Decorative Strip

I decided to add a small decorative strip to the top of the cupboard, and in order to support it, needed to add a cross piece under the front of the top.This is cut to size, with a 22'A" butt joint at each end, to fit to the inner edges of the fronts, and glued and clamped to the top.

A saw cut 3mm (%in) deep is cut every 19mm (%in) in a strip of oak 19mm by 6mm (3/in by Kin), to leave a series of small raised pieces to form the decorative strip. Mark the first cut and, using a register pencil, mark on the fence of the radial arm saw, and make the remaining cuts, see photo.A similar result could be achieved, albeit more slowly, by marking each cut and making the cut by hand, using a tenon saw with a wide set and a depth-stop clamped to the blade.

The strip is sanded and finished, and the centre piece cut to size, with a 22'A° butt join face at each end, and glued to the cross strip.The two side pieces are then cut, fitted, and glued to the fronts of the cupboard. The join between the sides and the front of the strip should be in the same position on the raised decorative square, on each side, or it will look unbalanced.

right: aptc hinge siting pre-drill, being used to fit door

FAR RIGHT: Decorative strip being cut on radial arm saw, showing register mark leave the door edges square for ease of fitting - there will not be enough thickness left on the cupboard fronts to take the hinge screws. Believe me -I've tried it!

I had a pair of flush-fitting electroplated brass hinges lying around so I decided to use them for their ease, and to see how they looked. They save little time, and when fitted, are not strong, and look cheap, which of course they are - I won't use them again! For the door, I used an electro-brassed magnetic catch, which I found slimmer and better looking than the brown or white plastic variety. These are not cheap, however, and I still prefer a brass ball catch for its looks.

To drill the screw holes for the hinges I used the APTC hinge siting pre-drill and found it very good, see photo. Essentially, it is a spring-loaded outer sleeve, fitted round the drill, which locates in the counter sinking on the hinge, and centres the drill in the hole. It worked well and was a good buy for a couple of quid -drilling depth was critical because of the angled edges. I marked the depth on the drill with a piece of sticky tape to avoid drilling through. I drilled for the sycamore door pull and dry fitted it, then removed it, and the sycamore panel, ready to fume the oak.


I made a temporary fuming tent from polythene sheet and string, the edges held down with battens of scrap.

The cupboard is wiped over with white spirit to highlight any defects or glue marks, and carefully finished -sanding after fuming will leave marks. It is then placed in the tent on its side, resting on some pointed dowels let into pieces of scrap. This supports it on a face which would not be seen, and leaves virtually no marks anyway. .880 ammonia is poured into some

"The grain direction of the shelves, top, and base, should be parallel to the line of the front to allow for movement when jointed to the sides"

Decorative strip

"When I make furniture for myself I use it as an opportunity to try something new or different"

Decorative strip

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"Drawing all the pieces to size on hardboard allows accurate measurements to be taken for all the component parts"

saucers, placed inside the tent and the whole thing left overnight. The usual precautions must be taken with the ammonia, the most important being eye protection. Ammonia is extremely dangerous to the eyes and damage can be permanent -particularly relevant in my case!


Once the oak is fumed give it three coats of Danish oil, leaving 24 hours and lightly rubbing down, between coats. Sycamore yellows when treated with Danish oil and I wanted to keep its creamy-white look, so I used a water-based acrylic varnish with a UV filter on the panel and door pull. The panel and pull are fitted and the whole thing given two coats of wax and buffed to a nice sheen.


I was pleased with the result, it cost very little in time or materials, and holds all the small kit it was intended for. When we moved recently, there was a suitable corner in the study of the new house, just waiting for it. ■

Supplier: APTC hinge siting pre-drills come in three sizes: Vuin, Vuin, %4 in from Axminster Power Tool Centre, Chard Street, Axminster, Devon, EX13 5DZ, tel 01297 33656 fax 01297 35242

Apothecary's chest

It's a calculated risk working with burr elm

I LOVE THE challenge of working in burr elm (Ulmus procera). There is an element of risk, and as with certain other potential objects of beauty, the desired result can only be achieved with a careful approach!

I have made several of these chests using various contrasting woods for the carcass, and up to fourteen drawers with burr fronts, but this speculative piece made for a museum, see panel, is the first in solid burr throughout.


This piece is loosely based on the apothecary's chest of pre-NHS times; the stylised drawer attachment both adapts its function and improves balance and interest.

It also makes use of the availability of small pieces of burr, and gives me the welcome opportunity to make plenty of drawers.

Making panels

Time and care spent marking out and making the panels has a profound effect on the end result. The distinctive grain pattern of the burr makes joins difficult if a patchwork quilt appearance is to be avoided.

