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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A dresser rises - phoenix-like - from the scrap heap...

If economy is a hallmark of good design, then this dresser is one for the record books.  Every single part of it was a piece of scrap, nearly unsuitable for furniture making.

It's also my first experiment with using water-based dye in furniture.  The case is actually a 90 gallon aquarium stand, which I cracked when driving a screw into dry birch.  It's strong enough to be a dresser, so I fixed the crack and added some drawer runners inside.  The drawers are made from sheets of scrap 1/4" plywood, scrap 3/4" birch & maple, and scrap 3/4" MDF.  They're heavy but they work.

About the drawer fronts: from ugly to sexy
The drawer faces and top are made from scrap curly maple.  This lumber was NOT premium by any stretch: the boards were thin, pitted, narrow, and covered with the unsightly "brown hearts" that furniture makers avoid.  Because of the brown hearts, I knew I would need to color the drawer fronts and top somehow, and I didn't want to use stain, which dulls curly maple. 

Because the boards were so narrow, I wouldn't be able to use a single board for each drawer.  And because the "curls" were so spotty, it would be impossible to make two boards look like a single board.  To get around these visual problems, I decided to form a "V" shaped panel, with each board angling toward the center line at 45 degrees.

Once I had made my V shaped panels, it was a natural choice to use red and burgundy dye to bring out the wavy figure of the curly maple, and bring a bit of visual consistency to the mish-mash of light and dark grain.

I sized the drawer fronts so each drawer was taller than the next by a ratio of 1:1.618 - the golden ratio.  Then I cut the drawer front panel into three strips of the appropriate size.

The handles: routed from a scrap VG Fir 2x4
I like using VG fir for the moldings on large aquarium stands.  Hence, I have some scraps of VG Fir 2x4.  VG Fir is knot-free and easily milled, and well cured, unlike fir studs.  to size the handles, I divided the width of the dresser by 10 to get a length for the small handle of 4.8 inches.  Then, I multiplied the length of the small handle by the golden ratio, to get the length of the middle handle, and again for the large handle. 

The drawer slides
I used Rockler's less expensive medium duty drawer slides.  If I were to do it again, I would use the heavy duty slides, or, even better, use the medium duty slide from Accuride, which is more robust and slides straighter.

The Feet
I was able to use pieces of 3/4" maple as short as 5" to make the feet.

The finish
I finished the dyed maple parts with shellac, then polyurethane.  The case was finished with black water-borne stain and water-based lacquer (It was an aquarium stand, remember?).

The Verdict:
Some drawer parts were badly scarred scrap
I never thought of myself as somebody who would make full-scale drawings, or even cardboard mockups.  But in this case, you cold say I made a "full scale, full materials" mockup of a design I will try again.  The vision is for a dresser with drawers like jewels: the drawer fronts would have chamfered edges, like the face of a square-cut gemstone.  they would be made of white figured hardwood with a large figure, such as quilted birch, and dyed the color of gemstones.  Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires, etc.  I may do a dresser first, or a jewelry box...se bijoux!

1 comment:

  1. Looks amazing. Can u sand after it is dyed without losing color intensity.