Build a Contemporary Sideboard
Chris Gochnour's sideboard combines usefulness, strength, and beauty in a contemporary case piece
Synopsis: The half-blind mitered dovetails used to join this sideboard help make it strong and beautiful, with grain that runs up one side, across the top, and down the other for a waterfall effect. All the other joinery is hidden and employs Domino slip tenons. The sliding doors are punctuated with spalted live oak veneers. Follow along as Chris Gochnour shows how to build this classic yet modern beauty, step by step.
Sideboards are among my favorite pieces of furniture to build. They offer great utility—whether used in a dining room for dishware or a family room for entertainment equipment—and they invite a wide array of approaches in terms of structure and joinery, materials and finishes. With care taken in the design phase, the sideboard form is also often quite beautiful.
For this sideboard I used half-blind mitered dovetails to join the case, providing excellent strength but also enabling me to create a waterfall effect at the ends of the top—the grain runs continuously up one side, across the top, and down the other side . For the other joinery in the piece, none of which is exposed, I used Domino slip tenons. I built the case with solid riftsawn white oak, which has quiet grain and a tawny tone. That set the stage for some splashes of color and figure in the panels of the sliding doors, which were made with veneers of live oak that I sliced from a spalted firewood log. I built the base with white oak, but to differentiate it from the case I darkened it by fuming with ammonia.
Half-blind mitered dovetails: traditional layout with a twist
I love the strength and integrity of the half-blind mitered dovetail joint and the classic aesthetic impact it adds to a piece. For this sideboard it also offered minimal interruption of the waterfall grain pattern I wanted. You can cut the joint largely with machines (see Master Class, FWW #236), but I find it simpler and quite efficient to cut it mostly by hand.
As with typical dovetail joinery, I cut the tail portion of the joint first. on this sideboard, the tails are on the cabinet sides, so that’s where layout starts. The layout differs from conventional dovetails because here you’ll want the joint to end with a half tail at the front and back of the case instead of a half pin. This is essential due to the miter that will be cut later. one other thing that sets the layout apart is that the full baseline is scribed only on the interior face of the tail and pin boards. on the tail boards there is a baseline on the outside, but drawn with a pencil. After the tails are laid out, I use the marking gauge to scribe a partial baseline on the outside— but scribing only in areas where wood will be removed. Although I milled the stock a smidge thicker than 3/4 in., I set the marking gauge for scribing the baseline right at 3/4 in. This leaves a tiny flat at the tips of the miters when they are complete. The flat is removed after glue-up, bringing the miters to a seamless corner.
There is a lot going on in the case joinery of Chris Gochnour’s sideboard. In an online feature, Chris shows you how to tackle this devilish dovetail step by step.
Several dimensions in the illustration on pp. 34 and 35 of FWW #277 (“Strong, Stunning Sideboard”) were wrong.
- The door stile is 11-1⁄2 in. long (including 1-in. tenons), not 9-1⁄2 in. as printed.
- The drawer back is 14-7⁄8 in. long, not 12-15⁄16 in. as printed.
- The partition groove is inset 3⁄16 in., not 5⁄8 in. as printed. The inset for the top, bottom, and sides is 5⁄8 in.
From Fine Woodworking #277
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