CONTEMPORARY WALL UNIT
Simple lines provide a clean look.
SHOP OWNER: Joe Burke
LOCATION: Durham, NC
I recently completed this wall unit for some repeat clients. The first job I did for them was a maple and cherry combination that was in keeping with the trim already in their home. They liked the look and feel but their new home was a bit more contemporary. We kept the material combo but changed the style. The husband is Swedish and they both like clean simple lines without a lot of "gingerbread". I believe the design reflects that. It suited me, as I'm a "less-is-more" kind of guy myself.
The unit is essentially 8' x 12' and made in twelve sections - three for the base, three for the base cabinets, three counter sections, and three uppers. Itís all veneered MDF, MDF veneer core ply with solid maple and cherry trim and accents. My lumber supplier's 4/4 cherry stock didn't look at all good at the time, so all of the cherry came from 8/4 stock. The maple was a combo of 4/4 and 8/4. I think I spent three hours minimum selecting the lumber.
I chose to veneer all the exposed case components as well as the doors. I didn't want to depend on rotary cut veneer for the visible parts. I'd make that choice again, but with different expectations. The carefully bookmatched door and end panels made much less impact than I'd hoped for. In truth, the tonal difference created by the bookmatching was plum disappointing.
I used a lightly curled veneer for the counter sections, and if I had it to do over again, I'd probably opt for that all around. I knew that we didn't want too much activity in the veneer so I went with plain sawn all the way. The decision to veneer the counter was made during construction and a different salesman offered the lightly curled veneer after the fact. Live and learn I suppose!
The drawers ride on full extension slides and the boxes have spline miters as opposed to dovetails. The slightly recessed doors hang on euro hinges made for thick doors. This allows the doors to swing and not contact the case at all. It's hard to beat the adjustability of the euro hinges. They may not be pretty but they have their advantages.
All of the shelving rests on adjustable pins. The lights are controlled with a touch pad switch, which I found to be pretty neat. The base contains levelers that I find indispensable. Once the base was flat and level, the rest was easy. Well, easier. That top center section was some kind of heavy.
I screwed the cases together and tried locating the screws where they would be invisible. When that wasn't doable, I covered the screw heads with sticky-backed maple buttons. I was as pleased with that as anything I've tried.
We searched long and hard for pulls but came up empty. We all finally realized that making the pulls was our best option. The arches are laminated rosewood and the posts are maple. I attached them with 8/32 screws into threaded inserts in the posts. I enjoyed the challenge but finding clients to pay for that type of work is hard. I probably wouldn't have suggested it to different clients.
The piece is finished with M.L. Campbell's satin Magna Max, which is a pre-catalyzed varnish. I regret not taking pictures of the shop during finishing. I essentially have to make a complete transformation from construction to finishing, especially true for a piece this size.
If you check the messageboard archives, they contain several threads that pertain to questions I had on this project. I had major veneer tape problems that reared their head at finishing. Laminating the rosewood produced another thread. There might even be a couple of others as well.
From design to installation, this is essentially my baby. Overall, I'm very pleased.. . . Joe Burke
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