Designing around the lumber you have
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!
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.)