The newest project LaPlaca Woodworks will be undertaking is a pair of Chippendale five drawer chests, these chests were featured in the book The New Fine Points of Furniture Early America by Albert Sack. As our usual process at LaPlaca Woodworks we have modeled the piece in SketchUp the image below is a rendition by SketchUp what the completed chest will look like.
The chests are going to be built from South American Mahogany that LaPlaca Woodworks has sourced from Irion Lumber, the secondary lumber will be Yellow Poplar that has been sourced from Groff and Groff Lumber.
Ah one of the beautiful features of SketchUp is generating templates of the components that have been modeled, we print the templates and affix them with some spray contact cement to some 3/16" baltic birch plywood. Baltic birch plywood is easily shaped, doesn't contain nasty voids like other forms of plywood and the baltic birch templates are more durable than MDF (which we use for larger templates like the top of the case)..
The South American Mahogany lumber (specifically from Peru) arrived from Irion Lumber, after a few weeks acclimating to the humidity level in my newly built heated and air conditioned shop, we rough milled all of the lumber necessary to build the two chests. Rough milling the lumber yielded two 55 gallon bags of Mahogany and Poplar chips, here is all the rough milled lumber stacked and stickered, re-acclimating..
The only part of the case lumber we haven't rough milled is the lumber for the drawer boxes, the back boards and the case top.. Now onto the case top.
Irion supplied lumber for the top that will be one board wide, its currently in the rough all 20 5/8" wide of it.. A better shot of the ruler below..
After all of the lumber was finial milled to the proper thickness and lengths, the front of each of the four drawer blades for the case need a 1" x "1 notch cut in the front corner of each drawer blade.. The notch provides the space necessary for the turned fluted quarter columns that flank the drawers in the chest.. We used a marking gauge to define the waster material, then use a cross cut sled on the table saw to waste the material..
Finally off to the bandsaw to remove the remaining waste.. We cut a bit shy of the line and pare off the remaining material..
The first step in the main case joinery involves blind dovetailing the case bottom to the case sides. We mark the waste with a white charcoal pencil, just in case..
Results after the blind dovetails were sawn and chopped out with chisels..
Finally the case bottom fitted.. Notice that the case bottom is a glue up of Poplar and Mahogany, the Mahogany front of the case bottom is notched exactly like the drawer blades were..
The back edges of the case sided need a 7/16" x 1/2" rabbet cut, the rabbet will hide the Poplar case back boards.
The top of case stretchers are blind dovetailed to the front and back of the case top..
Now that the main parts of case joinery has been cut and fitted the components can now be glued up...
After the case bottom. case sides and the top of case stretchers are all glued up, we can now complete the joinery necessary for the front and rear drawer blades. The front and rear drawer blades will have 5/16" x 2", 7 degree sliding dovetail pins cut on them, the drawer blade pins will fit into a housed sliding dovetail socket that consists of a 7/8"x 1/8" dado and a 5/8" x 5/16" x 2", 7 degree sliding socket.
Since housed sliding dovetails are (ahem) fussy joints, a good tip is to make sure that the guide bushing is set concentric to the armature of the router, Dewalt includes a cone device with the 618 series router. Even with all this care, one still may need to touch up the width of the dado with a side rabbet plane..
First cut is the 7/8"x 1/8" dado, we mount a 1 1/4" guide bushing in the router and use a 7/8" wide straight bit to cut the dado.
After the dados are all cut, next up is the 5/8" x 5/16" x 2", 7 degree sliding socket. The router has a 5/8" 7 degree dovetail bit mounted, we are still using a 1 1/4" guide bushing..
The competed housed sliding dovetail socket..
Finally we use the same 5/8" 7 degree dovetail bit, this time mounted in the router table to cut the 5/16" x 2" sliding dovetail pin on the end of the front and rear drawer blades.. A good tip here is to purchase two identical router bits, mount one in the router in the table, the other bit in the hand held router (I used Whiteside D7-625 dovetail bits)
Finally we need to finish the joinery for the drawer runners and the front and rear drawer blades. The front and rear drawer blades will have three 1/4" x 13/16" mortises cut in them, the drawer runners will have 1/4" x 3/4" tendons cut on each end of the runner, only front end of the drawer runners tendons will be glued, the back tendons will be dry to allow for expansion and contraction of the case sides..
