Adam April 4th, 2008
Filed under: Life and Everything Else
For my Sarah’s birthday I built her a hanging jewelry case. This was my first fine-woodworking project built out of solid wood and it was quite a learning experience. The case is made of Red Birch with dots of Wenge (black), Satinwood (yellow), Chakte Coc (red), Sucaperē (brown), and Purple Heart (purple). It is finished with three coats of Watco Danish Oil after sanding to 600-grit. The outer dimensions are 23 inches tall, 19 inches wide, and 4 inches deep.
I had originally hoped to construct the case over 2 months of weekends, but this time-line turned out to be a little optimistic and though I didn’t count the hours, it didn’t get completed until 4 months after I started. Work on the project went much faster after I got my own table saw at the end of February and could pop downstairs whenever I had a free moment. Until that point I did most of the work in my friend John Filan‘s shop in Weybridge (VT). John is a wood-artisan, master cabinet-maker, and was an amazing resource throughout this project: from showing me the ropes at Lathrop’s lumber mill, to machine setup, to notes on grain direction. Without his expert help (and workshop, and tools) this project would not have been nearly as successful. While I have so much more to learn, at least I now know where to begin and how to safely and successfully use all of the major machine-tools.
I read (after the fact of course) that it is usually best to start with simple projects before cabinetry to avoid dealing with the close tolerances of all of the joinery and inset pieces. I’d have to agree. Though I consider this project to be a success I did spend many periods just staring at all of my pieces, dry-fitting them, and trying to convince myself that if I trim off 1/64 of an inch off one side that they would all fit together properly.
As I mentioned, the case started as about 20 board-feet of rough lumber stacked on the upper rack of Lathrop’s mill. Once in John’s shop it was flattened on the jointer, planed to thickness and made square, straight and ready for use. I had sketched out most of the design prior to starting, but many things changed over the course of construction. For instance, I hadn’t planned for wood movement so the back panel had to become floating and interior header and footer pieces added to replace the strength I was planning on getting from the panel. Similarly, my initial plans to hang trays on the insides of the doors fell away as I contemplated the additional complexity of cramming them into an already-tight location.
The ring-pillow I made from a piece of foam cut into a wedge-shape with rows then sliced into its surface. I wrapped it in dark red velvet and put stitches in the base of the slices, the ends, and elsewhere to keep it all tightly together.
Happy belated birthday, Sarah!