Photography By Stephen Hepworth Main Illustrations By Ian Hall

If this is possible, all grain directions should align correctly. I mark an arrow on the surfaces indicating grain direction, as this can save a lot of time later trying to plane, scrape and sand break-out or torn grain.

The top, shelves, and back panel are too wide for most machines, and these are flattened by hand. Using a router and router table, the panels are then rebated to fit in the grooves in the legs and rails.

Tenons

Next, the tenons, which receive the top, are cut - and the wedges are cut at the same time.

To keep a check on sequence, especially near gluing-up time, I often list operations that need doing. On this job they consist of: slots for the buttons on the top rail, drilling of holes on the legs for adjustable shelf fittings, shaping on the legs, and sanding.

Glue-up

The ends can then be glued-up, making sure that they're kept square and out of wind. After the glue has set, the frames of the end panels can be flushed with a plane, if necessary, to square up the mortice shoulders and prepare for receiving the longitudinal rails and back panel. Again, the cabinet needs to be kept true, but the back panel will help keep the back square.

If, on gluing-up, the legs rock, these can be adjusted by moving the sash cramps slightly to bring one or two of the legs down.

Once set, the bottom shelf can be spot-glued in place and the shelf fitted - probably the most awkward step in the process.

The shelf is marked around the legs and cut out, and the front mitre cut slightly over size. A trial and error process with a sharp chisel will ensure a tight fit on the mitres. The uplift on the shelf can now be planed, across the grain first, and finished along the grain. The shelf is fixed with buttons in the usual way to allow for any movement.

Chamfering on the legs and the shelf, meets with a mitre -a simple but subtle detail

Gentle uplifting on the top, mirrored In the shelf below, helps make the piece less visually heavy

ABOVE* The same American black walnut features on the back, top sides, and door panels

A CRITICAL EYE

When a piece of furniture that I have designed and made is finished, my critical eye inspects it carefully. I assess the design, workmanship, features, and cost. If the piece holds together and the integrity of the design is enhanced by the workmanship and timber, then I deem it to be a successful project.

My feelings about this piece are that, if I were to make it again, I would make some small alterations, but on the whole I am pleased with it. I would not do the light chamfering around the panels again, but would just take off the arris, which would enhance the simplicity of the design.

I always check timber movement - effective drying and acclimatisation in the workshop is important. In this case, the top is held flat by four wedged tenons, which do not normally allow movement.The top has stayed flat and true and the movement has been minimal.

In terms of cost, design features can prove expensive - they are generally worked by hand and so cost more to produce than the whole of the jointing. Complicated features, say on a batch production, could be made by using jigs, but on one-off commissions, the time taken up in producing jigs can take longer than tackling the feature by hand. On the other hand, features should not be rushed, because it is they that will give the piece its integrity - and will also help to sell it! I have found in the past that a lot of people who view furniture do not notice the strong, accurate joints, except perhaps the dovetails, but will notice and comment on design features, the timber, and the final stain, or type of finish!

All these things have to be considered from the outset if a successful piece is to be achieved.

ABOVE* The same American black walnut features on the back, top sides, and door panels

Fitting the top

The top mortices are marked out carefully from the tenons, and the waste removed with a router. The mortice and wedge room are cleaned up with a chisel to facilitate a clean joint. The top uplift is achieved by the same

"The handles are made from American black walnut, mirroring the angles featured on the front"

method as the shelf, but with a lot more planing time.

Once scraped and sanded, the top can be glued to the legs. I find the tone when driving in wedges is satisfying but, when the wedges are decorative, they must be knocked in evenly.

Interior, showing the top fixed with buttons far right: Adjustable middle shelf and magnetic catches for the doors

Interior, showing the top fixed with buttons far right: Adjustable middle shelf and magnetic catches for the doors

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"When a piece of furniture that I have designed and made is finished, my critical eye inspects it carefully"

RIGHT: American black walnut handles reflecting the chamfer detail on the shelf

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Shell and doors

The cabinet is now ready to receive the shelf and doors. The shelf is a simple matter of placing on the adjustable brass pegs, and the doors are made in the same way as the end panels. Generally I make doors a spot-on fit for the height, which will require a light touch, on the plane for fit, but the width, I make 1 to 2mm (%in) over-size to ensure a good fit. Often the meeting stiles will need adjustment once hung on the hinges.

The handles are made from American black walnut, mirroring the angles featured on the front. These are morticed into the stiles.

Final finishing

Now the table and cabinet are scrutinised for any tool marks, chip outs, or torn grain and lightly sanded, finishing with a 400 grit paper.

The whole piece has three coats of pre-catalysed matt cellulose lacquer and is ready for use! U

"Features should not be rushed, because it is they that will give the piece its integrity - and will ▼ also help to sell it!"

BELOW: Turned stretcher rails give support to back

has recently completed his final year in furniture-making and design at Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology under Hugh Scrlven. He is now taking commissions

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