Pictured is the drawer blade sub-back (the drawer blade sub-back will be glued to the front Mahogany drawer blade) receiving a 1/4" x 3/8" dado, this dado will contain the drawer dust panels.
The rear drawer blade receiving a 1/4" x 13/16" mortise..
The Minimax Elite slot mortiser does a beautiful job..
The drawer runners receiving the 1/4" x 3/4" tendons on the tablesaw with a dado stack..
Finally the front drawer blade can be glued to the drawer blade sub-back.
Clean-up of the front drawer blades with a card scraper..
The photo below show the top drawer blade and top drawer center divider being glued into the case. The top drawer center divider is blind sliding dovetailed into the top drawer blade, the notch in the top of the top drawer center divider receives the front case rail, the front case rail has two tendons 1/4" x 1/2" that will fit into the the front case styles (the three parts are currently sitting on the top of the case)..
The front case rail and styles being glued up and clamped, the piece of MDF is a spacer to keep everything square..
Close up of hidden screws used to secure the front rails to the drawer blades along with a well placed dab of hide glue.. The recessed area will eventually receive the corner columns, the quarter columns will hide the screws..
The chest subase frame will be mounted to the bottom of the assembled case with slotted screws, the assembled bracket feet and the bottom case moldings will be attached to the subase frame. The frame is a solution to preventing a cross grain gluing issue with the lower case moldings.. The styles have very deep 1 1/2" tendons, I used the rather untraditional European style loose mortise and tendons..
Below is a picture of the 3/8" x 3" loose tendon with a glue groove cut..
Here we see the frame screwed to the bottom of the case, the front facing style is traditionally screwed, the rails and rear facing style is screwed using slotted screw holes.. The slotted screws will account for the seasonal wood movement, between the main case and the frame.. As we will see later in the build process, the bottom case molding is only attached to the frame, as are the case feet..
We leave the frame over size by about a 1/16 on the front and sides, we will use a flush trimming router bit to make sure the frame is absolutely flush with the rest of the case..
We use a Whiteside 3282 cove and bead with a B2 beading replacing the normal B3 1/2" bearing
The Mahogany bottom case molding is mitered and glued and nailed to the sub-frame (only!). The sub-frame prevents any cross grain glue issues, as if it were just attached to the case sides.
The chest features bracket ogee feet, the feet are constructed from 8/4 Mahogany (1 7/8" net). The front feet are mitred and splined, the rear feet are dovetailed to the secondary back feet..
We are using a 1 3/8" Famag Bormax forstner bit to shape the 3/4 circle part of the foot. Lots of chips
The Famag Bormax did a wonderful job, crisp and clean..
After a visit on the bandsaw the foot is starting to take shape..
After a visit on the spindle sander, the next phase of the foot construction can take place.. Here we see the rear feet receiving half blind dovetails, we use a forstner bit to remove most of the waste between pins, the rest is done using chisels..
A completed rear foot assembly..
The front feet need to be mitred, for this project I chose to use the tablesaw.. If I had to do the task again, I would pick my sliding chop saw..
Next we use a dado stack (two outer blades only) to cut a 1/4" dado for the front feet splines..
Here we see the rear feet receiving the ogee profile, the foot is placed on a platform and the profile is bandsawn.
Here is one of the front feet receiving the ogee profile on the second side of the foot.. You can clearly see the 'glue joint' which is the tell tale for the second pass on the bandsaw..
A foot after both sides of the front feet have been shaped on the bandsaw.. Next the foot needs some work with block plane, rasps, cabinet files and a scraper..
Finally, the finished foot complete with glue blocks, is screwed and glued to the bottom sub-frame.. The only missing component of the bracket feet are glue blocks to reinforce the miter..You can also see the Mahogany bottom of case molding attached to the Poplar sub-frame.
Next is the construction of the two Mahogany fluted quarter columns that flank the drawers. I can speak for myself, the construction of the columns is without a doubt the most challenging part of the construction of these chests. The quarter columns are constructed from four pieces of 1 1/4 square stock, two of the columns are Mahogany, the other two columns are Poplar.
