Posts Tagged With: quarter sawn oak

Sliding “Shoji-Style” Doors, a Work in Progress

Kitchens never seem to have enough space. A pantry with double doors swinging outward require room to open, and must be accounted for when arranging other items. In our case, the kitchen table and chairs must be placed to give sufficient room for the doors to swing open.


A work in progress.

As an improvement, I am building a pair of sliding by-pass doors. Most everything in the pantry is small enough to access with only one door open anyway. So, there is limited down-side to this modification. Eliminating the need for the doors to swing open is a significant up-side.

I wanted a door that was strong, and light-weight, and would not look too out of place in our kitchen. After building the cabinetry from quarter-sawn white oak, the natural choice for the doors would be to continue with the same material. But to keep the weight down and to add a lighter tone, I have gone with a door that has acrylic panels which I have covered with a rice paper style film.

The doors are about 25 1/2″ wide and 78″ tall. The outer frame and center cross piece are 7/8″ quarter-sawn white oak. The interior muntins are 1 1/2″ x 3/4″and are placed 1/8″ back from the styles and rails. The corners are joined with some major mortise and tenon joints, and the muntins are also mortised into the outer frame.


Where the muntins meet is a modified bridle joint. I am sure it is something that has been done before, but I haven’t found a photo of a joint done quite like this. I began by cutting  an “X” on the front of the vertical muntin about 1/4″ deep (with a Japanese Dotsuki Takebiki saw.)


Mock up of modified Bridle Joint

On the back side, I also cut 1/4″ deep and the full 1 1/2″ width of the muntin. I then made mitered cuts on the front and grooved the center to fit the vertical piece. I hope the photo of my initial mock-up offers a better explanation.


The finished modified Bridle Joint.

The doors will hang from a vertical track made by Grant. I set up the arrangement in my shop, hanging the track and attaching the rolling trucks to the doors, and they slide with the slightest touch.

The rice paper window film uses no adhesive — I guess it is just the static charge that holds it in place. In the photo, the acrylic sheets are held in with only tape. I will finish the door first, then permanently install the panels with small quarter-round pieces tacked in on the back side of the doors.

So, its a work in progress. I will finish the doors then modify the opening to remove traces of the existing hinges, etc. With a week off at the holidays, perhaps I can make some quick progress on this project.


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New Project: Kitchen Cabinets

I had been thinking that kitchen cabinets would be a good project to tackle when I retire in a few years. The cabinets in our kitchen are the original ones, and are terrible, as in (cheap) particle board and staples. The fronts were finished poorly, they used cheap hardware, and there is a significant amount of unused space that could have been  claimed by constructing custom cabinets.

The refrigerator was also original, and nearly 30 years old, so we decided to replace it when the local Sears store was closing. None of the models that would fit in our original opening were very well made. Drawers did not slide easily, lighting was poor, and it was easy to see that these refrigerators were built to be inexpensive. So, we decided to to upgrade a bit to a model that had much better hardware, LED lighting, and well-designed interior spaces. Only problem, it was about 2 inches too tall for the existing space.

First cabinets in place

First cabinets in place

Prior to taking delivery, I removed the cabinets above the refrigerator, and used this as a good excuse to begin building new ones. We immediately gained a significant amount of storage space by making the new cabinets taller, and by taking advantage of some previously wasted space where the walls meet at a 45 degree angle.

The new cabinets are made with quarter sawn oak face frames and doors on birch plywood cases. The face frames are dadoed and rabbeted to accept the cases, and pocket screws are used in blind locations to hold it together. I am using a simple Shaker rail and style bit set for the doors, which operate with Euro-style hinges. The knobs and handles are from Lee Valley’s cast bronze Arts and Crafts style suite.

So far, there are two cabinets hanging above and beside the refrigerator, with some matching shelves above the sink. Two more top cabinets are in the works, and will be done in due time. (Of course, if I were retired now, this work would go much faster!!)

Cabinet in Construction

Cabinet in Construction

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Completed Roll Top Cabinet

The Completed Roll Top Cabinet

The Completed Roll Top Cabinet


The roll top cabinet is finally finished!

Antique Dentist's Desk

Antique Dentist’s Desk

As I described in an earlier post, this piece was inspired by a “Dentist’s Desk” I had seen at a friend’s house. I liked the unusual look of the roll top, with its quick vertical drop after a tight-radius curve. Most roll tops seem to drop at a much more gentle angle. I also liked the beveled fronts on the shallow drawers, and while not copied, I incorporated a similar style to this piece.

I built this cabinet from quarter-sawn white oak, which remains my favorite wood to use for furniture. It is very stable with little movement, provides a tough surface, takes a finish well, and looks great, too.

