Influenced by several well-known craftsmen.
SHOP OWNER: James Dillon
LOCATION: Frederick, MD
I completed this china hutch last year. The exterior wood is Jatoba (also known as Brazilian cherry); the secondary wood for the drawers is quartersawn sycamore, with cherry plywood for the drawer bottoms and interior dividers as well as the back panels on the lower unit. I based the bottom unit on the design by Gary Rogowski from his three-part series on building an Arts and Crafts sideboard in Fine Woodworking, although Iím guessing the Greene brothers did the original at the turn of the last century. The top unit is my own design and carries through the same Arts and Crafts construction details (i.e. multiple reveals, pegging) as the lower unit.
The tenon pegs and drawer/door pull inlays are ebony. I used Brusso offset hinges and bullet catches on the doors. All front and side panels in the bottom and top unit are book matched. For the exterior finish, I applied three coats of Tried and True (although all panels received an initial sealer coat of blond shellac); I used two coats of blond shellac alone on the interior. Total time, including finishing, on the project was around 630 hours plus about 40 hours it took for layout using a 2-D drawing program called DeltaCad. The top unit has four Xenon puck lights from Rockler with a three-step dimmer hidden behind the bottom rail of the top unit.
Construction of the bottom unit was fairly straightforward. The top of the lower unit is breadboarded with exposed ebony pegs on the surface. The drawers are NK design with dust covers, which I found to be a nice construction method. The top unit was, I thought, more difficult to construct and especially to glue up. There are more than 200 joints (fixed tenons, loose tenons, and biscuits) just in the top unit. That aspect, coupled with the multiple reveals, took me to the limit of my present ability. This is only my third piece of furniture, unless a kitchen redo counts, and my first hand-cut dovetails done for real. Glass shelves on all-wood adjustable supports complete things.
The door stiles are 7/8-inch thick to accommodate their ĺ-inch rail, thus allowing a stylistic1/8-inch reveal and gives the doors a sturdier look. I joined the door stiles and rails using offset tenons, which allowed room for the glass and generates a matching strip of wood to entrap the glass; the strip of wood attaches with brass escutcheon nails.
I first wanted to make the unit from cherry, but cherry is getting very expensive around here and the quality is going downhill, at least from my hardwood supplier. He had just received a pallet of Jatoba that I thought was beautiful, flat, and had virtually no waste. Besides, it was half the price! However, Jatoba is hard, hard, hard, and very heavy. Working with it did not get off to such a great start. I broke my most expensive router bit cutting a mortise and then chipped the end off my best Japanese chisel - all in the same day! After that, I was not so aggressive with the router or chisel. Actually, I switched to my trusty blue-handled Marples chisels and didnít have any more problems. Resawing up to 10-inch wide Jatoba pushed the bandsaw blades and bandsaw, a 14-inch Delta with riser, to the limit. I tried a brand new Ĺ-inch Woodslicer and Timberwolf and it was a no-go. I then ordered a Lenox carbide-tipped blade from Iturra Design (or American Saw Company) and that blade cut through the stuff like butter (well almost) with virtually no drift. Jatoba machines beautifully, sands and scrapes very well and seems to glue up and finish with no problems. It is redder than cherry with steaks of black running through it; I thought its rustic look would go well in our log cabin. While the cabinet is almost entirely from flat-sawn Jatoba, the two left side panels on the upper unit are quartersawn. Quartersawn Jatoba is very pretty and looks like mahogany, only redder.
You guys and gals at WoodCentral and former Badger Ponders have played an indispensable role in helping me ďget-a-programĒ as my wife insisted after our retirement. You all have also helped me spend that retirement check each month - a process Iíve enjoyed immensely! In addition, special thanks go to Jim Shaver who, through private correspondence seven years ago, gave me good advice on a table saw purchase and unwittingly started me down the road to a fulfilling hobby.. . . James Dillon
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