The walnut whiskey cabinet (part 1)

There’s no way to get around it. Large scale furniture construction means selective wood use and there will always be those off-cuts and stragglers lingering around the woodpile that were too small to use, but too nice to scrap. These bits and bobs usually end up in the burn pile at production shops, but I am no production shop and so for me the wake of each large project leaves space for creativity and material to bring it to life.

Most of the off-cuts from the walnut office suite were rejected because of two reasons. Either they were too small or knotty to yield usable stock or they were wild, non-matching or reversing grain. Wild grain can be fun, but the modern look of the office furniture demanded some uniformity and no sapwood. That left me with some neat (but difficult) stock for a smaller project, and when the June 2016 issue of Popular Woodworking hit my mailbox, the ideas began to foment.

In that issue, Megan Fitzpatrick walks through the build of a medicine cabinet that I found to be great inspiration and yet wholly unnecessary in my current house. The idea of a wall cabinet, however, stuck with me and I began to set aside scraps of walnut that would work together. Fast-forward a few months (and projects) and I finally had some shop time to bring this to life.

I’m not going to walk through the build as a step-by-step, but I have had enough questions about it to post a rough sketch of the process.

I began with some rough dimensions based on the intended use of the cabinet – a display case for whiskey bottles. After taking a quick measurement of the tallest bottle in the house I knew that 17″ x 17″ was a safe place to start and I began milling material and preparing the stock. Again, working from actual dimensions of a nice bottle of Glennfidich, I knew the sites had to be about 5″ wide to fit the bottle, french cleat and back boards. I didn’t worry about the door because I knew that would be planted on the front.

The top and bottom are 3/4″ thick and the sides are 1/2″ thick. This is so that I could cut half-blind dovetails on the sides and leave the top and bottom looking nice and clean. 

These are all ball-park measurements. If you decide to build one of these I encourage you to work from the measurements in your own real world and adjust. Speaking of adjusting, after I kind of had everything the way I wanted it I grabbed some clamps and mocked everything up with some real world contents to make adjustments. This lead me to knock off a few inches of height to make everything more visually appealing.

I think of this way of working as guerrilla design. It’s reactionary, it involves judgement calls and it’s not always the right course of action. I’m working on designing a dining table at the moment and I am being far more methodical about that process. That will involve drafts and ratios and no small amount of hand wringing, but for small projects like this it can be fun to let loose a little and see where creativity takes you.
(More on the construction in the next post.)



2 Comments Add yours

  1. jonfiant says:

    Love your blog James. Also love the current project. It’s always great to be able to put those off cuts to good use. You mentioned ed that this is a display cabinet, so does that mean a door with a glass panel? Always nice to show off the high grade wet goods!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does indeed mean a glass paneled door. More to come!


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