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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    Seattle, Washington, USA
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    Default Two Recent Projects - or - How to Lose your Shirt as a Furniture Maker

    I've had a bit of a weird year regarding travel with my career, so I've gotten a lot more shop time than I usually do, but it's kind of caused me to get in a groove where I don't document things well. This is ultimately probably a bad thing, but I guess also a good thing, because I've reached a point where I feel like I'm genuinely productive, and it's been a long time since I made a mistake which cost me particularly dearly.

    Anyway, my fiance's aunt had been threatening to "commission" me to make something for a while. For the longest time, she was talking about a buffet/sideboard/credenza (trying to cover all the regional bases there...). A big cabinet with drawers and doors that's waist-ish high. She was all about it until we started talking about price and I told her what I expected it would cost just in overhead alone (multiple thousands).

    So it changed to a pair of side tables... I wasn't part of the change order discussion.

    Her house is a West Coast USA, California Craftsman Style bungalow in an affluent neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, so we both agreed that the Arts and Crafts style was appropriate. Try as I might, I couldn't find any decent, quartersawn White Oak in the area, so I had to branch out a bit. None of my Aussie timber stash was particularly well suited, so we agreed that Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), which I believe is commonly called "Oregon" in Australia (right?), would be a worthwhile substitute, and is also local to this region.

    Despite being local, high quality Douglas Fir is damn expensive. The going rate for commercially available, clear, "vertical grain" material is $24/ board foot, which comes out to over $10,000 per cubic meter. It would be the most I'd ever paid for lumber, but she was footing the bill, I gave her the quote, and she went with it.

    And I'm glad she did, because what I got was phenomenal. To put it in perspective, I'm used to seeing around 1 growth ring per mm in the best stuff commercially available, but after some Craigslist calls and some sticky beaking around some cabinet shops in the area, I was able to find true Old Growth material in 75mm thickness with around 1.5 - 1.7 rings per mm and I only paid $19 for it. So it was a win.

    Anyway, getting on with the build...

    I planned a fairly basic mortise and tenon framework with breadboard end tops and a bit of "flair" or embellishment. I started with the tops, because I'd not done a breadboard end before and I was excited to try it:

    68491003_493984188043371_1024519347009224704_n.jpg67871315_689756991493492_714903156164657152_n.jpg

    You can kind of see how fine the grain is in the wood, particularly near the bookmatch, which would be approaching the center of the tree. Really something special. It was almost as tight as the King Billy Pine (which it closely resembles) I had made furniture from in Brisbane, but not quite. That stuff is more like 2 - 2.5 rings per mm.

    Moving on to the frame, it was a m&t construction in the Gustav Stickley vein. I started by joining the legs with the skirts and stretchers, and then added some slats to form either side:

    68298811_359969948266818_9035533489000153088_n.jpg

    I then cut the curve I'm pointing to in the photo above, shaped the slats into a diamond-like pattern, and tapered the legs. I also attached the magazine shelves in a stopped groove with rebated edges on the shelf itself:

    67846063_500044930745690_3049281240898207744_n.jpg

    I then installed the drawer runners on the inside of the tables. I want you to take a moment to look at this next photo before continuing. Think about why I've drilled holes through the drawer runners (hint: it's real, real stupid...)

    68853845_479398052873014_4638920930037334016_n.jpg

    Any idea?

    ...

    ...

    Ok, well if you said "because some idiot didn't think about how he was going to tighten the screws into the top, and had to drill holes in his drawer runners to access them with a long screwdriver", you've just won a pat on the back!

    Moving on...

    So at that point, I'm virtually done. I made two very deep drawers using the same Fir as secondary material:

    68810227_466782530567715_1414950424179376128_n.jpg

    An Bob was, so they say, my auntie:

    IMG_0418.jpgIMG_0424.jpgIMG_0429.jpgIMG_0433.jpgIMG_0435.jpgIMG_0442.jpgIMG_0400.jpg

    I really liked how these turned out, and they looked great in the space for which they were designed. The hardware is handmade, and came from Gerry Rucks in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and is very well crafted. Probably about the best available that doesn't involve making it yourself. The finish is just a "Danish Oil" rub on rub off.

    I really can't say enough positive stuff about Douglas Fir. This is often regarded as a structural or exterior grade material, but when you get the slow grown stuff from big trees, it's really world class. Aside from Huon Pine and King Billy Pine, it's the best softwood I've worked with.

    So all up I made less than $100 on the commission, and spent about 50 hours on them. Not exactly making a killing...

    After that, I decided (again) it was (again) time to (again) build new tool storage in my shop. I decided the most efficient way to make new space was to relocate my bench planes into a dedicated cabinet on the wall. Unfortunately, I didn't take any WIP photos of this build, but here are the finished ones:

    67876709_1613135365490347_8399630543938912256_n.jpg67901636_378393829538304_1370143950957969408_n.jpg68378237_647925805685543_1792447714143764480_n.jpg68398252_2426901507543764_5335366794959912960_n.jpg

    Full dovetail construction cabinet with frame and panel doors, grooved in back, turned knobs, and hung on a french/split cleat. The main carcass and the frame for the doors is Acacia Aulacocarpa, aka Brown Wattle which was milled up near Atherton, QLD somewhere. The panels, shelves, and back are Western or "Big Leaf" Maple from near Olympia, Washington, and the pulls are from a Hairy Oak tree milled by the forums' own Bushmiller in 2016. Hinges from Horton Brasses in Connecticut, USA.

