Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New dresser for our master bedroom

Front View of Dresser

Rear View

I was having a hard time coming up with a new design for a dresser for our master bedroom.  I wanted it to match well with the arts and crafts bed and matching nightstands that I made a couple of years ago but I didn't want to do a straight copy of a plan.  Finally inspiration struck while visiting the Thos. Moser showroom in Freeport, Maine.  I stumbled across their American Bungalow tall dresser and immediately fell in love with it.  That one has a very traditional shaker style rectangular cherry cabinet suspended inside a very arts and crafts looking structure. Very Niiiice (in Borat speak). As much as I admire Mr. Moser's designs I have no intention of copying it outright and unfortunately I cannot afford any of his furniture. So as with most furniture, I borrowed a little inspiration from Mr. Moser as well as from an exhaustive search on google images and came up with the basic parameters for my own design.

I was looking for a large dresser that would stand on the wall opposite the foot of our bed than I can put our TV on top of.  I also wanted lots of drawers and for it to be a double dresser so my wife and I would each have a side.  (in theory at least, in practice she might let me have a drawer or two!) and of course it had to draw from some of the stylistic elements of our bed and nightstands.

In the photos above, you can see where I'm at with the design.  There will be two identical flatsawn red oak cases dovetailed together at the corners.  The drawer web frames will be dovetailed in at the sides and back with the drawer runners mortised and tenoned into the front and back "blades" Only the front will be glued and the back will be loose to allow for expansion of the case sides.  I'll likely make the runners and rear blade out of ash since it's relatively inexpensive in these parts.  The two cases will bear on front and back stretchers that will be tenoned into an outer frame that has the same vertical spindles as our bed.  I've extended the rear posts up through the top and added a crest rail across the top.  The holes through the crest rail are decorative but they also allow you to pass plugs through for the electronics that will inevitably be placed on top of this dressser.

The back of the cases will likely be tongue and groove pine boards. The drawers will have half blind dovetails in the front and through dovetails in the back and have a solid ash bottom.  I may consider putting in a center runner in the larger bottom drawers to cut down the span of the drawer bottoms.  

I love using skecthup for this stuff but I'm still a bit worried about the proportions.  In particular I'm wondering if the 2" square legs are big enough.  I should really do a full scale mock up of this thing but I'm not sure what material to use for the mock up.  Perhaps rigid insulation? Another issue with the legs is that I know I can buy riftsawn 8/4 stock from my local supplier which will likely only yield a 1 3/4" square leg.  To get the 2" square I'll likely glue up the leg pieces face to face and be diligent in ensuring that the exposed edges are riftsawn so the seams don't show as much.  I could try the Gustav Stickley Quadrilinear post method but those lock miter bits scare me in the sense that I've heard they are tough to set up properly to get good results.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sofa table finally completed! Woohoo!

The last post I wrote regarding my sofa table project was about my original sketchup model and was, sadly,posted on Sept. 28, 2009. That's about a year and a half of working on this project from conception to completion. To be honest I almost had it beat about 4 months ago when I placed it in my living room to finally see what it would look like in the space. That was a big mistake! At the time all I had left to do was to turn the door and drawer pulls and brush some varnish over the two coats of danish I had put onto the tabletop. Well sure enough, one of the kids spilled something on the top and ruined the finish completely. I mean within a week of having it in my living room there were 2 or 3 major water spots. Lessons learned: 1. Don't put the furniture in place until it's well and truly done and 2. I finally learned how to finish a tabletop with a really nice durable finish. More on that later..

A quick description of the piece is in order: The primary wood is cherry with the drawer fronts made out of one piece of curly birch for grain continuity. The drawer sides and bottoms are eastern white pine and some of the secondary wood in the case (drawer runnners etc.) are made out of yellow birch. There are several different finishes on this piece depending on the level of durability required etc. The tabletop is easily the most laborious finish I've ever done. One coat of sealcoat using a 1lb cut to control blotching in the cherry. Two coats of Danish Oil to enhance the chatoyance of the wood. Three coats of brushed on varnish followed by two coats of gel varnish and finally a coat of paste wax for a total of 9 coats of finish with all of the sanding and rubbing out between successive coats. The remainder of the exterior of the case is simply a coat of sealcoat followed with 3 coats of wet sanded danish oil using 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. The inside of the drawers etc were finished with a 2lb cut of sealcoat. I had a tough time deciding on how to finish the curly birch thinking that a water based poly might be the way to go to get better contrast between the two different species but the water based didn't bring out the figure of the wood so I ended up deciding on the smae Danish Oil finsih as the rest of the case.
I am very proud of this case piece and found it to be a great skill builder. In particular I'm very happy with the joinery for the drawer blades and dividers into the case sides since these are all dovetailed. This is a detail I picked up watching Tommy MacDonald's Bombe series and I did it using a paring block the samy way Tommy did it and it worked out great.
I deliberated quite a bit on how to build the back of the case. From what I've seen, it appears that many period furniture pieces were done using shiplapped pine boards which is fine if the back is hidden from view against a wall. In this case however, since the center "cubby" is open I wanted to keep the back in cherry. So I ended making a frame and panel back with bookmatched cherry panels.
As you can see in the opening photo, all of the drawer fronts were dovetailed by hand using an uneven tail size and spacing. The drawer backs are done using through dovetails and the drawer bottoms are 1/2" thick solid pine tapered to 1/4" thick around three sides to fit into the grooves in the drawer front and sides.
This was my first attempt at installing knife hinges as well. I purchased some nice Brusso hinges from Lee Valley and followed the process that Timothy Rousseau shows in his small cabinet project in the Fine Woodworking Project Video series. Mr. Rousseau's instructions were invaluable to this process. As for the drawer pulls I looked at an awful lot of pulls on the Lee Valley website but it was when I visited the Thomas Moser showroom in Freeport Maine when I decided to try my hand at turning my own pulls. One of Mr. Moser's display cabinets had the most beautiful tear drop shaped pulls. I tried to commit the shape to memory but ended up making something similar on the lathe in cocobolo.