Mizuya (9)

Many hours of drawing have ensued since the last post. Design is not complete yet, but is getting closer I do believe.

The point of focus in recent days for the drawing work has been on the technical/structural side of things. I find that by resolving details at that level, new information and ideas come to light which affect the aesthetic side of the equation. Sometimes I find that an aesthetic I was chasing simply proves to have no good solutions, within the design parameters I have set, and two steps back are necessary. I can’t claim it’s the most organized and seamless way to go about design, in fact, it’s a bit messy and chaotic at times. In the end, I feel it works for me though. The main thing is to maintain patience and work through the design fully before cutting up any material.

I’ve been working on the drawer runners. Given the NK drawer influence on my drawer design, which resulted in my drawers having lignum vitae slips on their lower side edges, I had thought that having corresponding lignum vitae runners in the case would ensure a virtual lifetime of smooth running. If lignum vitae is good enough for hydroelectric turbine bearings, it should suffice for a cabinet – ahem!

My initial foray into the runners was to place a couple of 1″x1″ scantlings on each side of the drawer, like this:

Lignum vitae is a rather precious material though, and 1″x1″ is a more generous size than I would prefer to us for this application. I’m using it for its toughness and supreme self-lubricating qualities, not for load carrying- which it would excel at of course, well in excess of any need here. I thought about it for a while I decided that thin inserted strips would be more ideal for the runners, somewhere on the order of 3/8″ (9mm) in thickness. Then I thought about it some more and one of the problems with using thinner runners is that, by themselves they would not be adequate to carry heavy drawer loads, and worse, they may warp. If I was going to use thin pieces of lignum vitae for runners, it made sense that those strips would be held in some sort of carriers which handled the bulk of the support task and would restrict them from moving in some manner. I was also thinking of the wear and tear issue, and how it would be nice if the insert strips could be removed, so that they could be shimmed or replaced if need be. Just on principle, this seemed like a good direction to head.  In a way it is the same philosophy as for insert tooling.

So, replaceable insert running strips it would be. This meant however that some machine screws will be introduced to fasten the strips in position. I considered various all-wood connection solutions, but the screws seem the most practical and durable in this case, and allow for easy replacement years down the line by anyone who can make a rectangular section strip of material.

I also took a look at the drawer slips themselves and reasoned that the bulk of the weight is to be carried by the undersurface of the slip, and the side surface would not be subject to quite as much potential wear. So, I decided I could slim down the outside wearing surface of the slip, and I could do so without weakening the slotted hammerhead joint running the length of the slip:

The side running surface reduces from 0.75″ to 0.5″.

On the front of the drawer, I have made the drawer front protrude down 1/64″  (0.015625″) lower than the slip:

Why did I do this on the drawer front connection? Well, one of the things I like about metal drawer slides is that the drawer box does not rub on the surrounding cabinet members, which makes for smooth running and no wear on the cabinet framing. Inspired by that, funny enough, I thought it would be nice to have the only rubbing parts be the drawers slips and the drawer slides.

Here’s a look at the drawer slides on the end wall of the cabinet, viewed from the back:

As you can see, the lower insert strip sits proud of the framing by 1/32″. The drawer fronts will therefore clear the framing by 1/64″ when the drawer is closed all the way. No parts to rub means the frame surfaces should stay clean and the finish unmarred for longer.

The two strips will each be fixed by 3 machine screws, not yet sketched in – and the strips will be readily removable without disassembling other parts of the cabinet. First the side insert strip comes out, then the bottom strip. Here they are removed:

Here’s the scene with the drawer in place:

The corner joinery begins to get a little involved:

Those tenons will be wedged, which will contain any tendency of the short side tie piece’s mitered extension to open away from the post.

The drawer runners which sit between a set of drawers are the same simple insert pieces, with a few differences in the supporting elements:

Here’s a drawer runner assembly from the lower bank of drawers:

The joinery remains provisional on the drawer runner framing, but it is most of the way there I think.

Another change is that I’ve given the top of the cabinet’s plates some extra width and formed an abbreviated crown molding:

I prefer the one-piece construction by far over the commonly-seen technique of applied molding. Note too that the upper sliding door hardware has been reduced in size by 25%.

In elevation, I think the crown gives a pleasing termination to the top of the cabinet without verging into grandiosity:

You might also note some changes to the lower pair of hinged doors and the drawer set to the right of it. Following a reader’s comment in the previous post, I looked at that area again. Previously the doors had their front panels divided into thirds by battens. I made them like this because I wanted the door panel grain to run in the same direction as the drawers, and aligning the battens with the drawer banks’ horizontal dividers seemed like a good move. Well, not so much. For one thing, there was no provision in that arrangement of the doors for the door pulls I had designed. So, a revamp led to a central rail in each door, and the addition of a pair of central rails in the doors which, when together, form a shape reminiscent of a belt and buckle to me. The panels can still run in the direction I want and the former ‘gridded’ look to the front has been dialed back, to the relief of many readers I’m sure.

