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Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Apothecary chest
« on: April 24, 2018, 11:06 AM »
Lynndy and I were in Auckland, New Zealand recently for the wedding of her niece. We stayed with her brother and his wife. They have a wonderful home with some nice examples of arts and crafts furniture, one of which was an apothecary chest. I really love these pieces, and Lynndy especially has wanted one forever. So the order was placed and a spot lined up in the entrance hall.

The design was mostly worked out in idle musing, and then I drew it up on sheets of 6mm MDF (I like this since the sheets end up as a story board and may be stored away more easily if needed at a later date).

The orientation is vertical, rather than typically horizontal, more along the lines of a Krenov-styled cabinet. I’ve never built a Krenov-styled cabinet and, as far as I am aware, he never built an apothecary chest! :) In other words, this is a chest on a stand. As an aside, I am not enamoured with the spindly legs of Krenov designs, and something with substance is needed. More on this at a later date.

The chest will contain 24 drawers, in 6 rows (so 4 drawers across and 6 rows down) …



What has changed in the drawing above is the rows will be made to accentuate the vertical rather than the horizontal (by running the blades/dividers down first). This is more work, but is should create a different perspective.

I have never seen a curved apothecary chest before, so this may be the first one …





The wood is another first for me – black walnut from the USA. My local timber guy had a stack of 1” and 2” thick boards, all about 11-12” wide.

(For those who see metric measurements on the plans and here is mentioned imperial sizing, be aware that this is my common practice. The jointer-planer/thicknesser I have is European, and metric. The hand tools, such as a plough plane, are imperial).



The boards are thicknessed a little oversize, glued up, and then taken to final dimension with hand planes.



The walnut is so easy to plane. I get why so many rave about working with it.

Don’t you love it when the carcase parts are done. These are all 20mm thick …




Starting to put it together

Starting from the bottom up, the side panels are left a little long as they will need to be given a curved bevel to meld with the bottom panel …



The dovetails are in the ratio of 6:1 – I felt the slightly extra wider base would add a little more authority.



Here’s the first completed corner. It is important that the joints are tight (obviously) but also that they moved apart readily, since the cabinet carcase will be pulled apart, put together, and pulled apart many times as the drawer blades are measured and fitted ...



Note, also, the area that will need to be bevelled away. This is marked.



Now the dimension of the bevel is taken the length of the panel …



I made up a template of the curve by grinding a piece of scrap steel (chosen because it was lying around) …



… and the curve is transferred to the other end of the panel.

The waste is planed away with, firstly, a jack plane (shop made) …



... and then a modified HNT Gordon trying plane …



The reason for the trying plane is to keep the sides straight. A jointer plane could have substituted.

The final step here is to smooth and fair the surface with a HNT Gordon mini smoother …



Finally, we get to complete the basic carcase (the flash makes the walnut look light, but it is dark in tone). the dimensions are 700mm high and 300mm deep (at the centre) …




Starting the vertical drawer blades/dividers


These are made with merbau as a secondary wood, with walnut facing …



Merbau is from northern Queensland (some is imported from Papua New Guinea). It is hard and heavy, and typically used in Oz for flooring or outdoor furniture. I am using it because it is cheap and hard. As cheap as pine and as dense and wear-resistant as jarrah.

The boards are glued together and bound with blue tape ..



Three vertical dividers for now …



As before, they are also slightly oversize and will be planed to dimension to fit into 12mm wide dados.



More later.

Regards from Perth

Derek

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Offline GoingMyWay

  • Posts: 231
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2018, 11:10 AM »
Wow!  Beautiful work and such fine craftsmanship!  I'm looking forward to seeing the completed piece.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Offline Dogberryjr

  • Posts: 100
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2018, 11:55 AM »
Very nice work. I look forward to seeing it finished.

Offline neilc

  • Posts: 2371
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2018, 12:52 PM »
Derek -

Great to see another project underway by you.  Looking forward to how you cut the drawers with that curved front!

Excellent walk-through, as usual!

neil

Offline Jim Kirkpatrick

  • Posts: 1036
    • Jim Kirkpatrick Woodworking
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2018, 01:20 PM »
 Derek,   I'm looking forward to seeing your progress.   Looking great so far and I love that you include your thought process during design.   Well done!

Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk


Online duc996

  • Posts: 124
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2018, 07:49 PM »
wow, great craftsmanship!

Offline HarveyWildes

  • Posts: 716
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2018, 12:47 AM »
Great workmanship, and I love seeing the process.  I'm looking forward to seeing future progress.

Online mattbyington

  • Posts: 70
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2018, 11:21 AM »
Nice!!!

Matt

Offline Rob Z

  • Posts: 701
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2018, 11:33 AM »
Hello Derek,

The Arts and Crafts style is my favorite, and I look forward to following along as you build this.  BTW, I have been reading your posts for years at Sawmill Creek and say thanks for all your efforts to post and photograph what you are doing in the shop.

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2018, 12:01 PM »
Many thanks all for the very kind words. Here is ..

Part Two

Wednesday was Anzac Day, a public holiday in Australia and New Zealand, and I had a few hours in the workshop to move along with the vertical partitions or dividers.



The panels had been thicknessed a little oversize. They need to be brought down to their final thickness of 12mm.

The panels need to be flat. The high spots are marked ...



... and planed away ....



The base and the top of the cabinet is marked out for the stopped dados.



The dados end 10mm from the lower edge. The upper section has a 12mm overhang to take into account. The ends are marked ..



... and then drilled to a depth of 6mm, which is the depth of each dado.

The sides of the dado are scored deeply with a knife, and a chisel wall is made along the length. This is to guide a saw cut.

The kerf is created with an azebiki saw. This is the traditional Japanese saw for cutting sliding dovetail joints, trenches and slots for sliding Shoji screens.



The panel is flipped around, and the kerf is deepened so that it runs the full length ...



Now zip out the upper layers of waste with a slick or paring chisel ...



Remove the remainder to depth with a router plane ...



And we are done ...



More after the weekend.

Regards from Perth

Derek


Offline Tinker

  • Posts: 3617
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2018, 03:39 PM »
WOW!
Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline rst

  • Posts: 1808
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2018, 06:15 PM »
Great stuff!  Dereck, you are definitely the HAND MAN.   Seeing your and others handwork has led me reevaluate my mechanized work and cost me a bunch of money on Lie Nielson, Veritas, and Japanese saws.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2018, 06:18 PM by rst »

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2018, 11:30 AM »
We left off with a dovetailed carcase, which had been given stopped dados made with a saw, chisel and router plane. The vertical dividers were made, but yet to be installed. Chest on its side ...



The dividers will be fitted, so ...



The dividers are slid in, and the section ahead of the stopped dado is marked with a knife ...



.. or a cutting gauge ...



.. and then cut away (I prefer a Japanese dozuki for this cut and it is cleaner than off a Western saw) ...



They need to be flush with the curved lower end of the chest (the sides dividers are yet to be shaped to the curve. That will be done later to avoid damage) ...



... while the upper section of the chest has a 12mm overhang ...



Note that all measurements and marking is done from the lower end of the carcase/dividers. This is the reference end.

It is now time to add stopped dados to the dividers. The first step is to begin marking their positions. As before, this is completed with dividers ...



Each drawer is 100x100mm and the drawer blade/divider is 12mm ...



The dado lines are scored across the divider ...



The ruler has a non-slip underside made of 400 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, a tip I got from Andrew Crawford ...



The insides of the carcase are marked similarly ...



Finally all the stopped dados are marked. There are 40 in all - 10 in walnut and 30 in merbau. The merbau is an extremely hard and brittle wood. It was chosen as a secondary wood as it was cheap and will stand up to any wear from sliding drawers, unlike a soft wood like pine.

The dados are 3mm deep (as 12mm wide). With a 12mm thick panel, and 3mm from each side, there will be 6mm remaining. That is sufficient for structural integrity.

With 40 dados, I decided to use a power router, and built a simple guide ...



The guide is a one-shot job for a 12mm dado. Just place the slot against the lines made earlier, and run the router until it hits the stop ...



This is too easy ...



... and I become complacent, and cut against the wrong line! Fortunatley, this is a simple fix and will not be seen ..



So, at the end of the day the chest is dado-ed to death. The horizontal drawer blades will be fitted next time. This is going to be an interesting time since they will curve to fit at the front.



