Madrone Cabinet

  My first project at College of the Redwoods Fine Furniture program is going to be a wall cabinet.
  After a lot of pondering and sketching, I came up with this design:

  It will have a coopered (curved) door, wedged through tenons where the top and bottoms meet the sides, and what we have been calling "owl's ears" on the top and bottom.

  After making a sketch, I made a little 1/4 scale maquette to get a three dimensional representation of the cabinet to judge it's proportions.



  After getting my maquette to a proportion I liked, I started looking at woods. I had Madrone in my mind for a while, and after finding the right board and hearing how much of a dream it was to work, I knew it had to be Madrone.


  Next, I moved on to making a full scale mock up of my cabinet out of cardboard.

    

  With my mock up all made up, I decided to pull my plank of Madrone out again and take a look at the grain pattern to decide which parts should come from where in the board. I made some rough gestural lines with chalk to show how the grain acted.
  

After looking at what the grain direction was in the board, I had to plan out what pieces of my cabinet were coming from where on the board. I then started to cut away.

 I knew the front door would be coopered, and would be the first part of the cabinet to be built. I took my widest section with straight grain on either side and cut it into staves. I then hand planed an acute angle on the edges of the staves, so that when I glue them back together they would have an arc to them. After waiting for the glue to dry, I scooped the inside shape out with a coopering plane until I had a 5/8 inch depth to my arc. I then planed the outside face with my block plane to match the interior curve.



With the door more or less done I moved onto the walls of my carcase. Mortises are cut before tennons, so because my top, middle  and bottom are tenoned into my walls, I started with the wall mortises.

I planned out mortise sizes so that the ratio of wood to hollow is equal across the widtch of the board.
I then picked 3 chisels just under the dimensions of the mortise. I created a mortise just a bit smaller than the one I planned to have, so that I could pare the walls of it down to perpendicular with the board face.


With the mortises cut, I moved onto the cutting the top, middle, and bottom to length, and get ready for tennons. 


To see how much the tenons would deflect with a wedge, I did a test on some madrone scraps with an over sized mortise.
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I then moved onto the real thing. 

After cutting the tenons with a hand saw, I pared the sides of the tennons until they fit snugly into their mortises.

To look at how the shoulders of the tennoned pieces met with the inside faces of the carcase walls, I needed to press everything together and search for gaps.


Once my shoulders were planed to flush, I put in the door to trace the curve to cut on the front of the horizontal pices. 

The top, bottom, and middle I took to the band saw to rough out the curve. I then used my spokeshave to fair out the curve.

When the curve was smoothed out, I assembled the carcase to bevel the sides to the same curve.


I used a plane on the sides, and a fine file on the top, middle, and bottom to keep their curved faces square and flush with the sides' curve.


After getting the front edges all flush, neat, and clean, I worked on the bottom shelf. I wanted to put a scoop in it so that it could hold things better than if it had a flat surface. Because I wanted the dip to follow the front profile I had to create my own scraper. I used a coopering plane to get most of the bulk out, then ground an old plane iron to the shape I wanted the front edge of the dip to be, then followed the profile's curve until I have a decent and smooth scoop.



With the glue up approaching, I started carving my "owl ears" on some off-cuts. I carved the rough shape with a gouge, then cleaned it up with a carving knife.



Mocked up on the cabinet with the door, here is how it looks:


I then dressed the ends of the tennons.


I still left the tennon ends so that they would sit proud of the cabinet side when put together, so that the final shaping can be done after the carcase is assembled and the wedges have been pounded in.

Because my my wedges are going in at an angle, they need to have their ends shaped to fit into the corners of the mortises.


Cutting the mortises by hand made each one a slightly different size, which meant every wedge needed to be shaped specially to fit a single mortise. 



This involved using a shooting board with a ramped bed to plane down the edges of the wedges. Two ramps were needed, one for the small wedges, and one for the large wedges. Each ramp could be used on one face for an acute angle, and on another face to make an obtuse angle (Because my tennons are not square, the wedge's corners are not 45 degrees, but are perpendicular to each other.

