Entering the Home Stretch

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Hello everyone.  Sorry I’m late with this week’s post on the furniture project, but I had to take a trip to Seattle for (real) work this week, and I’m a bit under the weather, so progress has been slow.  On the bright side, my trip to Seattle actually helped me make my mind up about one aspect of the project.  We’ll get to that in a bit.


But first, the drawers.  After cutting the through and half-blind dovetails, I assumed that I was almost done with the drawers.  I was wrong.  I spent what seemed like way-too-much-time finishing those up.  First, I had to cut slots in the drawers for the bottoms.  But before I could do that, I had to go get some baltic birch plywood to even make the bottoms.  Then I had to cut a saw kerf midway up the drawers for those dividers I mentioned a couple weeks back.  You can see the saw kerf in this shot Stef took while I was spreading glue in the dovetails for the glue-up.  I just apply glue to the pins – there’s a lot less squeeze-out, and the way I assemble things, doing it this way just pushes any extra glue down into the joint instead of out of it.


I also sanded the insides of the drawers and both sides of the bottoms before I assembled them.  That’s far easier than trying to sand them after it’s a box.  But then again, I don’t assemble these kinds of drawers traditionally.  The very traditional way to do this would be to cut the back of the drawer short so that the bottom can be slid in after assembly.  But since I’m not using solid wood for the bottoms (I use the baltic birch), I don’t have to worry about wood movement.  So I just assemble the plywood bottom inside the drawer.  This has a couple other advantages – I can glue the bottom in places, which helps prevent rattles, and the plywood bottom helps hold the box square during glue-up.  So when I glue up a drawer, it looks like this:


Gluing up is always stressful for me, but each of these went together easier than the last, as evidenced by the decrease in swearing as things went on.  If you don’t believe me, ask Stef, who took these pictures.  At the end of the glue-up, I had the four drawers in clamps – although with this giant entertainment center, I now have two assembly tables set up, and I’m kind of running out of room.  Here are all the drawers in clamps.


I don’t have any pictures of me cleaning up all those dovetails afterward, but it took a while.  When I make the dovetails, I make them so that the end-grain sits just a tiny bit proud of the other side.  This means I only have to clean up little bits of end grain, rather than shave down a whole side.  (This would be a lot easier to explain if I had taken pictures.)  Anyway, I had a lot of end grain to clean up.  Rather than grind away at it with a sander (which is unpleasant), I went about it with a very sharp block plane.  This works well as long as the plane is sharp – but all the same, I don’t recommend taking end-grain shavings as a fun activity.

Now, about that door.  I got plenty of suggestions last week on what kind of hinge to use.  The one that really got me thinking was the recommendation for knife hinges.  I’m still thinking about that one, but knife hinges are usually worked out before you glue up the carcase.  To install them at this time would require very accurate chiseling 1/16 of an inch from a vertical wall.  I don’t know if I’m up to that, so the jury is still out on the hinges.  But that didn’t stop me from completing the rest of the door.  And that’s where my trip to Seattle provided a little inspiration.

Photo Credit: Hilton

Photo Credit: Hilton

This past week, in Seattle, I stayed in The Arctic Club (a Doubletree hotel).  The decor in the hotel and even in the guest rooms is done in that early 20th century style that makes you want to put on a smoking jacket and talk about your country estate like you’re some kind of Vanderbilt or Rockefeller.   Wallpaper, subway tile, and tall moldings.  Well, while I was there, I saw that some of the doors were filled in with reeded glass, and that made me make up my mind about what to put in the center of the little door.  But first, I had to build the door.

Many people would just put a door like that together with a rail and stile bit set on the router table – but I hate routers.  So I simply cut the pieces to size, and mortised them together with my Domino jointer.  It’s stronger and (for me) faster.

Door in Clamps

Then, I excavate the channel for the glass with a rabbeting bit at the router table (I know, I just can’t get away from routers…).  But that leaves a radiused bit of waste in the corners of the door, like this:

Corner Radius Waste

Which I then have to chisel out.  But I like working with chisels, so it’s all OK.  In the end, it looks like this when I get it cleaned up.

cleaned up corner

After that, it was a trip to the glass shop (I use Murray Glass, here in SLC) to pick up the reeded glass.  Taping it in temporarily, it looks like this, which is the look I was going for.

Cabinet with Door

I did a couple other small tasks this week while I’m wondering what to do next.  First, I added some drawer stops to the backs of the drawers (just glued and screwed them in).

Drawer Stops

And I made a template and drilled the holes in the drawer fronts for the handles.  I really should have clamped a backer board behind the front to keep the back side of the hole from blowing out, but I was tired.  Instead, I just drilled very slowly until the very tip of the brad point bit came out – then flipped the piece over and finished the hole from the other side.  Come to think of it, maybe the backer board would have been easier…

Drilling drawer holes

And that was all I could do for this week.  Next, I can either start applying a finish, or start working on the top.  But both of those will require a fair amount of space, which I seem to be running out of.  I have about 8 bikes back in the finishing room I have to move before I can start spraying any finish.  And I have two assembly tables set up, but the only one that’s big enough to work on the top currently has a giant cabinet sitting on it.  I need to do some serious juggling of space before I can pick up work again.  So I’ll sign off with that.  And this preview – the giant sheet of zinc I ordered has arrived.  This will be inlaid into the top.  It was shipped rolled up, so it’s currently inside the house spread out to ease the curves out of it.

Zinc Sheet


James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

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