On the right, the bank of drawers has been rearranged a bit. The bottom drawer presented challenges with placing the lignum vitae insert runners directly atop the sills, so I decided to drop the lower drawer altogether. It will be a hinged-door compartment instead, and will have a concealed locking mechanism for that door. Inside, there will be a storage box. Kinda like a safe I guess. I may place a drawer handle on it so that it looks like a drawer – haven’t decided yet. Probably will add mitered breadboard ends to the panel as well.

I removed the back plates from the drawer hardware, and now the handles look even skinnier – too skinny. They definitely need to be thickened up a bit. I’ll give some more attention to the drawer hardware in upcoming days.

Here’s a look at the bottom of the cabinet in perspective:

Next, one of the doors partially opened – one can see the drawers to the right of the compartment, but that is only because the dust panels haven’t been placed yet:

There will be a pair of shelves in that compartment.

Another view from a different perspective:

I pulled the interior shelving out from the last version and am reconsidering what I will do in that space. Stay tuned for more. I feel like I’ve made good progress since the last post and have solved some technical issues which give me the freedom to step back and focus on the aesthetic side of the puzzle for the next while.

Thanks for your visit today!  On to post 10

10 Replies to “Mizuya (9)”

  1. With today's post I can see the design coming together as a whole. The layout and proportions seem well balanced now. I look forward to seeing the next round of aesthetic changes.

    I would expect to see a handle on the bottom drawer, simply because every other panel will have some type of handle or latch.

    I made a sketch of a slightly modified kumiko pattern that came to mind. The arc radius is increased for a more open, slender appearance.


  2. Hi Mike,

    thanks so much for your comment and glad you like the way the design is coming along. Yeah, it would make sense to put a drawer handle on the lowest drawer, and I am sure to do that.

    Liked your sketch a lot. There are several versions of the overlapping rings, some with other kumiko work incorporated. It's really of Chinese origin, and the book Chinese Lattice Designs by Dye has some other examples.


  3. Chris,

    Looking at your fabulous drawings I noticed the hammerhead joint running the length of the slips and was wondering. Is this a traditional joint or a rather new invention, because I do not see how it can be made without a router bit and I have never seen it in woodworking before. It seems like a traditional solution would be the dovetail. Nothing wrong in inventing new solutions, woodworkers have been doing this always, just wondering where this joint comes from in connection to woodworking.

  4. Per,

    thanks for your comment. The hammerhead is normally seen (well, in reality it is *rarely* seen in modern times) in western carpentry as a tenon to join the curved heads of window frames to the window stiles. In Japanese carpentry there is a hammer-headed version of the gooseneck splice, that being an older form of the joint. I've never seen it before configured as a long sliding connection, however it is the same extension of an idea one sees in going from a single dovetail to a sliding dovetail. I have no idea if it has been done before, though I imagine I am not the first to think of it. It is an extension of an idea I made use of in a corner joint in the Ming Table build a year or two back.

    It will be straightforward to process this connection using a custom made router bit in a router table, which is my plan. If you look back to an earlier post in this series, Mizuya 4, you will see the drawer design in more detail. I think this form of the joint offers advantages over the sliding dovetail and should be a stronger connection. We'll see how it turns out.

    Take care,


  5. Chris,

    Thank you for enlightening me. Yes I am aware of the tenon joints, I have just never seen them sliding before and as I expected you need a router to execute it. I agree too that the hammerhead look stronger than a dovetail.
    When finished, no doubt you will be the proud owner of one of the most spectacular kitchen cabinets in recent times.

  6. Hello Chris,

    Coming together quite well. The revised bottom doors are well balanced and will frame your pulls nicely.

    One question. I noticed that the recessed margin along the bottom kicker (forget what you call it) appears centered, but not centered, because the door and drawer widths are not equal(?) or because the shading in sketchup is a bit wonky. Either way, I like the recess but there is now some tension to my eye in the current configuration. Thoughts?

    Chris C.

  7. Hi Chris C,

    thanks for your comment. Interesting observation. I think it's just the weird shading that SU does on longer pieces, as the recess is indeed centered on the sill face. I wish I knew how to get SketchUp to shade more evenly in such cases – I imagine there is a way, but of course only so much time in the day too!


  8. Hi –

    You have got me thinking. I built a dresser in my 20's out of oak with NK style drawers. Just this morning (looking for some socks) I pulled a drawer out and took a look. The runner surface is about an inch wide and looks the same as when I built it 30 years ago. It looks to me like I could live to be 200 years old and my drawer would be working just fine.

    So, from what I see, a good NK style drawer made of plain old oak will actually OUTLAST lignum vitae bearings in a power plant.

    Why? Because it is a drawer full of socks that gets opened once a day, and there was no reason for me to build it like a power plant.

    But, I do enjoy checking in from time to time as you work through the design. Nice work!

    Steve See

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