Here the two Mahogany quarter columns are being glued with brown paper separating the two quarters.
Planing the two Poplar quarter columns.
Final glue up of the four quarter columns, I used hot hide glue suppressed with 20% salt to perform the glue up..
Blank mounted in the lathe, the profile of the top and bottom of the capitals.
The complete turned columns are mounted in a jig to start the fluting process..
After the columns are fluted, the four quarters are separated from each other. I found I got the least amount of drama during the separation process if I soaked the columns in a tub of hot water, the hot water loosens the bond of the hide glue and keeps the quarter column from exploding into a million pieces DAMHIKT.. Here we see the quarter column glued in the case with the top and bottom blocks..
We first need to make a full size template for the case top, the full size template is necessary because the router bit we will use to shape the edge of the case top profiles the entire edge, without the template the bit would continue to cut into the the edge of the top, the bits bearing needs a reference surface, which is the MDF template..
The case top features a rounded edge that seems to be the style during the 1760's, we printed out the profile from Sketchup, glued the paper template to some 1/4" plywood. After the 1/4" plywood template was properly shaped the template was used to shape the actual 3/4" MDFf top template..
I was fortunate enough to get Mahogany lumber wide enough to make the case top from one 21" wide Mahogany board. The only way that I can process such a wide board is completely by hand.
The tool of choice to perform the initial flattening is a jack plane with a cambered blade.. This tool takes pretty thick shavings and quickly rough flattens the board, removing any twist (wind), after finishing with the jack plane the next plane that is used is a very lightly cambered jointer plane..
Yeah that's a Lie-Neilsen #5 jack
Next we see a photo of the top with one side properly flattened (face down to the bench). After one face has been flattened, a marking gauge is used to mark the boards thickness (13/16") around the perimeter, the gauge line is used as a reference when processing the second side of the board.. As a side note, we need to remove a good healthy 1/4" of Mahogany, lets just say if one did this on a daily basis, there would be no need for gym memberships, it is quite the workout. Now I remember why a bought such a wide european jointer/planer, but alas it is not wide enough to process the wood for the chest top..
The top after both sides have been planed, the top "glows" from being hand planed, there is nothing quite like the finish from a hand plane..
The template affixed to the bottom of the top.
The bit used to shape the edge of the top is pretty large and takes off a tremendous quantity of material. I cut the profile on the case top using multiple passes, I replace the stock 1/2" bearing with a 1 1/8" bearing for the first pass, then each successive pass the next smaller bearing is placed on the bit..
One of the early stage passes.
After the final pass, the bit leaves a bit of clean up work that must be completed by hand. First the thin piece of Mahogany that was not shaped needs to be fared into the rest of the profile, this can be easily accomplished with a very sharp low angle block plane.
Finally the corner profile needs to be cleaned up with some carving gouges to complete the edge profile process..
Last, but not least, the cove molding the resides under the case top needs to be milled and attached to the case. The cove bit is a 1/2" radius cove bit (seen in the router table).
Molding installed under top. Since this molding is being attached in the traditional fashion, only the front molding (which is a long grain glue-up) and the first few inches of the right and left side molding (cross grain) can be glued to the case sides..
At LaPlaca WoodWorks We try to build our reproduction pieces using traditional materials, so instead of using plywood for the back of the case, we use wide secondary boards instead. For this chest the back boards are 1/2" thick Poplar ship lapped boards with a vee grooved edge.
At the router table we use a vee router bit to profile the edge of the board
After the edges are Vee grooved we next need to cut the dado for the ship lapping, the dado is 1/4" x 1/2" cut on alternating sides of the board..
Next the edge of the dado needs to be profiled with the vee groove bit, this is done on the router table, after resetting the fence..
The chests with the vee grooved ship lapped back boards installed..
There is actually quite a bit of preparation that needs to be completed before the drawers can be dovetailed..The drawers for this piece features lipped thumbnail profiled drawer fronts..
After the drawer fronts are finial milled and cut to proper size, the thumbnail profile on the drawer fronts need to be milled on the fronts of the drawer.. We perform this task on the router table using a 1/4" radius round over bit.
