A very large walnut and walnut burl credenza (PIX)

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Blog entry by John Fry posted 06-19-2008 12:56 AM 7685 reads 11 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This very large, commissioned credenza was designed as an entertainment center to sit below a big, wall mounted, plasma TV. It is 76” wide 24-1/2” deep, and 34” tall. The cabinet and base are all solid walnut and the doors are bookmatched walnut burl veneers both inside and out.

But first I want to thank everyone who visited and responded to my last blog;

A glass top table with opposing arches

And as always, I welcome your comments AND critiques on this latest project.

The main carcass panels are finished at 15/16” thick, so I floated the carcass 15/16” off the base. The center door plaques are gilded with 23K gold leaf and aged to match an antique bronze sculpture that sits in the room.

This elevated and angled shot shows the beautiful walnut grain in the top and the “near gloss” finish that was selected by the client.

The open carcass reveals the back panel that was veneered from the same lumber as the carcass for a perfect match. The center compartment has a bridge that supports the main amplifier and the center speaker below. It all gets exposed for surround sound use with the center doors being pocket doors. The outside compartments have adjustable shelves.

I started by milling and gluing up the carcass panels. I ordered premium, 6/4 black walnut, and I requested it be selected for NO knots and NO sapwood and I wanted it skip planed to 5/4 to be sure they cold see it clearly. AND, I needed nine of them, 8 feet long, that I could net 9” wide clear lumber. My vendor took good care of me and found exactly what I wanted. ….And boy! Did I pay dearly for it!!

For panels this size, after they were all glued up I rented time on a big wide belt sander to surface all three of them, (I hadn’t cut the panel for the two ends in half yet). We surfaced out at the 15/16” dimension that I wanted as a minimum thickness. Then I ripped the panels to width and beveled the ends.

Crosscutting a bevel on a 24-1/2” wide panel that is 78” long, and doing it accurately is not an easy task. I used my bevel sled that is deep enough to cut 26”. At the long end of my extension table, I made a runner with a strip of “slick tape” to keep the panel level and assist in sliding easily then I securely clamped the panel to my sled’s fence. These cuts had to be perfect or my case would be out of square.

I used the domino as a joinery method for these bevel corners.

Next I drilled the shelf pin holes in all the vertical members. This is one of the center dividers. Note the 1” vertical cutouts that will become the “cable portals”. All of the cabling will exit the back of the credenza through one of the four vertical partition members that have these openings.

The design calls for the front edges of the carcass to be cross banded with straight grained walnut veneer to “frame” the burl doors. I harvested blocks of straight walnut and glued them up end-to-end and then resawed them into 1/16” thick veneers.

After gluing them on, I flushed trimmed them with a router. I did them in pairs for extra router support to prevent tipping.

Now it is time to glue up the carcass. It is big, It is heavy, and if it isn’t perfectly square the doors won’t fit or work properly. I made two large MDF panels that fit the inside dimension. By clamping the glue up with them inside, I should get a square case. I installed the dominos, and only glued one corner at a time, but I assembled the complete case each time. After I glued the second corner, the final two joints would be done at once.

I made a spacer as a router guide to cut the dados for the vertical members in both the top and bottom panels. Again, this should insure squareness.

Then I made a second one to cut the dados for the “bridge” that would be attached to the bottom panel only.

I used those dados to measure and fit the panels for the bridge. I dry fitted the side panels into the dados and then measured and cut the bevels for the top. I glued it all up in side of the case to insure a perfect fit. When completed, the bridge will be installed by screws from the bottom. It must be removable in case any thing goes wrong with the pocket door hardware and it needs to be accessed.

It is time to start on the base structure and its 3-way mitered legs. I created a template for the sculpted legs. They will get cut from rift sawn 12/4 walnut blanks.

After band sawing both sides of the blank, I sculpted and final shaped with rasps. You can also see the bottom has a round mortise for a recessed foot pad. It would be much easier to lay out the hole and drill into a 3” square block while standing on its end, so I drilled them with a forstner bit prior to cutting the leg blanks on the band saw.

The base frame design called for triple groove reeding. I used two laminate routers, one set at dead center and the other set to the correct inset to rout from either edge. I did the grooving before I cut the 3-way miters.

I cut the “rail to rail” mortises using the domino, and I cut the leg to rail mortises on the FMT.

Once the four rails had dried, I dry fitted the legs and marked the junction of where the reed grooves met at the 45 degree miter. I put each leg in the vice and hand carved the grooves. I couldn’t figure any way to rout them on the concave curve and a tapered face.

Clamping took some ingenuity too. I used epoxy so I didn’t need extreme pressures, but I did need to get some downward and inward forces going to get everything lined up right. I made this clamping fixture to accomplish this.

Here is the base ready to go the finishing room. I have installed the 15/16” recessed riser to “float” the cabinet, and you can see the elongated mounting holes to allow for expansion of the solid wood carcass. It will get a dark “black coffee brown” stain and then be mounted to the cabinet.

