Near the end of last term, I made the decision that going forward, I would make a small cabinet along side my students. This isn’t unusual, I have been doing this since the school was conceived. What was to be different was the wood. In the first term at the school, students make a small exercise cabinet in poplar, which I have made along side them to demonstrate the various methods covered in The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov. This term, I will make a different cabinet, in a different wood.
A few weeks back, I broke out the stock for my cabinet. After making the utility shelf supports for Yvonne’s sewing room, I had a taste of the brown oak, and wanted more. The last of the brown oak we had picked up, several of the pieces were fifteen feet long, and had to be cut down to get them into the school. Some of the shorter pieces I stashed away in my workshop at home. I looked through the planks in my workshop and decided on a small plank. I took my block plane and scrubbed the surface. The colour was rich and warm and the grain was particularly nice toward the sap wood. Although quite different from the wood I used for the shelf supports. I thought for a while about incorporating the sapwood in the piece but in the end, the contrast was just too strong, I was looking for something calm. I went to the bandsaw and removed the sapwood, following the annual rings, enabling me to shift the cuts, when resawing so I was able to take full advantage of the beautiful grain. As with most of the brown oak we see, there were a lot of defects but what was usable was gorgeous.
I began looking for the doors for the cabinet. Jim suggested that if the doors were not beautiful, there was little hope, for the cabinet. I resawed the stock a few millimetres thicker than the the thickest part of my door, and watched the kerf carefully as the cuts were made. There was almost no movement in the wood. This is the joy of using old wood. It is very dry and all the much of the internal tensions have eased. With the doors selected, I then found the rest of the case. I really enjoy this the flexibility of composing in this way. Near the center of the plank, in the flat sawn section there was a lot of checking. The cabinet will have a frame and panel back and I worked around these checks and cut the stock perpendicular to the grain giving me quarter sawn frame stock.
After allowing the stock to settle a while, I have begun making my doors. I cut the staves for the doors on the bandsaw. At the school, I have the first term students start the angles on the jointer, and cleaned up with their jointer plane made in the previous week. I forgo the jointer and go directly to my planes. One of my planes set a bit heavier to start the angle, then a few strokes with my finest plane and I’m there. Working this way, takes less material away at the joint, which means less disruption in the grain. As Jim said in one of the lectures he gave at the school, “With skill comes freedom.”
Be well and enjoy your work… I know I am