Building For The Wife #1: Custom kitchen Bureau with drawers.

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Blog entry by fatman51 posted 09-10-2015 11:06 AM 1331 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Building For The Wife series Part 2: Ipe drawer glides for custom kitchen bureau. »

Building for the wife.

A project that started with my great great grandmother’s traditional sideboard.

Though not particularly valuable, this maple buffet cabinet dates as far back as the civil war era. It was produced in a shop that probably sold a good number of them. The front and sides were well finished, the back, bottom, and inside of the cupboard were rather course in appearance. The cabinet was efficiently assembled and the construction did not rely on glue. I do not know whether or not it was glued, but the tongue and groove table boards separate when one removes the trim rails below. Not pictured is a silver backed led glass mirror back splash with a candle shelf and heavy sculpted stiles at each end. The original finish is gone, but I have the original Knobs in a box somewhere.

There are many examples of this antique on the internet and I would not be surprised to learn that a good number of them were manufactured in the very same shop as this.

Inhabited by bears in our sitting room, the cabinet, though solid, is in tough shape and I will be restoring it at some point. But that is not the current project. Grandma’s old sideboard is just our inspiration.

Our kitchen is in need of one Hoosier type cabinet, and one cabinet of drawers. I started with the smaller unit as it is easier to build and I have not built any furniture for a while. I wanted to get my design sorted out with the smaller project.

My wife likes knotty pine and beetle kill, which is a western look and allegedly not so common in her native Ohio as in my native Colorado. Fortunately, here in Laporte, we have a lot of pine available, much of it dried right on the stump by the High Park fire. I have a lot of pine; bargain boards that I bought on clearance, reclaimed boards that I brought home when disassembling some structure, and new boards that I sawed out of local trees. I wanted to put some of that pine to good use.

Starting with the top, I cut out several pieces of discount pine.

Using a shaper head to cut the tongues and grooves as was done on the top of the antique. I was cutting pine and the inserts are sharp so I could cut my tongues and grooves in one pass.

I like my fingers though, so I set things up so that I can work safely.

The boards were all pretty warped and I did not want to plane them overly thin, so as I glued it, I tried to arrange the pieces so that they would pull each other straight when assembled. It worked out pretty well.

I scraped, sanded, and sized before moving on to the panels.
I don’t want to start a debate, but I love my radial arm saw. Either it does everything well, or I do everything well with it. I respect it though, because I like my fingers.

Starting with the front legs, I roughed out each piece on the band saw before gluing.
Not pictured, the old saw is new to me. I just spent a day getting it all set up and tuned. As I worked on this project I was amazed at the job I could do with the consumer grade machine.

Once the legs were glued, I set up my drill presses to sand the legs into shape.
I wish I had the room for a dedicated disc and drum sander, but I get the job done. I do at least have an oscillating spindle sander attachment for my bench top drill press. I did not use it here, but it works.

This part was fun. Dusty, but fun

The intrepid Shop Smith!
Since I have it I have learned to use it. They are not a bad machine and the sixty plus year old 10er just looks cool. Love them or hate them they are part of Americana.

Once the legs were prepared, I was ready to build the panels.

The three main panels are assembled with 3/8 inch deep tongue and groove joints. I cut 1/4 half shoulders on ½ inch thick sub-panels where they connect to the stiles and no shoulders where they join the legs, which have a ½ inch groove. I cut ¼ inch ½ shoulder tongues on the sub-panels where they connect to the rails and ½ shoulder ½ inch tongues on the rails where they connect to the legs. Everything came together nicely and I glued the rails legs and stiles, but not the sub panels.

Once the panels were glued up I fixed any dents from clamps with some water and heat and sanded them out.

Everything looked good, next it was time to check the fit.

Success! Everything measured the same and everything fit like it should.

With the hard part done, I got out the pocket screws. I was not done with the clamps quite yet because I had to glue the back rails to the back legs. I used the clamps to hold the cabinet square while I completed the assembly with pocket holes and hidden gussets.

After adding the upper and lower front rails, I constructed the sub counter frame and breadboard assemblies before installing the bottom panel. A bottom panel is not structurally necessary here but the wife likes to keep the mice and bugs out of the cabinets.

There always has to be one complicated little piece!

Finally I was ready to install the countertop!

The top is installed with flat head wood screws and pocket screws. In the center. I drilled three access holes in the breadboard support and fastened the center of the top to the sub countertop support. I put three pocket screws into the top on each side panel. and fastened the back of the countertop to the sub countertop frame with wood screws.

As with the antique sideboard that was my example, the sub frame trims the joint where the top is fastened to the cabinet. In the original, the trim was fastened to each board around the perimeter of the top with a single finish nail per board, presumably to prevent separation. I probably should have been content to clamp and glue the trim on mine but I added several little wood screws up from the bottom.

Once I was finished with the case, I flattened the secured counter top with a no 4 smoothing plane and hit it with a sander. It is ready to finish scrape and seal.

Now I am ready to build one breadboard, which will have a rounded mock drawer front that resembles the top drawer front on my example, five 4 inch drawers and one six inch bottom drawer. The face of the drawer fronts will set in between and 1 ½ inches from the back of the front legs in about the same position of the cabinet doors of my example. The new chest of drawers should have a similar look and will have wooden drawer pulls.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

7 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile


4354 posts in 2594 days

#1 posted 09-10-2015 11:34 AM

Very nice project and anxious to see the rest. Did a good job with pictures and explanation.

View handsawgeek's profile


663 posts in 2001 days

#2 posted 09-10-2015 01:45 PM

Nice build !! I will be following this series to see how it all turns out. Love that old sideboard, too.

-- Ed

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2613 days

#3 posted 09-10-2015 03:24 PM

Pretty cool! I’ll be coming along for the ride also !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Brodan's profile


162 posts in 1908 days

#4 posted 09-10-2015 04:26 PM

Nice. Looking forward to watching the progress.

-- Dan, TN

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3472 days

#5 posted 09-10-2015 04:32 PM

You are doing a very nice job on this.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 2442 days

#6 posted 09-11-2015 03:49 AM

Thanks for the encouragement! It has been a fun project so far. I am looking forward to finishing the drawers and starting on the larger cupboard. It may be a long project, however as my wife has added two more pieces to be built in the same style, a wardrobe and a vanity. That old sideboard is kinda cool. As the story goes, my great grandmother got it from her mother. Years later my great grandfather took it out to his work shop to fix a door and it sat there until it became a work bench. Decades later, my parents brought it home and my eldest brother fixed the door and cleaned it up for my Mom. That was well over thirty years ago and at some point my mother replaced it. My wife and I recently retrieved it from a leaky storage building on my parents property. Tired as it is, we love it.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View handsawgeek's profile


663 posts in 2001 days

#7 posted 09-11-2015 08:49 PM

I think it is very cool that you know the history of the sideboard. It makes ownership that much more enjoyable.

The furniture you are currently building is destined to be family heirloom material as well!

-- Ed

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