Greene & Greene Thorsen Sideboard #3: Sideboard Design

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Blog entry by TungOil posted 08-27-2019 01:39 AM 1313 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Bolection inlay class Part 3 of Greene & Greene Thorsen Sideboard series Part 4: Material Prep »

For the design work on this sideboard, I start by purchasing a copy of the original Greene & Greene drawing for the Thorsen House Furniture from the digital archives at USC. There are no dimensions, but having visited the Huntington Library last year I have the overall size of the piece which allows me to scale the drawing and get very close. Combined with the photos I took of the original, I am able to draw up the sideboard in CAD to the point of being able to create the drawings needed to have the routing templates CNC cut.

Without drawings or photos of the interior construction, I am on my own for the inside details. Behind each door I add an adjustable shelf. For the drawers I originally planned to use a traditional web frame design. After consulting with my wife regarding what she is planning to store in the drawers (LOTS of very heavy stuff…), I decide to break from traditional construction and utilize Blum undermount drawer slides. This ‘non-traditional’ approach doesn’t feel right at first, but I justify it to handle the weight and achieve smooth action. Besides, if these slides were available in 1908, Charles may very well have spec’d them for this piece!

For the interior construction and joinery, I start by sketching up a few options until I land on a concept that I am happy with. For this early conceptual work, I prefer to hand sketch. I find I am able to focus better on the design elements when I am not working on the computer. My design utilizes loose tenon joinery, which is typical for my work. My design sketches are usually isometric and often are a mix of exploded views, duplicated pieces to show joinery details, etc.

Once I have the basic concepts worked out on paper, I switch over to CAD and lay out the parts to scale. This allows me to double check clearances, verify proportions and work out the exact sizes and locations for mortises. I typically work in traditional three view drawings, but will create 3D models in Sketchup if necessary (for this project, it isn’t).

With the majority of the design work completed, I print a few 11×17 copies of the drawings. I usually print a clean copy showing just the overall piece, another with dimensions, and additional drawings as necessary to show the details of joinery, etc. I tape these drawings up on my tool box so they are always handy.

With the drawings completed, I’m ready to start cutting materials. A quick look through my lumber rack tells me I should have enough Sapele left over from previous projects to make all of the solid wood parts for this sideboard. I’ll need to pick up some Baltic birch plywood and Sapele veneer.

Next steps: pick up materials and start rough cutting material.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

4 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


4754 posts in 3593 days

#1 posted 08-27-2019 12:04 PM

Blum drawer slides are really nice, plus the undermounted option means you won’t see the hardware. Traditional wooden slides may be a nice design detail for small drawers, but impractical on larger drawers. Plus, with the Blum slides you can open the drawer a lot further than with traditional wooden side, or bottom slides.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View TungOil's profile


1384 posts in 1740 days

#2 posted 08-27-2019 01:17 PM

Exactly all the reasons I decided to use the Blum slides, Earl. In addition, they have a weight capacity of 100 lbs and soft close. They just make more sense than using traditional wood on wood construction.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View pottz's profile


20683 posts in 2229 days

#3 posted 08-27-2019 03:29 PM

yeah your right tung if the greenes had modern hardware im sure they would have used it.cant wait to see this project evolve.i had a lot of fun making the wall table i looked simple at first but you know as i do it’s a lot of work making this style.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4579 days

#4 posted 12-21-2019 10:42 AM

Good choices without sacrificing the essential design elements.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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