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Designing around the lumber you have

comments (3) January 31st, 2012 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
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The case is made from quartersawn ash, the drawer fronts are apple, and the pulls are cocobolo. (Click photo for a larger image.)
It was not easy to cut the tiny dovetails on the top drawers. (Click photo for a larger image.)
The dovetails on the bottom drawers have the same layout as those on the top drawers. (Click photo for a larger image.)
I used a plywood back that is 1/8 in. proud of the sides, so that the piece sits off the wall. The horizontal divder between the upper and lower shelves is held in place with shopmade apple dowels. (Click photo for a larger image.)
I turned the pulls on my mini-lathe and had good luck. I needed five and it took only six attempts to get them! One of them cracked while turning it. (Click photo for a larger image.)
The case is made from quartersawn ash, the drawer fronts are apple, and the pulls are cocobolo. (Click photo for a larger image.) - CLICK TO ENLARGE

The case is made from quartersawn ash, the drawer fronts are apple, and the pulls are cocobolo. (Click photo for a larger image.)

Photo: Matt Kenney

I was a demonstrator at a Lie-Nielsen handtool event back in December. My plan was to take along my bench hooks and grooving planes and show folks how they work. However, I've done a number of the shows and I've learned that it's best to build something while I'm there and use my handtools, bench hooks and grooving planes to do it. So, I decided to make a small wall shelf with drawers beneath the shelf. I made the case before I went and then made the drawers while I was there (or at least got part way through them).

I drew up some measured drawings and went down to my shop to look through the wood stack. I knew I wanted the case to be made from a piece of air-dried ash I bought from a co-worker about 4 years ago. And I decided to use some air-dried apple that I cut from a few logs salvaged after an apple tree was cut down. I pull out the pieces and what do I discover? They're just not quite big enough for the piece as designed. The big problem was the apple. The pieces I had were too short. So, I started to figure out how big it could be. I sorted out that problem and got to work.

This was a change from how I normally work. Typically, I have my dimensioned drawings and head off to the lumber yard. There, I sort through the stacks looking for pieces for each part (legs, rails, stiles, drawer fronts, etc.). I couldn't do that here. It was a good challenge to take the lumber I had and work in the other direction. In a way, it was also liberating, because it forced me to really look at the lumber from a lot of perspectives to figure out ways I could make it work.

At any rate, I'm happy with how the piece turned out. And I still have some apple and ash!

posted in: blogs, dovetails, ash, drawer, wall shelf, Apple, air-dried, local wood

Comments (3)

saschafer saschafer writes: I'm just finishing up a large wall cabinet that I needed to build on short notice. I happened to have a good supply of 8/4 white ash on hand (that had been earmarked for another project), and was able to figure out how to get what I needed from the pieces that I had. The only design deviation I had to make was that I went with floating tenons in the door frames, because I didn't have enough material to be able to cut tenons into the ends of the rails.


Posted: 3:51 pm on February 3rd

robbo41 robbo41 writes: Matthew:

This is how all my projects proceed. Idea, figure out what wood I have on hand, then make the idea fit the wood. I acquire lots of random wood at auctions, from Craigslist, neighbors. Speaking of which, I just acquired a stump from an English walnut, and a friend of mine sawed it into lumber in boule fashion. The grain and coloration on these pieces is really cool. Be great to use on some project someday.
Posted: 11:50 am on February 1st

DaveRichards DaveRichards writes: Excellent piece and a great way to come at it. Years ago I needed to build a shop cabinet and I didn't want to spend much money to buy materials. The previous autumn I had built a shed for our back yard and I saved the left over bits of 2x lumber in my shop. It was all nice and dry. i went through it all, jointed and planed it just enough to square up the faces and get it all to the same sizes. Then I stacked it up by length and figured out what I could build from it. It was the first big project I designed in SketchUp. i was able to come up with a cabinet 6 feet long and 7 feet tall. the base unit is 24" deep. All I ended up buying was two sheets of cheap 6mm plywood for the panels.
Posted: 1:33 pm on January 31st

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