Saturday, 9 April 2016

Chippendale cupboard

Last weekend I started making a cupboard, and today I finished it. (Sort of. May need some further improvement).


This kit came with one of my big bargains, and since after the three-drawer chest challenge I now feel more confident about making something other than the prescribed mahogany (and also because I am running out of space in the main house), I decided to make a kitchen cupboard to replace one of my very first pieces, from the time I had no experience and no proper tools. The blog post is from 2012, but I made the cupboard in January 2008. So maybe I shouldn't feel guilty about replacing it. Even in a 1:1 world I may replace a kitchen cabinet after eight years.

Anyway, I decided to make this cupboard in dark oak, and it was quite straightforward, except that it turned out to be a REALLY difficult piece, with a lot of precision work and tiny details to align, and the glue had to set after each step, and with several steps I had to leave the assembly overnight, held by rubber bands. There are some cracks where I didn't get it quite right, but nobody will know.

The only real issue I had was handles. The originally supplied hardware goes well with a mahogany piece, but not with an oak kitchen cupboard. I tried beads. I tried nails and pushpins, painted in copper. I tried champagne wire. I even tried tiny chess pieces - pawns' heads. But it just didn't look right. I was rummaging through a box of clock parts when I found a set of clock hands that I bought some time ago in a hobby shop when I worked on the clockmaker's shop. I never used those clock hands, and they weren't much use as drawer handles, but the set included tiny clips to fasten the hands, and see - this was just what I needed.

I am glad I had patience and didn't go for something I wasn't hundred per cent happy with.

From the beginning I also knew that I wanted a top to go on this base, but I didn't have a kit for that. In fact I had never seen any such kit, although I eventually saw that the box for the base said it was to be used with a certain kit. So, reckless as I am, I decided that I could make a cupboard top. What gave me confidence was that the description for the base - they have these lovely historical explanations - mentioned a "Welsh dresser", and Welsh dresser was what my first clumsy cupboard was supposed to be. I said to myself: If you managed to make that one without experience, without proper tools, using bits of Venetian blind, surely you can make a top cabinet now, with your experience, tools and materials. I found a picture of the top on the net, studied it carefully and decided I could do it. I also found the instruction sheet for chest on chest because it seemed the closest to what I was aiming at. Rather than working with my eternal Venetian blind, which is very hard wood, I took some balsa pieces, staining them with the same stain I used for the base. I wasn't sure the stain would look the same, but it did.

Balsa is soft and easy to cut, but it crumbles and is difficult to sand even. One uncertain movement, and you have sanded away too much. Also there was no way I could make grooves for the shelves so instead I used matches as shelf supports.

I used the chest on chest instructions for the order of assembly, but because there were no grooves on the sides it proved more complicated. 

I was quite proud of myself until I tested the top with the base (at that point still unfinished) and realised that it was too high, too broad and too deep. 

In such situations I usually turn to my Facebook groups, which I of course should have done in the first place. It so happened that one of my miniature friends was making this very cupboard. First I asked her to share pictures. Then I asked for the exact measurements. Then it turned out that she was soooo much smarter than I because she took a picture of the instruction sheet and shared it. And I realised that I had made everything wrong. Not just the size. 

Well, I dismantled it and cut the pieces to measure and glued and had to dismantle it again and then cut a new piece because the old one crumbled away. But in the end I got it more or less the way I wanted it.

You cannot see it in this picture, but there is cutlery and other stuff in the drawers. 

I removed most of the objects from the room for better view.

I am very proud of myself for several reasons. Firstly, that I was brave enough to try it at all. It is psychologically challenging to combine a precision-cut kit with a few bits of balsa, but it turned out well, didn't it? I am also happy that I didn't cheat and leave the first attempt as it was, because I would have been irritated every time I looked at it. 

So now I have evidence that I can make a simple piece of furniture to match a sophisticated kit. I may do it again. Or I may replace my creation with the real thing if I get hold of it.

1 comment:

  1. You did a superb job on both items. The knobs look perfect too. I had a little giggle when you mentioned the Venetian blind. It's served you well.