Building a roomful of furniture to fit needs and space.
SHOP OWNER: George Dart
LOCATION: Havertown, PA
I needed to optimize space in our new little home and inspiration came from a Popular Woodworking Magazine cover. I modified their design significantly, reducing the overall height to 87 inches, and employing a simple crested bonnet and sunburst in lieu of their flat top. I also decided to use two doors in the top case, rather than their one large door. That way we could open the cabinet without having to evacuate our dinner guests from the room. I also developed the cathedral design found in all top door rails and decided to use raised panels. The corner china cabinet is approximately 47 inches wide and 21+ inches deep. There is ample room above the top shelf to accommodate tall crystal items. The shelves are birch ply faced with solid oak. The backs are 1/4" birch ply, which we subsequently covered with mirrors. We chose white oak, which was supplied by Hearne Hardwoods, Oxford PA. The finish is Zar oil based Cherry Stain, two coats of seal coat followed by several applications of satin poly.
After completing the china cabinet, we decided to add a server in the opposite corner. It is built on the same general plan and dimensions as the lower case of the china cabinet. We felt a height of 35 inches above the floor would be useful and comfortable. Fortunately, I retained the templates for the curved upper door rails. Routing the panel groove in those white oak rails was an adventure, and I ruined several rails for each door before getting it right.
The wall hutch incorporates many of the design details as the other dining room pieces. This item was an after-thought as a way to "fill up" the corner wall space above the server. I had some leftover white oak boards and re-sawed/planed them to 3/8 inch, using that thickness material for the hutch construction. Shelves are 3.4-inch birch ply faced with solid white oak. The finishing schedule for these two items is the same as the china cabinet.
I did the mirror frame from white oak flat stock and several router bit profiles. The frame is rabbetted to accept a plywood back panel. I wanted to build the frame first and key off it to establish the length of the sideboard.
The sideboard filled a need for serving dish space not fully satisfied by the server. We decided it should stand no more than 14 inches from the wall. Angling the sides back and out gave the illusion of a wall hugging piece of furniture, and was in keeping with the overall size of the room. The 55-inch length of the back of the sideboard provides plenty of space, and the 35-inch height is convenient. The sideboard has one enclosed shelf, which is accessible from the two front raised panel doors.
Our dining room tabletop is recycled from an antique Reading Railroad map case circa 1890 given to me by my niece. I ripped and re-sequenced the boards for grain pattern and color. They are from 6/4 quartersawn white oak. I re-jointed five of them and cross cut to length. The table has two leaves, each 12 inches wide. The overall length of the table without leaves is 57 ½-inches and it is 38 inches wide. We liked a trestle design and I made the legs and trestle from 6/4 flat sawn white oak stock. The through tenons are wedged tight with white oak. The Law of Gravity attaches the tabletop to the trestle undercarriage. It is heavy and rock solid, expands easily from both ends, and suits the family needs very well. Finish is the same as other room items. Our chairs are all antiques, quartersawn white oak, which I rebuilt, refinished, and upholstered. They look nice but old dry oak chairs and seven 200+ pound sons are an uneven match.. . . George Dart
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