Here's an all but finished (no top coat/shellac) prototype, whose purpose
was to experiment with a rather unusual approach/method of doing the basic
casework for a piece of this size:
Many of the old wider (66 1/4" in this case) sideboards/buffets you see show
a tendency to sag over time, with the drawers and doors binding to the point
of being unusable, thus the much used 'six legged' design to give that
needed center support.
This method of doing the casework, better described on Projects/page 13 of
my website below, uses a dovetailed box with legs attached, and with the
vertical partitions fitted in dadoes and further reinforced with mortise and
tenons to the top and bottom, resulting in casework with an amazing amount
of structural integrity and resistance to racking/sagging across it's
Although this prototype is completely functional, the hardware, drawer
fronts, and doors will be re-used in the final iteration, with those you see
being replaced with veneered versions so this prototype can be put to use in
another part of the house.
All in all, with a few design tweaks and the many "lessons learned" during
the process, I will probably use the same basic approach to the casework for
the planned version.
Being somehow organically unable to envision a finished product from a
drawing to my satisfaction (looking at a piece from different angles always
seems to have some disappointing components that could have been mitigated
in the design stage), I prefer to do prototypes when working without plans
so I can walk around the damn thing.
... that said, I try to do _usable_ prototypes, figuring the time/money
spent will do double duty. :)
The prototype entertainment center for the bedroom, built from paint
grade cabinet ply, is still doing duty 6 years after construction. I
have to get to that project soon, I guess. ;-)
Nice work, Swing!
Thanks ... know the feeling. Every time I say "What the hell, I'll just use
some of this leftover ply and knock this thing out quickly and at low cost",
it turns out to be something that greatly exceeds original expectations and
would have knocked your socks off with better material.
The "Texas Tansu" that I made for my office falls squarely in the category.
Had I known I would have liked it so much when it was just an idea floating
in my head, believe me I would have sprung for something besides leftover,
radial cut, BORG plywood. :)
Basically, the material used, it being the first time to try out/use "the
method", and the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to
incorporate some of the key design elements of a traditional Mission piece
(IOW, the "frame and panel" sides is what gives these pieces a good deal of
their "look" IMO, and to incorporate these into this "method" of doing the
casework skirts on the edges of some less than desirable woodworking
I wasn't so sure I would buy into the concept until I got into it so I
executed the project as an experiment rather than if I was trying to create
a "museum piece" with traditional joinery from the get go, and that almost
always colors the way I do the little things.
Although I did take a great deal of care in the "fit" of the parts/joinery,
I used plywood drawers (well crafted nonetheless) and purchased drawer
slides instead of the wood drawers I plan for the final iteration.
... and I'm still not thoroughly convinced this is a good method, even with
While I like the concept of the strength and resistance to sagging/racking
of "the method" (this is what attracted me to the concept originally as I
dislike the "six legged" designs), there is generally a good reason for
traditional joinery techniques (frame and panel sides) in like pieces, and
this is certainly a departure from that traditional method.
And, while I took great pains in selecting two woods for the 1 1/2" thick
"laminated sides" that have almost identical wood movement characteristics
(both quarter sawn, to boot), I'm still not convinced that gluing legs to
any material that has a dimensional instability greater than plywood is
something that will stand the test of time.
At this point, and should I use this approach in the final piece, there are
two changes I will definitely make with regard to what I did on this piece
as far as the basic casework:
I will use a top grade plywood for ALL the case work instead of a secondary
wood, which will make it lighter and provide as much dimensional stability
over time as any wood product can; and I will change the joinery on selected
parts (dovetail both the front/back top rails into the top of the posts, for
Thanks ... While I like the look that was achieved despite the inherent
limitations vis a vis design elements like top and bottom side rails, I
would prefer to be more comfortable about the "time tested" nature of this
method versus more traditional methods ... that despite the very reason I
embarked upon it was that these wide pieces don't seem to historically do
well in that department.
I know ... kinda hard to reconcile, but I can't help it. I guess the upshot
is that I'm still casting about for a solution to a problem that wouldn't
pop up until way past the time I would have the ability to worry about it.
Front and side bottom "rails" matched in width; top side "rails" are
non-existent and are not that easily done using this method of case
construction; tweak design of the "plate rail", probably frame and panel
instead of solid; use of quarter sawn stock for front edges of vertical and
horizontal drawer partitions so there is more of a contrast with the actual
quarter sawn oak when viewed on edge; reduce height of piece by at least an
inch, probably inch and a half.
Those will do for starters. I dislike the height of the piece, although that
is easily taken care of SWMBO likes it, which is definitely a tactical faux
pas (letting her see it).
It's close, but there is just something missing to my eye ... might have to
live with it for a while to determine what. I'm thinking that it might be
better to not "curve" the bottom rails as it detracts from that classic
Who knows ...
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