With the wedges shaped, I finished every surface of the cabinet with shellac, because it is easier to be done while the parts are not assembled.

Because the process of bringing all of the tennon's shoulder home, then pounding the wedges in would take so long, I couldn't use regular white glue. Plastic resin glue has an open time of three hours, which was plenty of time to do what I needed to do, and needed a 70 degree temperature to cure, with curing time that reduces with increasing temperatures.


I was able to do one set of tennons into a side, let it cure, then do the two others on that same size, let it cure, then bring on the other side to do the last three at once. the whole glue up took three.

Then the wedges needed to be trimmed off, and then shaped with the ends of the tennons.


After three more days of cleaning up the ends of those tennons, they sit just proud of the sides 1/16 of an inch.


With the carcase fully assembled, I moved onto a back panel. I chose to make a frame and panel back for my cabinet with a Madrone frame and Doussie panels. I chose to put in three panes; one for behind the drawers, one above the drawers and below a shelf, then one above the shelf. Dividing the back into multiple panels makes the components like drawers and shelves more grounded to the cabinet than floating inside.


I then had to move on to dovetailing. It took me a couple tries to get this right. My first set of drawers were practices to get used to the materials I was using and a technique I had not used in a few weeks. I chose to make my drawer fronts out of doussie (like my back panels), and the drawer boxes and sides of camphor.
  Camphor is very soft for being a hardwood, but smells amazing. It is used traditionally as drawer boxes and chest interiors because of it's wonderful smell. 
  
  After my second attempts, I arrived at these two boxes:

After some further paring work I glued them up. At first they did not fit into my drawer pockets (as I planned), so I started to plane their sides.
  Here at College of the Redwoods, we are taught how to give our drawers "let go". This "let go" is when a drawer pulls easily until the back end, where it tightens up and prevents pulling out. This is achieved by having a pocket in the carcase for drawers as a slight parallelogram, and the drawer being a slightly shallower parallelogram.
  So after a while of planing, scraping, and sanding, I ended up with two drawers that fit into my cabinet nicely.


Pulled out, you can see my dovetails:


With my love of traditional techniques, I modified a variation of fancy dovetails that I have seen before. In some traditional English furniture every other pin in a dovetail is half the length of the others, but I found that when using that for my top drawer, that the only way to aesthetically match it with my bottom drawer was to keep the two middle pins as short ones.

 Once my drawers were fitted, I moved onto drawer pulls. Ever since I got my first Krenov book, I was amazed at what he did with drawer and door pulls. From the start of this project I started studying in depth the kind of pulls that he put on his work. 
  The pulls are the most interactive parts of a cabinet  So I wanted to design something that was inviting and pleasing to grab. After a few iterations I came up with a curved pull.



On the bottom I chose to put some gouge tracks for texture:


I then chopped them off at the back of their tenons and glued them into mortises I put in the drawer fronts.


So mocked up without the door on, here is what the whole thing looks like:


Then It was just a matter of making hinges, and fitting the door. The hinges I made out of brass, cut from flat bar, and shaped to make to leafs of a knife hinge. I then planed my door to fit, and put mortises in to fit the hinges.
  Once the door was hung, I added a friction latch, added a patina to all of the brass components, and finished shellacking everything.



Once finished...

 Here is how she looks on a wall


and with the door open



The door pull with gouge texture:



The end of the hinge that protrudes (I made it hexagonal as opposed to completely round, which is traditional, to complement the rectangularity of my tenon ends):



The inside of the brass hinges with patina:



My friction latch, which has a spring above it to gently hold my door shut:


And the bumber that keeps my door from sagging under the pressure of the spring from the friction latch: 


My drawer fronts with their pulls:


The carved out "owl ears". 


My wedged tenons (I kept my scribe lines horizontally as a reference to the fact that I choppet this detail by hand):



My scooped bottom shelf:



After nearly 600 hours spent on this cabinet, and a complete emotional roller coaster, I am glad to be done, but sad to have nothing more to add or fix. 
  When thinking about a name for this piece, for some reason the name Lucinda comes to mind. So Lucinda she shall be named.
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