Provincial Crner Cupboard

No-frills country joinery by Carlyle Lynch

Corner cupboards have long been popular for transforming useless room corners into efficient storage areas that seem to blend right into the walls. Even though these triangular pieces were designed to be purely functional, early craftsmen couldn't resist turning them into beautiful showcases of their own skill. Often they added distinctive touches like the arched panel doors on the cupboard shown above, which is now in the Great Hall of the Tuckahoe Plantation in Richmond, Va.

The simplicity of this one-piece walnut and riftsawn yellow pine cupboard suggests that it was made by a country craftsman at Tuckahoe shortly after the plantation was built in 1712. Tuckahoe, now a national historic landmark, is noted for its architecture and furnishings, so it's not surprising that a cabinetmaker working there would have tried to make the cupboard special. Later, as the cabinetmakers' art flourished in America, corner cupboards were embellished with more intricate moldings, bracket feet and delicately framed glass doors.

My measured drawing and bill of materials (pp. 78 and 79) show the lumber thicknesses of the original, but more conventional stock sizes will work all right. The carcase sides and doors can be 7k in. or ' Vi6 in. thick. You could make the back panels from '/2-in. boards and work the cornice from Win. stock.

While it's impossible to know exactly how the original maker went about constructing the piece, I think that this practical worker might have made the shelves, bottom and top first, then simply nailed or pinned the two sides and back center piece to them. This formed a rigid skeleton to which the rails, molding and doors could be added. Even though the cabinetmaker used nails (you can feel them if you insert a thin knife between the shelves and sides), it's difficult co see any nail holes on the sides. I suspect chat he filled the holes wich ciny plugs, carefully macching che grain of che sides—preccy sophiscicaced work.

Since che hexagonal shelf unics are 19 in. deep, you'll have co edge-glue several narrower boards co gee che required widch. Saw che pieces a licde longer than needed in case individual boards shift slightly in the clamps. You can crim che shelves co size afcer che glue has cured. For addicional screngch, or perhaps because the cabinetmaker didn't bother co chickness-

plane pares chac wouldn'c show, che waisc shelf, cop and boccom on che original are chicker chan che ocher shelves.

The sides and back cencer piece are made from single long boards. On each side, bevel che fronc edge 22/2° so ic can bucc againsc che beveled door co form a 45° corner, and rabbec che back edge for the back panels. Bevel both edges of che back cencer piece co 45°. Now nail chese pieces co che shelves—one way would be co prop up che hexagonal cop on che floor and rack a side co ic, chen prop up che boccom and cack che side co ic. All che shelves are permanenc, so while che assembly is scill on che floor, nail che remaining shelves co che side, chen nail on che second side. The cupboard framing should now be rigid enough for you co flip ic over and nail che back center piece co che shelves.

Nexc pin che cop, waist and base rails to the cupboard. The rail ends are beveled 22'40 and appear bucced co che sides, forming a 45° angle becween them. I suspect, however, chac blind cenons or splines (figure 2) may have been used for excra strength. Once the rails are in place, nail che shiplapped boards co che back cencer piece, shelves and sides.

The basic cupboard is now ready for some decoracive couches. Make and apply all moldings—che profiles used on che original are shown on che plan. Micer che waisc molding co fie che 45° angles on che sides. For che cornice, make a coving cuc on the tablesaw, then form the beads with a shaper or router. If you are really ambitious, you could also hand-carve or plane the molding. If you're less zealous, you may be able to find patterns close enough to the originals at a well-stocked mill shop.

