EXERCISES IN DESIGN
A Chest on Stand with an artsy and funky flair.
SHOP OWNER: Joanne Adler
LOCATION: Point Pleasant, PA
For this past winter’s holiday gift for my sister, I built a large jewelry cabinet. She has an extensive collection and tends to keep things in their boxes or in little Ziploc bags to prevent tarnishing, so she needs a lot of room. No little 8” x 10” dresser-top box for her!
Now, my sister is not your typical, conventional kind ‘o’ gal. She is artsy and funky and not into symmetrical lines. I knew I could NOT make a box like this traditional Pennsylvania Spice Box that I made for my mother a few years ago.
So even though I designed a cabinet with two columns of drawers, with each drawer the same size as the others in its column, I knew I had to do something different. To some eyes, this may seem a bit much and busy. Even though I used a lot of different woods for drawer fronts, my sister was thrilled and that was the whole point.
With everything I build, I try to learn something new by trying a technique or skill I have not used before, as well as practice and work to improve other skills. This box is full of “firsts”. Even though I’ve joined panels before, I don’t believe I have mixed wood species in doing so. I thought using all walnut might make the piece too dark, so I added maple. These are also my first raised panels.
To hang the drawers, I used runners and grooves in the drawer sides, also new to me. While I have cut through and half-blind dovetails by hand before, I have not done quite so many. With nine drawers, that’s a lot of dovetails! The drawer fronts are walnut, cherry, maple, and ambrosia maple.
To line the drawers, I cut oaktag or posterboard a little smaller than the drawer bottoms, put a piece of foam on top and covered them with a piece of blue ultrasuede fabric. The hot glue gun works great for such tasks.
Since the basic box and drawers were so rectangular and “regular”, I added some curves to the top. It started out more asymmetrical than it wound up, but I think it works okay.
One of the gifts I received from my sister last year was a Dremel engraver. I’ve been trying to use it to sign my work and write the date and wood species used.
Since space is at a premium in my sister’s apartment and there is no dresser top space available for such a big box (footprint is about 21” x 12” by 19” tall), I knew I needed to build a stand or table. I was picturing something like a Krenov cabinet on an open stand.
I wanted to try to incorporate some of the curves from the top in the legs. I made a prototype out of cherry and maple. I was going to use some through tenons and peg them. However, before I tried sculpting curves into the stretchers and trimming the tenons and adding pegs, I decided I didn’t like the stand. I didn’t know what to do with it.
I sent master craftsmen and WoodCentral regulars Thomas Skaggs and Jim Shaver some pictures and asked what they’d do. Jim said to taper the legs on at least two sides, perhaps four, or even better, on six sides and make them hexagonal. That sounded interesting; I’ve done two-side tapered legs. It would be a challenge to do all four or to try to do six.
Tommy said he didn’t like the open stand at all and would do something more like a table. He suggested tapered legs also, and making a tabletop that would be the same shape as the cabinet top. Aha! Now that made a lot of sense! He even ever so kindly included “a really bad sketch” (as he put it). Happily for me, Tommy’s really bad sketch is far nicer than any of my really good sketches. Since I balked at having to figure out angled stretchers, he came up with a way to avoid that and stick with 90º angles for my mortise and tenon joints.
Here is what I came up with. I was able to reuse most of my maple stretchers, but it was ‘off to the sawmill’ for some more 8/4 stock for legs. Since angles are weird in the shop, it may not appear so in the photos but I tried using the Golden Mean to keep proportions nice. The table parts are still in the finishing stage so, in these photos, the top is not screwed on, nor is the cabinet attached to the tabletop (which may never be, since it is so big and heavy it is not going to go anywhere).
There are some things I might have “tweaked” on this stand, but I’m sort of anxious to finish and move on. I learned a lot of things on this project. I also got to use a lot of hand tools. I had a piece of walnut for the tabletop that was wide enough without needing glue up. My jointer can flatten a 16” board (go Frank!), but my planer will only take a 12” board. So I pulled out my No. 7 Bailey jointer plane and flattened that second side by hand. Phshew! What a workout! I have new and infinite respect for the folks who do most of their work with hand tools!
Yes, the rear legs are closer together than the front legs. Each leg is tapered on its two inside faces (bandsawn and cleaned up with hand planes and a spokeshave). I think it came out much nicer than what I might have come up with on shaping the open stand. And it forced me to go get more 8/4 walnut and make the stand out of walnut and maple (like the main cabinet), instead of the 8/4 cherry I had on hand for the open stand - this looks better.
I know my sister will love this piece (well, two pieces). I think I will love finally seeing it leave my shop! I’m ready for my next project and to learn some new things! Huge cyber hugs to Tom and Jim for their generosity with their brilliant ideas, time, and support.
. . . Joanne Adler