Krenov Cabinet: Would Do, Won't Do.

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Project by griph0n posted 03-20-2011 11:51 PM 4035 views 9 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Wood Dew?

A cabinet for my wife.
Tons of thing learned…here’s the list.

Would do:

-Build another. At first glance Krenov cabinets looked strange and ugly to me. Now they seem… perfect.
-Use this walnut again. Beautiful reds, purples and golds.
-Buy weird looking wood. It’s cheaper and reveals unexpected, beautiful, grains and colours.
-Do large casework dovetails. The thing dry fit perfectly square, perfectly solid, without clamps.
-Play with sapwood.
-Put more curves in legs. They were supposed to get curves on the inside to, but I chickened out. I thought that the weight of the cabinet would splay the stand and put too much stress on the aprons
-Wet sand walnut with the first coat of oil. Fills in the pores and leaves a delightful surface to run your fingers over.
-Buy more hand tools from Lee Valley. The plow plane and skew rabbet plane are really cool… so are hand saws.

Won’t do:

-Inset the back panel. Holy crap glue up was stressful and barely successful.
-Ask my wife to help with a glue up when there’s an inset back panel.
-Try and cut half blind dovetails into old old old dense dense dense hard hard hard birdseye maple.
-Make the base bigger than the cabinet. Looks silly.
-Think two different walnut boards in the same pile are from the same forest, let alone the same tree. I’m not too happy with the aprons. I’m half thinking of turning the base into a plant stand and building a new one.
-Think that Natural Danish Oil won’t blotch.

The back panel was my most interesting choice. Everything has to be assembled all at once while the glue still slides. Almost impossible with all those dovetails to glue and the shelf rabbets to glue and the panel to slide in. Next time I think I’ll build a rail and stile back panel and set in a rabbet. I think that’s how it’s usually done and now I know why.

I’m not sure what to do about the half blind dovetails. Two failures so far, both in maple. Maybe nice easy cherry next time. Last time I just rabbeted them out and dowelled the drawer sides. This time I rebuilt them and made them through. Next time….?

Somewhere I read you can shellac before you oil on blotch prone wood. This doesn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t that interfere with the oils absorption? Has anyone tried this? The cabinet has a not too bad palm sized blotch on one side. (No you can’t see it…. the magic of selective photography.)

All in all a recommended project.

10 comments so far

View driftwoodhunter's profile


273 posts in 3692 days

#1 posted 03-21-2011 12:32 AM

Those first two “won’t do’s” on your list made me laugh out loud!

I think the cabinet is really neat. I’m a sucker for little cubby holes & drawers. The walnut is beautiful, but the panels in front are especially nice! All those wild swirls of color – and sapwood. That really makes it stand out for me.
Very nice!

View CartersWhittling's profile


454 posts in 3679 days

#2 posted 03-21-2011 12:34 AM

Beautiful cabinet. The walnut and maple drawers look great. I agree that if the base was smaller the proportions would look better.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

556 posts in 4061 days

#3 posted 03-21-2011 12:45 AM

I really like your case too. Your wife is very lucky. I hope my wife doesn’t read your post because I’m sure she’d put this on my to-do list. I can’t answer your question about shellac prior to oil, haven’t done it, but I’m sure you can find the answer here with a search.

I find half-blind dovetails easier to make that through dovetails because so much is hidden. On my most recent project I tried a new technique for the pins. After cutting the tails in the normal fashion and marking them on the pinboard, I used a laminate trimmer with a straight bit, set at the right depth, to remove most of the waste from the pinboard. This technique kept the bottoms of the spaces perectly flat and just left me some light paring with a chisel to finish up. I also built a simple fixture to hold the pinboard square and provide a bigger base for the laminate trimmer to ride on. I just learned this method during a class I was taking at the CT Valley School of Woodworking. I was very pleased with the results. I just posted a blog entry that shows a closeup of the half-blind tails.

-- Glen

View mafe's profile


12925 posts in 4094 days

#4 posted 03-21-2011 01:19 AM

That is one beautiful cabinet.
Yes your wife can smile.
You have done a exelent job.
Best thought,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View AaronK's profile


1512 posts in 4470 days

#5 posted 03-21-2011 03:57 AM

nice cabinet! and thanks for the very insightful comments about your build.

i also saw the same thing about blotching (in a FWW article) – use shellac, then oil…? I could see shellac, then something like a wiping varnish (poly), but if you do shellac first and it seals it, oil just doesnt make sense.

View B13's profile


463 posts in 3698 days

#6 posted 03-21-2011 06:26 PM

Don’t do list funny! great looking cabnet. thanks!

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4678 days

#7 posted 03-22-2011 01:40 AM

Thats a beautiful cabinet.

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 4087 days

#8 posted 03-22-2011 01:55 AM

Thank you for sharing your project and your learning experience! It looks sharp!


View travisowenfurniture's profile


91 posts in 3696 days

#9 posted 03-22-2011 02:18 AM

Did you use a colored Danish Oil? I haven’t found that it blotches, but you might want to try cutting it in half with paint thinner or lacquer thinner and not allowing it to film on the top. I find good results from applying reduced linseed oil first, without letting it film up on the top, and then maybe a few thin coats of Danish oil. Danish Oil is a mix of linseed oil and varnish, so you wouldn’t want to seal it first. When using oils, the wood has to be perfectly smooth. Either use a smoothing plane or some really fine sandpaper before oiling or it will be darker in the rougher areas, even though they feel and look smooth.

Hope that helps! I didn’t see the blotching you were talking about, could it have been the grain?

I’m a sucker for the Krenov style cabinets. I too saw them as weird and awkward at first, but the more I learned the more of an appreciation I had. Now I’m a diehard fan, and I regret being so young as to never have had a chance to meet him. But in a way he will live forever through the people he inspired, like you, so I commend you, good sir!



View griph0n's profile


68 posts in 4348 days

#10 posted 03-22-2011 04:22 AM

Aha, found it.

Got more than a bit curious and tracked it down.

I just got a dvd to build a maloof chair from scott morrison. He floods the chair with straight poly, lets it dry overnight, then lays multiple coats of maloof finish, essentially a danish oil with poly instead of varnish. Maybe I should email him.

I also found this: . Down near the bottom its explained, sanding most off leaves a light pore filling. I’ve heard of it a few times somewhere, elsewhere too.

It was just natural oil, no colour. Wood was planed and shimmering. It’s happened to me a quite a few times, the worst is maple, but cherry and walnut too.

Maybe the thin shellac washcoat sanded off is worth a try.

I’ll let you know.

Thanks for the response.

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