting to experiment with prospective trunk colors. This is burnt sienna aniline dye. It is probably worth saying here that I’m not going to try for the real color of a maple trunk, grey, because I don’t know if I could and I think it needs to be dark.
This is a bit of a jump. This part was definitely the hard bit. These are the second set of branches I made. The first set although very labor intensive weren’t “right”. They were too light and looked somehow alkward. I like these much better. Here I have established the cut off line for the branches and located the base of the box. It is perfectly level although you wouldn’t know from this photo.
And now on to the box. Why a mitered box instead of another type of corner joint? Because the whole box will be veneered inside and out and the veneers have to be applied before the box is assembled. The top to side. top to back and top to front veneer joints will all be continuous grain like a waterfall. One nice thing about a mitered box is that it is easy to dry assemble with a bit of packing tape as is done here. (at this piont the top is not yet mitered in and is just sitting in position)
And then there are the hinges. This is another new one for me. On Oops! I designed what I thought were “high degree of difficulty” hinges, but I really enjoyed the novelty of them and wanted to continue the theme of “different” hinges. I thought these would be easier than the Oops! hinges. Wrong! The problem occurs because of the number of individual blocks involved. I think they would be a piece of cake if you only had a few pieces but here there are two sets of twenty pieces in each hinge. The challenge is to get them to align. If you are a quarter of a degree off on each one, that will add up to five degrees difference in plane from one end to the other. It’s a much longer story than I want to get into here but suffice to say they were a good challenge and they worked out quite well in the end. They are pinned with 1/8” brass rod that can be removed for maintenance, cleaning, refinishing or whatever.
I think that’s it for tonight. Next time I begin to discover scroll saw marquetry.
Thanks for following and please, comment, critique or question. It’s how we all learn.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/