The birth of a hobbit cupboard
Okay, this is a little scary for me. Usually I wait to finish a piece before holding it up for the scrutiny of FW readers (and staffers!). But I decided to take the plunge and document the design process of my latest piece in real time.
Normally, I’m a firm believer in having a design locked down before I take a saw to lumber, but this project was a little different. The web folks were going to be shooting a video on glue ups, and I was tasked with making a mock-up of a through-tenon joint. Actually, I volunteered. I’ve never been one for letting a perfectly good joint go to waste, so instead of mocking up a single joint, I decided to build a small project incorporating through tenons.
In addition, I had recently carved a sample panel that I thought I might be able to work into the design as well. Again, waste not, want not. The panel came out of a conversation I had a few weeks back, where I was asked if I could make “Lord of the Rings” furniture. Being the geek that I am, this was the coolest question anyone could have ever asked me. I replied “are you looking for something out of Bilbo’s house or an elvish piece from Rivendel?” She was thinking Hobbit. This reminded me of Adrian McCurdy’s medieval-inspiried work, featured on a recent Fine Woodworking back cover. The set designers on the films took a heavy nod from medieval furniture and architecture, which also influenced the original arts and crafts designers. I figured that adding a heavy dose of medieval inspiration to my arts and crafts furniture just might result in something with a Shire feel to it. Hence my ulterior motive in volunteering to make the prop.
With no real pressure from a client, I headed out to my shop with a cup of coffee and my ipad. I made a few sketches, followed by a quick template of the sides, then started cutting wood. I left most of the parts over-sized through the design/build process and slowly worked toward the finished product.
I’m still not out of the woods yet, but it’s been a nice journey so far…
The design of the cupboard was built around a small panel I had recently carved. The other criteria was that it needed to include through-tenons and hopefully have a Hobbit flair to it. I started with a rough sketch on my ipad.
The sketch was made using an app called Paper. It's very simple and intuitive to use. Initially, I thought the limited tool set and color palette would limit it's function, but I find myself using it more often than other more powerful apps I own.
With the rough sketch in hand, I scaled the overall dimensions based on the existing panel. From there I created a template for the case sides.
I didn't want to commit to any design details at this point so I left the template oversized for now.
With parts cut to rough size and the door panel still over-sized, I laid them out on the bench. This helped me to fine-tune shelf placement and how much to trim off the door.
With the tenons cut, I assembled everything for one last check before trimming the door panel. Can you tell I'm hesitant to cut into it? Also, with the piece together, I can get a better idea of how I want to profile the top and bottom of the sides.
Here's where I'm at now- The door is trimmed and I've located the vertical divider. I've also settled on the side profile and added a pyramid chamfer to the through tenons. It's ready for the video shoot right now. When that's done, I'll finish it up. Stay tuned!