Regards from Perth

Derek




Offline ear3

  • Posts: 3542
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2018, 12:21 PM »
Coming beautifully.  Looking forward to seeing the process pics for rounding over the dividers to match the curve.
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Offline Rob Z

  • Posts: 701
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2018, 03:17 PM »
Ahhhh, so someone else besides me has run the router on the wrong side of the line !  [wink] [big grin]

Thanks for the update, Derek.

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2018, 10:38 AM »
This is the work completed this weekend. It includes rebating the rear of the carcase in preparation for the back (at the end of the build), tuning up the dados for the horizontal drawer blades, and building the drawer blades.



Rebating the side panels of the carcase is pretty straight forward. The rebate is 6mm x 6mm. Planing the full width is unobstructed.



However, where the upper and lower panels need a rebate, planing through will lead to gaps in the panels as these end in dovetail pins. There would have not been an issue here had I used mitred dovetails, but this was an oversight at the time. Now I have a couple of choices, one being that I add a bead around the read panel, however I do not want additional adornments on the chest.

The decision is made to use a stopped rebate at each end. If completed at this stage it would lead to a weak set of pins. This is where the rebates would end ...



Instead, they will stop short of the end at this stage, and the remainder chiselled out after the carcase is glued up (glueing up will support the weakened pins) ..



The ends of the panel are excavated to start and end a saw cut, and then the shoulders are sawn with a azebiki ...





You do not need to create a chisel wall for the saw teeth if you knife the line with a Japanese cutting gauge or a thickish knife. This opens a wide enough kerf ...



No guide, just muscle memory...



A cutting gauge from each side will clean out the rebates ...






Cleaning up the dados

The strategy for the dados was to make them 20mm with a power router, which was done, and then fit panels to these. The panels were completed with the assistance of a jointer-planer/thicknesser, and this made it easier to dial them close to 20mm. Final surfacing was with handplanes.

Although the dados were made with a brand new 20mm straight bit, they were not as precise as I would have expected. A little tuning was necessary to bring them to width.

The tool of choice here is a side rebate (rabbet) plane. This one is by Veritas. It is in stopped mode to cut to the end of the stopped dado ...



This was the fit ...



A total of 40 dados needed to be tuned (that took a few hours!). The drawer blades below are, in fact, for the 24 drawers, and will be cut to fit the compartments.





The drawer blades

The design of the chest called for vertical dividers. This would create an emphasis on the vertical. Every apothecary chest I have seen used horizontal dividers/drawer blades as the primary construction. It would have been a lot easier to have done so as well since the bow front could be shaped in, and then the curved drawer blades attached to the carcase. This would have been followed with the individual vertical dividers which, while needing to be aligned, would be straight and uncomplicated to align. Starting with the vertical dividers meant that the bowed horizontal drawer blades presented a complication with alignment.

I built another template ...



This was similar to the plan drawn up at the start. It differed in that it represented the drawer blades plus the area seated into the 3mm deep dados.

Cut to size ...



The curved ends were removed ...



... and a second template made to form the bow front of the drawer blades (above and below) ...



In the meantime the (horizontal) drawer blades were sawn to size. Not that the grain for all runs across the width of the chest. Expansion takes place front-to-back.



The sections will still require shaping to a bow ...



I had a chance to use the mitre gauge I built for the Hammer slider ...



The shaped merbau drawer blades now need to be given their walnut end faces ...



These are glued with the aid again of blue tape ..





The templates from before are now used to shape the ends ...



And the result is a drawer blade ready to fit into the dados ...



Fitting next ....

Regards from Perth

Derek



Offline HarveyWildes

  • Posts: 716
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2018, 09:57 AM »
Another nice tutorial :).  I'm looking forward to seeing what you've done this weekend.

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2018, 11:37 AM »
The previous weekend had seen the completion of the drawer blades. There were 24 to make - 6 rows with curved faces.



The walnut was flushed ...



... and then were slid along the dados in the carcase ...



At this point the build came to a grinding halt. The drawer blades ... dados ... were not coplanar ... level ... darn! We are talking a millimetre here-and-there, but the combination looked terrible.

What went wrong?

It was the marking out. I ignored a very simple rule - I failed to use a common reference point. This should have been done with the dividers installed - with the inside base of the carcase as the reference - and not marked outside the carcase.

