This post continues a series in which I’m building a butler’s desk of American black walnut. Where we left off the frame had been fully assembled and ready to support the case. In preparation for the casework, I’ve set aside the material needed many weeks prior in order to allow the material to acclimatize.
I’ve marked out exactly what I will need for the case. Finding 4/4 walnut stock that is 18″ wide without sap wood is quite rare, so instead I have found stock which I will cut to form a panel. To form the panel in a way which does not reveal its glue lines I chose to use a sequenced board for the additional material needed.
I cut material for the center of the case and then marked out and cut just the quartered sections of the lumber on the sequenced board. I’m carefully aligning the grain so that it planes all in the same direction. I’ve left the flanking pieces wide, knowing that I will be trimming them down to size after the glue-up.
To prepare for the glue I begin by jointing the edges. When jointing rough stock, even rough stock that is as flat as this, it’s important not to use the side as a reference at multiple locations.
I joint the edge independent of the side, then check to see that it is perpendicular at one location. In preparation for the jointing work I am using a long straight edge to see where material must be removed. Please note that this 8′ straight edge has been checked for straightness…I had to straighten this one. Twenty thousands (.020″) is considered straight over 8′ by the maker and for most applications that is probably true. However not for a glue up, so I straightened it to be accurate to .003″ over 8′.
I am working independent of the sides, so I use winding sticks to check my progress.
To make sure I’m close to perpendicular, I use my square.
I repeat this process on the side flanks, then in a mock assembly I adjust the edges so that I am removing any possible cupping or wind that exists in the assembled panel. I do this to ensure I will be able to process the lumber down to the required thickness and for an absolutely minimal glue line.
I repeat this same process for the base panel, but with less consideration for the complete removal of sapwood, since it will be mostly hidden. The front edge and majority of the panel will be heartwood.
Now that the panels are glued up, I can begin prepping them. I start this process by removing wind and leveling the surface with a wooden jack plane.
I’ve taken a video of the process from rough planing on through finish planing.
Some of you have expressed concern over my footwear in the past. Rest easy as one of my good friends in Japan has sent me a set of Jikatabi which will allow me to work in the way that I normally do with much less risk. (Thank you Stan!)
Now that the panel is jointed and thicknessed I can begin working on the edges. I start with the front edge. Truing it while using my bench as a long shooting board.
First I note where the edge is curved.
After jointing I follow up with a finish plane.
Now that the front edge is finished I use it as a reference to the stub tenons. If you recall the stub tenons are on the inside reference faces of the front legs.
Next I transfer marks then set my marking gauge to mark out the distance from the front edge. I dont want the edge to wind up at the further edge, but flush with the back edge of the drawer.
I start these through tenons by drilling a hole, then chopping them out square with a chisel.
After the panel is fitted to the frame, I can then size the edges. The outside edges will be joined to the upper case using half blind dovetails. The base panel will be the tail board. to account for these I set the edges back from the sides of the cabinet by 1/4″. The back edge is setback 5/8″ to account for a back panel and the rabbet which will retain the back panel.
Now I’m ready to join the base panel to the frame. I will be doing this with a set of dovetailed guides which are mortised into the frame at the back. To start the process I mark where their inside edge with a knife.
Then I remove the panel, install the guides and mark their top edges with a knife.
Next I cut grooves in the top panel to accept tapered half-dovetails. I use tapered half-dovetails because I want the back edge to remain flush to the inside of the frame and I want a tapering element. The guides are created like keys, they will be tapped in to the rear mortise of the frame to lock the back edge of the assembly down.
The top of the guides are cut into corresponding dovetails and the assembly is dropped into the frame.
This leaves the front of the case which I’ve yet to determine how I will secure it down. I may wedge the stub tenons or make a keyed spline, or use a tapered pin.
Thank you for joining me! I hope that you have enjoyed following along with my progress. I hope to see you again soon.
Nicely done Brian – thanks for the video as well, but the music is bugging my wife as she is watching the Preakness.
I hear the races are off to a rough start.
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