Try to book-match sequential boards, or mask the join by flowing the grain and colour through it. Blemishes can be put on the inside or made into a feature!

Before gluing up, cut the pieces over-size, mark them carefully, and lay them out to see how they relate to each other.

The top and drawer fronts should have the best figure. While each will be a picture in its own right, it must relate to the whole to give an overall pleasing effect.

"The distinctive grain pattern of the burr makes joins difficult"

If, as a result of the wild grain, there is end-grain along the joints, strengthen them with a loose tongue.

Drawer frames

Burr tends to move more than most other woods, so allowances must be made for this in the construction.

The main movement is across the grain, and as the grain in the top, sides and base is more or less running in the same direction, there should be little problem. The drawer rails, however, run across the grain.

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ABOVE: Careful matching of boards for the top and drawer fronts

above left and right: Cramping up has to be done in sequence

ABOVE: Careful matching of boards for the top and drawer fronts above left and right: Cramping up has to be done in sequence

"Allow plenty of time - in the words of David Savage this is not a Friday afternoon job"

right: The formal design contrasts with the wild grain of the burr

Do not glue the mortise and tenons at the back of the frame; leave a 3mm ('/sin) gap to allow for expansion and contraction.

Make the frames 1mm (3/64in) wider at the back than the front to allow for easy drawer movement. For the same reason the drawer spacers should be tapered front to back by 1.5mm C'/i6in) each side; fit them very carefully, and cut the mortises for the front uprights between the drawers.


Cut the sides to size, and slot to receive the frames and back. Do as much of the final filling and finishing as possible before assembly.

The first stage in the assembly of the carcass is probably the most difficult as the drawer frames must be glued into the sides, and the uprights between the rails, at the same time.

Only the front and back rail ends should be glued into the side slots, to enable the dry joint at the back to run smoothly.

Do a trial dry assembly to check everything, prepare the clamps and equipment, and above all allow plenty of time. In the words of David Savage this is not "a Friday afternoon job".

Check the diagonals back and front to ensure all is square; leave to set. Indulgence in a little cheating allows fitting the uprights first, using a plugged screw with which to pull up the joint, then fitting the frames to the sides.

ABOVE! Drawer detail

Drawer spacers I mm wider at rear

ABOVE! Drawer detail pegs let through bottom panel into drawer frame

"The old oil adage of'once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a year thereafter' is not far out"

Top, base, back

Cut the top, base and back to size, allowing the extra 1mm width at the back; slot the top and base to receive the sides and back.

I use suitably faced 5mm MDF for the back, and glue it in all round for extra strength.

Rounding over the edges of the top and bottom protects them from chipping and provides a nice highlight to the finish.

Clamp up, check for square and leave to set.


The drawers are constructed in the normal way. I always' use cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) for the linings, and cedar-faced MDF glued in all round for the bases, again for extra strength.

The smell of cedar is wonderful, it repels insects - and attracts customers!

When preparing the drawer fronts keep them a tight, tapered fit to allow for adjustment when fitting; finishing the inside faces at this stage is easier than doing it when the drawers are assembled.

When dovetailing the fronts, keep tools razor-sharp and pressure-light; the wild grain entails cutting both with and against it, and the work is all too easily chipped. As a last resort keep the Superglue handy!

Fit the drawers a little looser than usual; to minimise any visual effect with the shadow line, set them back about 1mm from the front.

Knobs, feet

Taking advantage of more odd lumps of leftover burr, I chose bun feet, adopting a similar shape for the knobs. Again, the rounded surfaces show off the oiled finish nicely.

The pegs which fit the knobs and feet are better made as loose dowels from a suitable straight-grained timber, and glued in. If turned from solid burr with an unkind grain they can snap.


A Danish-oiled finish is the best choice; it brings out the deep richness of the grain pattern and colour, and is improved with time and tender loving care. The burr can be quite porous, and oil penetrates well into the wood, helping to stabilise it.

The old oil adage of 'once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a year thereafter' is not far out.

MDF back veneered on

All rear mortice and tenon joints dry

  • Housings for drawer frame
  • Drawer upright tenoned into rails

pegs let through bottom panel into drawer frame

  • Drawer spacers tapered '|imm each side at rear
  • gt;loles for I " diameter feet

MDF back veneered on

• Drawer spacers tapered '|imm each side at rear

All rear mortice and tenon joints dry

Drawer spacers I mm wider at rear

  • Housings for drawer frame
  • Drawer upright tenoned into rails
  • gt;loles for I " diameter feet

ABOVE: Sharp tools and care are needed to avoid chipping the burr

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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