Drawer front with thumbnail profile..
Next a rabbet (rebate) needs to milled along the back of the drawer fronts, the 1/4" x 1/4" rabbet is cut on the top and each side of the drawer front. The rabbet is cut on the table saw using a dado stack, here we are milling the rabbets on the sides of the drawers
After the lip is milled on the back of the drawer fronts, we next need to mill the 1/4" x 3/8" dado that will house the drawer bottom.
After the drawer front milling process has been completed, at LaPlaca WoodWorks we find it easiest to install the hardware on the drawer fronts before the drawers are actually dovetailed.
For this piece we chose to use half mortised drawer locks on the larger bottom three drawers, the locks that we used are Horton Brass LK-4. An important point to remember, on most half mortised locks the center of the lock pin is usually not centered on the lock body, this is case with the locks we used for this piece. Since we needed to install a total of six locks, we chose to make some jigs to make the task easier. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we modeled the three jigs from an article from Fine Woodworking #145, we needed to make adjustments to account for lipped drawer fronts..
The first jig is used to create the key hole centered on the drawer front, two holes are drilled (1/4" and 1/8") using brad point bits..
Next the mortise for the lock plate needs to be milled, I chose to make the lock plate jig a bit on the small side, invariably the plates on brass locks tend to all be slightly different sizes. First I use a marking gauge to establish where I want the bottom of the plate to reside..
After the lock plate jig is attached to the back of the drawer, a small router is used with a top bearing pattern bit.
Here we see the lock body template attached to the back of the drawer (notice how the lock body is offset from the center line of the drawer)
Since this is a deeper mortise we use a full size router and a longer pattern bit to excavate the lock body..
The routing process for the mortise for lock plate and body completed, next the corners for the lock plate and the lock body need to be squared up using a nice sharp chisel. Additionally the mortise for the selvedge (top of the lock plate) needs to done by hand also..
Starting process to mortise the selvedge area
Completed lock mortise..
Finally with the lock installed..
Whew, now that the six locks have been installed, it now time to focus on the Chippendale plate pulls that we sourced from Londonderry Brasses. The pulls are constructed of four piece parts, two posts, the pull handle and finally the plate itself. The drawer fronts need two 1/4" holes drilled to receive the posts.
The back of the drawer needs a counter bore, this is done since the lock posts are not long enough for the 7/8" thick drawer fronts. In the 18th century cabinet makers had the same issue, they solved the short post problem by chiseling a mortise around the post, i used a 5/8" forstner bit to perform the counter bore.
Notice the authentic square brass nuts..
We are getting to the final stages of the construction of the chests, at this point we have completed construction of the drawers, the drawer sides, back and bottom are all constructed from 1/2" Yellow Poplar. The drawer sides are half blind dovetailed to the drawer fronts, the drawer back is through dovetailed to the drawer sides. Dovetailing of the drawers has been completed entirely by hand (not documented with pictures). The final stage of drawer construction is the drawer bottoms, which are a glue up of two boards of 1/2" Poplar.
Since the dado in the drawer sides is 1/4", the drawer bottoms are milled with a raised panel bit on a router table..
Finally the drawer bottom is secured into the drawer dado with screws with a slotted groove to allow for expansion and contraction..
The finial detail in construction of the drawers is two create the mortise in the drawer blades that will receive the drawer locks bolt. The mortise is created using drawer lock chisels..
After the construction of the chests has been completed, the chests are sanded to 180 grit. The next step in the finishing schedule is to raise the grain on all Mahogany components with distilled water, after the grain raising has dried, we finial sand the chests with 220 grit sandpaper. After very carefully masking off parts that will not receive color, the Mahogany components were dyed with a diluted solution of Lockwood Cuban Mahogany dye. A couple of coats of blond 1 pound cut shellac is used to lock the dye into the wood, the Mahogany parts were then glazed with General Finishes Nutmeg gel stain, the gel stain greatly accentuates the color and lodges in the details to make the piece appear older. After the gel stain has properly cured (a couple of days is best) a couple of coats of 1 pound garnet shellac is applied. Finally, the chests receive three coats of Waterlox Original Sealer Finish (OSF)..