Kwila Desk


  This desk will be my first project implementing the technique of veneering. It is a desk with a fall flat work surface, and a post and panel construction. The post and panel style of building a cabinet is best used with veneered panels, because they have minimal expansion and contraction. This means that they will not bust open the posts and rails they are contained in. There will be two doors above the fall flat, and there will be two drawers below.

  As always, I started with a drawing, them adapted it to a three dimensional maquette.



  With the maquette, I felt comfortable with the dimensions and proportions, so I moved on to a full sized Mock up of wood and cardboard.


  With the mock up, I was able to work out the profiles, facets, and shaping of the posts and rails. The legs will be what has been called "Gumbi legs" that Krenov used to use on some of his work. the top section will be slightly smaller in footprint than the bottom, which creates a step in the vertical posts that will be transitioned by a chamfer. The rails will increase in size going down the desk to create a gravity in the piece.

  After working out the general dimensions of the posts and rails, I moved on to milling up some Kwila.


 I picked Kwila for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew I wanted a dark, straight grained wood, hopefully rift sawn (growth rings at a 45 degree angle in the board), and Ideally easy to plane. I know that Kwila is quite stable, and have seen it used before in post and panel constructed cabinets. Kwila is quite heavy, and of course when looking at the planks in the wood room, the best rift sawn planks were at the bottom of the stack. After working out a rough idea of how many board feet I needed of post and rail material I needed, I realized I would not be able to use any one single board. It was then a matter of fining two rifty boards that matched each other in color and grain tightness.
  At the end of the day picking through boards, I left two out, and left them there so I could see them with fresh eyes they next morning. 
  Coming back, they were just as similar in color as I had thought the day before. So that was it, They were my  boards. I then needed to cut them up. With each piece, I over cut in length and over milled in thickness and width, then stacked them on stickers to "relax". It takes a few days for the moisture levels inside the pieces to equalize with the humidity outside, and in that time they can twist, cup, and bow, which is why I over sized the pieces.


The panels will be veneered with Acacia on the exterior and Chestnut on the interior. The veneered panels start with a piece of Baltic Birch Plywood.


Then, a secondary wood is applied to the edges of the plywood so that joinery can go into solid wood. For hidden edges, I used poplar. 


Then, a veneer gets sized to fit the panel, and they get glued up and put in a press to apply even pressure across the surface.


It is a long process, and this piece has 13 panels.


After shaping the Kwila rails, they got grooved, as with the plywood panel, and got glued with a spline.



The side panel has a complicated interior, where it is chestnut on the bottom and acacia on top.


I then grooved that part, and put it on some more rails with splines.


The panels were left a little proud of the rails, so that I could plane everything flush after glue up.


with the sides glued up, I moved onto the legs. 
First I sawed them out roughly to the curve I wanted.


I then planed and planed away. I used a plane whose sole I rounded front to back to plane the curved section, and a smoothing plane for the flat sections.


The legs don't flare out at the top, that is just an illusion from the camera lens. They either look perfectly straight, or flaring.


The legs and other vertical kwila members get doweled onto the veneered side panels to create the sides of the desk:


The insides then need to be flattened and planed so that the horizontal members will sit flush when joined to the siedes.



Then, horizontal members are made by grooving the front and back rails and splining them onto the veneered panels for flat surfaces:


For the drop front hinge situation, each part of the desk has to have a shaped edge to fold together when the hinge is open:


All of the horizontal pieces then get holes drilled into their ends, and the rails on the sides get holes drilled using the same jig to ensure proper placement. Then the horizontal pieces and vertical pieces are glued together to create a three dimensional piece.







The two shelves are slid in from the front on splines in the sides.

The fall flap then needed to get shaped to create an even reveal around it wen closed.


The Last major hurdle is the drawers. The bottom drawer can ride along the bottom of the pocket, but the top drawer needs a frame called a "web frame" to rest on.


The drawer fronts got a veneer on their faces from the same piece of acacia veneer so that the grain will be continuous across them. The sides are then fit to the pocket where they will be.


The sides then get dovetailed to the fronts and backs. The fronts have a half blind dovetail so that the ends of the sides don't show on the front of the cabinet.


the pins are then transferred to the sides and cut very carefully. 


With the drawers made, I then started mocking up what kind of pulls I wanted to put on them.


After deciding on what pulls I wanted, I then attached them via mortise and tenon to the drawer fronts.

A coat of wax, some final fitting, and It was ready to present


The following photos were taken by David Welter

With the drop front open revealing the chestnut interior.

With the front Closed, a half mortised lock keeps it closed, with a custom escutcheon around the key hole that I made in sort of a coffin shape our of brass to mimic the tapered feel of this desk.

My hand carved drawer pulls. It took a long time to get this shape down. I found a similar design in one of Krenov's books that I really liked. First I tried carving a couple with gouges and chisels, but was only successful at chipping out the short grain "mushroom top". I then decided to try to machine them all at once for consistency. That was very unsuccessful. I then went back to the hand tools. This time I used my marking knife to score across the grain to prevent my paring from going too far. I used a roll of blue tape as a template to score against, so the front radius of the pull is the exact radius of the outside of my roll of blue tape at the time.


In the beginning of the year when we were practicing making our first dovetails I remember Laura coming by and saying that my pins were a little large. Ever since then people have been blown away at how small they are. I also ended up with a very thin (almost worrisome) web.




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