    So there you have it. A two-part series detailing for you how to go broke becoming a professional cabinetmaker:

    Chapter One: Make stuff for your significant other's family members
    Chapter Two: Make cabinets for your own shop out of exotic and figured material

    The End
    - fin -

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Brisbane (Chermside)
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    Lovely cabinets, Luke ... but the story was funny enough to bring tears to my eyes.

    These days when family members ask for a piece I say, "Sure ... the queue starts at the Redcliffe Jetty".

    Have fun!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Perth
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    8,843

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    Nice work all round, Luke. That Douglas Fir is outstanding, and is complimented by your design and craftsmanship. Top marks!

    I must say that the Maple is really striking as well. I have really begun to enjoy the clarify and polish that is possible with these USA fruit woods.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
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    N.W. Melb Suburb
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Samuel View Post
    These days when family members ask for a piece I say, "Sure ... the queue starts at the Redcliffe Jetty".
    My response is usually along the lines of "Would November 2022 be OK?"
    Tom

    "It's good enough" is low aim

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Vic
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    2,380

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    Real Nice pair of tables Luke, and plane cabinet.
    Lol at the holes in the runners.
    Did you mortise all that by hand ?
    Yow! a bit cheap . You got to do that a few times though before you learn how to charge the fortune you deserve for giving your precious time away .

    How thick are the table sides that are joined to the legs in the upper section next to the drawer side ?
    Just wondering if that would have made screwing the tops down easier?

    Rob

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    lower eyre peninsular
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    Not wanting to boast but I have a large stash of Oregon 4.8m L x .200 x 150mm there are 8 of them, Bought the lot 5 years ago $50. .. growth rings ave 1.8

    Still deciding what to make with it,

    How do you get aussie timber in USA
    Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Seattle, Washington, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by auscab View Post
    Real Nice pair of tables Luke, and plane cabinet.
    Lol at the holes in the runners.
    Did you mortise all that by hand ?
    Yow! a bit cheap . You got to do that a few times though before you learn how to charge the fortune you deserve for giving your precious time away .

    How thick are the table sides that are joined to the legs in the upper section next to the drawer side ?
    Just wondering if that would have made screwing the tops down easier?

    Rob
    Hi Rob,

    No, I use a hollow chisel mortiser, and my shop actually has a horizontal router style mortiser available, so I use those any time I've got more than about two mortises to do, or unless the situation won't allow. I do cut all my tenons by hand though, and having uniform mortises makes that a more fail-safe task.

    I think those were around 22mm. That's what I like to work with when I can. I find the "standard" 19mm a bit less meat than I'd like.

    Ultimately, I think the smartest way I could've attached these tops would've been with shrinkage buttons, but I was committed to the elongated screw holes (the easy way out) by the time it became an issue. There were a number of solutions, but I thought that having access with a standard driver would make it easier for the next guy who gets ahold of them and has to fix all my mistakes!

    Cheers,
    Luke

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    Seattle, Washington, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonyz View Post
    Not wanting to boast but I have a large stash of Oregon 4.8m L x .200 x 150mm there are 8 of them, Bought the lot 5 years ago $50. .. growth rings ave 1.8

    Still deciding what to make with it,

    How do you get aussie timber in USA
    Sounds like some very nice, and very large beams you've got there. Certainly worth the price. I'm assuming the person who sold that to you had no idea what they had.

    I lived in Queensland for 4.5 years, so what I have is stuff I accumulated during that timeframe and shipped back in a sea container. It was around 4.5 m^3 when it got here, and I'd estimate it's around 3.5 now. Unfortunately, unless I find myself a very wealthy man later in life, I expect that when this pile is gone, it's gone for good.

    Cheers,
    Luke

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Burleigh Heads
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    Nice cabinets Luke! There is no problem making beautiful cabinets for yourself, you know absolutely the client will get daily delight in seeing them that is worth more than the $.
    Franklin

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Maddux View Post
    . Unfortunately, unless I find myself a very wealthy man later in life,

    Cheers,
    Luke

    jeez that could be taken several ways,
    unless I start making some serious money soon
    Username is Luke but I am actually Lucy
    I am g.......

    have a great day working, retirement is for idiots who cant keep their mouths shut in wanting to help other people and never get their own stuff done
    Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Sydney Upper North Shore
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    Lovely tables and excellent work at usual.

    i know about loosing your shirt. I sent pics. of my finished wall clock restoration to the guy restoring the mechanicals ( he also does the cabinets but didn’t have time). He said “great job, your own restore saved you around $800”. So I worked it out at 40 hours plus labour, plus some purchased items such as the lenticle, special cut nails, leather etc. and my labour was worth $13.50 an hour.
    Not going to make a living on that.

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