Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Curved Cabinet Cock-Ups

On and off for the past week, I’ve been discreetly working away on a small cabinet made from regular English oak and brown oak, with a curved front. That means both the drawer front and door will also have to be curved – not something I’ve done before! While I feel I’ve made very good progress already, I’m once again frustrated with myself for making a couple of basic errors.

All the dovetails used to join the carcase are hand-cut. while the lower divider (separating the bottom drawer from the upper part of the cabinet) is fitted with a sliding dovetail housing (as you saw previously, when I made that cherry bookshelf – still to be completed!). My time in the workshop lately has been erratic at best, while I lost a few hours last week having to replace the top tyre on my bandsaw (see here). Still, I reckon it would only take me one full day to complete the main cabinet – hand-cutting and fitting the dovetails; cutting grooves for the back; housing the divider/shelf in place; sanding; applying a coat of finish and, finally, the assembly – which is pretty good going, if you ask me.

I still think I could save a bit of time with more practice cutting dovetails. These ones have turned out a lot better than the ones on the bookshelf (no contest, really!) though, I’m not quite up to cutting these joints perfectly and fitting from the saw, first time. I’m also reaching for a chisel to carefully pare them away – though, with more practice, I hope to overcome this. That Atkinson Walker dovetail saw also performs much better in this oak.

With the drawer, I’m probably looking at another day’s work, from start to finish. Again, hand-cut dovetails, with a traditional drawer base. Shaping the front doesn’t really add much time at all though, I feel I should definitely be looking at cutting this down closer to half a day, if I want to be able to make a living from this… Fitting shouldn’t take too long, either.

I’ve made a decision on the back panel which could price this piece out of many people’s pockets. I’ve gone for a rather traditional frame and panel construction, where a simple veneered panel would probably do. This adds another half-day to the workload, so at my current rate of £200 per day, I’m already looking at £600+ for labour, plus the material costs.

Assembling the back panel.

There’s also the door to think about… I was originally going to book-match a simple veneered panel and glue it in place. But, now I have a 16in bandsaw that should cope with 200mm deep cuts, I have a cunning solution to creating a curved, raised and fielded panel with relative ease (see this thread and the image below)! Though, it may require me to buy one of these… 🙄 (If only they were in stock.)

To be built around an MDF core...

So, back to the things I’m really not happy with…

First of all, I made a pretty basic error when racing through the dovetail joints on the main carcase. Both the rear bottom corners are like; I should’ve left this corner of the sides in place as it will now mean the edges of the back panel are visible! And, of course, it wasn’t until I was dry-assembling the thing that I realised this – I’d already cut the dovetail housing, below, and so, couldn’t simply cut it off and start again! Not sure where the black staining came from but I remember there was a small puddle on my bench – probably dirty water from the leaking roof! Most of it seems to scrape away though, at least.

I’m partially-tempted to cut another groove in a piece of scrap and glue a piece in… Though, the real challenge is going to be in getting a decent grain match! Unless anyone has any alternative suggestions?

I mentioned the dovetail housing just now and that pulled up quite snugly. It operates as a divider; providing shelf-space above the drawer while preventing dust and dirt from falling in to the drawer. My intention (as per the SketchUp drawing) was to leave this edge flush with the front of the cabinet. So, why on Earth did a trim it back 17mm?!? I’ve allowed for the 16mm thick door when I really didn’t mean to! This now means that the door will finish directly above the drawer… This may not cause any great problems in practice but, I’m concerned now that it may just look odd.

Well, there’s not really anything I can do with this, now. I’ll have to go with it and hope for the best! Gluing a lipping on to bring that edge forward would be tricky and time-consuming. Even in the contrasting brown oak, I’m not sure it would work… Even if it did look good, it’s nothing something I’d look forward to making again, if this piece proved to be popular at the exhibition in July!

Still, I won’t throw that idea out the window just yet and I won’t rush in to working on the door just yet, either. Time is on my side, at the moment, and I have a couple of other small pieces to get on with in the mean time. If you have any other suggestions though, I’d be very grateful to hear from you!

In a previous post, I talked briefly about finishing this piece; should I go for the sanding sealer and wax or the hard wax oil? There’s no doubting that an oil finish really brings out the grain in these open-grained timbers but, I do want to have something a little different on show. Two of my other pieces (also featuring brown oak) will have oil finishes (one is Danish oil, the other is Chestnut’s hard wax). I guess we’ll also have to wait and see on that one!

Thanks for reading. 🙂

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