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I'm not sure why it happens, but sometimes I get involved in building something that turns out to be one my favorite builds ever ... this is one of those projects.
Not long ago I made a video on some of the elements that go into "distressing wood" in an effort to make wood look old and well used. In this article we take that information and apply it to the making of an antique style Ice Box, something that would have been built and used between the 1880s and 1920s. This piece of furniture was crudely made, probably by people with few tools and little knowledge of woodworking. There are very few of these pieces around anymore, most have long since been scraped so in order to have something like this means recreating it.
I don't know why this piece of furniture caught my eye, something about it was appealing. I love old and antique furniture and this little ice box seemed like a nice piece to replicate. Anyone looking very closely at it would not be fooled, and certainly any furniture expert would not be deceived by the replication of a piece of furniture like this but in a room full of furniture, this piece stands out by giving the illusion that it has been around for many decades and could likely have been rescued from an old barn or disused cottage in many parts of the world.
Because this piece was to appear old I worked hard at finding rough cut lumber that had nasty knots, cracks saw marks, chips and gouges in it because this would all add to the finished affect.
As usual, I am working without anything much more than rough plans crudely drawn on a whiteboard ... I don't recommend this, it's just something that I have learned to do over the years and most of the detail is in my head. I have normally built a project like this 10 or 15 times in my head before I even start selecting the wood so I am pretty confident even before I start how this is going to work out.
I knew a few things ahead of time, like the width and height and depth and just had to work backward to fit all the parts. I have learned over the years that if you start with the glue-up parts, you can very often work on other parts while the glue is drying and so I started off with the legs in this case, by laminating some trimmed board together the gluing them up all at the same time.
While that glue was setting, I went on to cut and distress all the stretchers for the side and front and back. I also decided ahead of time that I would be using my Dowelmax jig to for the joints so they would nice and strong and easy to construct.
Next I began making the horizontal side panels. These were made on the router table using a matched rail an style set. The lumber I used for this was 1/2" thick and the reason was both for weight of the furniture, but also so that there would be a bit of a "reveal" around the sides of the cabinet to help give it a feeeling of depth. The vertical panels on the door were constructed the same way.
After the legs were taken from the clamps and roughly trued up on the table saw, I needed to cut slots in them and in the connecting stretchers, that the horizontal side panels would fit into. Because I did not what a slot running the entire length of the leg, the slots need a stop and start point which can be seen in the video.
After all the sides and front pieces were constructed, I decided to coat them with and amber dye which brought out the richness of the wood as well as all the defects I worked so hard to include. While the carcass parts were drying I went on to make the top out of 1 inch stock material. You will notice in the video I include a big knot, but put it toward the back. I also included a couple of burn marks on this piece which really make this piece stand out as a replicated furniture item.
The top finish was 2 coats of shellac which gave it a very slight sheen, but really made the distressing stand out. Sadly I could not find any suitable hardware in time for the finish so opted for what was available, and once installed, actually didn't look out of place. I will continue to look for something more suitable and for a source for antique looking furniture hardware.
I absolutely loved making this piece, which was a surprise to me. I didn't know how much I was enjoying it until I was already well into it. I have a hunch I will be making more of this style of furniture all I need to do is find a place to put it all ...
Copyright - Colin Knecht