The resulting back panel which best meets the criteria of both aesthetics and function is the frame and panel back; a panel inset into a surrounding frame composed of rails and stiles. The frame and panel back is inset into the cabinet back much like a panel would be and in the process the frame and panel also provide some rigidity to the cabinet. In those situations where a single panel is too wide, a middle stile is installed to divide the frame into two halves, otherwise for smaller cabinets a single panel is sufficient. The panel itself can either complement or contrast the cabinet, providing an interesting focal point once the doors of the cabinet are opened, as well as drawing the eye to the pleasing back of the cabinet.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Much of my cabinet design and build process involves the creation of a cabinet back. Conventional wisdom says the back of a cabinet is not nearly as important as the front or sides, so it merely needs a panel which is rabbeted into the sides, top and bottom. The problem with this thinking is that it assumes the back of the cabinet will be placed against a surface or wall and never seen. This doesn't apply to all cabinets as many cabinets are designed as showcases which are away from walls, sometimes placed in the center of a room or even a foot or two away from a wall. Something also feels wrong about diminishing the importance of the back of a cabinet when so much emphasis is placed on the design and structure of the front and sides of the cabinet. With this in mind, the need for a more aesthetically nice cabinet back becomes important, along with the function that it introduces to the cabinet. An example of function is if the cabinet is a wall-mounted cabinet and needs a structurally strong back.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
In many of my cabinet assemblies I use dowels to attach the sides to the top and bottom. The use of dowels gives flexibility to the design of the corner joint. For example, I can offset the side panels away from the edge of the top or bottom and in the process work the protruding edge of the top and bottom into a shaped contour, chamfer, rabbet, etc. The alternative would be to use specific corner joints which need to have the side panel and top or bottom panel intersect right at the very edge. An example of this would be a dovetailed joint, a box joint, or a rabbet and lip edge. If you've ever read up on James Krenov and his work, you will find that he embraces the dowelled corner joint for these very same reasons. This is where I received the inspiration for this type of joint and its virtues.
Creating the doweled joint involves some measurement , but most importantly it involves the little jig you can see in the photo, the dowelling guide. This is a piece of wood with the exact dimensions of the panel I am dowelling, the length and thickness. The dowel holes are marked with arbitrary spacing and the dowel guide holes are bored out on the drill press. I use this dowelling guide to create the dowel holes on both of the mating surfaces , in this case the side panel and the top or bottom panel. There is some skill involved in aligning the dowelling guide to both surfaces since the holes for the dowels need to be perfectly aligned. Marking and orienting the dowelling guide to the correct edges becomes very important and I make many pencil marks in the process. The old adage, "measure twice , cut once" becomes "measure and mark three times, drill once". in this process.