ou can buy the lumber for your woodworking project from several sources, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. The local lumberyard is often the most convenient supplier, but the selection may be limited to construction woods such as pine, spruce, and other softwoods. Though you may find the occasional cache of hardwood at a lumberyard, you will probably have to venture farther afield, consulting woodworking magazines to find dealers who specialize in the hardwoods used in cabinetry. Prices for good hardwood lumber can be high, but as is often the case, you will generally get what you pay for.
Sometimes you can buy locally cut lumber from a small sawmill, but the
wood will often need to be seasoned and surfaced... >
Wood is a hygroscopic material, absorbing and releasing moisture as the relative humidity of the surrounding air rises and falls. And as the moisture content of a piece of wood changes, so do its dimensions and weight. When wood is assembled into a piece of furniture, the changes can produce problems—some great, some small. A cabinet door that shuts smoothly in December may not close at all in June; a perfectly square bookcase can literally pull itself apart at the joints as humidity changes throughout the year. Knowing how moisture affects wood will help you avoid these problems.
The water in wood is measured as a percentage of its oven-dry, or water – free weight... >
There are two kinds of skill involved in constructing a fine cabinet or bookcase: putting together the basic skeleton of the piece and then embellishing it.
The finials and rosettes of the Queen Anne highboy featured on page 106 must be turned with care on a lathe and then artfully carved; the distinctive pilasters of an armoire (page 60) require careful attention to produce on the router. But although these distinctive adornments may capture a viewer’s attention, they also reflect a truism: No amount of decoration will conceal the defects of a poorly built structure. This chapter looks in detail at the basic skills you will need to select stock, prepare it professionally, and then assemble it into a sturdy foundation for your cabinet or bookcase.
The basics of cabinetmaking begin... >
hen my wife and I started house-hunting in the country we looked at new contemporary homes, new houses built in traditional styles, and old houses. Naturally, we considered things like layout, heating systems, and dependable plumbing. But we were still drawn to old houses. For me, there was the knowledge that an old house was built by hand—from the hand-dug foundation right up to the hand-split shingle roof. Old houses were built with sheer strength guided by experience and skill. We ended up buying an old house.
Walking through our place you see surfaces that undulate and ripple from hand planes that passed over them nearly 200 years ago. There are chestnut beams with shimmering, faceted surfaces cut by an adze and thick, pine floorboards studded with hand-wrought nails... >
ed cabinets—are at best merely glorified boxes. Yet there is something special about them. All contain an element of mystery, just waiting to be explored. Who can resist opening a small door with a tiny turned knob and spinner, or lifting the lid of a dovetailed keepsake box? Ask Pandora.
To the cabinetmaker, case pieces are a pleasure, as well as a challenge to build. The possible layout combinations are endless: doors, drawers, shelves, pull-out trays, dividers, pigeonholes, and one of my favorite components, secret compartments. Nothing thrills a customer more than to be told that their new acquisition has a hidden compartment. And nothing adds to the anticipation more than to say it is up to them to find it.
Woodworkers specializing in individually built pieces thrive on variety... >
he library unit shown here, made out of Honduras mahogany, was one of my first big commissions. It was built in the shop I co-own with Frederic Loeven, a fine cabinetmaker. We had built a lot of single pieces in the past, but this was our first opportunity to experiment with the planning and construction of a large, integrated wall unit.
Our first step was to take accurate measurements of the room that the unit would occupy. This had to be done very carefully, since walls are not always straight. The difference can be as much as / inch. So we measured between the walls at the corners of the room and again every few inches out. We only wanted to cut our stock once!
With measurements in hand, we designed the piece in the shop... >