This was my first attempt at making a roll top. The concept always seemed pretty straight-forward, but I wasn’t sure how to go about making something that would actually slide up and down freely. So many roll top desks seem to be very difficult to operate. When it was nearing completion, I waxed the track the tambor rides in, and waxed the tambor itself. I was very pleased with the way it moves — it works better than I had hoped.

The piece is finished to match the kitchen table and chairs I made a few years back. (with two more chairs currently in the works.) Once sanded and assembled, I covered the cabinet with a large piece of plastic, and set a bowl of ammonia in the enclosure. The fumes from the ammonia darken the wood. The longer the exposure, the darker the piece will get. I fumed this piece for about 4 hours. When removed from the ammonia tent, (and when the smell goes away) the white oak takes on a bit of a gray tint. To bring a bit of warmer tones to the finish, I then apply a coat of garnet shellac. I used a 1.5 lb. cut of shellac, and applied it as a hand-rubbed finish. I then applied 5 coats of General Finishes Oil and Urethane, also hand-rubbed, with very light sanding between coats. The final coat was not sanded, but was followed by a coat of Renaissance Wax.

The piece appears to have doors at the bottom. This is actually a drawer front, designed to hold a recycling container. I am not sure what inspired this little design detail, but it works well.

Door Front Drawer for Recycling.

Door Front Drawer for Recycling.

Completed Cabinet with Roll Top Open

Completed Cabinet with Roll Top Open

Roll Top Cabinet with Top Closed

Roll Top Cabinet with Top Closed












I am pleased with the way the cabinet turned out. One other little feature which I have not photographed yet is a “charging station” which goes inside the roll top to the left of the dividers. This  has USB and 110v plug-ins for charging phones, tablets, cameras etc. I will try to get a picture of that soon.

This was a fun project to take on, from design through completion. I got my first experience making tambor for the roll top, I got to use my 18″ band saw to resaw the wood for the side panels, I made a jig to cut the bevels on the drawer fronts, got a lot of use from my recently-acquired smoothing plane, and managed to match the finish on other pieces. With a little modification, this design could easily become a desk (like the piece that inspired it) or even a stand up desk. The basic dimensions for this piece are: 53″ tall (38″ to the inside top surface) x 34″ wide x 18″ deep.

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Cabinet Details

I have had a little time to work on the cabinet that will go in a corner of our kitchen, despite the bitter cold weather here. The problem is that glues don’t set properly when the temperature is this low, and it has been a challenge getting the temperature up — even with a propane heater and sunny days. The weather should be getting warmer over the next few days, but I will be back at work for the next week.

Anyway, back to the cabinet. I have beveled the drawer fronts, a detail I took from the Dentist’s Desk I am using as an inspiration for this piece. The drawers are in and have been rough-fit into their openings. I dovetailed the drawers, making a very strong joint, and a decorative one, as well.

And, I have accomplished what I wanted with the bottom portion. We need a place to put newspapers, etc for recycling, and I wanted a way to pull out a large “drawer” which would contain a recycling bin. I designed this to look like two doors, but when opened, it slides out like a drawer.

Finally, I have made some progress on the top section with the roll top. The part that will be seen inside of the top section has been connected to the ends with mortise and tenon joinery.

Here are a couple of photos:

Beveled fronts, and the pull out bottom section.

Beveled fronts, and the pull out bottom section.

The cabinet comes together.

The cabinet comes together.

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Cabinet Progress

The weather has been so cold! Hard to do much work in an unheated garage workshop. I did break down and get a little propane heater that helps bring the temperature up a bit. But between the temperature and overtime at work, progress has been slow on the cabinet I am basing on the Dentist’s Desk. One of the more difficult activities in the cold weather is applying glue, which must be done at certain minimum temperatures. Springtime be welcome when it arrives.

Cabinet Progress

Cabinet Progress

Here is a picture of the progress on the piece.  It is beginning to take shape. The drawers have not yet been made; the fronts are merely sitting in the openings. There is still much to be done on the roll top. The top is rough cut to approximate size.  I still need to get the wood to build the drawers themselves — probably poplar with plywood bottoms. I hope to make some more progress this weekend.

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Making the Curved Trunk Lid

Construction Progress


After cutting out most of the pieces, the next step in the process is to fit them together. Much of the joinery in the trunk consists of panels and tenons inserted into grooves. Here you can see some of the progress I have made in dry fitting the pieces together.

The key to constructing the top is the curved ribs which define the shape.  Each rib is mortised into the front and back rail, and the panels fit into grooves.  Since there are so many pieces to the top, the trick is how to assemble them in the gluing process quickly enough so the glue doesn’t begin to dry out too soon.

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