Curio Cabinets

My usual method of selecting a project is to find a piece of furniture that I like and copy it, and so it was with the curio cabinets I built for my home. I found, measured, and photographed a cabinet whose appearance was pleasing to me, then went about determining how I'd build a couple of my own.

After tweaking some dimensions, I arrived at a plan for a rectangular cabinet, approximately six feet tall, 24 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. My favorite material is walnut, and I chose that wood for this project as well.

[One cabinet frame assembled]I faked a stomach ache and left work early one warm, sunny afternoon in February and sanded the side and front frames in preparation for putting them together. I got one of the cases assembled that same day, as you can see in the photo.

[Door frames prepared]Later I assembled the other cabinet frame and prepared the door frames.

[Blown-out dowel hole]Every project has to have a major mistake, and this one is no exception. I assembled the face frames using dowel joints. I was never enthusiastic about dowel joints before trying them for the first time on this project, although I know they work just fine in the situations for which they were intended. Having now done a few, I'm still not enthusiastic about them, even though my biggest problem with them is my own goof.

While drilling the dowel holes with a commercial dowel jig, the stop collar on the drill bit loosened. Before I noticed the problem, I had drilled all the way through one of the stiles. Sigh--the outside edge of the stile will be visible when the cabinet is complete, and that's gonna leave a mark.

Rather than throw the stile away and prepare a new one like I should have, I chiseled a shallow rectangular mortise around the new "character mark" to receive a small patch of material selected to match the existing grain as closely as possible. The patch is noticeable if you look closely enough, but I'm going to live with it. It'll just be another reminder to pay attention to what I'm doing.

[Curio cabinet, oiled and waxed, but lacking doors and glass]As of mid-November 2006 (nearly a year after beginning the project; my projects always take nigh forever to complete), one of the two cabinets had received a couple applications of linseed oil, followed by two applications of dark Briwax, and has had its light kit installed. In this photo, the cabinet is getting acquainted with its ultimate resting spot.

[Curio cabinet complete]And in mid-December 2006, one cabinet was finally complete. Well, except for the knobs for the doors, which were still on order when this photo was taken. I later attached the knobs, which was quite an ordeal with the pinched nerve I was nursing in my neck at the time. In early February 2007, the second cabinet was complete.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I will redo the bases of the cabinets. A profiled base will replace the straight base currently in place, and the cutout along the front will see some kind of refinement, probably with input from my favorite design committee member. Why not do that now? Because I lack some accessory parts for my JET planer/moulder that will allow me to use the wide moulding knives I bought to cut the profile. I'm anxious to get the cabinets put to use now, and it won't be too painful to change out the bases later.

Chuck Taylor -- (Copyright) -- (Contact)