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 and sides had been joined, the next step is to create the interior partition. This partition will divide the work area from the drawers, it will also be tasked with holding the drawer blades, an interior shelf, and a door hinge.
Building the main partition starts with rough cutting then resawing those rough cuts into the pieces needed. I’m putting an anahiki rough cutting saw to work in the photo below. This saw has a bellied edge and it makes for a slightly faster but rougher cut in heavy material.
The re-sawn slabs are then glued up. After which the panel is roughed out with the jack plane to bring it down flat and near to thickness.
After truing and finish planing the ends are cut square and the panel is cut to length.
The panel will attach to the case via sliding dovetails, the top of the panel being a housed sliding dovetail (housed meaning that it will be set into the case) and the bottom will be a blind half-dovetail. The reason for doing these in this manner are that the case bottom is set back 3/4″, so if it were dovetailed in the same way it would have the extension of a tail left exposed.
The panel must install square to the case, so I transfer measurements from the case sides using a story stick. A story stick alone does not provide all of the information, if the case top is slightly longer than the case bottom then the story stick will be placing the divider out of square, so it is important to check with a square to ensure that everything is transferring accurately.
The case top and bottom should be identical, but there can be inconsistencies since the length can be effected by both marking out and chopping the baselines and minor differences can present themselves thereafter.
Next I scribe my marks. The dovetail I’ve planned for the top is a ‘housed’ dovetail, so the first step is to layout and cut the housing. I’ve acquired my housing dimensions from the panel and have checked it at a few points to ensure that I’m going to have a good fit.
I transfer this number directly and scribe a line.
In the heat of the moment I forgot to photo the finished dovetail housing prior to moving on, but it will show in the assembled cabinet.
While the case is apart, it’s a good opportunity to cutout the pass through for wires and cut the grooves that will hold a set of sliding doors which will allow access to that pass through from the inside of the case.
The last steps in cutting the pass through are to pare the sides and cut the corners square. I’m using a piece of plywood as a backup.
The case can now be reassembled and the partition installed. The partition was left long so that it could be trimmed flush and along with that I decided it’s time to trim the cabinet back flush with the base frame.
After trimming I use a jointer plane to joint the back panels.
In the process I noticed my base frame needed attention, I brought out the kanna for that work. That shaving going up and over the back of the plane means that the chip breaker is set correctly and doing its job of ‘breaking the chip’ and thus preventing tearout.
Next I focus my efforts on the front of the case, first trimming the partition’s lower half to length and paring it flush.
Followed by marking the height so that it is planed at the same height as the case sides.
After bringing everything down flush I can apply a roundover to the outside edges. Rather than doing this with a router and sanding I had a plane made for the task and use that. It applies a finished surface which does not require further attention.
Now that the main partition is in place I can begin work on the drawer web frames (small frames that hold the drawers) and a shelf that will be on the ‘desk’ side of the case which will be used to store electronics while they charge.
I like the drawer web frames to be cut from straight grained material in a quarter sawn orientation. In this case I’m starting with 8/4 stock that had been split off in chunks. These splits are great because the grain is straight.
After thicknessing and finish planing I have both my drawer blades and dividers for the web frames. You can see which ones came from the split sections as they’re perfectly straight grained.
Next I true the sides and bring the web frame members to width.
While I’m in the mood for sawing I decided to make a part for the back of the case that I can best describe as a sill, it will function like a window sill.
I save every scrap of lumber for this reason, so many times I’m left with these thin pieces that hold both the sap wood and a thin but beautiful section of heartwood. When you need a 3/4 by 3/4 piece a little bit of sawing yields a wonderful piece of material once the sapwood is removed.
After dimensioning that stock I put it aside.
The last steps prior to cutting out joinery on the inside partitions are to prepare the shelf material. In the previous post I had resawn and glued up two panels, one set to be the back panel and one for the interior. The interior panel has now been dimensioned on four sides and finished planed. I’m bringing the ends square in this photo after sawing it to length.
The support for this shelf, which is about 1/2″ thick, doubles as the upper guide rail on for the sliding doors which will hide the electrical pass through. Many readers must know my preference for vertical grain material pretty well now, I’ve marked my cuts to be along the grain in this shot.
I’ve dimensioned and then applied grooves into the support and now it along with the panel are ready to go.
I’ve also cut the drawer sides to height (with exception to the top drawer so that I can account for inconsistencies there).
Now I’m ready to mark out. To ground myself and make sure I’m going in the right direction I usually take a moment to prepare interior sketches that detail the joinery and particulars of the case members.
On the left side will be the shelf and on the right side are the drawers.
Thank you for visiting, I hope that you have enjoyed!