Saturday, November 1, 2008

Drawer completion...

The three drawers are fairly complete now. There is some back and forth between my bench and the cabinet to test fit each of the drawers and tune them to their respective openings, almost like a ballet. Everything went smoothly with relatively minor tuning and fitting. I don't have the drawers too tight in their opening to allow for seasonal changes in movement of the wood. I had the drawer fronts just a tad proud of the opening and dialed them in just so.

I normally don't attach the back of the cabinet until the later stages of completion, but it's been such a long time with this particular cabinet, I guess I did permanently attach the back panel months ago. The small problem this introduces is that I cannot fit the drawers in completely for there is no way to get them out again without a pull on the drawer fronts. Fortunately, the fit was so good that a strip of masking tape is all I needed to pull the drawers out from their fully closed positions.

There is considerable hand tool work involved in fitting the drawers, but relatively no dust is generated, just fine shavings. I also prepared the bottoms for the drawers by rabbeting a solid wood panel on three sides. The rabbeted portion fits into the groove on the drawer front and sides. The drawer bottoms are easily removed for any reason which might come up. I also loosely attach the drawer bottom to the back of the drawer to allow for some wood movement between seasons. In the photo, the lipped drawer in the foreground has the bottom partially installed with rabbets and grooves visible. Next I make the final test fitting of the drawers and install the cabinet interior divider I prepared in the meantime.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Drawer fitting...

The work of assembling and fitting the individual drawers into the drawer openings has begun. I work on one drawer at a time, assembling and fitting the back and bottom of the drawer. I also purposely leave the back a bit proud in order to tune the length of the drawer so that the drawer front is flush with the opening. The sides of each of the drawers are slightly proud also, just enough to be able to smooth the sides down uniformly with the drawer front. I find it important to orient the grain direction of the sides so that the grain is inwards from the front, this helps the handplaning part greatly. Also, these ever so slightly oversized measurements greatly reduce the chance for error in fitting and it all works out in the end.

I have also installed the rabbeted backs and pinned them to the sides, greatly enhancing the strength of the joint. The bottoms are custom fit to each drawer although most of the drawer bottom measurements are almost identical. I have oriented the grain of the drawer bottoms from front to back, this will allow for expansion and contraction of the bottom, or wood movement.

In the photo, the drawer at the front is the lipped drawer. I have left this one for last as fitting it involves an extra step of tuning the drawer front for a perfect fit with the lower drawer of the right hand drawer compartment. Most of my handplaning is done over at my bench at the other end of the shop and all of my dovetail work on this bench, I think it has mostly to do with the height of the benches, this lower one is more conducive to dovetailing, at least for me..

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Drawer joinery...

Over the past day, I have been creating the joinery for the cabinet drawers. The joinery at the front is half-blind or lapped dovetails, whereas the back of the drawers is assembled with pinned rabbets. In the photo I have created grooves for the bottom in one drawer. The location of the groove is situated over a tail so as not to cut into the corresponding pin of the drawer front. A little trial and error measurement is necessary here, but it all works out in the end. The drawer sides have been purposely left a bit longer than necessary to be trimmed later and fitted with the drawer back. I will continue to work on the other drawer components and leave the lipped drawer last, as the measurements and offsets on this particular drawer are differently located. I like to plan ahead when creating dovetail joinery and mark all the components extensively, including the board orientation and reference faces and edges. It is very easy to get confused otherwise, not that it's ever happened to me :)

After completing the drawer shells tomorrow, I will make the drawer bottoms consisting of edge glued hardwood planed down to a fraction of an inch, to easily fit the drawer grooves. I should have everything including drawer bottoms, assembled and glued later tomorrow. There is some tuning and fitting involved for each drawer both at the sides and front to back. The drawer pulls come next and I'm currently giving this thought.

The combination of beech cabinet and sapele drawers actually work out very well, there is contrast but not overwhelmingly so, more on the subtle side. My other choice was to use cherry for the drawer fronts, but I have been using this extensively lately and wanted something different.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Drawer fronts...

I've been busy gathering the right wood for the drawer fronts, sides and bottoms. Drawer fronts will be Sapele, a fine-grained wood in the mahogany family. As part of the drawer front fitting, I cut the fronts oversize in thickness, width and length and then proceed to shoot the ends so they fit the drawer opening just right. I follow the same process with the width of the drawer front, handplaning and tuning it down to size. Prior to this, I had planed the thickness of the drawer fronts to fit the opening. The drawer front of the upper right hand set will overhang the divider providing a seamless look, I designed the divider to be shorter than the drawer opening by the thickness of a drawer front. Next, I begin dovetailing the drawer sides into the fronts and then create the grooves for the drawer bottom, in this order. Important to position the groove correctly over a tail so the groove doesn't exit through a pin in the drawer front. This would preclude using a stopped rabbet instead of a through rabbet.

I'm glad to have completed the stand as the cabinet has been occupying a cool rolling cart I built a few months ago. I now have access to my rolling cart once again, which by the way I'm kicking myself for not having made earlier. These things are great in the shop, allowing me to wheel components around to different benches and assembly tables, etc. Also, I haven't decided on the drawer pulls just yet, preferring to wait a few more days and examine some options in the meantime.

I'm also going to install a short divider between the sets of drawers creating more of a delineation between the left and right sides of the cabinet interior. The area above each of the drawer compartments is to be used to display an art object , the divider perhaps will separate the styles of art objects? It just feels right.

I'm still not sure how to work the area below the left hand drawer compartment into the mix. The design of this has been up in the air for a while, and I'm thinking once the drawers are in along with the divider it will make more sense and a a spark of imagination will occur, an "aha" moment. I'm leaning towards a hidden compartment at the moment. Or I might leave it open, in the spirit of "dynamic design", a philosophy I coined a few months ago.