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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Seven-foot cabinet stand success!

In my previous post, I discussed a project for a friend: a seven-foot-long cabinet stand for his 250-gallon glass terrarium, which is home to two tortoises.  Now that the project is completed, I thought I'd post some pictures of the stand in use.
The cabinet has a 1" lip to hold the tank, with 1/8" gap

This particular project was special because my friend Kris helped me.  Kris is an experienced carpenter but - like me - new to furniture making.  We both learned a lot on this project.  I think I can speak for Kris when I say that one thing he learned (and I continue to marvel about) is how much better it is to use traditional cabinet making techniques when making a cabinet, as opposed to making a box as a contractor might build a temporary work bench.

What's the difference?  Well, for starters, no 2x4s were used in making this case!  Just kidding.  But seriously, rather than screw together a few two-by's and then pin-nail some wainscoting around the resulting rectangle, we used traditional frame-and-panel joinery.  In order to do so, we had to either joint & plane our lumber or use dimensioned stock.

In the end, the case came together effortlessly, thanks to square-cut tongues and grooves, straight boards, and using one-time setups and stop blocks to mill all critical parts in single batches.  It seems that if you do the planning and milling right, the assembly practically does itself.  I think Kris is a convert.
the cabinet is low, and rides on 8 casters
The final product was square and accurately-dimensioned.  We designed a 1" high lip around the base, to prevent the tank from slipping off the stand when being rolled around the apartment, and to hide the less-than-attractive metal banding that wraps the tank on top and bottom.

The finish was one coat of cherry pigment stain (oil-based), and then two coats of Tung oil, with no polishing.  This finish is the kind that gets smoother & deeper over time, and there's no reason this case won't last 200 years or more. 

200 years?  Yes!  Because of the way it's built: with mortise-and-tenon joints at the corners, and corner blocks screwed into each lower corner, each "pair" of joints prevents the other from loosening.  While we did glue the floating tenons into their mortises, we wouldn't have had to.   Just another example of the genius of thousands of years of human furniture making.

All in all, the project was a success, and also taught Kris and me a thing or two about milling joinery in long (seven-foot) boards.

the extra width we had to add is barely noticeable, but adds to the lo
One parting comment: An old saying goes "Good woodworkers make mistakes, just like bad ones do.  But a good woodworker can turn mistakes into masterpieces."

I guess that means Kris and I are getting good, because when we dry-assembled the carcase, we discovered that - somehow - the width of the thing was 1/4" too narrow, and so our client's aquarium wouldn't fit.  We still don't know how we messed up milling the side rails & stiles (which determined the width of the case).  Maybe we forgot to account for the tongues in the rails....

But it didn't matter.  All we had to do was glue 3/4" x 1/8" thick strips of the frame's birch lumber to the inside edge of each side stile.  Since we mortised the side stiles using a standard, fixed setting on my Festool Domino joiner, we were able to cut through the strips with the Domino, uncovering our original mortises.

When we put the case back together, the dimensions were perfect, and those little strips - once sanded flush & oiled with the rest of the frame - looked like a little extra flash thrown in for decoration...if they were noticed at all.

When the stand was delivered, the terrarium dropped right in.  The fit was perfect.  Even the eight casters we had installed were all touching the floor.  I admit: I'm amazed it came together so perfectly.



P.S. if you're still reading this, why not buy a Wine Wing from me for the holidays?  the link to our google shopping page is right here.  Thanks for your support.

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