Next make the doors. Make sure you work carefully—it's too late to change the carcase, should you make the doors under-size (which is why some cabinetmakers prefer to make the doors first, then build the carcase to fit). Through mortise-and-tenons are used on the original door frames, but figure 3 on p. 79 shows an easier way to build the frames with blind morrises. Cut all the door stiles and rails to size, then mold and plow che inside edges co accepc che panels before you lay ouc and cuc che morrises and cenons. On che original, che grooves are abouc % in. co % in. deep. To assemble che frames, you'll have co miter che molded edges of che sciles so chey can be ficced co che rails. A 45° guide block and a sharp chisel will work well co micer che mold-

Pholo: Taylor Dabncv

Traditional Furniture Projects 77

CORNER CUPBOARD

Courte sí/ -Jiicko/ioe ¿P/antatton fâicfimond, í/rc/f/ua ^A/easufvä <£ ¿Drawn by Carfo/e ¿Cc/tic/v

7op Moldinos

S/de yv Mol oing v

Waist Mol o i no

Base Molding side Molding

78 The Best of Fine Woodworking

ing so that it will fit together snug and tight.

Once you know the size of the frames, you can make the panels. The straight ones can be cut with a shaper, with a tablesaw and a router, or by hand. The arched ones will need handwork. Careful work with a chisel will raise the arch and give you a nice sense of accomplishment.

Assemble the doors with glue and clamp them to dry, making sure they're flat and square. Fit the panels loosely (don't glue them) so they'll have room to swell when the weather turns damp. To ensure a tight fit, peg the frame joints with square pins.

Before you install the doors, rabbet one edge of each right-hand door to fit over the left-hand one. With a scratch stock, make a %-in. bead on the right-hand doors. Bevel the hinge edges of the doors to 22V2° to match the cupboard sides, and install the hinges with steel screws. After the doors are hung, remove the hardware, then sand and finish the cupboard. I recommend that you fill the grain with dark silica-base filler, then apply two coats of Minwax Antique Oil finish. When I rehang the doors, I usually substitute brass screws for the steel ones. □

Carlyle Lynch, a designer, cabinetmaker and retired teacher, lives hi Broadway, Va. Drawings by the author.

BILL OF MATERIALS Amt. Description

Wood

Dimensions T x W x L

Amt.

Description

Wood

Dimensions T x W x L

2

Sides

walnut

%x71/2x871/4

Upper doors:

2

Top and base rails

walnut

%X23/4X271/4*

4

stiles

walnut

%x2%x48

1

Waist rail

walnut

%x2>/2X27%*

2

top rails

walnut

%x4-/8x9% s/s

1

Cornice

walnut

1% x 3% x 50**

2

center rails

walnut

,5/i6 x 2% x 9% s/s

1

Waist molding

walnut

x 1% x45**

2

bottom rails

walnut

%x2%x9% s/s

1

Base molding

walnut

9/¡6x2'/4x45**

2

top panels

walnut

%6 X 9% X 2 1%

2

Side moldings

walnut

Vux 1% x 84

2

bottom panels

walnut

Vie x 9% x 1934

1

Top molding

walnut

K6xl'/8x45

Lower doors:

4

Shelves

pine

%x 19x36%

4

stiles

walnut

%x2%y29

3

Waist shelf,

pine

%x 19x36%

4

rails

walnut

%x2%x9% s/s

top, and bottom

2

panels

walnut

Vie x 9% x 24%

1

Back center piece

pine

%x73/4x83%

24

Tenon pins

walnut

%x%xl%

2

Back panels, shiplapped

pine

% x 2 1% x 83%

1

Back foot brace

pine

2x2x2

2

Turn buttons

walnut

%x7/sx2y4

Hardware: Eight polished-brass H-hinges, 1% x 4%; two

* Long point to long point.

wardrobe locks with barrel keys, 14-in.

selvage to key pin;

** Makes front and side moldings.

two

polished-brass oval escutcheons.

s/s =

shoulder to shoulder. Allow 2M in. to 3

in. for through tenons.

Traditional Furniture Projects 79

square peg

Locks joint

Cut bead with A scratch stock

FÍG.3: Door Construction with blind mortise joint

Cur back molding here to rail into stile.

Tenon thickness matches width of panel groove.

From Fine Woixlnorking magazine (January 1985) 50:46-48

Traditional Furniture Projects 79

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