Here's a project I have been wanting to build for a long time. It's called many things, a Whiskey Cabinet, a Wine Cabinet, Collectables Cabinet and even a Library Cabinet, so it clearly has lots of uses and the one I am making will be able to adapt to many different uses simply by changing the inside shelving configuration which is easily done
by using a "pull-out" system, so any kind of shelving unit can be inserted according to use. This unit is what is known as a "floating top" because at first glance, the top appears to be floating above the legs.
For this build I selected Garry Oak, a local oak in my area that is somewhat rare, but when old trees die, they are harvested and turned into lumber for local wood guilds. A great re-use of a wood. For the door and side panels I elected to use some of the spalted Alder that I had on my property from an Alder Tree that had died and where I salvaged the logs and had a friend cut them into lumber for me.
This was a straight forward build, nothing fancy in the shape or size so I worked simply from dimensions I wrote down on a piece of paper. From that that I could easily figure out the length, width and height of everything. I don't always work without plans, but for this easy build, it's not too difficult.
Of course I started off with the board glue-up after determining the wood was dry enough to use at 10%. As you can see in the video, I also use my Dowelmax jig for glue-ups, I does take tiny bit longer than using a biscuit joiner, but the accuracy in the boards glued up is just so much better. The face edges are near perfectly even along the glue joint, and only take a bit of sanding to make them absolutely perfect, what I add in time making the glue ups, more than saves time in trying planer or joint the glue lines even after the glue has dried.
After cutting all of the wood to length, the next step is drilling all the holes for the dowels, again, another fairly easy step. Years ago I would have used mortise and tenon and with my fussy joinery habit, would have taken me days for fit everything but the dowelmax took me about an hour.
The next step once all the dowel holes are drilled and all the pieces are cut to size (with the exception of the door and side panel inserts), the next step is to pre-finish everything. I started doing this years ago, the advantage is that once it goes to gluing all the parts together you don't have to worry about getting glue on raw wood which of course can spoil the finish coat if you don't catch it in time. Nothing worse that putting a project together and find a finish spots where glue got on your wood and you didn't sand it enough and now you have to sand that part down again and re-apply finish.
The only down side to pre-finishing, you do need to be a bit more careful with your pieces, but that is pretty easy.
The finish I use, is Osmo, and hard wax oil, easy to apply, hard coating, gives a bit of a luster without being glossy, so the wood texture and color are always easy to see. A couple of coats, sometimes 3 and it's good to go.
After a dry fit, the first part to assemble was the legs. If you get a bit of glue squeeze out during assembly, it wipes off easily and does not leave a residue. Note the 2 cross members in the upper part of the leg assembly that are elevated and dyed black, this is what make the "floating" part of the top.
I should also mention that for the inserts for the doors and sides I used a water based Varathan in a luster finish. Water based varnishes, varathanes and urethanes have been around for years and one of their main features is they do not yellow the wood. I wanted the panels to remain as white a possible for their life and water based varnishes are perfect for that. They also happen to be very hard, so easy to clean, easy to apply and you can often easily apply 2 or more coats in one day.
The side panels are minus the out side cross member, this was done on purpose to help accent the floating illusion.
Probably the hardest part of this build for me was what to use for hinges. I had many choices all of which had their pros and cons and I even purchased 2 other different hinges, which I didn't like, then went out and purchased these European type hinges. I settled on these for a few reasons, I liked that they opened at 110 degrees which meant the doors can be wide open giving easier access to the cabinet and showing off the spalted Alder wood. The doors are easily removed which means changing inside shelving configurations is easier and of course the hinges allow for full adjustments.
One final challenge for me was the back for the cabinet. I didn't want to cut some very thin veneers from Garry Oak, and glue them together. I have done this in the past and they always seem to warp after they cut and glued up. The best thing for back is thin plywood, IF you can find a color match.
What I did was take a piece "finished" of Garry Oak with me to my local plywood store to see if they had anything that was a similar match. The only thing we could find was one single sheet of "Cherry ply" that had some bad scratches in the middle, the edges were badly damaged but it was a somewhat close match. They offered it do me a half price because is was their last one and it was clearly damaged except for one spot near the middle that I could use ... plus I could use lots of the rest of the plywood for smaller projects.
When I got back to the shop I could see the color was close but to get it even close I made some test squares that I had mildly colored with some Ebony dye I had on hand. After watering it down and making some test which were then coated with Osmo, I finally got a near perfect finish, that also happened to closely match the Spalted Alder. I was very happy with the final application.
And so I have finally made the Whiskey Cabinet I have been wanting to build for a long time, in fact, I like building it so much, I might make another one with some other ideas I have in my mind .. hmmmm
Copyright Colin Knecht
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