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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 6/3/99

Corner Display Cabinet - by Chico Sakman

This corner display cabinet was commissioned and completed Jan/Feb 1999. The main material is solid flamed and regular birch. This cabinet features hand-cut through dovetails at the drawer back and half-blinds at the front. Half-lap dovetailed cope & stick joinery assembles the upper door which is through mortised and pinned with square ebony pegs. Lower doors are the same, except for blind mortise & tenon joinery. All parts, both frames and panels, are from 1" stock.

Upper case - 66" high.
Lower case - 33" high
Back walls - 25" wide (21" for upper case)
Frontage - 34" wide (29" for upper case)

Since this is a "display" cabinet, I didn't (couldn't) want to use solid wood sides due to problems with seasonal dimension changes. Instead, I opted for making the sides as "frames with panels" to avoid cross-grained conflicts.

With excessive height and the absence of any "fixed" shelves, joinery of the all upper case parts became an important issue in order to provide long-lasting integrity. Dovetail joinery was the answer to all my joinery problems in the upper case. It's a bit slow and nerve wracking to cut all the joints, but it sure holds everything just the way they should be.

The door of the upper case was another challenge...over 60" in height and 30" width, 2" wide frame members (rails and stiles) carrying 57-7/8" x 26-3/4" x 3 mm glass is a little bit different then regular glass cabinet doors. Actually many curio cabinets have similar size doors. Although this one is 35" above the floor, you automatically tend to worry about it a bit more... (or is it just me!?) Therefore I used half-lap dovetailed cope and stick (they half-lap @ the junctions) and rail and stiles are joined with through full tenons at the corners, reinforced with diagonally placed square ebony pegs. Two big brass ball-catches and 3 brass hinges hold the door in place and aligned. The cornice ogee was produced with a Freud moulding bit; ready-made rope moulding flanked by small beads wraps from below.

Waist moulding is the ogee profiled panel raising bit, mitered @ 22-1/2 degrees and overhangs the case 5/8". The drawer sides are aromatic cedar, bottom is curly maple and the sides glide on waxed padouk runners. One of the drawer's sides have an engraved plaque that says; it's made by me, date and location. The drawer also has a secret drawer behind it. (A triangular piece.)

In the base, as you may notice, there's no stretcher right below the drawer, just because I wanted to keep the frames and panels in harmony. That stretcher is behind the top of the doors, also holding the brass ball catches for the 15/16" thick doors. Gaps around the doors and drawers are so tight, a business card can't even fit easily. This particularly became an issue since the doors are almost 1" thick. I had to bevel the inside edges of the doors to enable them to close without rubbing, but unfortunately now the left door has to be closed first, then right door. I personally prefer not to give the doors "turns"! (one which has to close before the other.) I don't know - cabinet doors like that have always bothered me for some unknown reason, but in this case I had to do something. I re-edged one of the doors and now one can close both at the same time. :-)

The base moulding is done with router bits, not table saw coving!!! I converted a small cove panel-raising bit from CMT by having the bit's threaded axle (which mounts the ball bearing) machined off, therefore turning the bit into a large "core-box" or "half-round" design. I used a bearingless ovolo bit for both edges of the moulding top.

The finish consists of one coat of Light Walnut Watco Oil followed by seven alternating coats of orange shellac/poly+oil mix. Every coat was sanded and the last 2 coats were also polished to a satin sheen.

I hope this has been somewhat insprational and/or informative to some. I sure enjoyed making this challenging piece.

HC Sakman - "Chico"

Editor's Note: If you have any questions about Chico's stunning corner cabinet, his email is sakman@sprint.ca

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