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The birth of a hobbit cupboard

comments (13) October 9th, 2012 in blogs

MPekovich Michael Pekovich, art director
thumbs up 197 users recommend

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. Its very simple and intuitive to use. Initially, I thought the limited tool set and color palette would limit its 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 didnt 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 Im 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.
Heres where Im at now- The door is trimmed and Ive located the vertical divider. Ive also settled on the side profile and added a pyramid chamfer to the through tenons. Its ready for the video shoot right now. When thats done, Ill finish it up. Stay tuned!
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. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

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...

posted in: blogs

Comments (13)

Kev_Girling Kev_Girling writes: Hi. I'm thinking of having a go at building one of these for my Wife, could you let me know what carving chisels you used please. I have a few chisels, but it always helps if you have the right ones! Many thanks.
Posted: 1:17 pm on December 10th

saschafer saschafer writes: Why is it that some blog posts are inundated with robo-spam, while others get none? There must be some mysterious keyword in the text somewhere that they trigger off of.

Anyway, while I do like the design of the cabinet, I've always felt that it's rather inhumane to keep your hobbits in a cupboard.


Posted: 4:45 pm on October 24th

MPekovich MPekovich writes: Mel- Thanks for the info and the chisel tip. I'm familiar with Fred's work from the magazine, but I wasn't aware of his website. I'll definitely check it out.

Prov163- the app I used is Paper. Very simple, but pretty cool. The only bummer is that the app is free but you have to pay to get the good drawing tools. I hate that kind of thing.

Posted: 1:16 pm on October 13th

prov163 prov163 writes: Michael,

This is too cool!!! I noticed in this thread that "apparently" you were asked what sketching program you used on your iPad. Unfortunately, the answer didn't appear only the reader's thankful response. Being a geek myself, and loving my iPad, can you share that with the rest of us?

This is one of those projects that helps with design aspects and would have been great on video. Please keep posting your progress and thinking process as you go.

I have to tell you that this piece inspires me to take my woodworking to a new level - after getting through Christmas projects first, of course.
Posted: 11:03 am on October 13th

9619 9619 writes: Michael,
Very nice design on the hobbit cupboard. Carving is great fun. Years ago, I tried carving tracery, and was frustrated by the difficulty of smoothing out those pesky "inside curves". I saw an article by the great carver, Fred Wilbur. He suggested taking regular single beveled chisel and rounding profile. I took a half inch chisel to the grinder, and made the cutting edge round, and put a nice edge on it. Wow. What a difference. It rounds the inside curves easily, and it lets you do the places where those inside curves meet in tracery carvings.

I really recommend visiting Fred Wilbur's website if you enjoy carving.
He offers a free course (self taught) on the "Woodcarving Classes" page of his site. Go to the bottom of the page, click on the button "Self Guided Woodcarver Sampler Class.pdf". It has 18 projects, ranging from simple to difficult. It is really well done.

This is not an "advertisement". I am not connected with Fred Wilbur. I get nothing for passing this info on, except the satisfaction of letting other woodworkers know about a valuable resource that I have found and used.

Hope you found something valuable here. If I could have posted photos of the tracery carvings I did after learning of Fred's suggestion on a modified chisel, I would have posted them.

Keep on designing and writing. You are doing a great job.
Posted: 8:28 am on October 13th

MPekovich MPekovich writes: NikonD80- Thanks, but I know just enough about carving to get me in trouble. However, that gives me a good idea- maybe I can get a real carver to "demonstrate" on my next project and we'll all get something out of it! Mike
Posted: 10:36 am on October 12th

NikonD80 NikonD80 writes: Mike,
That's a really nice piece. Just the right amount of 'quirkiness' about it.

I've been looking for an app like paper for a while for my iPad - I'll give it a go: thanks for the tip.

Now we just need a Video workshop on carving for us people that haven't got a clue as to how to go about it (hint, hint).
Posted: 8:03 am on October 12th

ccckvarrdr ccckvarrdr writes:
Posted: 5:31 pm on October 10th

nslewis nslewis writes: Yes! Looks great. This is definitely my favorite way to do things, letting the actual presence of the piece guide its design. It's scary, and can be disastrous, but I think you get to realize things that you never could have realized from a drawing or even a mock-up. Plus it makes everything more exciting and engaging. Thanks for sharing.
Posted: 5:07 pm on October 10th

MPekovich MPekovich writes: Sorry for the spam, we're working to clean it up. The wood is white oak, which I was a little intimidated to carve, but it wasn't that bad. Mike
Posted: 1:34 pm on October 10th

RoBanJo RoBanJo writes: You been spammed (see the first comment). Nice cabinet, feel like I'm in Hobbitown.

Posted: 12:02 pm on October 10th

scrabtree46 scrabtree46 writes: love the look of the thru tenons

Posted: 9:32 am on October 10th

kevmc_Sammamish kevmc_Sammamish writes: Very nice! Is that Cherry or Oak?
Posted: 7:16 pm on October 9th

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