Two friends of our eldest daughter, whom we have known since primary school got married earlier this year. My wife and I wanted to do something special for each couple, to make them feel significant, and worthy of our time and effort.
I have an affinity for the work of Mike Pekovich, and so used the design of his wall cabinet as a foundation for a pair of hanging display cabinets. For timber I chose straight grained Tasmanian Oak, letting the design provide the aesthetic, rather than featured timbers which can at times distract from the form.
The design called for protruding dovetails on the four corners, with square through tenons on the panel dividing the drawer from the display section. The shelves slid into stopped housing joints from the back. The door frames were conventional mortice and tenon rail and stile construction. One feature was that all the mating surfaces were offset roughly 1.5 mm, to add depth and a shadow line.
The drawers are standard construction with through dovetails in the rear and half blinds in the front. This was the first occasion though that I used drawer slips to hold the base. This allowed for nice thin drawer sides, a profile on the top of the slip meant that it offered almost no intrusion into the drawer space. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo once assembled, so images of a spare slip as a demonstration will have to suffice.
Onto the back panels and doors.
We hold firmly to the notion that in a marriage each partner brings their own distinct past. As a betrothed couple these individual experiences meld together over time as something new is forged, together.
We contacted each of the respective couples’ parents, and asked for a scrap piece of timber from the house in which their child grew up in. We would incorporate these pieces into the finished works to symbolise their individual histories forming part of a shared future.
For one couple, we received an internal door and a old kitchen panel, from the other a piece of a student desk and a section of framing stud removed during a renovation.
I have come to learn that when asking “normal” people for wood, they don’t distinguish between solid timber and veneered chipboard. But then why would they, they don’t lie awake at night thinking about things like reversing grain or moisture levels. Wood is “just wood”, and they sleep soundly.
Given what we had, we decided that each of the husbands’ wood (door and desk shelf) would form the case back, while the wives’ pieces (kitchen panel and framing stud) would form a kumiko panel to adorn the door.
The door “conversion” was simple enough in removing the tongue and groove panelling to be repurposed. The chipboard shelf however proved a real challenge, both because it was chipboard as well as not being quite wide enough. Carefully using a heat gun then scraping, I removed the old varnish from each side without breaking through the veneer. Then it was ripped into strips, re-sawn in half, and run through the thicknesser until only the veneer was left with a sliver of remaining chipboard backing. Finally glued up (using my 12 V clamping system) in alternating strips to a new plywood backing. Writing this reminds me just how precarious the whole operation felt at the time. But I won.
Before I put the backs on, I routed a pocket in the back of the dividers, where I wrote and inserted a hidden note to an unknown reader, each beginning with “Hello fellow woodworker”. They will lie hidden, only to be revealed should the back of a cabinet be removed for repairs at some point in the future.
My wife made up the kumiko patterns for the door panels, whilst I prepared the acrylic panels into which they would be set.
I purchased some brass hinges, with the expectation that I would later find complimenting brass pulls for the drawer and door. Unfortunately after the door was mounted, I realised that the pulls I had in mind simply didn’t seem to exist, so thinking on my feet, I learned a new skill and turned some pulls with brass inlay on the lathe. I was really pleased with how they turned out, as prior to this I really struggled turning any two items to look the same.
And with that the construction was complete and it was down to finishing. It should come as no surprise to anyone with knowledge of my other builds that I finished the units with several coats of shellac, then rubbed down with steel wool before a finishing coat of furniture wax.
All that was left was to print up, and attach to each cabinet a “Certificate of Conryticity”.
Over the last three months they have greeted me every time I entered the shed, and became familiar friends, but the time of our parting had come. Over the last two weekends we invited each couple over to give them their belated wedding gifts, and each wall cabinet was very well received. With all the love and effort that went into the builds, I was quite surprised at the sense of loss I experienced watching each one go, tempered only by the knowledge that they were going to wonderful couples who will appreciate them for years to come.