I could have repaired the dividers, but I decided to scrap the lot and make new ones, and cut new dados.

The carcase was repaired. The dados were filled in ...



Flushed ...



None of this would be visible when the new dados were made.

Then I did what I should have done when marking the positions of the dados - made a series of MDF templates, which could be used as left- and right hands ...









These were used for all dividers, with a line scored by a sharp knife ...



The power router and guide were used again. Tempting fate, perhaps, but I was convinced that the fault lay with the marking out, and not the cutting of the dados. I was tempted to just do the dados by hand - I do feel more in control with hand tools - but 40 needed to be done in all, and in hard merbau, before the weekend was over.

I am not going to bore you with pictures of the dados being made. It was the exact same as before ... except this time I did not cut on the wrong side of the line with one! :)

Here is the rear of the chest with the drawer blades inserted ...



And a couple of the front ...



The dividers and the drawer blades have yet to rebated to fit the stopped dados, nevertheless the shape of the chest is becoming more defined.



Regards from Perth

Derek


Offline HarveyWildes

  • Posts: 716
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2018, 10:17 PM »
Very nice fix, and a great looking cabinet.  I'm particularly interested because I did a similar lyptus cabinet without the curved front for my wife a few years ago, when I used a lot fewer hand tools than I do now.

A couple of questions
*  How did you trim the edges of the walnut flush with the Merbau on the drawer - router with the templates that you made?
*  Interesting pic of the bevel up smoothing plane flushing the walnut.  Did you have any issues with different grain direction or wood hardness when planing on the joint between the walnut and merbau?  How steep was the planing angle?

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2018, 11:57 AM »
Very nice fix, and a great looking cabinet.  I'm particularly interested because I did a similar lyptus cabinet without the curved front for my wife a few years ago, when I used a lot fewer hand tools than I do now.

A couple of questions
*  How did you trim the edges of the walnut flush with the Merbau on the drawer - router with the templates that you made?
*  Interesting pic of the bevel up smoothing plane flushing the walnut.  Did you have any issues with different grain direction or wood hardness when planing on the joint between the walnut and merbau?  How steep was the planing angle?

Harvey, I trim with hand planes.

The walnut and merbau were glued with grain orientated in the same direction. This was deliberate to ensure planing would be easier.

The BU Smoother always has a 62 degree cutting angle. I only use this plane to take fine shavings.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline derekcohen

  • Posts: 162
    • In The Woodshop
Re: Apothecary chest
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2018, 11:58 AM »
Well the carcase was finally glued up, everything square as can be ... and I forgot to take a photo of this! :)

However, while planing the outside, I discovered that the black walnut required nothing more advanced than a simple single-blade common angle plane. Many years ago I received a smoother from Steve Knight. This was the first occasion I got to use it.



Just wonderful to work this wood!

The next step was to complete the vertical dividers. These were inserted and, with some relief, these were square as well. A reward for attention to detail?

The photo below shows the next steps: the stopped dados need to be extended, and the faces of the dividers need to be shaped to match the angles of the carcase.

The dados are marked to 12mm from the edge ...



... and chiselled and pared away ...



These were then glued in place (yes, I got that one! :) ) ...



During the dry fit I had been careful to fit them flush with the rear rebates, and then saw them parallel. This made it easier to ensure that they were glued square (since the fronts could be flush with the lower edge of the carcase, but not the upper edge, which has an overhang) ...





Time now to install the drawer blades. These were positioned loose, as before ...



To fit them to the stopped dados, the front was marked out ...



Below the rebates are marked and knife walls cut ..



The first saw cut is across the top to establish the face ...



Then saw diagonally along the vertical line ...



.. before finishing on the horizontal ...



This will maximise obtaining a straight saw cut.



This is the fit once all is done ...





The drawer blades will remain loose until the drawers are completed, since they still need to be used as a template for each drawer.



At the rear of the cabinet, the drawer blades are marked for length and sawn flush (in the photo below, half are flush, with half to go) ...



All done. Each is marked for repositioning ...



So that is it for this past weekend. The drawers are next. Curved fronts and compound dovetails. How much fun is that! :)



Regards from Perth

Derek



« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 12:21 PM by derekcohen »