Now to get the doors veneered. I needed large walnut burl veneers to get the door faces done in two pieces. I did not want to go with a four way bookmatch. I found a large, high class flitch at Certainly Woods that would work. It was 28” by 14” and would allow me to harvest the two large pieces I needed without any white wood. And it was a 20 sheet flitch, enough to veneer the inside and outside of each door. I started by using a commercially made flattener, soaked each sheet and pressed them until dry and flat.

I used an MDF substrate, framed with 2”walnut. I veneered the edges, tops and sides, of each door with a double thickness of burl veneer. This gave me enough meat to be able to soften the sharp edges lightly after the face veneer was applied.

This is the router template that I used to rout out the recess for the gilded door plaques on the two center doors.

After I cut the recess, I stained and finished the doors prior to gluing in the plaques. You can see the effects of the veneered edges in this photo.

The gilded plaque is epoxied in. After investing so much time in a component like these doors, after cutting, trimming, veneering, and scraping etc. and hours of total time, it scares the heck out of me every time I have to go back to a machine or a process that could potentially cause harm to the component. I survived, and everything went together as planned.

This shot of the back shows the veneered Baltic birch ply I used for the back panels. The vertical recesses are the cable portals I mentioned earlier. Each side of those indentations has the 1” wide double openings. They not only allow the cables to go in and out without drilling big ugly round holes in the back, but they allow 19 square inches of ventilation to each compartment.

The Chisel and Bit Medallion is inlaid in the back.

Here are a couple of detail shots. This one shows the inside of the veneered door.

This detail shot shows the perfect 3/64” gap around all the doors, the finished 3-way miter and the hand carved grooves in the curved and sculpted leg. The cross banded walnut veneered accent on the edges of the cabinet really frames and highlights the veneered doors.

This was not an extremely difficult piece to build from a technical point of view, but it had to come out absolutely square at every critical cut and glue up, or nothing would have worked, or looked right. It was also very difficult to maneuver around my one man shop.

Thanks for looking.

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

21 comments so far

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 4816 days

#1 posted 06-19-2008 01:39 AM

Hi John,

Your work is just stunning! I went on to your website and was blown away by your work.

View bhack's profile


349 posts in 4729 days

#2 posted 06-19-2008 01:55 AM

Thanks for the post and the lesson in woodworking design. Very good presentation. Looking forward to the next one.

-- Bill - If I knew GRANDKIDS were so much fun I would have had them first.

View Grumpy's profile


26811 posts in 4860 days

#3 posted 06-19-2008 02:22 AM

Excellent jog & great blog John

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4831 days

#4 posted 06-19-2008 02:41 AM


This was a wonderful blog that detailed the construction process well. This is a stunning piece of furniture that would be a compliment to any decor.

Well done.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4884 days

#5 posted 06-19-2008 03:10 AM


The book matched walnut burl veneered doors are simply stunning! The execution was flawless, to result in such an even 3/64” gap. What a wonderful lesson in design, and construction of another fine piece. I can appreciate what you mean about maneuvering around the shop!

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4697 days

#6 posted 06-19-2008 03:47 AM

You are truly a Master of the craft…...The piece is so beautifully detailed yet not overly complicated…I love the way that the wood is allowed to be the center of attention here : ) Great blog as well…thanks so much for all of the pictures and information !

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Karson's profile


35270 posts in 5409 days

#7 posted 06-19-2008 04:03 AM

John a great looking cabinet. A stunning veneer job with solid lumber.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View daveintexas's profile


365 posts in 4885 days

#8 posted 06-19-2008 04:42 AM

John, another wonderful project. You are truely blessed to have the talent and the opportunity to create masterpieces like this, and get paid for it.

I think you should post your tv armoire on lumberjocks, they would get a kick out of seeing all the veneering.

Thanks for the inspiration.

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3607 posts in 4721 days

#9 posted 06-19-2008 06:36 AM

Another wonderful vicarious experience in woodworking—and it gave me no stressful concern about somehow ruining a piece. I could only dream to build furniture with such precision! Thanks for teaching us so much.

-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View John Fry's profile

John Fry

74 posts in 4709 days

#10 posted 06-19-2008 02:51 PM

Thanks everyone,


I’ll see about getting the armoire posted here on LJ.

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 5000 days

#11 posted 06-19-2008 04:46 PM

Stunning, I love everything about this piece, and thanks for the great build blog.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View mmh's profile


3682 posts in 4731 days

#12 posted 07-04-2008 03:32 AM

Thank you for sharing your expert techniques! A beautiful work of craftsmanship for a deserving piece of wood. Well done!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5006 days

#13 posted 07-04-2008 07:43 AM

Holy cow!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View gizmodyne's profile


1785 posts in 5099 days

#14 posted 07-06-2008 05:42 PM

Amazing project. Love the detailed blog too.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View PurpLev's profile


8648 posts in 4657 days

#15 posted 07-06-2008 06:13 PM

that this is inspiring! beautiful piece!!! can I have one? haha.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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