Second

above:

Functional and simple Gustav Stickley-based design

Arts and crafts style holds a particular attraction for me. I like its slightly softened angularities aligned with visible joints which provide ample opportunity to practise, so improving skills.

Unfortunately being unable to photograph the original writing desk -which sold for £750 - the only solution to illustrating this article was to make another one.

Now, this should have been a matter of simply getting out the drawings and measurements, and starting work; however, because I usually work only to a rough sketch -and in this case didn't even have that - my shortcomings came to the fore.

This piece was developed from an original that I had seen photographed in an old book about Gustav Stickley. The following is the result...

... And I have to say it was actually quite pleasant building something a second time, for I was able to attempt to correct the errors made first time round and change small details, hopefully for the better. The job took me 45 hours to complete.

Construction

English oak (Quercus robur) is used for the main carcass. The sides are cut from two wide, adjacent boards so as to achieve a bookmatch effect and avoid having joints showing on the front.

The top can be made from a nicely figured single piece, or, as I did, jointed and made up from three pieces.

After marking a line on the board, cut the taper freehand on the tablesaw. Both sides are then placed together and planed to size.

The shelves are jointed from narrower stock, trimmed square to size, the tenons are marked and cut, and the waste is chiselled out.

"Normally, because I'm constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, I don't hold hard and fast to anything, but trying to mark joints without my cheap utility knives - no thank you!"

Marking joints

Using a sharp knife, the tenons can now be marked directly against the sides. Normally, because I'm constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, I don't hold hard and fast to anything, but trying to mark joints without my cheap utility knives - no thank you!

Transfer the lines around the outside, preferably with a marking gauge, slightly undersize to allow for final paring back to size. Chop out the mortices, relieving the waste with drill or router if preferred. Dry fit the sides and shelves together and mark the position of the mortices on the top, repeating the procedure until the carcass starts to look the part.

MIKE COWIE turned to cabinetmaking after redundancy. He took a City and Guilds furniture-making course, aligning this with a great deal of additional, unpaid, work to achieve a reasonable standard which led to self-employment. He says he sometimes doubts his sanity in entering such a fickle profession, but relishes the challenge of trying to meet his own high standards. Currently working from a converted garage, he is aiming towards a dedicated workshop/showroom.

bottom: Chamfered top tenons

The semi-circular cut-out on the sides is achieved with the aid of a suitably sized dinner plate and bandsaw!

With the router, drill an 8mm hole for the door pivot. The sides, shelves and top can now be cleaned up prior to gluing; finish to 240 grit. If the top tenons are to be chamfered, this is best done before assembly.

Padauk wedges

Padauk (Pterocarpus sp) wedges inserted diagonally into side tenons provide a nice visible effect which requires the tenons to be sawn to fit. To ensure squareness, glue up after checking by measuring diagonally.

I cheated at this point, placing scrap wood over the tenons and cramping them together. I glued up and left the carcass for half-an-hour before removing the cramps and inserting the wedges - happily, without problem.

Cleaning up is a simple matter of leaving the glue until it is rubbery, and peeling it off with a sharp chisel.

Inner linings

I made my inner linings from 7mm (%in) and 5mm (%in) chestnut 0Castanea sativa), this being ripped down from thicker stock and jointed to width. The original had square sides and drawer fronts, but this time 1 thought that an incline to match the slope of the sides would improve the look.

The carcass is dovetailed, and the shelves and partitions are all run in 4mm (%in) grooves with the aid of the router. Using a router guide rail system for this task eradicates the need for straight-edges and clamps, so conforming to the KISS system (keep it simple stupid!).

"Using a router guide rail system for this task eradicates the need for straightedges and clamps, so conforming to the KISS system"

LEFT: Interior layout with sloped drawers matching the line of the front

BEUOw: Padauk wedges are set diagonally into side tenons and 'dinner plate' semi-circular cutout

Stopped grooves

Using a router with a suitable bit, run a stopped groove down the inside back of the sides for the back panel and on the lower shelf.

While apart, a stopped groove also has to be cut on the underside of the top to take the back panel. The top has an undercut chamfer of 30°; this is cut on the tablesaw and finished with a hand plane.

"The semi-circular cut-out on the sides is achieved with the aid of a suitable-sized dinner plate and bandsaw!"

LEFT: Interior layout with sloped drawers matching the line of the front

BEUOw: Padauk wedges are set diagonally into side tenons and 'dinner plate' semi-circular cutout bottom: Chamfered top tenons

HOT DESIGN

above: That essential workshop aid, the pepper pot, is used to mark out the inlay design

MIDDLE: Carefully cutting round the circle before routing out

RIGHT! Routing out waste

I commandeered a pepper pot which conformed to the radius of a suitable gouge - 20mm (%in).

My method for cutting out the waste was to tap the chisel around the circle to the depth of approximately 2mm, then, using the router freehand with a 10mm flat-bottomed bit and setting it to a 2mm depth of cut, to rout out the waste - carefully!

Using a ruler and utility knife, trim down the length of the stem and, with a 4mm bit set to 2mm, trim out the waste as far as possible, finishing with a 3mm chisel,

The foot is cut out by hand.Trim some padauk to size and inlay into the recess, gluing it into place; clean up with plane and scraper, taking care that the padauk does not bleed into the oak.

Drawers» back panel

Mark off and cut all the sides of the angle-fronted drawers to the correct angle, and mark the dovetails in pairs to keep symmetry for the through dovetails. These are also cut together from quarter-sawn oak, the through dovetails keeping the thickness of the front down to. 10mm (%in).

The drawer sides are thick enough to cut a groove for the cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) drawer linings. A stop is glued underneath the drawer, and the handles are whittled from some padauk off-cuts, then drilled and screwed on.

The back panel is constructed from 10mm (%in) chestnut, rebated and chamfered to give a V groove effect. It is fitted into the groove at the top and drilled and screwed to the two lower shelves.

Door

All that remains now is the door. As the most visible part, it is worthy of some nicely figured wood, but I have to confess to running out of 25mm (1 in) boards, and had to rip some 12mm (%in) down into 3mm, veneering this onto 15mm MDF for the inner panel.

I comforted myself with the thought that this was all for the best,

above: Dry-fit assembly of carcass right! Construction of interior carcass and divisions as the movement of solid wood in a tightly held panel would only cause problems later.

Cut the frame to size, mortice and tenon the joints and dry fit together to measure for the inner panel size.

Cut the five inner panels to size and groove all inner edges to accept a 6mm (>iin) spline. Before gluing up, mark the outline for the decorative inlay, see panel.

After inlaying, glue the frame together and clean up. Use the router again to insert a ball catch into the door - a small collection of router bits can be surprisingly useful when needs must!

Dovetails above: Dry-fit assembly of carcass right! Construction of interior carcass and divisions

Dovetails

Housings

top: Sliding chestnut interior divisions into housings

Complete interior carcass assembled and being tried for fit below: Top with 30° chamfer ready for assembly - note mortices

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