This post continues a series in which I’m building a butler’s desk of American black walnut. Where we left off the case bottom had been fitted to the base frame. With the case bottom now in place I’m ready to begin preparing the case sides and top. The panels are jointed and thicknessed much in the same way as the case bottom with slightly more consideration for a very fine finish.
I like to create a flat panel and that means doing the majority of the finish planing at the bench and leaving very little to clean up later on. Here is how the panel is right off the finish plane.
Care must be taken at this point to prevent damaging the surface, so often I will use a clean shop towel between the bench surface and the panel. Some scuffing will occur and that will be removed with a finely set block plane after the cabinet is assembled.
Now that the case top and bottom are finished, I clean up the sides and bring them to exact length with a plane. They’re now ready for corner joinery. For the outside case corners I planned miter edge dovetails. Cutting miter edge dovetails adds a bit of complication to the process but offers a few nice benefits down the line.
The primary benefit of miter edge dovetails in this case are that they allow me to hide a rabbet in the back of the case without requiring me to create a stopped dado. A stopped dado can weaken the tail that backs up to it and requires cutting out with saws and chisels. A through rabbet (continuous cut) can be applied with a plane, which makes for a smoother finished surface.
I’ve detailed dovetailing in photo essays a few times, so for a change of pace I’ve taken two videos of the dovetailing process.
The results of the dovetailing process are better shown here. The pins are slightly proud of the sides and so the result produces small shadows on the either side of the pins that disappear when planed flush.
Now that the dovetails have been cut for the top corners, I put the case aside and begin cutting material for the case back, internal dividers and partitions. Starting with a nice wide plank, which is too thick and with a knot in the center, I mark out the rift portions and cut them off with designs on resawing them.
Resawing is a game of chance, but often quarter or rift sawn and straight grained material behaves in a somewhat predictable manner.
In this case the slabs were perfectly well behaved. I put them aside to acclimatize and ensure that they’re not going to move unexpectedly. After which I begin preparing to glue them up by edge planing.
I plane them both together with a technique called ‘match planing’. This ensures that any angle in one will be duplicated in the mirror image in the other. That said, the cut must be true. I’ve chosen to glue one panel in series and one panel as a book match. The book match will be used as a case back and the other used as a shelf and for sliding door panels.
It’s beginning to look a lot more like a cabinet. Now that the corner dovetails are complete it’s time for the next step in the process…..dovetailing! The attachment between the case sides and bottom are half blind dovetails.
I begin by marking my baseline on the bottom panel, the gauge is set for the thickness of the panel then the gauge is used against the outside of the base frame rather than against the edge of the panel. Another gauge is set to the distance between the baseline and the edge of the panel and used to transfer that mark to the corresponding case side.
The next step in the process is to apply my dovetail layout then cutout the tail board.
Followed by chopping the baseline.
Then transferring marks and cutting out the pin boards to complete the dovetails.
Thank you for visiting and hope that you have enjoyed this installation. The cabinet will be assembled again soon, but there is more work to be done in the mean time.